Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Just saying.

I have not been to see Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey. I have no plans to. I am not prudish. I don’t feel I’ve missed out. I abhor violence. I think the people who have missed out are those who find insufficient pleasure in the exquisite bliss of gentle, tender, respectful sex, and are driven to cruel and sadistic power games and watching/reading pornography. I believe in gentleness. I enjoy peaceful tenderness. I like simple, humble love that regards the other as infinitely precious, not to be dominated or hurt. And that a Christian journal should have sent a Christian leader to go and see Fifty Shades of Grey to review it, I find disappointing – falling for the oldest trick in the Bible: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Heard it before. Not true. Seeing the way to go comes from walking in the light, not from dabbling in the darkness. I wonder how long it will take him to get what he heard and saw out of his mind?

Thursday, 19 February 2015


I spent the last couple of days checking the proofs for the new edition of my novel The Hardest Thing To Do.

In every book, I try to write from a live place in myself, so that the struggles and insights feel honest and real – because they are! In fiction particularly I work through challenges and perplexities in my own life, trusting that human beings are similar enough for the result to strike a chord with readers.

I wrote The Hardest Thing To Do during 2009/2010, when I had some huge things to resolve. Reading the proofs yesterday, I came upon this passage (Brother Tom confiding in Brother Theodore):

“What can I do with all this old bitterness? I can’t see how to turn it into something different. And inside a man, the living soul, it’s like a cistern, a kind of closed reservoir with no outlet. What way is there for it to drain away? It just seems to stay in there, stewing and fermenting and not getting any less. How can I get rid of it? What am I to do?”

Those words came out of my own heart and situation – they were my conundrum as well as Brother Tom’s. Reading them again yesterday, five or six years on, I realized that for me those issues are now resolved. It has indeed taken all that time – only in this last year have the accretions of stuck-on trauma been soaked away, so that the past can be the past, no longer alive in me, something in which I have simply lost interest.

Yesterday, too, a friend on Facebook wrote a post in which the subject matter stirred old feelings – yearnings that used to fret away at me stealing peace. I wrote a comment tugging and picking at the issue: ‘How can I . . . ? What should I . . . ? What would happen if . . . ? I hesitated about posting it on my friend’s page, as it was long! One shouldn’t elbow into another person’s space. I contemplated posting it on my own page, tagged to my friend. I contemplated sending it as a private message. While mulling these things over, I began to wonder, what outcome am I actually hoping for? What do I want to come of this? And I realized – nothing; I don’t want anything out of this. It’s just going one more time around a well-trodden rutted muddy track. I know where it goes, I’ve been there before. And now my journey lies in a different direction. I don’t want to get mixed up in this any more.

It surprised me and made me happy that this response had no hurt or rancour, no sharpness or soreness – I didn’t feel alienated or bereaved by the loss of old landscapes and territories of the soul. Just that those days were over now; once it was me, now it’s not.

Navel-gazing apart, I want to say this to you just because it takes so long. In 1998 the troubles began in my life that now, in 2015, I can honestly feel have lost all power and interest. Seventeen years of my life have been given to the struggle and pain of working through the trauma and woundedness set in train back then.

So I want to say to you, please do not despair. I know some of you who read here are walking stony roads, coping with hard, knotty difficulties you can see no way out of. Life circumstances that go on and on, only getting compounded by the trauma and chronic pain – sometimes physical as well as soul-pain – that gets added to the original problems, escalating and consolidating it all. Please do not despair. There have been times when I thought I would never work through the original hurts and the ongoing legacy, like compound interest, that accumulated as a result. But I have.

I am, in all sorts of ways, not the same person as I was back then. Never capable of evaluating myself very accurately, I can’t tell if I’m nicer now, or less nice, or just more boring. But this I know: it feels quiet inside the temple of my soul. Peaceful and full of sunlight. Empty and calm. All the rubble and trash, the tracked-in filth and muck, the smoke and soot and flood-damage, have been rinsed away. The people who brought them are no longer part of my life. They no longer interest me – though I do still keep them in my prayers.

 And there have been occasions between 1998 and now, when I was consumed by terror and hopelessness, when I could see no way forward. There have also been times toward the end of the process when I kind of missed all the trauma – when the blankness left by its absence felt eerie and flat. As though I had died inside. A winter of sorts. But I love my life now.

This is my prayer for you, who read here:
Whatever life is offering you or asking of you, may you have the courage and patience to go on working through. May you have the perseverance and persistence, the hope and faith, to complete what is necessary for peace and light to flood your inner domain. May grace guide you and watch over you. May you learn the lessons that are yours and leave behind what belongs to others. May you be happy. May you be well. May you be free. May you become so spacious and generous that kindness is the hallmark of your life; and may the love that will make your days sweet surely find you. May you be at home in your own soul. May the truth of who you are flourish and prosper. May you be provided for. May you arrive home in peace.

If you want to, you could appropriate that prayer by saying it through like this:
May I have the courage and patience to go on working through what life is offering me and asking of me. May I have the perseverance and persistence, the hope and faith, to complete what is necessary for peace and light to flood my inner domain. May grace guide me and watch over me. May I learn the lessons that are mine and leave behind what belongs to others. May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free. May I become so spacious and generous that kindness is the hallmark of my life; and may the love that will make my days sweet surely find me. May I be at home in my own soul. May the truth of who I am flourish and prosper. May I be provided for. May I arrive home in peace.    Amen.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wine waiter

In the morning, in my quiet time, images come to my mind, and texts from the Bible, as I lay out before God the concerns of my heart, like laying out handkerchiefs on the table from a basket of clean laundry fetched in from the line; smoothing them, looking at them.

And today, when I had prayed for you, and especially for those ones of you recently bereaved, or working through a broken relationship, or anxious about money, and when I had prayed for my family – the whole sprawling, rag-tag tribe – I lifted into the light of God’s countenance the work I have in hand. Two funerals in the next week or so. Magazine articles. A set of Bible studies for later this spring. Quiet days and a retreat weekend. A novel to complete. I laid them out in the sight of God, smoothing them flat, and explained to the divine Mystery how important it is to me to do work of the highest standard. I explained that for each of these projects, whether or not I am paid, there will be those who have invested money and time, who will come with hope and expectation. I don’t want them to be disappointed. I want them to find something that comforts and nourishes them, feeds and encourages them. And I asked, please, may that be so. May I not let them down. May I do good work. May I offer them something worthwhile.

And the story of Cana-in-Galilee came to my mind – how they ran out of wine, and Jesus said to fill the jars with water and serve it up. So they did that in obedience; and when it was poured out it had become exquisite wine. The guests didn’t know where it came from, but the servants knew.

I felt happy then. That if I fill and refill the vessel of this wabi-sabi life with the ordinary water of stillness and quietness, and offer it to Jesus asking, “Master, will you help?” – then when it is poured out in the course of my duties, his touch will have made all the difference.