Persist, sister

This fortnight has been hectic for Christian women online. #ThingsonlyChristianwomenhear and #ThingsonlyblackChristianwomenhear have provided a heartbreaking insight into the intersection between women and the church. There were plenty of critics, and in the aftermath, we saw conservative/Evangelical bloggers suggesting that women, and especially female bloggers, were potentially leading people astray, that they were broken and untrustworthy, and needed to be under an authority.

So in this post I wanted to take a little time to attend to my Christian sisters who have been caught up in the fallout. The ones who posted in the hashtag, who blog, who pastor congregations, who study and write about theology, who are now fully-fledged ministers.

I want you to know that I am listening to you. And I appreciate you.

It is not uncommon for church to be a boys’ club. Not all churches, I know. But you don’t have to look far to find examples of local churches where women aren’t represented amongst the leadership, or where women are doing certain jobs that men won’t do or don’t do most of the time, with perhaps a few exceptions. And if a woman tries to explain her perspective, she gets shut down. It is so frustrating. I know. I hear you.

I want to say: persist, sister.

Persist in doing what you believe you are called to do. No man or woman is your judge. They don’t get to decide what you are or aren’t called to. God gets to make the call, and if you believe that you’ve been called to do something, you go for it. Don’t wait for the approval of people. If you can’t pursue your calling where you are, can you find a place you can pursue it?

And if you haven’t been ‘called’ to anything, or you don’t believe in being called – doesn’t matter. Persist in developing your abilities. Persist in pursuing your passions. Persist in having a rich life. Persist, persist, persist.

You can comment below or let me know on Twitter (@mytwocompanions), what are you persisting with?

 

 

On Lent and nonviolence

It’s Lent.

And I can feel the change in the air.

The stifling humidity of summer, the burning rays of sun that begin at dawn and end at dusk, are mellowing. The air at night is cool and clear. It keeps threatening to rain, but it never does.

I have never observed Lent. I grew up Baptist and it was never a “thing”. We sort of knew it was happening, and other people observed it, but it wasn’t something that meant anything to us. My sister started observing it several years ago, but I never asked her why…it just seemed like an extra rule to follow, another ritual to take part in to feel super spiritual. I didn’t want that pressure. So I never observed it.

But this morning I knew it was Shrove Tuesday, and I made sure we had pancakes. And tomorrow – I want to go to an Ash Wednesday service. I want to participate in Lent somehow this year. It would have to be low-pressure, low-key. Not because I can’t be bothered, but because I don’t want to promise to give up chocolate or TV and then not follow through. But maybe I will light a candle with my boys once a week, and say a simple prayer. (Sacraparental had some great ideas which I may be able to draw upon).

I desire more reflection and a slower, quieter approach to God these days. I like the idea of a rhythm. I’ve been trying to read along with the lectionary a little bit, although I keep missing days, because I haven’t made it a proper habit. Like everything right now, I am just trying to fit it in. I have stopped meditating in the evening after my boys fall asleep, and I miss it. I feel like every day I hold my breath to see what fresh hell is transpiring in the US or here in Australia. I am kind of tuning it out right now. I read it, I take a deep breath, and I move on, because I feel powerless to do much. And I like to pick my battles. And I like to have a considered approach. I am learning about nonviolence, and I want my words and actions to be nonviolent, even when I am raging internally. Nonviolence is about peace within, as well as peace without. It’s about having love and treating people with dignity simply because they are a human being, even when I fundamentally and vehemently disagree with them.

It is really, really hard.

About a year ago I watched online a gathering of people who came together to work on the Sanctuary movement – opening churches in Brisbane to protect asylum seekers who were in danger of being sent back to offshore detention. One of the speakers telling us as protesters that we needed to do the necessary spiritual work and reflection to take the anger that our opponents might send towards us, and to turn it back as love. I am finding that the necessary spiritual work and reflection to be like that is, well, never-ending, really. I don’t think I will ever have arrived in this regard. There will never be a moment when I am not tempted to turn back anger as anger, or insult as insult. But, as the saying goes, never repay anyone evil for evil…overcome evil with good…all I can do is simply try.

This Lent, as a time of reflection and repentance, I am looking for peace within to accompany my work for peace without.

Where do you find peace when things seem a bit of a mess, either in the world, or in your world? How do you try to maintain respect and uphold the dignity of others even when you would rather not?

 

An update and a poll walked into a bar…

Hello lovely people! Just an update to let you know I am still out here and have a heap of ideas buzzing around, but I have my first counselling assessment coming up in a week’s time and I am focused on that for the next 7 days and nights. I’ll post some more after that’s done, but in the meantime, why not do my handy-dandy poll and let me know what you want to read? Love to hear your thoughts!  Until then, take care!

How to have a good relapse

I was going to share a wonderful post about something I’ve found really helpful and wonderful and you might too. It was going to be absolutely wonderful.

Was.

But today, I haven’t been feeling so great. A mixture of little sleep, some theological questions/doubts and anxiety all shaken up caused me to feel pretty awful most of the day.

This doesn’t necessarily constitute a full-on relapse as such, but it is disheartening to feel so well and then one day suddenly find yourself feeling the way you used to at the start of recovery.

Fortunately, I know that this is a normal part of the recovery progression. I’ve been here and done this before. Feels painful? Of course. No one wants to relapse.

relapse

Image credit: https://imgflip.com/i/1hozhg 

HOW DO YOU HAVE A ‘GOOD’ RELAPSE? EXPECT TO HAVE ONE.

Relapse is a normal part of recovery, and does not equal a failure (Presbury, Echertling and McKee, 2008). So I’m not beating myself up about it and adding that emotional baggage to the stuff I’m already attempting to sort through.

The steps I’m taking to manage this episode, and you might find helpful too if you have problems to deal with (which I’m assuming is, like, everyone) are:

  • Medication – sticking with it, not skipping doses, not doing things that interfere with my medication (like drinking alcohol). If I found that I was frequently having bad days and it seemed like the medication was no longer having an effect, I would go back to my doctor and discuss whether it was still effective and if we needed to try something else (higher dosage, different kind, etc).
  • Tools from therapy – using mindfulness to “sit with” the uncertainty and anxiety I’m feeling, rather than constantly ruminating, CBT to evaluate if my thoughts are realistic and helpful or not, visualising positive rather than negative outcomes. If this isn’t effective enough, an appointment to check in with my psychologist would be my next step.
  • Connection – for me connecting with other people is important (I’m an extrovert), and is pretty much always a mood booster. I sent a friend a silly picture I thought she’d appreciate and we had a laugh. (Well I did). It helped.
  • Accepting my doubt as a part of my faith – tonight I heard an excellent talk by Ken Wytsma, guest speaker at Westcity Church, and he spoke about doubt being a part of faith, and how we sometimes “take a break” from God, church etc until we feel happy enough to stop doubting. He encouraged us to continue in our practices anyway, as that is what faith is. So I am continuing in my attempts to pray and cultivate my faith, rather than stepping away because I’m uncertain and anxious about that uncertainty. So be it.
  • Self-care and self-compassion – just trying to look after myself (eat moderately, drink water, get enough rest) and cut myself some slack, not paying attention to the inner critic (aka Judgy McJudgerson).

So that’s what I’m aiming to do while I go through this process of questioning, feeling anxious about it and feeling uncertain about what the outcome will be.

What do you do when you feel like you are relapsing or things are not going as well as they used to? Let me know in the comments 🙂 

References
Presbury, J. H., Echterling, L. G., McKee, J.E. (2008). Beyond Brief Counseling and Therapy: An Integrative Approach (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Want justice? Get persistent.

There was an Immigration Minister in a certain city who didn’t care about anything beyond “stop the boats”, and let abuse continue on his watch. Refugee advocates came to him repeatedly, saying, “Close the camps! Bring them here! Let them stay!” The Minister ignored them for awhile, but finally he said to himself, “I don’t fear the Greens or care about what the Loony Left think, but these advocates are driving me crazy. I’m going to see refugees get justice, because these advocates are wearing me out with their constant requests!” 

This little story is based on a story Jesus once told. (Loosely based. Very loosely.) When I was thinking about what I could do this year to help asylum seekers and refugees in detention, and how I could best engage with the powers-that-be, it sprang to mind. Here’s how the original goes:

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’  The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people,  but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:1-8, NLT)

Leaving aside for the moment that sometimes I do wonder if God is actually going to give justice, I can see a few parallels between the situation our asylum seekers are in, and this story. I am using this parable for inspiration on two levels:

  1. The inspiration to persist in asking for change.

    The widow wore the unjust judge out. She made a pest of herself. She didn’t change the character of the judge – he never pretended to care about God or people – but she did change his decision, through her persistence. Justice did win the day.

    There are so many of us who have good points to make about the detention situation, both on social media and to our friends – but how often do we take those to the politicians? What would happen if for every comment we made on social media about the offshore detention situation, we also sent it to the Immigration Minister here or the Prime Minister here? Or if not every comment, once a day we sent a brief Tweet or email? Once a day, every day of the year, multiplied by every advocate you know. Polite comments. But firm comments. That would be immense pressure. So my plan is to be one of those voices that persists in speaking to the government, asking for change, letting them know that the public eye is on them, and we want justice.

    We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King

  2. The inspiration to persist in prayer.

    Even though I have lots of questions and some doubts, I am still a follower of Jesus, and his main point was about pestering God for justice. Now why it hasn’t already happened, I do not know. I cannot answer that question. Nor am I going to attempt to right now – I’m ok with accepting that it hasn’t happened yet, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Jesus this song you wrote
    The words are sticking in my throat
    Peace on earth.  U2, ‘Peace on Earth’.

    So with those words sticking in my throat, my plan is to persist in asking God for justice in this situation. Will it happen? I do not know. That’s what faith is – not having certainty, but trying anyway. Is it pointless? Maybe, but maybe not. I think in this case it’s better to try and fail than to not try. At this point there’s not much to lose.

 

This year, may we wear out our welcome, and see justice come about through persistence.

Dear 2016

Dear 2016,

We need to talk.

You are moving out in just over 48 hours. No ifs, buts, or maybes. So start packing. Once you’re out, the locks are going to be changed and you won’t be coming back in.

“We are never, ever, ever getting back together.” Taylor Swift

Despite the cruel blows you dealt us in the last 12 months, we are survivors. We have coped with the loss of many of our favourite celebrities by sharing tributes and recalling our most beloved memories of them. We have watched catastrophic war rain down on the people of Aleppo, and we’ve rallied. We’ve donated, we’ve shared information, we’ve called our politicians. Many of us were aghast as we watched Brexit happen, One Nation come back to the Senate, and Trump become president-elect. But we’ve navigated that too. We’ve made friendships with people from different cultures, we’ve advocated for acceptance and we’ve stood up to racism.

Once again, we’ve watched as the sheer negligence and cold-heartedness of Australia’s refugee policy resulted in a death – the death of a 27 year old man on Christmas Day. A man who escaped genocide in Darfur, only to die on Manus. He should never have died. But we’ve taken to the streets, we held a vigil outside the Minister for Immigration’s office, and again we’ve been on the phone and emailing our politicians.

On top of all that, some of us have contended with personal crises. We’ve been diagnosed with an illness (physical or mental), we’ve lost a loved one through death or divorce, we’ve nursed a loved one through an illness, we’ve changed and no longer fit in where we used to, we’ve had to stop work because of illness or redundancy or there’s just no work to be had. And we are still standing. Or sitting, if we can’t stand it anymore. But we’re still here. We’ve sought treatment and support. We’ve found a community who cares for us. We’ve turned our attention and time to other worthy causes outside of work.

In short, 2016, you never had the best of us.

We know you’ll wreak more havoc in the next 2 days. But we’ll survive it, just like we’ve survived all the other stuff you’ve thrown at us. And when you’re gone, we’ll still be here.

St Augustine once wrote, “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

Well, 2016: we are good and angry. And we have courage. These are my two companions, our two companions, going into 2017.

We are going to get angry. We are going to get angry when we see people being used as political stepping stones, or being disadvantaged for someone else’s benefit. When people are dying as a result of our government’s neglect, we are livid. We are going to get angry when we see people chewed up and spat out by a corrupt system or a corrupt person, left to deal with the fall-out on their own. Be it government, church, spouse, boss – if someone causes harm, we will be angry.

And then we will use our courage to make a change.

“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Martin Luther King Jr

Courage is just doing what we think is important, even when we feel afraid. And there are many actions that are borne from courage, big and small. Seeing all the sadness and pain on the news and not turning off the TV, but taking a moment to 1) make space for all those emotions and 2) think about how you can do something to help people who are in pain – courage. Signing a petition to support something you believe in or making a phone call to your MP or a Minister – courage. Taking a stand on something you know won’t be popular amongst your friends or family, but doing it anyway because you are being honest about what you think – courage.

So 2016, as long as we have just a little bit of anger and a little bit of courage, we have hope. And as long as we have hope, you will never get the best of us. So please collect your things now. And don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.

Here’s to a hopeful 2017.