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.

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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)

Ceasefire for the Sexes

I hate what we have become

Us siblings

Pitted against each other from puberty

Either divided and ruling

Or divisive and ruled.

Missing out on mutual flourishing

A destructive relationship

if ever there was one.

.

Men have blamed women always –

it was Adam’s second sin in the garden –

And then women were cursed to desire and resent them.

But we were (re)born to go beyond our ancestors

and to trust and understand what once they feared.

.

And we can fear to love because we think that love is unclean.

Yet surely it cannot be purity

When we distance those who give us life.

It insults the very Gospel

of the Son of Man who spent time with women

and looked to their souls not their sex.

.

I know of these things only partly

And often through a screen darkly, but

The way I’ve come to think is that

Sex should not be a battleground.

We are more united and

diversity is in high demand.

I don’t want to fight or fear my brothers

and we shouldn’t need to fear all attraction.

Honestly.

How I wish that sex would once again just mean

intercourse

and not war.

All I want

Oh Church
I don’t want your marketing
Your flyers, photos and statements
Your slick design packages and logos
I want raw, jagged edges
Ugly tears and desperate sobs
Shuddering shoulders and tensing muscles
Gritted teeth and screwed up grimaces.

Oh Church
I don’t want your corporate colours
Your famous role models
Your easy, three-point sermons
And chortling middle class anecdotes.
I want your righteous anger
Your deepest longings
Your daily struggles
Your secret weaknesses.

I want
to know
what gives
you hope.

And

I want
to see
that you care
about me.

I want you to be

my family.

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.

Found in Translation/Wycliffe*’s Plea

For the artists, the liturgists and pioneers who keep the Good News fresh and don’t just parrot the wisdom: you will always be the true evangelists.

Lost for new words

We recycle the old ones

Not fathoming their subtle implications

As if their very antiquity suffices for intelligibility;

As if permanence were a virtue.

Well, not in linguistics

And that is hardly prophecy.

Sure, the well-worn is beautiful as poetry

But if lex orandi is lex credendi*

then new metaphors will come in handy

when translating the ancient

into postmodern.

After all, the Word became flesh and made his home among us

So we need to give Jesus the local lingo:

To keep translating him into our vernacular

and re-interpreting him with our lives.

_

*John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was an English priest who was an early translator of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate version into vernacular English, so that all English people could access the Scriptures in their own languages.

**Lex orandi, lex credendi (Latin loosely translated as “the law of praying [is] the law of believing”) is a motto which means that it is prayer which leads to belief, or that it is liturgy which leads to theology.

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’