Friday, September 26, 2014

Will

Children play at funerals.

At the front of the room we see you.
Or, rather, the skin you slid from
- snake-like -
as you abandoned the old
to enter the new.

Your cousin skips down the aisle
in her pretty new dress
her blonde hair and sunny smile
juxtaposed against the darkness
shadowing her daddy's face
- one hand holding hers gently,
the other white-knuckled with pain.

A tow-headed boy squeals in outrage,
confined unwillingly to the lap
of a flustered relative.
She smiles at us
apologetically
and offers him the use of her phone
her e-reader
her tablet
- electronic panaceas
that fail to placate him
and don't begin to touch the edges
of her own sorrow.

And we sit clustered towards the back.
We unlucky-few
- embodying the useful Italian word:
...simpatico
...simpatica

Our eyes are snared
by your casket
- horrifyingly beautiful
with its Cardinals red
and innocent white.

We see you - oh, we do!
But we also see,
cast over you as shadows,
the haunting faces
of our own lost sons.

It is a relief to be distracted
from these somber reflections
by joys and by tantrums.

Children play at funerals.

They play and they continue to play
until we adults, in our wisdom,
make them stop.

Will, I confess to you now
the greatest sadness
for me
is not in seeing the shell where you once lived
nor your shattered parents
- aunts, uncles, grandparents -
and certainly not your playing cousins.

Although all those things
do break my heart a little more.

The greatest sadness
is seeing the miniature grown-ups
in the front few rows.
Aged to adulthood
a decade before their time.
Sat in silent reflection
of the knowledge that some part of childhood
- some small measure of the joy of play -
has been stolen from them
forever.

Children play at funerals

Let them play.
Oh!
Let them play!

For far worse
than the chatter of the child
who doesn't understand,
is the silence...

...of the child who does.

September 26, 2014

~ If you would like to help the Hayes family with the expenses associated with losing Will please visit their go fund me page.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Not Another List.

Dear Sam,



 You've always known that I struggle with Mothers Day, right?



I mean, the one in May celebrated by Australians and Americans, and who knows who else. I quite enjoy British Mothers Day, though. Well, they would call it Mothering Sunday. I'm British as well now (did I mention?) so I'm claiming that day as mine too, whatever the name.



 But the May Mothers Day continues to be hard. I read an excellent blog post this week from a woman who had a theory that we mums might be happier on Mothers Day if we focused on giving instead of having an entitled expectation of getting something.



I mean, it's genuinely good advice I reckon. Our scriptures tell us it is better to give than to receive, so surely focusing on giving would be better than focusing on getting. Right?



 Anyways, one of her suggestions was, 'Write each of your kids an individual list of why you love being their mom.' So I decided to give it a try. I mean, I really did try. I wrote lists for Laura and for Oliver (they have those lists now). But all the time I was thinking 'why is this so hard to do?' There are a thousand reasons to love being a mum, in general, and a million and more reasons to love being a mum to you specific kids. Why wasn't this list-writing activity helping me get over my sense of entitlement, and reminding me of all my many blessings?



 And it struck me.



It struck me like turning a corner on the road and walking straight into a slap in the face from Captain Obvious, the leader of The Duh Parade.


 I'm not miserable on Mothers Day because of a false sense of entitlement.


 I mean, is it entitlement to expect to have a mum - beyond the age of sixteen? Is it entitlement to assume that your baby will grow up and father babies of his own, little bundles of future delight to brighten Mothers Day celebrations yet to come?


No.


When every Mothers Day commercial just adds another twist in the screw that tightens the vice pressing me between the two impossible-to-bear burdens of motherloss and childloss... that isn't suffering because of entitlement - that's human nature.


So I guess it's not too surprising that I mentally dragged my feet through the task of writing those lists, because I knew at the end I would be writing a list for you. And Sam, the problem is, the thing I loved the most about being your mum was being your mum. Any blessing I could put on that list would be a bitter blessing because I don't get to experience them anymore and that is totally, and completely, and one hundred percent NOT FAIR.


Yeah, I guess for many of us mums society and advertising has sold us a version of Mothers Day in which we are entitled to showers of gifts and good food and laughter. But for me (and for others like me) all I really want on any Mothers Day is to see my mum and to be a mum... to all my kids. And, entitled or not, I don't get to have that experience.


So, if it's ok with you, I think I'll skip your list - and I think I'll keep celebrating the British version of Mothers Day, since it carries less baggage.


And I'll keep on reminding myself, as I do every year, that May 14 - the day you slipped through our careless fingers - is also another kind of Mothers Day.


May 14 - the day MY mum finally got to meet her baby's baby, face to face, as they both worshipped in the throne room.


Say hi to my mum for me, Sam.
Love, Mum.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ten Things Your Pastor Wishes You Knew About Her.



1. She is not a woman pastor.


She is a pastor. No one says, “This is Pastor Steve – he’s a man pastor.”


Having her gender attached to her job title as a (dis)qualifier diminishes both her, and the role of pastor.


2. Yes, she has read 1 Timothy 2:12.


Also 1 Corinthians 14:34.


Often. In fact it is likely she has spent many, many, many more hours than you pouring over and wrestling with those texts.


3. She doesn't do it for the fun of it.


She has argued, wrestled, cried, lamented, and railed against her call.
She has been to Tarshish many times on her way to Nineveh. She does not exist to make a point, to make waves, or to make you mad. She is (and should be) obedient to her God, not to her critics.


4. She is soft.


She is soft not because of her gender, but as all people are soft - by nature of the biological and psychological reality of humanity. She works to REMAIN soft, despite the abrasions and burns of life. Because only psychopaths are content to be hardened and heartless.


5. She has been hurt.


Recently. Possibly by you.


It is a tough gig.


When she is hurt she is like an athlete competing on a broken foot. But she keeps doing her job anyway, because she is obedient to her call. Your positive feedback and encouragement on the job she is doing help her heal from those hurts more than you can imagine.


6. She loves her family.


Not all pastors have children, but all have some kind of group of humans she calls family.
If you hurt them, you hurt her and reduce her ability to be effective in ministry. Yes, she will devote some of her time and energy to the care of her family. This is good and scriptural. She loves it when you support her in this.


She does not put church first and family second. She puts God above all things. God takes care of the priorities from there.


7. She has a title.


She may prefer you to use it. She may prefer to be called by name.


But if you do use a title use the correct one. 


She may be Jane, or Pastor Jane... but she is NEVER Miss Jane.
Yes, this includes when you introduce her to someone outside of your church or religious group. When you introduce your doctor to a friend you don’t demote him to ‘Mr.’ Even Protestants call the Roman Catholic leader  ‘Pope’.


If you can't respect her, at least respect the office.


8. She is not a feminist.


Or she is. Really that's up to her. By definition, a feminist is simply ‘a person who supports the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.’


But she is not automatically a feminist by virtue of her gender or profession.


It is likely, however, that  she has spent at least some time wishing people would be less genderist (look it up).


9. She wishes she had a 'clergy wife'.


(She has this point in common with her male colleagues.)


Single or married, she has heard of these mythical creatures who play piano , lead Sunday School classes, keep the home and any children clean fed and happy. . . and she would LOVE to have one of them! Who wouldn't?


Sounds awesome!


Instead (if she is married) she has a spouse who is her partner in the home, and who holds their own position of value in the world; possibly, even, a position of paid employment. Her spouse (if she has one) is not an unpaid, extra church staff member. Take your church issues up with her, not her spouse (or her kids).


10. I do not speak for her.


She shook her head at least once while reading this. She is diverse and unique and her story is her own.


And she would love an opportunity to share that story with you.


11. She makes mistakes.


See? Even in counting points in a blog post.


She makes mistakes, not by nature of being female, but because she is a flawed, broken human being who is redeemed only through the grace of God. She craves forgiveness just as badly any other person.




. . .




So. What did I leave out? What would YOU add to this list? I look forward in particular to reading the responses of my sistren in ministry.



Friday, May 24, 2013

Jen


(I wrote this poem this week for a dear friend of mine who is struggling with all things life and love and faith. This is dedicated to her, and to all who helped, and continue to help, me in my own trenches.)

You are in the trenches.

You are in the battlefield, in the thick of the fight.
You have shells falling around you day and night,
kicking up dust and destruction and a kind of death
...until even day looks like night.

Of COURSE you can't see the sun.
Or, when you do see it, it is a withering glare -
exposing the ugliness,
roasting the flesh of the fallen,
blinding you with it's merciless blaze.

It's ugly, and hard
and it HURTS
in a way that is impossible to bear
here in the trenches.

But it's also not a clear picture of the world.

So you can't see the sun through the darkness,
but turn your head to the left or to the right -
can you see one of us?

Because this is the TRUE mission of the church:
to slide down into the trenches with the wounded
...and BE the sun.

Will you allow us to love you like that?
 Is it enough, for now,
when the battle is at its thickest
to feel fingers curl around yours in this darkness
and rub your hands until a spark forms?

You are in the trenches.

God loves you completely,
right where you are,
in just the way you are wanting to be loved.

But since you can't see that right now,
see us.
We want only good things for you.

We love you.
We love you, right here
in the trenches.
May 22, 2013

Monday, December 19, 2011

Illinois, you're letting me down...

Right, let's get one thing straight. I agreed to move here for a variety of reasons, but WAY up on the list was the promise of snow.

Not South Australian snow (AKA 'Imaginary Snow').

Not lame Tennessee snow that falls like dandruff and melts in minutes.

No, I'm talking about REAL snow like we got so much of last winter. Snow that sits around for days and gets the kids out of school (and consequently gets me a sleep-in).

So now it's December 19 and THERE IS NO SNOW!!!

So I'm putting you on notice, state of Illinois, I want snow... or I'm taking my bat and my ball and I'm GOING HOME*.










*any threat to leave the country is entirely tongue-in-cheek and should not be taken seriously

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My 'Accidentally Tasty Chicken' Recipe

This post serves two purposes.

Firstly, I wanted to share my newly discovered recipe for 'Accidentally Tasty Chicken' (newcomers: this is NOT a cooking blog. Read on, you'll see why...).

Secondly, I wanted to shamelessly self-promote the new addiction of a facebook 'like' button to my (seldomly-read-let-alone-SHARED) blog.

I have no shame. But I DO have Accidentally Tasty Chicken. And so can you.

(And so can ALL YOUR FRIENDS if you were to... well... use the shiny new facebook button...)

Enjoy.

Accidentally Tasty Chicken

1. Buy two giant bags of chicken quarters (actually, these were just the leg/thigh quarters), split them into meal amounts and freeze them.

2. Next (several weeks later) realise that the two church committee meetings* fall right on suppertime and pull one bag out of the freezer with a vague plan to cook some sort of slow-cooker meal.

3. Forget to place anything at all in the slow cooker/crock pot when you get up in the morning.

4. Spend entire day incredibly busy.

5. Remember chicken half an hour before first meeting is due to start.

6. Tip bag of chicken pieces out onto a flat baking tray - push them around until there is space between all pieces. (Except for the one weeny piece that is much smaller - shove that one close to a larger piece in the hopes that the proximity will make it not be horribly over-cooked and shoe-leathery.)

7. Sprinkle generously (and frantically) with garlic salt.

8. Place into oven - 160C/325F degrees.

9. Yell at (vegetarian) daughter that if she wants mashed potatoes she'll need to cook them.

10. Leave house for an hour and a half.

11. Return in time to boil pot of potatoes and water (that daughter miraculously peeled and sliced in your absence).

12. 'Mash' potatoes in Kitchen Aid mixer with butter and milk. Microwave bag of frozen peas. (Preparation of veggies takes total chicken cooking time to about 2 hours.)

13. Cross fingers, pray, and open oven.

14. Remove baking tray from oven, place on stove, pull plates out of the cupboard, and yell "FOOD!".How's that recipe?





*For this step it helps if you actually WORK for the church in some sort of Pastoral role, so you can't - you know - just skip the two meetings...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Melancholy

It's not a special day.

It's not even an especially bad day.

On the drive home from Walmart (milk, cheese, lettuce...) my thoughts turn to Sam.

I hear his cheeky laughter. I see him - heat-less, life-less, motion-less.

A cold hand slips around my heart and squeezes and I hurt, I hurt, I hurt, I hurt, I hurt...

We're stopped at the road works - windows down, warm breeze, sun on our faces.

Laura leans over and wipes a couple tears off my cheek.

Inhale... Exhale...

Life continues, without him.

It doesn't stop hurting, we just learn better pain management.

Death sucks.