A veces sufrir te enseña vivir*

*Sometimes suffering teaches you to live

I said to God

Give me the gift of prophecy.

Yeah.

I wanna prophesy.

(That sounds cool)

And then I get to be right.

.

Okay

says God

You wanna be a prophet?

You can be a prophet.

Off you go.

Dream dreams. See wrongdoings.

Get mad at injustice and do crazy things.

Fall in love… With those who don’t reciprocate

Who disregard or exploit your affection

and cause you unrevealed depths of pain.

That is what it means to be prophetic.

It’s not about crystal balls

unless you mean in terms of courage

It’s being deliberately impolite

a deliverer of uncomfortable truths

and it’s certainly not glamorous.

.

But when you get fed up

remember, Jonah

what happened to Nineveh

even contrary to your expectations.

The Leaving Do

It is the Thursday before the Bank Holiday weekend, and Josh Davis, his best mate Simon, and at least ten other close work friends (the ladies would join them later) are going out for Josh’s leaving drinks.
Josh has booked a table upstairs at a nearby bar and arranged for some drinks and a modest spread (bread, olives, houmous or guacamole, and a few bottles of wine).

Josh has a close band of mates in the office which he has formed fast friendships with since he started work there three years ago. They hang out together over lunch, go away together, joining forces to advise their fellow employees on a healthy work-life balance and the best ways to work and solve problems around the office. As a result, Josh and his gang have become enormously popular amongst his colleagues. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the, well, if not corrupt then definitely rather self-interested, middle management. Initially they appreciated Josh’s fixing, as they had less to deal with, but now that he is the one everyone goes to to sort things out, rather than them, they are considerably less keen. Worried that he could stir up resentment against management and lose them their bonuses, they have had meetings about how to deal with him. Perplexingly, Josh has never officially applied for a management role, which is on the one hand a relief, since they know he is more than qualified and they’d have little ground for turning him down. On the other, at least if he did they’d have an excuse to put him in his place.

Unfortunately, as it is, they can’t do much about it since the once self-sufficient company was recently bought out by a large conglomerate who, as well as taking the lion’s share of the profits, want all hiring and firing run past them first.

As it happens, Josh’s mum, María, who works in the building, started at one of the larger comglomerate’s office as a contracted cleaner aged 16. A Filipina teenager, who never went to uni or had anything much going for her except her ability to knuckle down, she was treated kindly by the CEO who, over the next few years, noticed her quiet hard work day after day. He made sure she had a permanent contract direct to him, a pension and maternity cover, which was much better than the zero hours one she had had with the cleaning contractors. When Josh was a toddler, political unrest and xenophobic attacks broke out in that part of the country, so the CEO arranged for a transfer to another office abroad. They eventually returned to his hometown, and after a short apprenticeship, Josh started working at the office too. Everyone says María is the luckiest cleaner in the world; others say she must have gained that favour by giving some sort of special favours of her own, if you know what I mean…

The CEO is a figure fairly poorly known, but is said to be generally fair and decent. He recently seems to have left the day-to-day running of everything to the middle managers. But some reckon he’s not as hands-off as he appears. They’re not wrong; in fact, the CEO has sent in someone close to him, in secret, to experience things out on the ‘shop floor’, from the point of view of the employees.

Unbeknownst to all but his tight-knit little gang (though strongly suspected by many others), Josh is that someone.

TO BE CONTINUED (POSSIBLY)

Spirit groans and growing pain

I look down at the stars on my jumper

as I sigh

And I think of those Peruvian skies

Just northeast of Huánuco.

The entire sky was sprinkled with silver

Like molten metal dripping through a colander –

And yet you promised Abram that many children.

*

I run my fingers through my hair

as I try

to grasp that what I am reading is happening.

It grows back in patches where I’ve stress-pulled it,

kinking awkwardly beneath my curls –

And yet you know every strand.

*

I scale down my hopes and dreams

as I cry

at the million ways this world is dying and unkind

and really wonder how I’ll keep going

when the going is so bloody tough.

And yet you gave me my life and have kept me growing.

*

Emmanuel –

God the stranger who makes his home with us –

Help us keep on loving

and come quickly, Lord Jesus.

A Winter Solstice Psalm

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest…

– Isaiah 9:2-3 (NIV)

Bare birches stand out like
Anorexic zebras on a savannah
Just outside Sunningdale…
And I am thinking of you again.
.
The year is nearly ended;
The darkness has reached a zenith;
The world still reeling at such pain…
But I have started to sing again.
.
I hear soft playing in the evening
Like prayers coming out through a piano.
Our treasure we hide in our junk rooms…
And I have started to dream again.
.
People in this city can be terrible
Delaying confirmation for a better invitation
When you reach out to make connections…
Yet I have started to hope again.
.
‘As long as there are people…’
People kind like you,
I’ll believe in hope and fight for love:
For what I trust is true.

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbour, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘God is in the Manger’

Holistic Gospel

I used to think
That Life had a narrative
I AM and his purposes were divine
If rarely divined
By us little mere mortals
But now sometimes I don’t know.

I cannot believe in your
Parking space theology
A biased ‘mates’ rates’,
you’re-on-the-list-you-jump-the-queue system.
I’m not saying God’s Providence is democratic
But certain blessing seems questionable from a God of the Poor
Who was born to be a refugee.

The Gospel is about salvation, yes
But it’s about so much MORE.
Bringing the Kingdom; on EARTH, not just in Heaven
And that means getting stuck in,
here and now, in our surroundings.
Who is my neighbour?
Maybe it’s Nature
as well as your colleagues
or the lady who lives next door.
Maybe we’re not just saved to sing
but to share in life, in all its fullness
and not just to perpetuate
middle-class culture.
Surely the cross was a victory
because it was a starting point.

Not a stop but a comma

In this video of a (very good) talk by theologian Paula Gooder about bodies and Christianity, Canon Mark Oakley summarises things nicely and poetically when he suggests that Jesus, in healing people, wanted to change people’s ‘full stops’ (e.g. bodily disability, mental ill-health, anything cutting them off from community and society) into commas – making them not the end of the story but a break, to allow them to start something new.

“It seems that Jesus spots a person’s hard little full stop…and he turns it into a comma, and there’s a new chapter.”

 

 

Jesus makes our full stops commas,

Bringing new life out of old.

Better, he writes semi colons;

longer stories can be told.

He can hear our exclamations:

understand our colon’s fear.

I myself continue mortal;

all the same the Lord is here.