I’m looking at the man in the mirror

sea of loneliness263
I went to see the Wim Wenders film about Pope Francis last week and the main thing I’ve been pondering since is…

Why do we find it so hard to see the ways in which we do the same sorts of things that we give others a complete kicking about?

Or in other words. Do we look in the mirror enough to see if we’re guilty of the same sort of failings?

I think that we’re pretty good at pointing out the speck in other people’s eye but bad at noticing the plank in our own. Or even pointing out the large plank in other peoples eye because I don’t want to create the impression that the stuff that someone else has done isn’t important or horrible or deadly serious. Maybe every body has a plank in their eye?

It’s just that a lot of people who hate the Roman Catholic church in Ireland for failing to protect children don’t seem to be as good as recognising their own failings when it comes to protecting children.

I’ve been thinking about it every time I read something about how the present Pope has been a complete failure in tackling clerical child abuse and the cover up. People are angry that he hasn’t done anything about it and has failed after seeming to be a different type of Pope at the start.

I have no idea the amount of pain and suffering this has caused and I’m not trying to defend the church, especially as I don’t consider myself a member of the Roman Catholic church. I in no way want to belittle it.

At the same time I get frustrated that we don’t seem to get that we are continually making conscious decisions that are causing children to suffer and destroying their lives right now.
In numbers that will dwarf anything the RC church has done or could ever do. Because we’re upholding a system that abuses the planet that we all depend on to live healthy, fruitful lives. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you don’t have a religion, it involves us all. And future generations.

I don’t think that is hyperbole to say that. We don’t seem to get how serious it is and just keep doing the things we’re doing as if it doesn’t matter.I personally think that we’re just as likely to turn a blind eye to suffering children and make excuses for the perpetrators as some bishop did in 1950’s Ireland.

So we point out the sins of the priest and how they had a system that destroyed the lives of children and locked them away and how it was a national disgrace. And yes it was and is.

Yet last week you had children sleeping in a Garda station or you’ve 1500 kids bundled into direct provision centres. We could change that by demanding that our politicians do something about it. Do we? No, many people turn a blind eye or are happy that they’re treated like that as it might mean their parents decide to go back home to where they are from or somewhere else.apart from Ireland.

They’re happy that kids are being robbed of a decent childhood and support it.

I think that when we don’t care about tackling climate change we’re turning a blind eye and not doing enough to stop children being harmed or having their lives wrecked.
We are deciding on a course of action that wrecks lives and families and tears their world apart. Do people care about that?

Do we care that if glaciers melt more children will suffer and die through flooding, crops and homes being destroyed, diseases spreading?
Do we care that air pollution will kill more kids if we keep burn fossil fuels?

No, many people are happy to protect the system of a high consuming, wasteful, greedy lifestyle and want it to flourish.
They want more things and bigger cars even though our planet can’t support that sort of lifestyle.
People are happy to be rich and live in luxury while 100’s of millions of children don’t even have access to clean water or enough to eat.

Kids are the ones who have done least to wreck the planet yet they are the ones who will have to bear the brunt of our decisions and lack of action. We have been warned about the consequences of inaction yet are happy to stick our fingers in the ear and ignore the cries of the poor. So does that make you better than members of a church who did nothing about abuse when they heard whispers about it?

They will die and suffer because we have decided to live our lives in certain ways, because we’ve made decisions that forced them into becoming refugees and made them flee on boats across the Mediterranean. Then when the turn up seeking refuge from some war zone our governments (who we vote for) won’t allow them across our borders.
We’ll stick them in some sort of refugee camp.
That’s if they make it alive across a frightening boat journey.

I watched the documentary of Pope Francis knowing that some film critics felt that he didn’t say enough about the issue of clerical child abuse. He did answer a question and said that there should be zero tolerance for it. To me he seemed genuinely angry about the fact that it has happened.But it also seemed to me that he was trying to tackle an issue that was too much for an 81 yr old man to be expected to handle. Which doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been trying to tackle the horrors of systematic abuse in the church, just that he is an 81yr old man.

To me this is man who knows that he won’t have that long as Pope,
who knows that the world is on the edge of environmental meltdown and that it will lead to many children and people suffering. More children unnecessarily suffering than at any period in history actually. He knows that this is the most important issue of our time and that he wants to do something about it to stop children suffering now and in the future in the short time he will have.

I can understand why some people feel like he has been a complete failure with regards to the horrors of the church and child abuse. I just wonder if we look in the mirror enough and consider the ways in which we might be using our power to deprive children of their fundamental rights and dignity?

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When you play like that it’s OK to lose

Playing a staid and a standardized football, is that really playing?…To win without magic, without surprise or beauty, isn’t that worse than losing? In 1994, during the Spanish championship, Real Madrid were defeated by Sporting Gijon. But the men of Real Madrid played with enthusiasm, a word that originally meant ‘having the gods within’. The coach, Jorge Valdano, beamed at the players in the dressing room: ‘When you play like that,’ he told them ‘it’s OK to lose.’
Eduardo Galeano, Football in Sun and Shadow

I regret (Google Autocomplete)

A lot of things, adopting, all my decisions, all my tattoos, abortion.
Breaking up with him, being a doctor, buying my house, becoming a doctor, being born.
Cutting my hair, cutting my hair short, cheating, cutting my hair, college.
Dumping her, dumping him, divorcing my wife, doing something, dating my ex.
Everything, everything I do.

For my mistake, falling in love with you, falling in love
Getting married, gastric sleeve, going to college, getting bangs, getting a puppy.
Having children, having a child, having a baby, hurting her, hurting you.
It
Joining a soroity, joining the military, joining the airforce, joining the navy, joining a fraternity
Knowing you, kissing him, keeping my baby, kissing my friends.

Letting him go, leaving my wife for another woman, leaving her for someone else, leaving my family for another woman
My abortion, marrying my husband, my life choices, meeting you, my tattoo.
Nothing
Opeing up, only sleeping with one person
Pushing her away, pushing him away, perming my hair, parenthood
Quitting my job, quitting, quitting baseball

Rejecting him, rejecting her, rejecting the nice guy, retiring early, resigning
So much, sleeping with my ex, studying abroad, sleeping with him, sleeping around
To inform you, that I have but one life, the day I met you, the time I wasted
Using her, using steroids, unfriending my ex, university, unfriending.
Voting, voting for Hilary, voting leave
What I did, what I said, wasting my time
buying an X Box
You
Friendzoning him, moving to New Zealand

on being a minister’s husband in a certain denomination

I have been pondering the issue of women in church leadership a lot for the last few weeks.

If you don’t know me you might be thinking ‘OK, that’s a pretty weird thing to be thinking about’ :but it’s not for me. Because unusually  I’ve found myself attending a church where the minister is a woman.

And even more unusually I happen to be married to her.

I’m not talking about her though (well I am I suppose….but not really). I’m talking about things from my perspective.

In a way my perspective is even less common than that of female minister in PCI, it’s that of a husband of PCI minister. I’m a freak!

This pondering started when I unknowingly switched on coverage from the General Assembly at the start of the month. Bad decision!
I was at home by myself as ___ was up at the Assembly for the week. 2 trains journeys up, a long way to go. There was a round of applause at a certain point of debate that seemed to coincide with a male minister saying that he didn’t think biblically that women should be ordained. (People have told me that the applause might have been for other stuff but the way I perceived it was that the applause for ‘no women’ was much louder that for a few speakers before hand who were thinking about how more women could be encouraged to become ministers.)

I heard that some people had been heckling when a women minister was speaking.
I’ve heard some people worrying that someday they might want to take a vote on the issue. (I’m not sure if that’s people worrying over nothing but even so, why would they be worried enough to think that?)

So when I hear the principle of the denominational training college on national radio a few days later saying that ideally he would probably prefer to not be training women for the task of leading a church I’m not really sure how to react as a Christian and as a husband of women minister. Because somehow with the mystery of marriage there is a ‘two-become-one’ sort of thing going on. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. I’m not really sure sometimes. I’ve no blueprint for this stuff!

My more balanced friends emphasis the need to allow people their conscience,
to show grace,
to treat it as a secondary issue and not get hung up over it,
to not question if that is the ideal position for someone in charge of running the training college to hold.

It feels like they want to put the ball in my court to deal with my issues, my anger or lack of grace, almost as it’s my fault that this is becoming an issue, that I don’t really understand the good news by getting annoyed or that I shouldn’t be moaning about it all the time. According to some my soul is even at risk for getting so worked up over a secondary issue .

I know we’re to forgive people and treat them with grace and love. We’re brothers and sisters in the Lord. But at what point do you go ‘Hold on, I don’t think you’re treating other people fairly… ‘ And how loudly do you shout about it?

When I listened to the radio interview I could hear nervousness in the voice and appreciate the bravery and honesty. I also deeply value my freedom and conscience so agree we shouldn’t be forcing people to go against their conscience.

But as a husband who upped sticks and moved from a place he enjoyed so that his wife could train for ministry in a place he mightn’t have chosen for himself it’s hard not to question if it’s an ideal position for someone who is principle to hold. Perhaps I’ve an insight into how much of cold house it might have been for a women minister in PCI and would question if it’s going to make other gifted women feel like they would be treated fairly in the college or would encourage them to want to study there?

If we were living in Dublin now and thinking about moving to Belfast so that ____ could train for 4 or 5 years and heard that interview I’d still appreciate the honesty, recognise the need for people to have their conscience but my primary thought would be:-

‘The principle of the college has just told us that he personally doesn’t agree with what we thought God was calling __ to do. It’s hard enough moving from a community that values us to new place without being unsure if people actually want you there. I’m not sure we belong in this denomination, it feels like they’re saying you’re sloppy seconds’

That’s what I’d think anyway.

In part I’m annoyed because I nearly see it as a gospel issue, not some secondary issue.

Because although it doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re saved or not surely it might have something to do with whether other people are saved or not?

It might discourage a gifted women enough to stop her thinking she could use her gifts to reach people for Jesus . If you’re a Christian and you’re hindering or discouraging people from using their God given gifts for the sake of some ‘secondary issue’ maybe it’s becoming more than a secondary issue? You don’t have to be out with placards, you can be friendly and polite but still be saying.that ‘I don’t want to encourage this person to be a church leader as much as I could as I think it’s unbiblical and a gospel issue’.

If you want to reach Ireland with the good news of Jesus you need men and women using their gifts. And sometimes I wonder if PCI is happy to become a place that says ‘We don’t really want women using their gifts in this particular church leading way’. Which annoys me because people are putting good news road blocks in the way.

Especially maybe the people who are telling me this is a secondary issue. If you really think it’s a secondary issue why not do more to encourage women who might be gifted but not feel encouraged?  

 

soil and soul

Wind.
Windy outside.
Friday night in Galway, post G & T, wind whistling down the chimney.
I don’t blog much these days. A lot of creative energy has been hurled into making maps and researching Irish place names, or exploring countries online. I’ve been obsessed and working hard. I don’t feel I take much time to reflect much on my life and the direction it’s been going. Perhaps there is a reason for that?
Perhaps I’m terrified to stop and assess because I’ll feel like I’ve not made a success of my life or something. Also I’m more scared of being vulnerable because I’m more aware of the inter-connections and ties that bind us. I might want to be honest but what if my honesty is insensitive and hurtful to others?
But perhaps I’ve swung too far and bottling stuff up or keeping my head buried in art work is hurtful to me.
There is no doubt to me that technology has been detrimental to certain aspects of my life. It’s gotten to the stage where being connected to the internet almost seems like a basic human right. It’s not but sometimes it seems that way.

Anyway, perhaps I need to spend more time reflecting on my life. On my soul.

And to get back to the garden and dig my deep beds for some vegetables. Or herbs. The snails don’t seem to want to eat my flat leaf parsley so I will grow lots this year.Enough for my favourite pasta tomato sauce recipe. Enough for my potato soup. Enough to make ‘pesto’ and Middle Eastern recipe that I’ve forgotten the name off but needs loads of parsley.

And to plant some basil if I can. I’ll freeze the leaves so it can go in my other favourite tomato sauce.

I need to get back to the soil and my soul again. I feel so jaded this weather.IMG_2093

long nights

It’s one of the darkest for longest days of the year.
There is a storm in the garden.
The sun isn’t up yet.
I’m in the dark.

When I was a bit younger I used to feel like it was easier to be honest with other people about how I was really doing inside.
10 years ago I used to write songs about what was going on inside me and express things that way. If it was self absorbed like a teenagers journal I didn’t care, I just wanted to get it from inside me and out instead of absorbing it into myself.

Then I moved to Belfast. I never wanted to go and perhaps I ended up resenting it a bit. I hoped that although I knew it would be difficult that I’d settle in the church and area and grow to love it.
I never did.
Things went the other way. I found the Lagan Valley dark and cold, gloomy and grey. One of my first experiences of Lisburn was going to get my hair cut and the hairdresser taking the piss out of my hair and sneering.

Nowadays I don’t feel that I can express myself with honesty. It’s like you have to bury how you’re really feeling or doing.

Firstly I’m more aware of being married, that I might be dragging someone else into proceedings if I write a song that says how I’m doing. 10 yrs ago I wasn’t married so an honest song wasn’t so tangled up in another relationship. And other relationships like family members.

Then I’ve taken onboard church family.
10 years ago I wasn’t married to the minister of a church. So if church and Christianity is doing my head in it’s not as easy as writing a blog and saying what’s annoying me. You’re suddenly married to the person who most likely has to deal with the stuff you might be moaning about or find difficult. You don’t want to make their life more difficult or complicate things by saying what you find difficult .

You are also more aware of people getting older and how the responsibility of being a mature voice or example might now fall on you. You might feel like there is an onus on you to be a tower of strength or to make sure people get through things as you’ve been blessed by people being that way to you and now it’s time to give something back. So perhaps you ‘suck it up’ a bit because you think that it have to be strong for the sake of other people who seem to be having a tougher time.

What do you do though when you feel weak and inept? Or when you’re aware of being all over the place and just about coping and that you haven’t even had things that bad happen.
I’m aware that I haven’t had to cope with a lot of personal tragedy in my life. So the question I ask myself is how I will cope when it does happen. If I feel this inept so far how will I cope when the hard things come?

It’s one of the darkest for longest days of the year.
There is a storm in the garden.
The sun isn’t up yet.
I’m in the dark.

We Couldn’t Imagine What it Was (Illinois)

il_fullxfull.1078191813_33ud

Last night there was a mysterious and beautiful triangle of stars over Galway Bay, hanging above the Aran Islands or Black Head, mysterious lights in the southern sky that had me wondering as I was wandering.

Saturn, Mars and Antares.

I’d been thinking about 3 lights all week as I’ve been re-engrossed by Sufjan Stevens Illinoise album all over again.
I’ve been making a lot of US state maps and when I came to Illinois  put on the headphones while painting.
illinois Making the map made me appreciate anew what an amazing album this is. It’s actually an amazing work of creative art in my opinion. Playful and joyful, sad and serious, a bit barmy and silly puns in places, like short stories sung. It’s  uncomfortable listening to songs about child killers as well but you’ll find yourself singing along.

The music can be a bit juddery and stop start but there is a bit on the second track that makes me smile every time. The horns or whatever they are keep building up and sound to me like it’s going to turn into the theme music of ‘Ski Sunday’ or ‘Rainbow’.
It’s a bit of a mysterious album. Where did it come from? What’s it trying to say?

The opening track about a UFO sighting near Highland, Illinois is as mysterious to me as the stuff he is singing about. What did people see? What was going on? What sort of way is this to start an album?
But whenever I hear words like incarnation and stories of stars I’m taken back to Christmas and a different sort of mystery taking form and shape. Yet that is mingling with some sort of mysterious UFO sighting. What’s he saying?

Anyway, it’s the sort of  infectious creativity that I’m drawn to and like to draw to.
I doodled the picture last week before the clouds parted and I noticed the 3 mysterious lights in the sky over Galway Bay last night. So now I’m wondering if it’s linked. Am I being whispered to or am I just noticing things that have always been there?

When I was walking home the other night along a dark path there was a man silently sitting on a rock looking out across the sea and toward the sky. He seemed to be embracing the beauty and mystery whereas my immediate reaction was to find out what the stars were from Google Sky Map or to blog about my experience (like I’m doing now) or thinking about something I could make.
I wish I had the patience and peace to sit out and pray silently a bit more, to be at peace without thinking how I could use this experience for something or how that moment could be added to that thing to make something. I wish that I was less addicted to the light of these glowing glass rectangles and could embrace the mystery and silence a bit more. Maybe a bit like it says in Psalm 131.

‘I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.’