Tuesday, 27 December 2011

The vow of celibacy

jesus-celibacy-celibate-fire
Twelve years ago, someone very dear made a vow to God.

Swept up, was he, by a rare discovery. Glimpsed, had he, an unrivalled beauty.

Gave, did he, his life that day.

The discovery was that of the kingdom of heaven being lived out tangibly on earth. The vow was that of lifelong celibacy.

The person was me.

Don't get me wrong, I'd already given my life to Jesus a couple of years before, after great deliberation having chosen to follow Him, pledging my life sitting at the end of my bed clutching that Luke's Gospel.

And don't get me wrong, I'd been baptised (completed my 'baptismal vows', some would say), coming up out of the water with a leap in my step and a tingle down my spine and a determination to give my best for Him. Don't get me wrong, but this vow was a little different.

It meant vowing to always be true; it meant turning away from a married life, with children, and all the security, joy and fulfilment found therein, instead finding these in Jesus and my friends. It meant a commitment to purity in body and spirit; it meant extreme focus on the things of God; it meant being on fire, burning inside with passionate love, denying myself in order to build His church more effectively for the rest of my life. It meant being close to God, humbly allowing Him and His people to teach and train me; it meant being a father in the church.

It meant being totally sold out, living for the cause of Jesus; eating, breathing, sleeping the vision He had placed in my heart to see His kingdom built on the Earth.

It meant everything.

Don't get me wrong, when I made the vow it wasn't a deeply religious affair, it was pretty down-to-earth, for which I'm grateful. Nor was it anything like a marriage ceremony: there were no expensive flowers or posh suits or relaxing honeymoons or anything of the sort. For which I'm even more grateful. (Don't get me wrong, nothing against weddings - I've been to some bloomin' good ones in my time. But not thus are celibates made.)

   "What happens if you fall in love with someone in a few years and don't want to carry on with celibacy?" asked a friend of mine as he called me to the front of our Sunday morning church event.
   "Well, I'll just have to work it through and make sure I carry on in what I've committed myself to," I replied.
   "Go on then, you know the words."
   "Okay. Before God and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I do so make covenant as a celibate."
APPLAUSE FROM THE CONGREGATION. FOLLOWED BY PRAYERS AND ENCOURAGING WORDS SPOKEN.

Here's a copy of the celibate vow that I made to God on that day when I said "I do so make covenant" (for those who wonder, another way of putting it is "I do in this way make covenant"). It's fiery to say the least, and still makes my eyes widen with inspiration whenever I read through it.

jesus-army-celibate-vow-covenant

I know around two hundred other people who have also made this same vow. What is it that would drive so many people to make such a commitment?

Here's another example of a celibacy commitment which I read the other day, and which also made my eyes widen, as well as bringing on a deep, passionate sigh when I read it:
Initiate:  My Father
I abandon myself to you.
Make of me what you will.
Whatever you make of me,
I thank you.
I am ready for everything.
I accept everything.
Provided that your will be done in me,
in all your creatures,
I desire nothing else, Lord.
I put my soul in your hands.
I give it to you, Lord,
with all the love in my heart,
because I love you,
and because it is for me a need of love
to give myself,
to put myself in your hands unreservedly,
with infinite trust.
For you are my Father!

Minister:  What do you ask?
Initiate:  The mercy of God and of the church.

Minister:  The Lord Christ has chosen you to be in the church a sign of pure love.
Initiate:  Uphold me, O God, according to your word, and I shall live; and do not disappoint me in my hope.

Minister:  Do you commit to celibacy in the context of Christian community so long as you shall live?
Initiate:  I do.

Minister:  Do you give yourself fully to the church?
Initiate:  I do.

Minister:  Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others be faithful only unto her, so long as you shall live?
Initiate:  I will.

Minister:  Do you, (name of initiate), promise to love, rather than force your way; to give your life away, no longer living for yourself but for your sisters and brothers, loving them, humbly submitting to them, shepherding them, living with them?
Initiate:  I do.

Minister:  Do you (name of congregation/community), promise to honor (name of initiate) as part of your family and not to take his/her offering lightly? Do you take (name of initiate) to be your brother/sister, to love him/her, comfort him/her, honour and keep him/her in sickness and in health?
Larger community:  We do.

Minister:  Family and friends, do you rejoice with (name of initiate) in his/her love for the church?
Family and friends:  We do.

Minister:  Are you willing, now and always, to support and encourage (name of initiate) in his/her promise to church community and celibacy?
Family and friends:  We are.

Minister:  God, receive this daughter/son
who has promised single-minded devotion to you.
Give him/her grace to keep these promises,
sustain him/her by the encouragement of this community, and lead us together into eternal life,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
What a deep and hearty expression of what it means to be an avowed celibate in the church, particularly within the context of Christian community.

Anyone else want to take up the challenge of lifelong celibacy?

----------------------------
References:
Above quote taken from:
Celibacy commitment, p.560, Common Prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals, Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro, Zondervan

Further Reading:
   Jesus Army interviews Shane Claiborne
   The Simple Way (The Christian community where he lives)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Celibacy, community, the mop and the bucket

"Celibacy and christian community go together like a mop and bucket."
A quote from Thea at one of our New Creation Christian Community evenings a while back.

mop-and-bucket

Thea, as a celibate, is a great example of a mop. (Nothing to do with her hair, honest.)

The mop gets stuck in. It's not afraid of the toughest and dirtiest of jobs. It is able to clean and freshen in the places other long, bleach-soaked, stick-like cleaning accessories cannot reach.

Should a celibate not be like this, aspiring to be the greatest of servants, getting truly stuck in in every way possible, whatever the need? Giving their whole self without reserve to God and the church in their daily life. Getting stuck in with the practical, getting stuck in with people, getting stuck in in every way they can.

Thea is such a person. A true mop.

And where would this mop be without her bucket?

As Thea says, community life is like the the bucket. It 'contains' the whole of life in many ways - the blessings, the trials, the frustrations all fit together when you're sharing your daily life with close friends in Jesus.

For the celibate, community makes life make sense. Why else should anyone want to devote themselves to singleness for the rest of their life if not for people? Besides, we all need something to "squeeze all the muck out of us" (another of Thea's quotes)!

So, yes, celibacy and community do go together like a mop and bucket.

Not that all celibates should have to live in community - far from it! - nor that everyone in community should be celibate - no way! - but the two do go hand-in-hand in a way that makes sense.

Well, bucket, this is mop signing off.

Further Info
One Heart and Soul Thea talks about living in Christian community (video)
Like Mother Theresa Thea features in Jesus Life magazine

thea-godly-slade-celibate

Friday, 2 December 2011

I WISH I WERE MADE

fire-heart-for-god

A poem from a friend from a while back, which still makes my spine tingle today.

I wish I were made
just of this longing
for it knows exactly what it wants
and where to look
it aligns itself so well with God
but the rest of me – mind, emotions
even my imagination
seem so mismatched to this yearning
so dull to you dear God
and yet you became a man
so there must be some resonance between us
but what change must be wrought
for me to take my place truly
in your eternal bride

sometimes it is tempting to believe
this bride is just a metaphor
for something less
but no God forbid
if it is a picture it must be of something much more
something unboundable by any frame
untraceable by any hand
unsearchable by any mind
and only the longing of love knows
and I must be transformed by it

Wilf - 2006

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Losing your life - and loving the simple

I stumbled across an old song the other day. It was sung to me by a friend eleven years ago and I was so struck by it that I asked him for a photocopy.

jesus-disciple-song

I'm here Lord, your disciple,
Denying my self-life, accepting all pain.
I'm here Lord, your disciple;
Daily I'll follow you and never complain.
Ready to serve whatever the price,
I'm here Lord, building your church in sacrifice.
I'm here Lord, your disciple,
Losing my life once more to gain it anew.

Very simple and yet very challenging to sing - to sing and really mean, anyway. It gets to the very nub of what it means to follow Jesus.

So does this:
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?   (Luke 9:23-25)
I like the simple things. I like the fact that Jesus said very simple things, but that those things challenge us to the very core of our being.

I like the fact that the New Testament is simple. It steps past all our intellectual reasoning with its unexpected, earth-shattering, heart-exposing simplicity.

Like this:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   (John 3:16)
And this:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.   (1 John 3:16)
And it elicits a response and causes us to look deeply at ourselves and to choose between our own meagre existence and a rich, fulfilled, ever-expanding - yet utterly challenging - life.

And it inspires songs. Like the one above.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Christian community - is it worth it?

Should I continue to live in Christian community, sharing my money and possessions with my friends? Sharing my living space, my bathroom, my car, my kitchen, my meals - my life? Is it possible to live this kind of lifestyle long-term? Does it work? Is there a better way to live out my faith in Jesus? What are the other options? Am I cut out for it?

Is it me?

Is it what God wants for me?


These are some of the questions facing a friend of mine who is living in Christian community with us.

(For those who don't know, I live with thirteen other people in a big house. Fellow Christians aiming to live out the teachings of Jesus in daily life together. Part of a much bigger UK-wide Christian community. See here for a bit more info.)

Anyway, my friend. He's coming to the end of his temporary stay in community (two years in his case, but for some only one year, for others maybe longer) and he's thinking through whether he wants to commit to living like this longer-term.

I recently sent him the questions below, for him to ponder, to help him work out where he stands and what he wants to do.

Are there any other community aspirants out there? How would you answer these yourself? You might find these questions helpful pondering material, whether you're new to community living or been living it for decades. Or even if you're just considering whether you should give it a go (come and stay with us if you want).

Feel free to pick a question and answer it in the comments for this post. 

Past
  • What made you want to live in community?
  • If you had to liken your time so far in community to a certain type of food, what would it be, and why?
  • In what ways have you grown during your time in community?
  • How do you think you have contributed to the life of the community since you have been here?
  • What have been the best bits and what have been the challenges along the way?
Present
  • If you had to liken your current experience of life in community to a certain type of car, what would it be, and why?
  • What are you enjoying about living in community at the moment? What are you finding tough?
  • If you had to advise a someone of roughly your age, who was in the same position as you (stayed two years, considering longer etc), what would be your advice?
  • If you had absolute power, what would you change about our community, and why? What would you keep the same?
Future?
  • If you had to liken your future in community to a certain ripeness of banana, how ripe would it be, and why? [Actually, forget that one, it ain't working... ;-)]
  • Do you see yourself continuing to live in community over the next year? 3 years? 10 years?
  • What do you fear about community and the future? What inspires you about it?
  • What is your vision for your household? For our community? For our church as a whole?
  • Why do you want to continue living in community?
  • What has God said to you about community?
  • If you had to convince someone that you were ready to commit yourself to community longer-term, what would you say?
More information on community: for keen readers, follow these links:
New Creation Christian Community (the lowdown - incl. a few books on the subject)
Living Radical (a blog on community living)
Man with the mop (another blog on community, from a different angle)
Reasons for living in community (a very good blog post on the subject)
Flame Leaflet (Jesus Fellowship leaflet on community)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Falling in love - the celibate way

arrow-pierced-heart
What happens when an avowed celibate falls in love?

What happens if you've made a choice to live single for the rest of your life but everything inside you is screaming to have intimacy with a certain person?

I know a few people who've experienced this. I've been there myself, too, once or twice.

The process, in simple terms, runs something like this: feelings, longing, conflict, turmoil, pain, honesty, conviction, resolve, embracing the cross, restoration, relief, joy. Throw in a few other emotions and make this process repeat itself, not necessarily in the same order each time, and you have a good approximation of what it's like.

Tough, unbearable, madness at times, but an immensely deepening process. With God and your friends involved, it can bring a celibate great refining and, ultimately, a stronger resolve and a much deeper love for God.

Falling in love, having feelings for someone, developing a crush - however you want to phrase it -  is just part of life. It's normal. It's healthy. It's human.

It's what you do, or don't do, about it that counts.

Having feelings for someone doesn't have to take away from your celibacy; it can add to it. Obviously, that statement needs to be interpreted carefully, and obviously it makes things much easier to keep yourself guarded and to avoid the pitfalls where possible (it usually is possible). But if your guard has been low and you find yourself struggling in this area, it can be one of the most deepening experiences a celibate can have.

Celibacy, first and foremost, is about choosing love for God above others - and what better a way to live this out than to actually have to do it!

Incidentally, married people can develop feelings for someone other than their spouse, if they're not careful. Perhaps a similar thing could be said of marriage. What better a way to live out the "forsaking of all others" than to actually have to forsake someone in favour of your spouse. Surely that is part of the working out, the nitty-gritty, of love.

If a celibate renounces their love for a person, in favour of God, however much turmoil that may or may not cause them in the short term, then they are moving in the power of their celibate gifting. The gift of celibacy finds life and joy and the blessing of God through such experiences of renunciation. It could even be argued that this kind of experience is necessary in order for the gift to be fully experienced, for the vow to be truly ratified. Having promised to do, or not do, something, you're bound to have to either do, or not do, it eventually!

But there is a deeper point I need to make.

The natural, normal way of things, at least in our western society, is that when you have feelings for someone, you freely pursue those feelings until they are brought to a final conclusion: either a relationship, or finding that the other person is not interested. Either way, in the normal run of things, your feelings have dictated how you dealt with the situation. But when you have an 'absolute' which is at liberty to tell you that your feelings are not right and need to be dropped, when you have a commitment that you've made which is in opposition to your feelings - lifelong celibacy is one example of this, but so is marriage, or a specific commitment to, say, a year of singleness; there are other examples too - then you are in quite a different boat.

In this case, your conscience, your spirit, your will to do what is right come into play, and there is a choice to be made as to whether to be wilfully led by your spirit or swept along by your emotions. And if your spirit, not your emotions, dictates how you deal with the situation, and ultimately governs the outcome (despite the conflict in your emotions and the painful process of working it out) then you have taken a step further along the path of emotional - and, yes, spiritual - maturity.

Friday, 9 September 2011

LET ME

the-sea


let me tread light
through fires bright
and leave my burning footsteps on your heart
in flames I’ll write
the words that start
a masterpiece of all-consuming art
drawn with a pen
thrown like a dart
to wound with words that come alive, and then
you’ll burn again

let me breathe air
blow through your hair
and whisper voiceless secrets in your ear
wide-eyed you’ll share
in wonder here
in hidden treasures calling loud and clear
inspired by
the words you hear
the wind will lift you up and let you fly
you’ll own the sky

I’ll take your hand
in stillness stand
and sail you through the speaking silent sea
to sunlight land
then you’ll be free
to ride the wind and feel the waves with me
we’ll sail and surf
and then you’ll see
the sun take part in shining second birth
you’ll hold the earth

s0upy – March 2009

Monday, 18 July 2011

Sid and his socks

Saw this video last night. Very moving. Thought it worth sharing.


Friday, 15 July 2011

ONENESS

perfect-oneness

imagine a world
where all the people
are the same

imagine a world
where all the people
love the same

imagine a world
where everyone has
the same thoughts

needs the same
sees the same
wants the same

as you

you wouldn’t find me there

s0upy – March 2009

Friday, 8 July 2011

Celibacy: a gift given or a choice made?

celibacy-giftcelibacy-choice
Celibacy is both a gift and a choice.

The gift of celibacy is given by God, but the choice is made by the individual.

This is a bit of a paradox in some ways: it seems strange to speak of choosing something of your own free will if God has also chosen to give it.

Who's in control, God or the person?

Well, both.

Check out what Jesus said about being celibate:
Only those people who have been given the gift of staying single can accept this teaching.
Some people are unable to marry because of birth defects or because of what someone has done to their bodies. Others stay single for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Anyone who can accept this teaching should do so.
(Matthew 19:9-12)
This makes it clear that celibacy is indeed both a gift and a free will choice: we are given the gift by God and we choose to stay single. I thought I would go into some of my experience from the journey toward celibacy in order to shed some light on this seeming contradiction. There's a lot more to the story, but this gives the general flavour of how things travelled.

When I found Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, I found a great love was born in my heart for God, and for people. This love was a spiritual love, derived from the very heart of God. The love of God was poured out in my heart by the Holy Spirit and I found myself longing to be with people who'd had the same experience in order to express this love together. I was so affected by this love, so struck by what I had found, that I began to want little else. I found that there had been a change in my deepest desires – I now longed for God and his kingdom in a way that caused me to ache – and I saw that it was possible for these deep desires to be satisfied amongst God’s people.

This, I'm sure, was the beginning of celibacy for me. God, in placing His longings in my heart, was offering his great gift of celibacy and I found that my desire to be celibate grew, even if at first I didn't think the gift was for me.

I looked at the lives of one or two celibates I'd met and found them deeply inspiring. I guess I longed to be like them in some way, perceiving rightly that the source of their fulfilment was in their gifting.

I longed to be fulfilled only in God and his purposes, and, as time went on, I found myself less and less fulfilled by anything else. I remember one time laying on my bed and whispering a prayer: “God, please give me a celibate heart…” God had carefully drawn me and, as the author and fulfilment of my prayer, he was faithful to answer.

And, of course, Jesus said anyone who can accept it should. I couldn't really pass up a challenge like that!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

My git of a bloomin' bath

mouldy-sealant-tilesmouldy-sealant-bath

My life over the last week.

The smallest, simplest of jobs can turn out to be a bit of a nightmare. Last Saturday morning, I thought I'd quickly strip off the old sealant and reseal around our bath upstairs. It'd gone mouldy over the years and I thought I'd be able to finish the job before the morning was out. How wrong I was.

To cut a very long story short, I'm still deeply engrossed in the saga, having had to take out the entire bath in order to get in there and do the job properly, and then re-plumb it back in again. Life seems to have been dominated by this task ever since Saturday morning, with what has seemed like every spare moment going towards it, including the all important 10pm to midnight slot every night. Not good.

You can't imagine how pleased I was, having managed to get the taps off and on again without tap spanners (a miraculous achievement), having scraped off all the old sealant with a Stanley blade (no mean feat), hacksawed off the old bath trim from the wall, which had been tiled in under the tiles, with only the blade of a hacksaw, as the whole saw would never have got close enough to the wall to do the sawing (a pig of a job), bleached down everything (nasty), scrubbed with White Spirit to get the last bits of sealant off (smelly), re-grouted the tiles while I had the chance (yeah, smooth), to get the bath back in on Monday, ready to fill with water and apply new sealant.

The length of that last sentence may give you some idea of how long this has taken, which when squeezed into the spare moments in life, takes no small amount of effort.

Anyway, the bath was in. Here we go. Having done all the usual checks for plumbing leaks, and found none, I was well happy. So I got the bath filling up, ready to do the final sealing, and thought I'd just have one last quick look underneath to check all was well. It wasn't.

There was a crack in the bath itself.

Poodles! That meant I couldn't reseal the bath yet because it ought to be filled with water whilst the sealant is applied and dries (it's a weight thing).

It was an old crack, the kind that has been repaired years ago and has never caused any problems since (Superglue did the trick). The kind you just get used to and make friends with over the years by rubbing your right big toe on it whilst having a shower. The kind you never expect to leak again. It was a friendly leak. But it chose now - yes, now of all moments - to rear it's ugly git-shaped head again. Now, I tell you.

Right, I'll make a patch, I thought (my dad's idea, actually - the same person who told me Superglue perishes in water over time ...). Some plastic membrane, shed loads of Stixall (wonderful stuff, Stixall). Slap it over the crack from underneath, whilst reaching impossibly under the bath (yes, the crack was on the far side - had to be, didn't it). Check it Tuesday. Still leaking. Patch on too far to the right. Make another patch. Slap it on. Check it Wednesday. Still leaking. Second patch too far to the left. Poodles! Make a third patch. Slap it on, bang in the middle of the first two. Check it Thursday ...

And so it's now Thursday and I dread checking it tonight.

Currently, everything in life feels a bit like this git of a bath. A bit uphill, shall we say.

But then again, I wouldn't want to 'absolutize the present' or anything.

It'll get done. But it's still a git of a bath.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

THE BIG PICTURE

A story by Wilf, January 2011, from an original idea by Catriona Campbell.

Once upon a time, God decided to paint a picture. It was a big picture. It went right up into the sky further than you could see, and no-one had managed to find out how wide it was. It is very difficult to describe this picture but it was wonderfully colourful. It had a big swathe running up the middle which was about the size of a motorway but more interesting, and lots of sticky-out lumps of paint, a bit like a Van Gogh; in fact some were as big as Van Gogh himself, mind you he wasn't very tall.

Lots of people came to see it; some loved it, some hated it, and this went on for a long time. Then strange things began to happen. Some of the people who came to see the picture disappeared. No-one knew how or where but they did.

This came to the attention of a group of people called The Society of Religious Experts - s.o.r.e.s for short - who decided it was a bad thing for people to disappear, particularly when they didn’t understand it (they didn’t like anything to do with the picture and had wanted to take it away but being several miles high and of indeterminable width this was difficult). So the s.o.r.e.s decided to station some of their members along the length of the painting to explain to people that it wasn’t a very good piece of art and hopefully to stop people coming to see it. This is where our story begins.

The Arbuckle family was Bert and Lucy and their two kids, Digger and Sprinkle, and they had come to see the picture. They looked in amazement. Bert stood in silence, which was rare, Lucy stood in silence, which was even rarer, Digger jumped up and down and Sprinkle laughed and cried and gurgled with delight.

Nettlebed, the s.o.r.e. on duty, was having none of this. “Ah good morning I can see you think you like this, er, picture.”
“Too right, mate, I am fair stunned,” replied Bert.
“Actually, you are quite wrong sir. It is a poor effort, you just imagine you like it - and you needn't behave like that, madam, it's quite uncalled for,” Nettlebed snapped at Lucy who was swaying dizzily before the miraculous sight.
“I bet you couldn't paint anything that big, mister,” said Digger.
“Or that bootiful,” said Sprinkle, between all the other noises she was making.
“That's quite beside the point,” Nettlebed continued, “All modern critical analysis says ...”
“Is that man alright dad?” interrupted Digger.
“Eh? Oh! I doubt it,” said Bert.
“Now I must explain a few things to you about this, er, installation,” said Nettlebed in a weird fatherly tone that would have given them the creeps if they had been listening. And he explained and explained and explained ...
While this was going on, a strange thing happened. Digger, who was still jumping up and down, finally jumped up but didn't come down; up and up he went until he disappeared at about three quarters of a mile, leaving a beautiful splash of colour where he'd disappeared into the painting. Sprinkle, not to be outdone by her brother, did the same but with somersaults and pirouettes; it was most impressive as she too dived into the picture. Bert and Lucy could hardly turn their attention from the amazing work of art, but the loss of their beloved children did distract them. Bert looked at Lucy with an odd grin. “What do you reckon, love?”
Lucy smiled. “I reckon love.”

With that they held hands and with only the slightest flex of their knees they were flying up and up and dived into the painting near where their children had led the way.

Now I must go back to Nettlebed. He was still droning on as he saw all this happen but because he didn't believe it he simply forgot it and when he came to the end of his lecture on the badness of the painting almost a month later and saw that the family had gone, he actually thought that he had convinced them to stop looking at it and go home! I can't say he went away and lived happily ever after but it lasted about ten minutes which was quite a long time for him. But his imagined success gave him an even bigger head than before, and that was very bad for him.

As for Bert and Lucy, Digger and Sprinkle, that is another story, but whether anyone can tell it I don't know, because where they are everyone is living the best story ever and no one has any desire to break off and write about it.

If you ever get to see the big picture have a look about three quarters of a mile up. On the left a bit there is a great big blob of paint sticking out where the Arbuckles dived in.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Hack it all down

tree

We had a massive tree removed from our garden yesterday morning. I mean, this tree really was big. It was like - big!

Anyway, it's got me thinking, like these things do. This tree had taken over our garden without me really noticing. You see the trunk when you walk past on the way to the prayer shed and you hardly look up. Next time you go out, you see the trunk again, and above your head the tree has grown a little higher but you don't see it 'cos you hardly look up.

The other day, I stood by the pond and looked up.

It's was big. Nothing in the garden, or in anyone else's garden as far as the eye could see, is as big as our rogue sycamore. When you look up.

Things grow. Things get taller, wider. Things take hold, dig in, creep up. They take over, they loom over, they press down; they fester, they intimidate, they dominate. And we hardly look up.

We see the trunk as it always has been at eye level and we walk on by. Not seeing. Not looking.

There are parallels.

"He said this or that to me all those years ago." - and we don't look up.
"I can't talk to him about it." - I won't look up.
"She hurt me bad when she did that." - we don't look up.
"I've never said anything to her - how could I? What's the point, it won't change anything." - it's not worth looking up.

"She's a bitch," we say in our head, in our heart.
"I wish I'd never known him," or even, "I wish he were dead." Yet we smile when we see him. We greet him or her as a friend. But we never look them in the eye. That would be too painful, too impossible. We don't look up and see the fact that a hurt unexpressed, an unspoken offence has become a massive dominating tree of an issue. A grasping, clasping, creeping, crawling, root of an issue. We can't. It's too painful, and of course we have to protect ourselves above all other things 'cos we're selfish when it comes to this, blinded by our own shortcomings and inability to build strong, true, loving friendship. We're cowards who won't look up.

Let's call in the tree surgeons! Let's deal with the beasts of issues that dominate the garden, choking all the other plants. Let's be courageous and express the things we left unsaid.

No, let's rip up the germinating roots before they become a tree. Let's love.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I LIVE IN A UNIVERSE

I live in a universe
where wonder is a must

I live in a universe
where stars are made from dust

I live in a universe

where bees are kept
and birds are fed
and lilies tell your story if they’re read

where rain shines blue
and sun pours down
and light and life surround you when you frown

where breath’s a gift
and dreams come true
and the day’s a special treat designed for you

I live in a universe
where things aren’t quite
how they’re supposed to seem

where one thing doesn’t
necessarily lead to another
a bit like a dream

where you’re the lover
and we walk in wonder

s0upy – April 2009

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A marriage, a vow, and a new love is born

My brother got married over the weekend.

His fiancée is no longer his fiancée. His future, his present, his life, is now tied up with his wife in an inseparable, irrevocable way. They are one.

The legal bit, including the bare essential parts of the marriage vow, with the exchanging of rings, happened on the Friday. It was a short service, as is the way of the Registry Office, but it was deep and it touched the hearts of the close family gathered with them as they made their vows and were joined in the eyes of the law.

The more full ceremony happened on the Saturday in a meadow before all their friends and family, and this was what they saw as the main part of their marriage. They made deep, heart-rendering vows; exchanged their rings, having them first blessed by their mums; and, before being pronounced Husband and Wife, they had their hands bound together, tying to them all that had been promised, all the dreams and desires of those present, and of themselves, for as long as they both should live. This wild, unconventional ceremony, witnessed by family, by friends, by the trees, by the waters, by the very earth, witnessed by the angels, seen and smiled upon by God himself, culminated in a picnic to be enjoyed by all.

What an honour to be there. And what an honour to have had a hand in helping to officiate the proceedings. I now have a sister-in-law (and a beautiful one at that - well done, bro!) and a whole host of new family and friends to enjoy.

The strange, but quite pleasing, thing is that I'm feeling a new love for my new sister and her family, and for the friends that they share together, many of whom I met for the first time over the weekend. It's got me wondering where this new love has come from. When did it first appear in my heart and feelings? Could it be when they made their vows? It wasn't there before.

Can a vow birth love in the hearts of those who make it, and even in the hearts of those who hear it? Can a promise create love, or is it the other way round?

Mmm.