Today it’s a week since the terror attacks in Paris. I’ve spent the week trying to unravel the massive knot of thoughts in my head. And come to the conclusion there’s no unraveling to be done. Life is messy. Life is brutal and terrible. Life is incredible and beautiful. And if I’m trying to make sense of that in any logical way, I’ll only frustrate myself.
Last weekend, I was at the Belong conference here in London, a two day gathering organised by Michael Gungor and Science Mike. Together they run the podcast and liturgical space that is The Liturgists. They have these fascinating stories of being about as deeply inbedded in church life as is possible (one a deacon and Sunday school leader, one a famous worship leader) and going through a journey of deconstructing everything they thought they knew.
And now their shared passion is to create safe space for people walking that same (but unique to each person) path of deconstructing and reconstructing faith.
It was such a full and fascinating weekend and I am still reading over and over my notes, trying to piece together some thoughts that even make a little bit of sense.
But the only sense I have is what an incredible thing it was to be in such a safe space. We were so different, the 150 people gathered in a small church hall in Shoreditch. At lunch I sat with a scientist and worship leader, someone going through ordination into the Church of England, and someone who fled leadership in a megachurch and has started a small gathering in his living room to explore this whole faith thing again from the ground up.
If you’d gone through a creed line by line, I’m not sure which line we would all have agreed on entirely without ifs and buts. But here we were telling our stories and receiving only understanding, honest questions, space to not have the exact words for what we were trying to communicate. And it felt like holy ground.
Heaven taunts the hearts of men
We can feel it from within
The beauty of it all
The swelling of a voice
A rising sea
A friend asked me for recommendations for political podcasts this week, because she wanted to understand the current world situation a bit better. I joked in reply that my response is generally to bury my head in the sand, because it feels so big and scary to try and contemplate it all. It’s not entirely untrue.
I do want to know. I do want to understand, as much as I can. But I also feel so small, so insignificant. I wonder what I can actually do.
I’ve looked up how I can help refugees in this area. The charities want volunteers but only those who can commit at least a whole day a week, and not with a toddler and probably not with a six month pregnant bump. They need supplies too but we cleared out so thoroughly before our move that I have nothing left to give and I am looking at our budget and despairing at how frikkin expensive it is to live in London and how desperately I wish I could give more.
I pray to bump into a refugee family living locally that I can befriend. It feels foolish but I don’t know where else to start and maybe repeating that prayer daily will keep my eyes firmly open to opportunities when they do come?
I have my voice. And it feels like so little to post something on facebook, to express my heartache and my frustration and my anger. But surely it is never in vain to declare that I still believe LOVE WINS and I will not be drawn into a war defined by fear and hatred?
Blessed are the poor
All the lonely broken lost and torn
See a kingdom comes to us
A war that’s fought with love
Our only war is love
We will not fight their wars
We will not fall in line
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them
Gungor, Us for Them
Mostly I just keep on going.
I wake up before the sun cracks open the sky and we read books in bed until wee girl forces us up with her enthusiasm to start the day. I make the online shopping order and try to feed her healthy food. We walk to the postbox and she makes passing strangers laugh at her crazy 1-2-3-go pattern every ten meters. I put her down to nap singing her songs as she settles and then I try to fit in all my adulting – figure out the utilities bill; book that appointment to make a will; send my nephew a birthday present on time. We play in the garden and I do the laundry and we take the train two stops to see a friend and Kaya points at her wee one exclaiming “baby!” and blowing kisses generously. As darkness rolls in we snuggle on the sofa under the blanket my friend made us as a wedding gift and read books and I try to ignore her requests for TV unless it’s been one of those days. And we eat fresh cheddar scones for dinner (with a side of brocilli) and watch for Far coming home. He cooks me dinner and we unpack the day on the sofa, stories so different but basically the same. And I try to go to bed early but usually fail.
Sarah Bessey wrote in her recent post,
“I show up here with intention and I try to notice my own life a bit more, I consecrate the ordinary work. I figure that if the world is being desecrated the least we can do is try to notice all of the sacredness that remains still around us and in us.”
If I believe that Love Wins, that all life is sacred, then it must start here. It must start with my own heart.
It must start with the way I treat myself and my work and value here and now, the way I extend grace and kindness to my own self.
It must start with the way I mother my daughter and teach her to be kind and to smile at strangers and to blow kisses to other babies, even the ones that look different from her.
It must start with the way I settle into this new and sometimes uncomfortable neighbourhood, the way I lean into the differences, push through the fear to recognise yet again, we have more in common than separates us.
It must start with intentionally holding my heart and my hands open to all of it – the heartache and the confusion and the fear and the mystical beauty of every part. And keeping my eyes open to see when I am being called to be the answer to my own prayers for peace peace peace.
Longing for the day to come
I set my face, forsook my fears
I saw the city through my tears
The darkness soon will disappear
And be swallowed by the sun
I am coming home
Gungor, Land of the Living