Category Archives: About me

New Year’s Resolution

I haven’t checked this week’s readings, I have been pondering John 10:10.

I am still writing and I am desperate to be published so I will keep this short.

  1. As a person with low self-esteem at times God is not calling me to change. At times God is honour me to continue what I already am/do but with more confidence and joy. All my resolutions will be what I hope to get out of my life WITHOUT necessarily claiming I don’t already partly or fully do it.
  2. I will be a source of love and a place where love can find a home in the world. Kindness, hope, joy – all the things that come out of love are the things I will seek to let in and out.
  3. I will look after my health, home and family including looking for enough work to pay the bills
  4. I will seek to discern and follow God’s call to me. I will seek to trust God even in a world that seems to deny my call.
  5. I will seek to make a positive difference to the world around me, to carry a warm fire of compassion into a cold world. I will use my time, energy, money and support to construct a better future.
  6. I won’t be perfect but I will seek to know that God sees my good intentions and that I am enough. I will sit with hope.
  7. I will live life to the full

When liturgy is women’s work: self healing and being loved

Even though I made claims at the beginning of this story which did not turn out to be true as I travelled through my story, I will not edit the beginning partly because I am so time-poor but mainly because I think there is an honesty in keeping in the way I delude myself and the way I try to avoid the obvious.

Given my estrangement from the lectionary at the moment and the fact I need to study I will not bother looking up a reading, will just recount a spiritual experience I had this week. I was challenged by it, back when I was more “churchy” I would have mistrusted what I felt or felt I had to turn it into a Christian framework somehow.

Instead now, I just want to tell it the way it was, with possibly my Christian prejudice still in place and my feminist bias too but not deliberately turning it to a familiar framework. I will trust the whatever, the God-thing to be real enough not to need me to fabricate Her realness with a framework. I will trust myself to love and follow the God-being enough not to need to force myself back into a box I never was all that comfortable in and have long outgrown.

As I say to the pre-schoolers “This is a true story, but there are still a lot of questions about how I know this story and whether someone else would know the story or tell the story differently”

I was unhappy yesterday, with an unhappiness that was probably just the after-effect of letting my happiness get too high like a drunkenness a few hours before. There is a person that makes me happy, euphoric and I always get drawn into a transfiguration type experience with her and then like in the biblical story (which wasn’t going to be part of this story) I want to make some sort of tent around the experience to prolong and own and predict it into my continued life. And it is a gift, but it is not that sort of a gift…the fragrance of beauty and possibility fades.

Later on she was short with me, I had a half-heard comment from someone else who laughed with her and I felt shut-out, the outsider. I felt they were mocking, and she rejecting me. Actually very little happened. It was a feeling, an after-effect of a high but I felt like shit. I wondered if I should work harder at not being in love with this person. I wondered how I would live without the glow of that love…I panicked at the unsustainability of it no matter what.

And though I didn’t feel like it I met my friends for belly dancing. My friends surrounded me. Often they have been sad and I have tried to commiserate and comfort. This time they were happy, bubbly, full of plans. They laughed at my emotional pain but in a loving way. I saw through their eyes that I was being stupid, overreacting – but they were not cruel enough to say so. One of them spoke with me at some length challenging my rigid meanings of what had happened- offering other softer meanings allowing me to begin to let go the self-hate and resentment.

But there was still sadness.

“I’ll dance it out” I said unconvinced, I wanted them to believe I was being brave, that I was at least trying not to be so stupid. “Yes dance it out” a friend agreed, that worked for me last week” but I had loved dancing last week and all week as I practiced and now I just did not want to dance. I felt too stupid and hideous and like a great big lump of sadness and I wanted to cry not to dance.

We went into dancing and the teacher welcomed us, the group had already started and they drew us in. We called instructions to each other (actually I was new to this and didn’t say anything but I appreciated that the more experienced dancers did). I had learned so much by practicing over the week but now my mind was full of tears and my body heavy, uncooperative. I forced myself to follow half a beat too late, my feet all wrong, my body ungainly.

Mostly the teacher did not comment. At one point she reminded me that it was early days for me and that it was just good to try. She reminded me to layer the moves, to only focus on the feet if I couldn’t get feet, hips, hands, upper body everything. In tribal belly dancing you layer move upon move upon move. Beginners don’t have to move their whole body. We move as a team, we try to all move together and be together and flow as one. We signal to each other the moves we will choose in the changes and we take turns leading the group.

I am a raw beginner, no damn good at it but the mathematical precision of where I ahd to put my feet gradually took over and my hips wanted to follow. My arms were too high so the teacher helped me drop them and stretch them out as they should be. Other dancers, more experienced than me also had small adjustments, but the teacher was always very positive to us and always broke it up into the smallest most logical steps possible. It was a type of maths, it took my brain and body over. I was still sad but not as heavy with it. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight; each move was eight beats (more or less) and they always happened in pairs. The feet. I placed my feet right, corrected or caught up when I needed to. I moved around the circle suddenly confident and keen to lead when it was my turn- then once again confused and lost.

The teacher had let me pass on leading the previous week, this time she saw that I was emotionally ready…with the right scaffolding, she suggested the move I should “lead” and remindingly took me through it. It was a parody of leading only, but I know from my pre-schoolers that that is how you become someone who can do. You imitate the appearance of doing, you slowly take over a step or a feeling of doing and you keep trying.

“You’re actually ok for someone on their second lesson” a friend reassured me

“I am trying to speak to myself as I would to the kids I teach” I admitted, “that it’s ok to take some time to learn a skill”

“It’s like a different language” she challenged, “You can only learn by doing. I love bellydancing. It’s all types of women…all ages, all sizes, all shapes. Well it is in tribal anyway”

At the end after our cooldown I realised I am quite fit. I was less breathless than many of them. I need to gain skill and the right sort of intelligence to understand which move comes next and remember how to do it but I am fit enough for this. When I stop panicking I will be flexible. I felt a glow of happiness that I would one day have the chance to be better at this as the teacher brought us into a circle.

“This is what we do, this is what tribal dancers do in every country” she told us, “If you don’t know their language you still dance with them and we finish with this” we brought our arms out blessing our sister- first to the right then to the left. We brought our hands together into the centre of our body “this prayer is also for ourselves” we knelt to the earth and blessed it with our outstretched hands and folded bodies, we rose up and travelled clockwise together then once more blessed our sisters to the right and to the left.

I felt sisterhood. I felt the “otherness” and the presence of God. I felt connectedness to the earth. I felt a humility creep into my body- what were my sorrows or my mistakes after all? What significance do labels like “Stupid” or “unattractive” or “rejected” have. The divine presence was flowing through me and my “sisters” and we were deeply emotionally and connectedly intelligent, we were attractive with a glowing light of beauty and love that flowed from us to all people and the earth we were accepted, welcomed, beloved by each other and the earth and the divine.

“I will try to be ok about her not loving me” I tried to pray but it came out differently.

“There is no significance in wondering and wishing and hoping about her loving or her not loving. There is dignity in me because I love her. There is dignity in me because I see dignity in others. I will walk into greater compassion and kindness toward others. Real love for someone leaves the other free.” I wasn’t moralising at myself like I have tried to when I try to pray the “right” way, I was letting go of pain and feeling a calm self-acceptance that was loving toward others. I felt connected to everyone- to my accepting friends, my dancing group, to my child and to my friend’s partner who was babysitting him, to the partners of all my friends, the friends I have not seen for a while to the friends who need my help, the colleagues who love working with me and the ones who rub me up the wrong way.

I am connected to the person who may or may not find significance in that, and to people I have not wanted intimacy with. I am connected to the people who bullied me in high school and helped me become such a nervous wreck but they are human and forgiven because I am filled with redemptive grace and beloved. I am human and forgiven for my blunders. I am called to mean well and to question.

Sisterhood in this case was inclusive, it was beautiful and because it honoured the specificity of our femaleness there was a spirituality of deep healing grace here. On the way home I ignored my anxiety about starting work at 7:30 the next morning and stopped for pizza and immature jokes with some of my “sisters”. I wasn’t going to turn this back into my Christian paradigm but what was that if not Eucharist?

Reclaiming Darkness

 

Forgive me readers for posting this extra post just before I add my struggles with this week’s readings. It was in my head and I thought I would get it out.

I remember being that pious child that just took on board everything that was said at church no matter how much it outraged my experience of reality. If what the man in the dress said conflicted with what I could see and feel and know then I was wrong and I had to shift my thinking, it was as simple as that. Unsurprisingly this led to me losing my faith and my sisters and I (much to my parent’s disgust) developed a habit of giggling, making sarcastic comments under our breaths and rolling our eyes at the patriarchal words that rolled from the pulpit and altar at us.

One of the things that amused us was the use of the word “men” to symbolise humanity (but this word only sometimes means that). “Since by man came death” sang the choir, “even so in Christ shall all be made alive”

“Christ isn’t a man then” we might sneer.

Another was a hymn we had to sing:

Holy, holy, holy- though the darkness hide thee

Though the eye of sinful men thy glory may not see

Only thou art holy, there is none beside thee

Perfect in power in love and unity

See how a couple of those themes fit with this week’s readings? But we latched onto the inability of the “sinful man” to see. Maybe we could see then we speculated since we may well be sinful (and defiantly so) but we weren’t men. The sexist term seemed almost like a loophole at times. Just as we were not included in full participation, ministry and full salvation by being only an auxillary to the great default “man” so we also felt we should then escape having responsibility and escape judgement.

Later at theological college I read something about women “reading between the lines”. I immediately recognised how I had done that at times, both in my current adult wish to move back into the church and in my childishly laughing resistance of what didn’t even attempt to speak to the “me” that goes unrecognised in church. Still you know churches fail to recognise women and especially queer women. We are all subsumed under an “everyone”, but this inclusivity assumes a heterosexual, middleclass, white, male subjectivity and for us to be included we more or less need to be willing to wear this type of drag- I am told this is even more so true for priests and ministers. “Differences” are either exoticised, or more commonly white-washed (and male-washed) because they make us feel uncomfortable, something is demanded from us by the unashamedly “different”.

Somehow this experience of recognition that I constantly had to read between the lines- both as a serious pilgrim and as an interrupting-of-patriarchal-flow larrikin –  made me wish for a liturgy where I could just rest in the church’s welcoming arms and goodness and I began to rewrite huge chunks of liturgy- every prayer, every response as well as many hymns to make them less alienating. I allowed them to be radically feminist, exclusively female and probably injected my as yet unacknowledged lesbian identity into my passionate striving for a feminine face of God.

And the song I mentioned above was easy to take over, I cannot remember all the verses but that one verse echoes in my head as an anthem to ultimate female triumph over being subjugated and God’s interest in our liberation.

Holy, holy, holy- though the darkness hide thee

Though the light of patriarchy cannot pierce your veil

Your love makes us holy, called to work beside thee

Wisdom never resting ‘til justice will prevail

 

Here the traditional binary of light and dark are reversed. Darkness hides God, God chooses to be undiscoverable to have some boundaries and not to allow the intimacy that is really domination. Patriarchy, reason, science, the enlightenment cannot rationalise away God or invent rules to understand or control God. Love and call; wisdom and justice are my experiences of God and they are what I celebrated in a hymn rather than perfection, power (kingship), onlyness (peerlessness I guess is the real word) and being above the unworthiness of “man” just as man is above the unworthiness of the rest of creation.

But over the years meditating on this idea of Holy Darkness, and the feminine I have found other connections to grace. Firstly through viewing God this way I can relate to our Muslim sisters better. I can never approve of men hiding them and insisting that they go about veiled, but when white-culture comes in and tells them the wearing of veils is “offensive” I can be moved with compassion and empathy that they should wish to have some privacy and some boundaries in their own way. I have said “them” but “they” are always also “we” if we walk in God. Perhaps instead of giving people impossible dilemmas we need to together find more liberative ways of seeing the choice to cover the self, to withdraw, to refuse enslavement by a brand of “liberation” which does not suit who I am as a person.

And then the idea of darkness can also be redemptive in an ecological sense. Darkness used to interrupt the now endless workday of business, mining, selling, desperately striving. Darkness used to enforce rest and quiet. Darkness (and quiet) is needed by many species of nocturnal creatures to survive, be safe and forage or hunt. The lights of our hypercapitalist world burn so brightly and so endlessly that it becomes hard to see the milky way in the cities and even now the stars themselves. You have to go further and further out of town to experience darkness and quiet. I don’t wish to romanticise darkness, I know that under cover of dark many terrible things used to happen. But increasingly we live in a world of invasive and all-pervading light. Everything we do is seen and commented on, everywhere we turn data is collected about us. Everything must be seen and known and analysed and rest now comes under the heading of “wasting time”.

Holy Darkness redeem us from this, take us into your refreshing bosom where the hens may stop laying for a few hours and the possums escape detection and the owls do not have their eyes damaged by flash photography.

I want to end by sharing how I first came to consider “darkness” to begin with, although since I began I have gleaned much in traditional scriptures, hymns and writings that fits with the idea.

It began when my small son was learning about God and we taught him deliberately that binary opposition was a dangerous fallacy. “God is not a He and God is not a She” we said

“What is God then? An it?”

“No”

“What then?”

“You can say God is a He, but only if you said God is a She. You can say God is white, but only if you say God is black, you can say God is far away but only if you say God is close to us” We playfully went through all sorts of binaries with my son and he picked up on it and added his own that often surprised and educated me “God is red and God is green. God is a cat and God is not a cat. God is a snail because snails are both boys and girls at the same time. God is up and God is down. God is my mother and God is my child, God is hello and God is goodbye”

In church one Sunday, the reader got up and began in an impressively church voice (complete with the Anglican accent)

“God of light…”

“And God of darkness too” crowed my three-year-old little theologian bouncing out of his seat in excitement. He knew this game.

“No it’s only light” the priest told us

“It’s darkness too” my son insisted and I stopped and thought.

And the idea was there in our tradition you know. God is not just the light that gives understanding and meaning. God is the darkness that obscures meaning and gives rest too. Womb darkness, bed darkness, secret whisperings of love darkness, cat purring darkness, don’t touch me darkness, warm and restful darkness, unknown and unknowable darkness, tomb darkness, seed darkness, we know he is risen but we’re still a bit confused darkness, turning off your phone darkness, finally see the stars darkness.

Bittersweet chocolate darkness which is my cue to stop writing  and find some. chocolate

She calls me

I felt called to the “priesthood” years ago, that is old news and it never led anywhere. Whether because of my own character flaws (probably) or partly because of how oppressive the “church” is (undoubtably) or because God had some sort of other plan in mind all along. Who knows?

I don’t like church much. I do like church people but most “liturgies” are dead and deadening, a waste of my precious time and an obstacle to worship. Harsh criticism I know! I belong to 3 churches because of the people and because at times I seem to need to glean tiny scraps of theology and worship that fall from the tables of an all too capitalist all too patriarchal table that ought to be laden with grace but more often is overladen with duty, judgement, blame and a sort of impotent fatalism.

I seem to still read theological books and articles “for fun” or something. Some inner compulsion. To pray the bible and the psalm and various spiritual poets within my meditations on nature and relationship and Godhead. As a disillusioned, rejected feminist, lesbian I need to speak of God as “She”. I need to give myself permission to know and love what is female although of course it would be more ideal to move beyond gender completely.

Even so I feel called, to speak the word and to write my musings. If it is the sin of “pride” to think my thoughts could be useful to someone else then God will forgive me with a kind giggle of solidarity, knowing everything I have been through. Anyone who reads what I think and feel is free to think and feel differently, to find criticisms with my reflections.

If anyone ever is allowed to preach then I am also allowed. I have no pulpit. But She lights a fire in my heart and opens a torrent of words out of my need and my brokenness.

She is my Beauty and my Truth. Holy Wisdom the faithful.