Tag Archives: love

97. Cowardice (Empathy, Lent 38)

cowardly lion

Today is the day everyone except the women fled from Jesus. Today is the day that he was kissed by a dear friend in betrayal. Today is the day to admit to cowardice, because the best of the best are capable of it. And so, I turn to my own cowardice, which has many facets, and look on it with compassion. I am terrified of getting it wrong and of public speaking, and of great white sharks (and small white sharks, if I’m honest) and yet all that fear does is stand in the way of things.

Yet, fear is a perfectly natural thing to feel. Standing up in front of lots of people, all waiting for you to say something, is terrifying to someone like me who hates being the centre of attention. So, I’m guessing fear and cowardice are not the same thing. What then, is my cowardice, the thing that makes me flee from what I should be doing? The obstacle that turns my stomach to water for selfish, no-good reasons? That would more likely be the voice that says, “Don’t do that for them, they wouldn’t do it for you” or “If you listen to them today they’ll always expect it,” or “If you say that thing you know is true, they will all think you a fool.” So, maybe it makes sense to run (or swim) away from some things, even if it is to save the fight for a better day, as we could argue the male disciples did, but when we are running from the best of ourselves, or the truth, especially God’s truth, or from something that we know is the right thing but will cost us, that is real cowardice. It is hard to have compassion on that, but perhaps we are better off acknowledging our faults and weaknesses, and asking God into them, rather than berating ourselves or blaming and shaming ourselves for our failures.

Perhaps the real price of cowardice is paid when we refuse to look at the unseemly parts of ourselves, so that change cannot happen. Only when we can be compassionate with our own shadows can we be truly merciful with the perceived faults of others.

text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017 photo from memecrunch.com

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88. Hippie (Empathy, Lent 29)

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I’m rather a hippie myself up to point. I am a socialist, a pacifist and I feel a strong connection with nature. As a Christian, love is my watchword. But I am also fairly pragmatic, and try to follow a moral code which involves being faithful to my partner, and not taking drugs. So my kind of free love is a little different. But like many stereotypes, the hippy is so much more than the obvious things that spring to mind.

I truly want to be one with the earth and the trees. I express that in my paganism and my tree-hugging, my protesting against roads and my love of greenery of all kinds. Yes, I tie die my own tee shirts made from organic cotton. You may laugh at how well I fit the hippy mould, but for me it is a no brainer. Marijuana relaxes me and my friends, it is better than being uptight and obsessed with property markets and dress codes. Really for me, being a hippy is about community, and it is about wanting world peace. And that both these things start right where we are. That’s a better beginning than in a lot of churches I’ve seen.

text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

31. Wedding Roses (hope)

wedding-roses

These are some of the wooden roses we had as table decorations for our wedding. They were cheap and cheerful, as everything had to be, and they remind me that there is hope for romance even for a sickly divorcée in her late 30s (as I was then!).

Lots of my life dreams have not come about, but I was married in the Norman church I always dreamed I would be, to a man who is kind, intelligent, loving and funny. We have had an extremely tough time of it so far, but I hold onto the hope, when I look at them, that good things can still happen, even when you have stop believing they will.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

Landscape of Love 91: Grotto

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Pale blue lady, aqua mantled, kindness gazing out from your alabaster face, carved deep into the rock and our hurting souls. You smile, and the world is changed. Adoring the love on your dappled skin, ripples of reflected grace, the water feels less cold somehow, though we are up to our necks; and the tide is of no concern, merely the sea breathing: in and out, in and out. A caverned womb of healing, where we might be knit together once more, and our stretched sinews feel the call to entwine and relax. We go under and rise again, replenished by the carrier of living water.

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 105: Unwashed

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The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed.” Mark 7:1 NIV

There is an apocryphal story that surfaces on social media every so often of a pastor, newly appointed to a church, and largely unknown there, who turns up at a service a week before his induction disguised as a tramp. He is covered in ragged clothing and he smells. Though one or two people are kind, he is given a wide berth, snubbed and generally made to feel unwelcome, before being asked to leave. The following week he comes in as the new church leader and tells the congregation what he did to shame them into seeing the unwashed with new eyes.

I doubt the story is true, and I’m not sure that shaming is a particularly kind teaching method, but the fact that this could be true, ought to get everyone thinking who participates in any kind of community that professes to have Christ at its centre.

I don’t believe there is any record of Jesus ever being disgusted by anyone’s outer appearance, gender, race or hygiene. The only thing that seemed to revolt him was the stink of self-righteousness that he found most strongly radiating from the religious people of the day, from the Pharisees in particular. He spent time with tavern keepers, lepers, prostitutes, homeless people, disabled people, loose women, the deranged and the possessed. In short, with all those the “good” people deemed unclean and would not associate with.

He hung around with them, befriended them, taught them, healed them and forgave them when it was necessary. He and his crowd of travelling followers, often dusty and sweaty in the Middle East heat, were no doubt a bit wild and unkempt like the prophets of old, like John the Baptist who heralded Jesus’ arrival clothed in camel’s hair and with bits of honeyed locust in his beard. They were social pariahs, not the goody-two-shoes keeping-their-noses-clean puritanical religious elite.

You know what else? I don’t think Jesus’ robe was white that often. I think he probably needed (by our western modern running water standards) more trips to the river (bath/laundrette) and that he and twelve other blokes walking miles across the whole of Judea, with or without the hundreds of other followers of this strange parochial Rabbi, probably sweated and whiffed a bit on occasion. I think some of them probably swore now and again. I think that they were human and I like that idea.

I also think that if we get caught up in constantly cleaning ourselves on the outside and worrying incessantly about whether we are in a state of grace nor not, that we will spend too much time washing and confessing and not enough time relating and laughing with, learning from, adoring and pondering God. Besides which, if we leave our feet dusty, perspiring and tired, and admit they are made of clay, we might just find our Saviour-friend taking them in his hands over a bowl of water, giving us rest from our toil and removing the burdens from our striving shoulders.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 103: Incarcerated

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So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” Genesis 39:20 NLT

Today is Nelson Mandela Day (18th July). Whenever I read about people like Joseph who were imprisoned on false charges or unfair accusations or lies, or even those who have committed small crimes but been given horrendous sentences, I think of those 27 years of imprisonment that Mr Mandela underwent. He must have, like Joseph, and like Jeremiah in his cistern, have wondered if he would die there, the hope of release must have seemed forlorn and unlikely.

Others of us are imprisoned in different ways of course, in abusive relationships, tough marriages or in bodies that make us feel less than human. Many of my friends with severe M.E. are living in a world of one room, weak as they are, unable to feed or wash themselves, let alone get outside. I see my wheelchair as an enabling thing, but then, I am not confined to it all day like so many people, who perhaps feel imprisoned.

Still others of course, feel imprisoned by debt, by circumstances, by their pasts, or even by guilt and regret. There are so many things that can make us feel that desire for liberation from the chains that hold us back. And many of my fellow Christians will proclaim that by Jesus’ blood we are free, we are saved from all these bondages. And that is undoubtedly true in a whole heap of ways. But knowing that is not always tantamount to securing the tangible reality of it. And some of us are kept in our small or difficult circumstances, indeed in our real prisons or penitentiaries, for a very long time, long after we have come to faith. This is not because the power of God is not working in our lives, but because it is working unseen. Invisible miracles happen in prisons of various kinds every minute of every day.

Rays of sunshine can penetrate the heart wherever we are. Hope can live in the most arid and desperate conditions, and faith can flourish in small and impoverished circumstances. There is fruit still there to be borne. How many times do we hear of prisoners finding Jesus whilst behind bars? And how can we deny that miracles happened in that small cell on Robyn Island, where a peaceful, gentle and wise humility was created from a passionate rebel heart? If we give our yes to love, to God, then powerful transformations can occur in these cells of isolation. The desert fathers and mothers understood this well, self-imposing constrictions, as monks and nuns continue to do today.

Indeed, as citizens of heaven we might well say that our very bodies and our present circumstances are our cells, fidelity to which, as Abba Moses counselled, was the way to spiritual knowledge. “Go, sit in your cell,” he would say, “And your cell will teach you everything.”

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Veil of Tears 101: Worthless

 

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Stop trusting in mere humans,

who have but a breath in their nostrils.

Why hold them in esteem?” Isaiah 2:22 NIV

 

Having spent a great deal of the last twenty years unable to do very much at all besides ceiling gazing and cross stitch, I have had a lot of time to perfect feeling worthless. I looked at myself with the world’s eyes and saw only a sick body and a tired mind, a broken heart and nothing much to look at, a person who was too ill to interact with anyone, take very much in or give very much out.

But deciding to stick life out and to continue loving God and my family started to change that perception. It happened slowly, over a long period of time. I found that the deeper I went into prayer, the longer I spent with my Lord, who professed time and time again to love me, the more I could look at my sorry self with kinder, even transformed, eyes. I could learn to look at myself through holy vision. Here was not a useless, social pariah, but a seed, broken on the ground. She only needed some tender care, to be watered and fed, to feel the sunshine of the saviour’s heart-love and grace, to begin to become renewed.

I am not a great deal better physically than when I was at my worst. In some ways, my condition has deteriorated. I can still be defined as a disabled person, as an invalid, in-valid, and no doubt by some people as a waste of space, as a nonentity, a drain on the system. But my head and most importantly my heart are clearer, and the Lord has been bringing me out into new kinds of life. He has spent precious time with me, him deep in my soul and me safe in his heart. It has been life-giving, soul-nurturing, full of unearthly wonders. It has been painful and many parts of me have been rent or refined, given up, lost or changed. I am different, and yet no more or less precious than I was at any other time.

And it is not that I now consider myself worthy of God’s love, or that I look at my former self (a new former self is born and passes every minute of the day) and find her wanting. It is that I know that God looks at the heart and yes he sees the potential, but he also sees the right now, and he loves what is, what was, and what will be all at the same time. He has no more love for one stage over another, in the same way that a parent loves their child for as long as they are theirs to love, whether baby, child or adult, including into eternity. He loves each one of us and esteems each one of us because we are his. He loves us before we grow, he loves us even if we choose not to grow.

Love does not measure or count. It is not tapping its feet with impatience. Love waits, yes. Love endures, yes, but it does not change its nature or its fervency based on any kind of criteria. Love just loves. And once we realise that, it paradoxically makes us eager to become worthy of it, which is the one thing we cannot do! All we can do is seek to love love in return, to co-operate fully with It, to answer both its gentle and its difficult questions with a trusting yes. And then we know that we were loved all the time, and that worth is a foolish, earthly idea that we cannot take into the next realm or the deeper places of our spiritual lives, because worth is a comparative concept. It lays itself against another, or against itself and wants to see which one is better.

Am I good enough yet? It cries. Am I now loveable? What do I need to do? And the answer comes back, you will never be, you always were, and nothing. And I imagine it will most likely take a lifetime for these truths to sink in, especially for those of us told by the world that we contribute nothing, and are valueless. Love tells us plainly, we are priceless. And that is the truth.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

Landscape of Love 90: Circus

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The plates spin and the sweat beads on the brow under the harsh yet inadequate lighting. The speed of each circle on its axis all within a greater ring, enclosed and concentrated, the fear, the tension, the potential for ceramic disaster feeds contagion, and the audience all hold plastic chair edges with clammy curled fingers. To one side of this manufactured solar system, something star-like catches my eye, bright Middle Eastern warmth clothed in white. Up, out of my seat, flown to in outrageous love and melded with, heart to heart. Everything else flung to the purgatory of periphery. Here is the centrifugal force pinpointed, centred, begun. Here is the life-changing, heart singing, joy-giver. Here is the main attraction and the ringmaster, in whom all things hold together. Knock those plates flying! Come as partying Greeks and dash them to the ground! Spin and struggle and juggle no more! Hold fast only to the one thing that matters and be love, oh be love!

 

© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2016

Photo from Pixabay

 

Veil of Tears 84: Unfairness

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“..that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45 NIV

It’s not fair! We shout out more often than as adults would care to admit, albeit often silently and to ourselves. But a lot of our prayers, whilst they may be couched in other language, are about telling God how he isn’t treating us fairly. Lord, I really really want to be able to afford a holiday, we say whilst behind gritted teeth we are thinking, why can so and so have a holiday and not me, I’m just as good a person as them, why do they get all the good stuff. Am I doing something wrong? It’s so unfair.

And of course, we do the same with more serious problems too. I do it myself. I wonder why other people have been healed from M.E. and I haven’t yet. I wonder why other people have found a job after redundancy, and my husband hasn’t yet. I wonder why a family member has been diagnosed with an illness I can do nothing about, and everything in me screams, IT’S NOT FAIR!! But fairness is not a kingdom concept. We only have to look at the parable of the vineyard workers to see that God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. God promises to be just, he does not promise to treat us all the same. And there are reasons for that, and the main one is that we aren’t all the same.

I read a book about counselling once, and the writer told an anecdote about a home for boys who had been expelled from (usually more than one) public school (my friends across the pond, read private school). These were kids used to privilege but often lacking in emotional support. The writer witnessed what seemed two strangely different encounters of boys with the very wise founder of the institution. One boy came to him distraught because his piano was not performing adequately, pleading for a new one. The request was granted. Then another boy came in asking for a new football because he’d lost the old one. The request was denied. When the boys had gone, the writer said something along the lines of, but that’s unfair, the cost of a football is so small, and you’ve said yes to ordering the other child a Steinway!

But the first boy was a musical prodigy whose whole life and future was centred around playing the piano, he practised diligently and he was genuinely distressed that his instrument was not pitch perfect, unlike his hearing. The headmaster recognised his request as a genuine need. The second boy had kicked about ten footballs over into the neighbour’s garden already, and was only asking for a replacement to get attention so he could do it again. No, said the master, the boy must learn that this is not acceptable behaviour.

When it comes to prayer requests, God deals with us likewise as individuals. Even when our request seems reasonable and for our own good, the timing of the answer must be entrusted to the one who knows us best. I believe God wants me well. But I have to trust that he wants to journey me to wellness in his timing and his way, and that this is also best for me. I want healing now, but I will never accuse God of withholding anything good from me, it is not his nature. Nor will I lay on myself the burden of the lies of unworthiness. It is simply that God know me best and he knows better. And I will trust him, and I will wait, and I will try my best to silence the voices that tell me it’s not fair, because I know my Lord is just and he is kind, and that in this temporal realm, we all have to deal with the weather, come rain or shine.

 

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay