Clarinet and Ukulele

Last week Fluff (13) had her first clarinet lesson. Her piano teacher also teaches clarinet so we’re very fortunate. Fluff often feels like she lives in the shadow of her sister, which is difficult when it’s your little sister. Chip (11) is one of those (annoying) people who is gifted at everything: she’s very academic, she’s a natural swimmer, she played for the school football team in primary school, she’s a gifted actress, she was voted form captain within the first fortnight of secondary school, she’s friends with everyone, she got the Head Teacher’s Commendation Award at the end of the first term (December ’16), she currently has both bronze and silver merit badges… Need I say more? I marvel at this girl. Is she really bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh?!

I adore my Chip but sometimes find it hard to relate to her seemingly inevitable success, not to mention her gushing abundance of self confidence. Fluff – fiercely independent, creative, very much her own person, not as academic but determined, a bit of a loner – I confess I relate to better. Fluff is currently discovering her innate talent for music (she’s just picked up my ukulele and begun playing, never having touched it before). We bought her a second-hand clarinet for Christmas and by the end of Boxing Day she was playing In the Bleak Midwinter.

The delightful thing, for me as her parent, is that because she’s not used to being as naturally good at something as her sister, she takes such joy in the discovery of music. She’s also recognised that hard work pays off: she has a natural talent but knows that musicianship is found in practise, and plenty of it.

I wonder if there’s a lesson in that? I wonder if something is the more wonderful when it is hard won? I wonder if joy is only truly found in the space between sorrows?

“The kingdom of heaven is like [yeast], which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till all of it was leavened.”

“…the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:33, 45-46 (NKJV)

emphasis mine

Forward by Grace

on the days when you feel unBrave, you are not undone, but undoubtedly are carried forward by the determination of grace.

~  Ann Voskamp, 12th January 2017

PTSD seems to jump up at the most unexpected times. Sometimes I don’t know even what sets it off. I struggle. I feel overwhelmed. I get all in a muddle. I get tired. I conclude I am useless and worthless and a waste of space.

God says, “I will not break a bruised reed.” (Matthew 12:20). God says, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” (John 5:8). He knows my brokenness. He knows my uselessness. And He ignores all that, lifts me up and sets me on my feet again. So I go back to the laundry and the dishes and the stuff of mothering and I begin, again, to put one foot in front of the other. Only by grace.

For Ordinary Folk Theology Is

A good and solid biblical teacher must come clean about their manner of interpretation early on, or you have no foundation for trusting what they say. Just saying, “It is in Scripture,” as most do, is largely meaningless, because anyone can find a workable “proof text” for whatever they want to believe somewhere in the Bible.

~ Richard Rohr

There is an excellent post from Richard Rohr today about how we approach our faith, its beliefs and tenets, and how we interpret the bible. I confess I have been steadily surprised and awed by Richard Rohr, although I don’t always agree with what he says, not being Catholic (but then, I think he’d be fine with that, which is one of the reasons I like him). As a Baptist, I truly value the importance of The Word, but Rohr seems to encompass this (and more) in this post. He puts into words things I might have discerned or felt but was never quite able to grasp concretely enough to express. I look forward to learning more. Meantime, if you’re interested, you can find the post by clicking here: Our Tricycle for Forward Movement

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Rohr, in trying to describe the Holy Spirit, uses the words ‘force field’, which inevitably and somewhat hysterically reminds me of Star Wars: “Use the force, Luke!”  

Image:

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38391903

 

Seven: Thoughts on Married Life

It’s been a little over seven years since I first met my husband. I was 32 then. How young that seems now! My dear Frank was a youthful 41. When I look back, when I consider the woman I was then it is almost like I’m remembering the life of someone else, so far have I come from that ill-used, halfling creature. It amazes me to think that Frank saw beyond all that jagged brokenness and, more than that, he loved me just for me. He rescued me. I was about breaking into a million sharp shards and this wonderful man didn’t run in the opposite direction when he found out my past, he didn’t even scarper when my then 10-year-old autistic and ADHD son attacked him when he babysat the kids for an evening, for the first time. Frank phoned me when I was in the middle of dance class and asked if I would come home. I confess I didn’t think it was all that bad and wanted to stay (single parenthood not giving me much opportunity for anything). Ten minutes later he called again and I realised that I needed to go home. His voice sounded polite, but strained. Here we go, I thought. I braced myself.

As I walked in the front door and saw Frank’s face, and then took in the fact that he was covered from head to toe in Vaseline and eczema cream, I knew for sure it was over. Who would willingly stay to become the step-father of a child who didn’t sleep, destroyed things and attacked you? Who would willingly desire to be the husband of someone as broken as me? Who could possibly think that we, the kids and I, were worth it? Also, at that point I had had not only the awful, abusive first marriage and the ramifications of that individual’s crimes, but a few months before had fallen for someone – a lovely Christian man – whom I thought felt the same only to find out he didn’t. Ouch. So I had wrapped my heart tightly inside me, to protect it. I had not let myself feel anything other than a moderate attraction to this new man, Frank, who stood before me as I stepped into the hall.

But the rejection never came. Instead, the very first thing he said was “you know that I love you, don’t you?” And I – well, how do I say this? – I began to unwrap the tight bindings of my heart. I can’t say he swept me off my feet or romanced me. Everyday life with two very little girls and a son with ASD meant that we stepped into (grim?) reality straight away. No time for all that lovey-dovey stuff. He stayed. And he loved. I grew to love him, and I also grew to love the ‘me’ that he saw – because I can tell you for sure that I did not even like myself, let alone love myself, and I didn’t see how anyone else could.

So I would like to thank God for answering prayers I never even uttered, and I would like to thank Frank. For being Frank. For being a man of God and a man of compassion and a man of so many other things that will remain unnumbered. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell him how much I love him. I am truly blessed! This post is for my husband. Thank you.

Heaven Sings Hallelujah (Epiphany)

Most of religion is ideological: it defines reality from the top down. It begins with a transcendent God up there in heaven, and then we try to explain everything down here in relationship to that transcendent God. But what Jesus actually taught was something much more akin to “from the bottom up.”

… This perspective… turns everything on its head. That is why today we celebrate three kings paying homage to a poor baby in a feed trough.

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

An epiphany is when you learn to see something that you had not seen before. God gives us daily epiphanies, if only we pay attention, and sometimes despite our lack of attention, too. ‘Heaven sings hallelujah! Hallelujah the earth replies.’

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Flashbacks

In 2015 I went through EMDR. It was excruciating, but I saw tremendous improvement in the months that followed. I was told right from the beginning that it was not a cure, as such, that everyone responds differently and that ‘wellness’ occurs at varying degrees.

Lately I have been experiencing flashbacks. They are quite intense, but in a different way to those I endured before EMDR. Often these flashbacks are not related to overt violence or threatening situations. They’re usually about all the ways in which I was manipulated and coerced.

People often don’t realise that coercion is actively abusive, but in many ways it is equally as damaging as the more obvious kinds of abuse, and may in fact be more destructive *because* it is less easily identified. Coercion and manipulation work in such a way as to make the victim feel he or she has no choice. Coercion attempts to make the victim a willing participant. In certain situations this coercion is also known as ‘grooming’.

Sometimes it is as if I experience the situation all over again. It makes me sick. Nausea and a goose-pimply feeling of horror and disgust wash over me. At that point all I can think is: ‘I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.’

But my faith is my rock. As the flashback lessens and common sense drips back in, I tell myself that it is a sin to hate. Hatred eats away at you, making you permanently miserable; no room for love. My God says to lay all my burdens on Him. My Jesus stretched His arms wider than the earth on that cross.

I pray, “Lord, I can’t help feeling that I hate him, but I know you don’t hate him. I give my hatred and I give him over to You. Seventy times seven. To the power seven. And then some. Please keep him away from my family and from anyone else who is vulnerable. Don’t let him hurt anyone else. If you can reach his heart, I pray that you do. You tell me to pray for my enemies so that is what I’m trying to do. I don’t know what else to do but to reach out to you. Seventy times seven. And then some.”

I write because this is my testimony of what faith actually looks like – not pretend faith that avoids the nasty stuff. Life is hard. But God is always good. God is ALWAYS good.

Three in One and One in Three

Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’  They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…’

Mark 10:38,39 (NRSVA)

Then [Jesus] took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many…

Mark 14:23-25

rubilev

The Hospitality of Abraham by Rubilev – see how each looks at the other, in a triangle? See how each hand reaches in the opposite direction to the eyes? See how they share the one cup?

‘Three in one and one in three, the godhead of the Trinity’ so says the hymn attributed to St. Patrick, caster-outer of snakes and paganism.

I think this is the core realization of every saint. Saints see things in their connectedness and wholeness. They don’t see things as separate. It’s all one, and yet like the Trinity, it is also different. What you do to the other, you do to yourself; how you love yourself is how you love your neighbor; how you love God is how you love yourself; how you love yourself is how you love God. How you do anything is how you do everything.

Reading these words from a blog post by Richard Rohr this week (emphasis added) brought to mind another post: Thou Shalt Love Yourself? by Laura Martin. It’s as if each one answers the questions posed by the other. Funny how God does that.

Perhaps the third part of this triangle would be my own post: A Mathemagical Puzzle. After studying statistics and probability all day my befuddled mind began a-wondering and a-pondering. It didn’t come up with much more than a desire to learn more about probability and the way stuff works. Much like theology, mathematics can be applied to every sphere of life, the universe and everything (perhaps I should have titled this post ’42’)?

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He… began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed…, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Mark 14:32-36

Three in one and one in three. I in You and You in me. I guess drinking from the same cup is terrible and glorious and yet – ordinary.