Making sense (I)

It’s like 

going back to your old student flat

Years after you lived there 

How it is clearly the same location

And that old iron stain is still on the carpet

(They did lie about replacing that)

But it’s soul is gone

The gig posters ripped down

And your carefully curated bottle collection nowhere to be seen.

It’s not home anymore

It’s just a dead body

And you are the ghost seeing it from above.

Of course it’s unsettling

Weird; even upsetting

To see it like that.

You were born there

Your life and personality took shape here

The name became flesh and made its dwelling place among … them. Us.

This is my family home. No – it was where my family lived, briefly, but home has moved on now, bought houses in the suburbs and set up camp and laid down longer roots elsewhere. Their spirit has departed, but it lives on quite legitimately in my memories.

And perhaps sometimes theirs too. 

Isaiah writes about this. Being in exile but coming home to a new place. It’s a common prophetic refrain. See your children coming riding on the shoulders of strangers. Enlarge the place of your tent, that pastor in Oxford once said. Sing O single woman. You will be given a new family. As surely as Abraham; as many as there are stars in the sky… 

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Kings Cross 2017

“The man at the back of the queue was sent

to feel the smack of firm government”

– Pet Shop Boys ‘Kings Cross’ (1987)

You are squeezing this country

for every penny it has

whilst paying yourselves pounds.

When walking round this town

every corner now has a man

begging crouched on the ground.

How can this be

the strength and stability

that you promised?

*

When Neil wrote Kings Cross

HIV was the killer  –

though Maggie had excluded.

But now her party kills;

A government attacking its own people’s immune system

to ‘cure’ its monetary ills.

How can this political

dissociative self-sabotage

not be treason?

*

For thirty years on now

Austerity is raping folk

and starving hospitals, schools and lives.

Children leave the house hungry

even when their parents are working

and fraud is suspected from disability.

Oh, what price is dignity

when cheap, flammable housing

is good enough for the poor?

*

Young Christians in London

Go for cosy social brunches

and do everything Instagrammably.

Meanwhile ‘in Europe’

Refugees die on beaches

desperate to reach a safer land.

Overwhelmed, I’m wondering

Where is our Jesus in this?

On that beach with them.

The Gardener

A garden is not made overnight.
There are the thankless tasks to do,
Little by little
Planting and pruning and sweeping and plucking and digging
Watering and supporting
Pointing towards the light.
And then there is so much waiting
Just stepping back and letting your creation grow, change and get on with its living
And then 10 times out of 10 it dies anyway.
Honestly.
What was the point?

That’s I bet what Mary thought
Both the one who grew the seed and the one who by the fruit was drawn.
The former saw her treasured sappling snapped;
Felt a stake through her heart.
The latter wept at the waste
Of a life force that had sought her
Under whose leaves she sheltered
And who gave her a reason to go on.

Some say there is a conspiracy
That Mary carried his seed
And in a way they are right.
Not of his flesh but news
A rumour more persistent than a weed
and a hundred times harder to kill.
That somehow the Gardener lives.

They tried to kill us, Mary
But they didn’t know you were a seed
And today I’m restarting my Garden.

 

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.

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’