Reblog: Alien Monkey

sandyfaithking:

I love the image of the monkey! We are just as daft as monkeys, though most of the time we pretend we’re not. I love the image of the sea, too. It echoes the words of Mama Maggie.

Originally posted on Contemplative in the Mud:

A somewhat silly poem about the major themes of the spiritual journey.

On another planet,
On another world,
Lived a spotted monkey,
Ears and tail curled.

This dear monkey lived on
Plains beside the sea:
Great green waves there roared and
Crashed upon the beach.

One day little monkey
Heard a Voice at sea:
“Up!” it whispered sweetly.
“Come and follow me.”

But he saw no island;
He saw only waves,
Crashing, tumbling, smashing;
Sat he for a day.

Sat he for a week and
Sat he for a month.
Lonely was his heart now
Would he choose to come?

Yes, he wanted deeply:
See the Voice I must!
But there seemed no way to
Find the Voice across

All the waves so loudly
Hitting ‘pon the shore.
So the monkey carried
On just as before.

Days and weeks and months passed.
Monkey ne’er forgot.
That sweet Voice that called…

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Thoughts on Samantha Morton, Childhood Sexual Abuse and Co-dependency

I was pleased (if one can be pleased about such things) to learn of actress Samantha Morton’s interview in which she spoke of the way she was treated when, as a child in care, she was abused by her carers. Actually, ‘pleased’ is not the word. The interview is outstanding, or rather, Samantha is outstanding; she speaks the brutal (painful) truth with courage and dignity. Although her circumstances were very different to my own – I cannot claim to know what it is like to have been in care – the response Samantha received from the police and from those in ‘authority’ sounds suspiciously like the response I received. In essence, they were not interested, and the victim was made to feel as if she was the one at fault by both the abuser and those around her, who colluded by doing nothing about it. My heart goes out to Samantha in this interview, and to all those like her who were removed from abusive families only to be subject to round after round of abuse from countless different people. Samantha’s courage and ability to carve for herself a brilliant career as an actress is nothing but inspirational. In that sense she is like Wess Stafford, former CEO of Compassion International, who also experienced childhood sexual abuse and, despite everything, grew up to be a courageous, compassionate, intelligent adult.

Personally, I have made the decision not to pursue any civil action against the police (after they told me last year that there was ‘not enough evidence’ to take my case to court whereas there would have been plenty had they acted on the information they were given 20 years ago) because a family member said she couldn’t go through it all again. I have to respect that, despite the fact that sometimes I want to shout and scream and show the world how unjust it is while it pretends to be civilized. Jesus’ words to the scribes and Pharisees seem particularly apt for describing those who abuse, and those whose behaviour condones abuse (including those who look the other way):

You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. For you appear like good men on the outside—but inside you are a mass of pretence and wickedness.’ 

Matthew 23:27 (JB Phillips)

In addition to watching Samantha’s interview, I have been thinking about the effects of abuse and how victims can lose, or rather, never gain, ‘normal’ boundaries (by which I mean a sense of ‘self’ as separate from others, which is something we usually learn in childhood and it grows stronger as we get older). This lack of ‘self’ leads to co-dependent behaviour. ‘Co-dependency’ is one of those words that are frequently thrown about and oft misunderstood. I remember when I first came across the word I thought it must be to do with being an alcoholic – which it is, but that is just one of a broad range of behaviours that can be associated with being co-dependent. At this point I want to stress that being co-dependent is not just the result of abuse. It can begin in many ways.

Recent events (i.e. something that happened yesterday) have left me considering again the nature of co-dependency. It is a complex issue, but at its heart, in its most simple form, co-dependency consists of two things:

1. The belief that others are responsible for my feelings.

and/or

2. The belief that I am responsible for others’ feelings.

Of course, there are occasions when a person’s actions will deliberately and directly affect my feelings and in that sense the one ‘causing’ the situation can be said to be responsible for my feelings. Also, of course, there are degrees to which I am responsible for the way other people feel. I am responsible in no small way for the feelings of my children, for example. I also choose to interact with people in a kind and sensitive way (for the most part), which is a way of taking a degree of responsibility for others’ wellbeing.

So where does the line lie? When you’re co-dependent, this may seem an impossible question. Or, you may know the answer rationally, but fail to act accordingly (denial being a very prominent feature of co-dependent behaviour). Both of these were true for me, in the past. Childhood sexual abuse can take away your boundaries until you have no sense of ‘self’, and too much sense of ‘others’. This can and does last well into adulthood. Everyone around you may seem as if they have huge, overwhelming emotions; this is scary. Your own emotions were buried somewhere, a long time ago. In order to survive, the sense of ‘self’ became locked in a nuclear bomb-proof vault. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but it seems to be what happened to me. My instinct, even well into adulthood, was to placate those big, scary emotions. Sometimes the other person doesn’t cause big, scary emotions, but they impose upon you all the same. I have family members who do this and I don’t think they even realise they do it. I believe this more subtle imposition is called passive aggression/manipulation.

Back to my question – where does the line lie? Well, if another person has deliberately set out to hurt me, they share some responsibility for my resultant reaction. But feelings are not behaviour, and the onus is on the individual to take responsibility for their own behaviour. When you begin to take responsibility for your own behaviour, particularly in the way you respond to other people, your feelings change too. First, you take responsibility for your behaviour, and then you take responsibility for your feelings. You learn to separate those things which it is reasonable to be happy/sad/angry/scared about, and those things about which it is not reasonable. You learn that, even if you have some big emotions from your past clouding your judgement in the here and now – you are still responsible for you. For clarity: feelings are not wrong. Anger, sadness, bitterness even, are not wrong; they’re all phases we go through in response to certain situations, e.g. abuse, grief, etc. If you’ve been abused you’re allowed to be angry! Jesus had some very strong words for those who took advantage of those weaker than themselves:

“…if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone hung round his neck!”

Matthew 18:6 (JB Phillips)

In conclusion, this is the most important lesson: you can’t change other people. You can only change you. If you’re a follower of Christ, you do this with grace. It is no longer ‘there, but for the grace of God…’ but ‘there, with the grace of God…’ and you begin the first, tentative steps on the most wonderful journey towards healing and peace. God is good. God is always.

Reblog: The One Thing Necessary

sandyfaithking:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,

who abide in the shadow of the Almighty…

under his wings you will find refuge…

Psalm 91:1,4 (NRSVA)

‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’

The Lord’s Prayer

Originally posted on Contemplative in the Mud:

Saint Martha

The words occur often through the spiritual tradition of Christianity: Saints Mary and Martha. Unum necessarium. The one thing necessary was chosen by Mary and would not be taken away from her (Lk 10:42).

What is this “one thing necessary”?

To do God’s will. When some writers and saints answer contemplation, it all amounts to the same thing. Contemplation aims to do God’s will. In fact, that exactly what the transforming stages of contemplation, stripping us on sense and spiritual attachments to refocus our entire being on our God-Trinity, accomplish: we are freed up, made free, to swim in the interior freedom of God, as God moves freely in us.

We’d have no reason to suppose that Martha herself didn’t have this “one thing necessary”, except that she complained about her sister and indirectly spoke ill of her name (and this doesn’t appear to have been God’s will)…

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Generosity

[Jesus said] “Don’t begin by travelling to some far off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighbourhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.”

Matthew 10:8 (The Message)

It was the generosity of others that first showed me the love of Jesus. They gave freely. It changed my life. In the words of Psalm 23 it restored my soul.

 

Change a life; be generous. It can be something as small as looking someone in the eye and smiling. It can be as big as giving up your life’s dream for a life following Him. Either way, what an adventure!

 

I am glad God reminded me of this today, when I’m tired and feel like I’m not much use to anyone. I have spent most of the afternoon lying on the bed crocheting a Christmas present for my mother. I will go and pick up young Chip from school soon, but then I will probably lie down again. I am so thankful that I can at least crochet. I pray that my mother and my father will come to know Jesus for themselves! With every stitch, this is what I pray. I don’t even have to leave my bed, let alone travel, to serve God. What a blessing :-)

Fiery Darts

‘Fiery darts’ is how Paul puts it. Abba Anthony described being tormented by demons while he was in the desert. Teresa of Ávila talks about snakes and reptiles and ghastly creatures prowling and snapping. On these days, when my nights are filled with nightmares and general nasty stuff, I wake to the ugliness of unrelenting flashbacks, a barrage swift and sharp, just like those fiery darts. They claw at you. I can even smell the ‘event(s)’.

 

When I went to the Celebrate Recovery conference in 2012, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, John Baker, spoke of those so broken that the only thing they respond to, the only thing they can do is to sing songs of worship. Here again is another paradox, another moment when God turns the world on its head. I remember that Thérèse de Lisieux says that, although we are so small, we possess a God-given dignity. She also wrote:

 

‘My will is to endure, by Love,

The Darkness of my exile here’

 

So then, it is love that makes me choose to get up from this table, to do the things I need to do, in love, for my family. And I will lift my head and sing praises. Because God is good. And God is always.

 

Thérèse looking pensive

Thérèse looking pensive

You can read more about Thérèse here: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/meditations-on-little-way-epilogue-dark.html

 

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I did not grow up in a culture that defined and labelled people by their skin colour, or their ethnicity, yet Britain is becoming increasingly intolerant towards those who are ‘foreign’. We who represent the body of Christ would do well to consider for ourselves the question who is my neighbour?

 

Very interesting post today over on Rachel Held Evans’ blog: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/the-other-lie-lisa-sharon-harper-ferguson

 

the man, wanting to justify himself, continued, “But who is my ‘neighbour’?”

And Jesus gave him the following reply: “A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He fell into the hands of bandits who stripped off his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. A Levite also came on the scene and when he saw him, he too passed by on the other side. But then a Samaritan traveller came along to the place where the man was lying, and at the sight of him he was touched with pity. He went across to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own mule, brought him to an inn and did what he could for him. Next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the words, ‘Look after him, will you? I will pay you back whatever more you spend, when I come through here on my return.’ Which of these three seems to you to have been a neighbour to the bandits’ victim?”

 

“The man who gave him practical sympathy,” he replied. “Then you go and do the same,” returned Jesus.

Luke 10:29-37 (JB Phillips)

As you read this probably very familiar bible passage, and after you have read the guest post over on Rachel Held Evans’ blog, consider this: in the parable of the Good Samaritan, is it the Jew who took pity on the Samaritan, or the other way round? In other words, did the ‘privileged’ show compassion for the ‘oppressed’, or did the ‘oppressed’ show compassion for the ‘privileged’?

Reblog: The Goal of Everything

sandyfaithking:

 

I read the following blog post while waiting for the clock to tick by so that I can get to the library to print off my final module assessment for the Open University. It’s a slightly nerve-wracking time because if I don’t pass this assessment I fail the whole module. But passing is not what drives me. Seeking God, and serving Jesus, are what drive me (although I do enjoy Maths). After all, what is faith for, what is life for, if not to become more like Christ?

 

‘After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people,to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’

John 17:1-3

‘I ask… on behalf of those who will believe in me through [the apostles'] word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’

John 17:2–23

Originally posted on Contemplative in the Mud:

In Bang Lamung, Chon Buri, Thailand

The goal of everything is transformation in Christ. If this is not the overriding and all-influencing goal, then something is disordered.

From the smallest atoms to the greatest living creatures, the underlying desire of all, teaches Saint Thomas, is more being. There’s an underlying driving desire, the great desire, to not be limited, to expand, to grasp a higher degree of being. It’s wonderful for the inanimate things to clamour for animate use, or to even clamour more more lively-seeming forms of inanimate things: when hydrogen and oxygen clamour to become water, they seek something more alive, more good, more true.

All of creation is headed towards more. That’s the sense in which humanity is the summit of creation and, as Saint Hildegard and various other medieval writers insisted often, a “microcosm” of the universe. Indeed, each person is a microcosm and a universe unto him- or herself. But… the universe is not God. It’s not…

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