Tag Archives: grace

All other ground…

14 Apr

Muddy Waters are Distracting

In everything that flows,

melts, melds into liquid

cocktail mockers, I am

that stone

the river flows over


touching, flirting

with what is left

above ground.

I forget

the ground

immovable holds me still.


Songs in the night

3 Apr

It’s one of those days. I bet you want to stop reading now… 😉 But it’s one of those days I really want to hold on to someone and cry. And no, I promise it’s not because I am just being a bundle of moodiness.


Work has been crazy – I am responsible for a community house of students at Oxford. And it’s been a pretty horrible day for the community with some serious letting down the side.

My supervisor emailed and asked me for more work tomorrow.

I am scared of all the things that are coming up in my life that I cannot predict and, for the most part, cannot help. Read visas and job applications.

Tomorrow we have a ‘community meeting’ to discuss this troublesome thing in the house that I wish I could tell you about, so you could be my collective, virtual someones to hold and cry!

And I am in the midst of a lot of personal upheaval involving someone quite close to me.

Aaaaahhh and the exams are closer.



But here is what I know:

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?

Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.

Whether morning dawns or evening fades as it is now, O Lord, you are he who calls forth songs of praise. (Psalm 65: 8)

Whatever things are admirable

27 Mar

I have been hearing, reading and listening and writing on how many people within the church and the ministry fall into the worst kind of temptation. And I have to say that I have seen stories so full of grace. And judgement tempered with grace. I just wanted to point one out to you.

And another, so full of honesty and the willingness to be vulnerable and repeat the pain over and over and over again in confession and explanation because they wanted to make it work. They loved each other and they chose to.

I think vulnerability is such a challenge. And I pray that I get given it in spades – I run from it. But there is no way that I can honour God with the people around me if I am not entirely vulnerable to them, and willing to be hurt.

I am so in awe of the pouring of grace that God gives in the messiest stories.

And then I’m in awe of the wonderfully healthy marriages I know – one where wife or husband always runs to the door when the other arrives (so beautiful and it gives me a heart-longing), another where every argument however often is made up, another where you would never find one without finding the other (no, not unhealthily tied together but openness and sharing of lives like best friends. I only need to text one.)

And I am in awe again.

Boundaries, grace and laws

15 Mar

I woke up from a vivid dream just now. I was back home in India – with friends from school. Nearly ten years ago now. And I felt… excluded.

I keep asking that they pass the fish (don’t ask 😉 ) and they ignore me. One of the women – the friend I remember – and I talk, and I ask her about her recent faith in Christ. She shows me a photograph. In the photograph is the glowing sculpture of a well-known Hindu idol. I understand – she is not Christian any more. Finally I jokingly ask for the fish please! – a little louder than before. Someone takes the plate away as I reach for it, gives it to a boy who has been eating most of it… I object still in good humour – the woman by my side nods. The man takes offense and almost throws the plate in my direction, piling a couple of leftovers in it.

I am not given to images of victimisation in my dreams. Much less to violent victimisation. But at this point, the dream turned violent with clubs and knives and I was ‘the Other’.

Post-colonial theory aside, this woke me up summarily.

It was quite unlike me. I can see a few things I can connect to my life right now. A friend taking the easy way out, ignoring Christ – someone asked me about that  just yesterday. I saw a photograph of an idol on someone’s Facebook page that I wasn’t expecting to see. There is some fear in my mind. But hang on, hang on – the violence, me being the victim… These are not things that occupy my mind at all. I haven’t thought about much less been in touch with the woman who spoke to me for a long while!  And I wasn’t hungry. I’m still quite full.

But I woke up. And I decided to come and pray. Talk to God about the (unrelated) fears in my mind. The worries and the insecurities. There are possibly a couple of other people I could take those to – but not quite like this… I ended up reading some edifying material in this wonderful place.

And happened upon this.

Now I am not Catholic. But it resonated with me. For whatever reason – the changing times, the fluidity of culture, the way boundaries melt and dissolve into space and new boundaries keep being drawn to hold our human-sized visions – I am a sojourner, a stranger in the land. Both lands. I’ve never been an illegal immigrant. I probably will never be. Probably.

But what about the woman whose whole family is in another country but she is no minor anymore? What about the couple who cannot afford the fees and the legislation? What about the family whose poverty drives them before a government can label them refugees? In the priests’ position, I might have to acknowledge their status to the system but I might also be bound to fight on their behalf.

And what about those who aren’t in any of the situations we might call compromising? Does the church let them go hungry? Does the gospel find itself thwarted?

Some of the comments argued that Bishop Rodi was wrong in ‘harbouring’ these illegal immigrants, or ‘aiding and abetting’ their plans. No, I don’t think he is doing that. He and the several other Protestant/Catholic churches in this fight are simply fighting for the right to serve. To serve Christ, whatever this Christ brings across our path.

Our worldview today is so different from the way God set up a people – oh, there were immigration laws in place like our requirements for residency (did you know that?) but there was a very clear call to love the stranger in our gates. And a very strong history of doing so, much of the threads of which are built into the line of David and then Jesus himself. Ruth. Rahab. Bathsheba. There are both the victims and the victimised there…

And yet, my dream today made me think of this in a far more emotional way. I needed to feel alienated to come to a realisation. How very far we have come from God’s focus on the person. On grace.

Who moved my grace?

10 Jan

I just got asked (well, in a virtual sense)… Okay, okay, I’m asking myself to answer this question. Do I have sensitive nerves?

Yes. I do not forget hurt easily. I remember how one birthday, someone said ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter what you want’ to me. It was my birthday. I’d worked myself up to a sense of entitlement. The words still hurt. Efforts that people make for my birthday – beautiful, loving efforts by the many people who love me even when they are several countries away – still bring up a lump in my throat. Efforts the same person who said that makes – they’ve forgotten – still bring a heavy lump.

I remember a designated ‘best friend’ in primary school who I am still in touch with and excited to see on the rare, random occasion. As we walked up the main, rather grandiose staircase at school, she turned down towards me and said we weren’t friends anymore because she wanted to be friends with someone else.

Ever since then I have intense social awareness. One of my friends called me ‘popular’ and I wanted to laugh my guts out. If I don’t get an inside joke, if I stand a little outside a circle – these are very few times. People are usually incredibly gracious even in their hardest times…

But I am intensely aware. Intensely analytical. And always overly conscious never to leave someone out. It doesn’t matter if I’m the only one explaining, and it doesn’t matter if the conversation has moved on – I’ll probably make the time to explain it to you. I’m not saying I’m that nice. Possibly OCD? 🙂

Because here’s the thing – my sensitive nerve is trust. Any slight erosion of it remains with me a long time. Unless it is directly addressed, I find it hard to forget.

And yet do I not serve a God who pours out his love into my heart? Who forgives over and over, and then also trusts me  to continue to fulfil his vision, do what he entrusted me with in the first place or more? I receive this grace time after time. And – as Angela reminds me – do I not set my hope fully on the grace that will be brought to me through the revealing of him? It’s there. Everyday. If I can just remember to reach across my unwieldy self to hold it in open hands…

I keep coming back…

13 Apr

The heady heat of a mercilessly cloudless, tropical sky is inescapable even inside the sparsely decorated – in fact, undecorated – hall, a long, wide cuboid divided into units which will serve as classrooms by thin, movable plywood and plastic ‘walls’. The classroom is neither visually nor audially isolated from any others, and the choral recitations of a,b,c’ s is as intimate to my 10th graders, rocking forward and back with their physics textbooks, reading aloud the English in un-English syllabic rhythms, as if the whole school were crouched on one bed.

I have come to this school, really, to fulfil an obligation. I cannot go back without teaching them. It is hard to see the faces of the privileged where I work, and not remember these other faces. They are so excited to see me. They measure my affection against the time other volunteers spend with them. I lose. I am unable to volunteer my whole time – and yet, I feel like I ought to. Everyone ought to and resources shouldn’t be a constraint. The need is here. That ought to drive the price that we are willing to pay higher than the laissez-faire system it operates on now… It hurts when my amount of time equals my amount of affection.

But it is something I learn from these ungainly teenagers, giggling and gawking and interested, yet uninterested in learning and advancement. The amount of time I choose to spend with the people and the causes I love is, in fact and inescapably, directly proportional to the amount of commitment I have towards them.

Uncomfortably I shift in my seat.

I decide to scrap the lesson plan I have, the literacy methods and the grammar. I want to talk to them. They learn language and literacy, conversation, application skills. I learn to remember the important things, and to see that one’s heart can get fogged in the confines of an air-conditioned classroom with anger management problems from six-year-olds, or the politics of who sits in which meetings, all simmering under the pervasive garnish of one’s own aspirations. I think I have more to gain from this encounter than they do. Selfishly, I take it.

We talk about who we want to be when we grow up. There are, applaudably, cardiologists and teachers and ophthalmologists and surgeons amongst us. My hidden agenda – because I am a boring grown-up – is to make them realise the pivotal role of school in all of these dreams. There are, of course, actors and singers and dancers. These too I am able, with all the finesse of years of manipulating conversations, to deflect to the point I am trying to make. Yes, I did roll my eyes as did the future cardiologist. But actually I ought to have guessed. The kids have no compunction tearing those blinkers off as I race forward clumsily.

I am stumped when several of the boys want to become policemen. Here they do not need an education beyond school to join the police force. They joke about maintaining a six-pack, ducking their heads shyly as their teenage awkwardness overcomes them – and I joke back about the fact (I kid you not) that most policemen we see have evidences of a different kind of six-pack inclination. And they challenge me about my statement that a college education is important, and that they have the choice to pursue it.

So, foolishly, I change tack and ask, with suitably raised eyebrows, why they would want to be policemen, of all things. These children have, it must be said, told me that they want to earn well and support their mothers. Pickings for policemen in these parts are acknowledgedly scarce, if legal.

I told you I was stumped. With little dissembling now that they are serious, three boys who have been poking, punching and distracting each other (but, annoyingly, giving their attention to me too!) now look up at me.

Big sister, we want to become policemen to stop the fights. We need policemen in our neighbourhood.

The fights? They’ve seen these fights? I know, objectively, that they have. But it is hard to face the retelling. It is also hard not to push to a point I was trying to make. No, not college. Making an effort. I desperately want them to simply try.

So what about the police now? Where are they? Don’t they stop the fights?

Yeah, like, when we call the police guys now they show up after two hours and it is too late.

The fight’s over.

I start to offer a smile because I am nothing, if not stupidly resilient. Children are intuitive though. They pre-empt me.

Yeah, the fight’s over and the man’s already been stabbed. And killed.

Haunting, yes. But do you see it yet? There, in those clear responses, is the stubbornness of grace and redemption.

Beauty is

17 Feb

Today, I am left without words.

Beauty is having a child run after you because she wants to hold your hand.

Beauty is having a child – a different child from a different home – ask you wonderingly if you would still play with him. Broken beauty, but beauty.

Beauty is an animal who trusts you so completely that she will sigh her frustration into the hollow of your hand, as she lays her head there, and licks you, while the doctor administers painful treatment.

Beauty is knowing that that is what God wants us to be like with him.

Beauty is a train ride through Snowdonia, knowing that my help comes from the Lord who holds the cattle on a thousand hills – and hearing this God remind you in his whispers.

Beauty is telling a friend about a God-encounter and hearing her words echo your thoughts.

Beauty is when someone knows you’re sad when you’re laughing, and no one else knows.

Beauty is the homeless man who will smile at me every time I pass outside the store he frequents. Beauty is when he recognises you and you smile back.

Beauty is when you write a kind email, an email hoping for a coffee one of these days, to someone who has slighted you.

Beauty is letting go of the hurts you’d forgotten you remembered, until God asked you to let them go. Beauty is knowing that an apology might never come, but that you are hearing God’s voice in the situation.

Beauty is pain that nobody else knows you’re holding until suddenly God looks you in the eye and tells you ‘I know it hurts. And I know how much’. Beauty is when you believe that and share the fellowship of his suffering in the smallest measure, that he may grow you into his image in disproportionate recompense.

Beauty is when it draws you closer to the sanctity of the cross and people know you’ve been with Jesus.

Beauty is when someone on a random protest day, in the central square on the shopping street, walks up to you and asks if you are Christian. Then beauty is when you nod and they say they saw it.

Beauty is an old friend’s unexpected call or email.

Beauty is a new friend you haven’t yet made decides to ask you to listen and pray.

Beauty is when God sees the ugliness and decides to use it. Like me.

Today, I am in awe of this beauty. I know His name. And all I can bring myself do is to curl up into him and say one thing. If my words fail, and I choke up inadequately, then I can look at the face I know. And let Him look on as I confess it.

This: Jesus, I am so in love with you.


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