Monsters Inc.

Like most people I hate hearing about domestic violence, the story running on the Archers turns my stomach. I really dread it coming on TV in and amongst a drama series I was previously really enjoying. I think it’s the shock value of someone trusted, loved and in your home, suddenly turning into a monster that is so scary; like a child in Monsters Inc. previously peacefully sleeping!

I was in an abusive relationship whilst a student and it wasn’t a long-term commitment and I managed to leave pretty quickly without a great deal of physical harm. I felt so blunderingly stupid for letting some kind of monster into my life, when in many ways I’m a clever woman.

I’ve analysed why it happened and I’m probably none the wiser, but the legacy it left me is in some ways more damaging than the shock of someone trying to control and hurt me at the time. This and other experiences of being bullied, have affected my confidence at work, created problems in my marriage, my confidence in being a parent, church life, everything.

I think that’s because an abuser will cast a seed of doubt in your mind and then see where that flourishes, and enjoy watching your confidence shrink, your independence get smaller and your need for them in your life seemingly increase. When the situation ends, that doubt can still linger. It happened to me a while ago, so I’m able to think more rationally about it now, but it’s been something that has haunted me, making me question myself and my relationship choices over and over again and almost overcompensating and putting shields up that stop me enjoying life.

One in four women are likely to experience some kind of domestic violence, and people going through a rough time financially, or with an addictions are much more likely to be at risk. For more information this is a really helpful website: 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000  247

As a bystander it can be really difficult to know what to do to help. It’s best not to intervene though if the person (normally a woman) hasn’t asked you to, as this could put her at more risk of abuse instead. Actually physically leaving a situation can seem virtually impossible, due to not having any money, a car or childcare to make this possible. Leaving someone is the most risky time for abuse to happen. When I left my boyfriend that was when he turned violent. The best thing of course is to try and talk, but mainly listen and take seriously what the person is saying, if you witness violence you can ring the police, as it is a criminal offence.

In my faith journey, I initially thought that God would be the kind of God that sits on a cloud and judges you for picking someone  so awful in the first place, rather than the one I know now, who hates to see any one of his children be abused, attacked, humiliated, feel scared, hurt or frightened. At the time, I looked at the bible and couldn’t find anything that spoke to me about leaving a hurtful relationship, only how to be loyal and faithful as a wife.

The passage below from Corinthians, where Paul was writing to new Christians and coaching them about how to behave in this new world, shows the difference between respect that is demanded as a “right” and love that sets people free;

1 Corinthians 13 New International Version (NIV) v1-13

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.




Jesus laughed

Just got back from a lovely retreat, at the beautiful Shepherd’s Dene in Northumberland, with the marvellous John Bell of the Iona Community and Wild Goose productions. It was really educational and serious at times, but also a really good laugh. Amongst other wonderful teaching, he pointed out that we have a really serious image of Jesus, that doesn’t reflect him having a good sense of humour, and really enjoying life. I thought this was a really good point. He is supposed to bring joy not sadness! As he was fully human and conversant with the scriptures of the Old Testament, he would have known Ecclesiastes 3: v 1-8 “A Time for Everything”.. also quoted in Footloose! (if you are a child of the 70’s like me!)

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Below is link to a cheesy version of The Summons.. one of John’s amazingly simple tunes with a haunting celtic melody

More available here…

Happy Sibling Day!

I read today that this is national sibling day in the US! I don’t know if it’s official yet, but someone who like me, lost a sib in her early life, has come up with the idea, and I think it’s a good one. I like to think, that because I lost my sister when I was little, I really understood the value of having sibs growing up, although they may disagree! Especially my brother who I used to tickle mercilessly at times.

While my friends, husband and children all know me really well, it’s my brother and sister who know me “no holds barred”;  my foul moods, my tantrums, my bossiness, my doubts, my fears and my paranoia. They get to see me unfiltered, when mum and dad aren’t around, so we can swap stories about the crazy things we’ve been up to without frightening anyone. We’ve covered for each other, and had each other’s backs when things were difficult too.  I hope this will always be the case! As kids you are stuck together, and inevitable comparisons get made, but as adults we really enjoy catching up, and sharing what’s going on.

While siblings in real life are one thing, I think the main perk of being part of a church community is the additional ones you gain. Sometimes that’s a real pain, I mean you don’t get to choose who they are right!! However, I don’t think life would be as easy for me in the real world without my church family around, to encourage, support, and steer me in the right direction. Sometimes one person will receive a word from God, and someone else will interpret it, and it will be for me and my family. Other times I’ll have a picture I can share, for someone else. Often friends from church will help out with practical tasks, and invite us round as friends, when others can’t.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that Jesus appointed 12 disciples. Not 1 vice-chair, 4 directors and 7 general managers as we would have in the public sector, but 12 who shared the leadership of his ministry and all it’s demands equally. In those days, I suspect the average number of children people had wasn’t 2.4, but probably more like the TV show “Brothers and Sisters” with at least 5 anyway.

As you know, I’ve been considering ordination for ministry in the Church of England, and this journey is hopefully coming a conclusion, one way or the another in June this year. I think I’ve been seriously considering it for over 2 years and mulling it over for up to 10 years to be honest. So I think I’ve bored everyone to tears in the process who knows me well, and my brother and sister are no exception. So this blog is an apology for how long it’s taken me to get this,  to all those people who have listened, encouraged and supported. Many have said “I’ve never met a vicar before”, some have said “it’s not the most daft idea in the world”, others ” I can see you doing that”, and without naming any names “at least your not a paedo!”

I really hope I get to be ordained. If I don’t get through then I will deal with it then, and won’t be the same person anyway. It’s been a long, winding road , so no doubt there will be more twists and turns to come. I know if I am accepted I will be giving up plenty of quality time with my friends and family that i have grown up with, and that’s a real sadness for me. Weekends won’t be the same again, and Christmas and Easter, no longer nice lazy bank holiday breaks! I won’t be earning alot of money, and I’ll be on call much more than I am now. I won’t be able to hide behind a desk-job, I’ll be a visible leader.

The reason I’m going forward though is simple, that I love sharing my faith, and seeing others grow through christian fellowship. Also I think if someone turns to Christ its a more permanent and joyful ( and less bureaucratic!) way of helping them get the life they want, than supporting their health and social care needs as I’ve been doing over the last 17 years. I’m not sure the two are mutually exclusive though.I know I will be infinitely better off in many ways;

Mark 10 v29-31: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”