Loving the enemy…

Been thinking again about love…

I was ‘bounced’ today by a particularly aggressive and difficult colleague. She had an issue with something I had done, which she perceived as somehow disrespectful towards her, and she very assertively diced and sliced me- with eloquent arrogance and sneering silences.

As usual, I did not cope well with the direct assault, and so bumbled my way to an apology (which I did not really mean, as I still do not know what I am supposed to have done wrong) and then threw in a few disjointed defensive positions of my own.

She put her sunglasses on and went on her icy way, leaving me grinding my teeth over what I should have said.

I had a lovely drive to Bute, listening to Test Match Special, but even hearing about Flintoff destroying the Australian’s did not drive away the cloud that hovered above the aerial of my car. A cloud of controlled ritualised aggression out there in the ether, just out of reach.

flintoff

Ah… such is my condition. Despite my small and hopefully developing ability to be assertive, some situations still turn me to jelly. I wish I was tougher- a relisher of conflict as a resolver of problems and a way of defeating my enemies. A fast bowler pounding up a cloud on a flat wicket and humbling the emphemeral batsman before me…

Or sometimes I do.

Because no matter how my frailties weigh on me- no matter how unjust the day dawns. At the end of it all-

There is love.

But, Lord help me, I am not yet at that end…

Communing in the overlap…

Just Mooching Around (geddit?)

A story;

A man called Isaac grows and lives in a small village. He works hard on his farm, rising with the sun and tending the garden God gave him, tilling the rich brown earth. Rains come and water the green growth and plumps the ripening fruit. Life is good.

Next door lives his great friend Joseph. In the evenings they sit in the light of the harvest moon and share their hopes and dreams. They drink toasts to the future and laugh and joke and dream.

God looked upon them and smiled.

One day, Joseph inherits money from a long lost relative- just enough to buy a cow. And he walks it home up the hill and the evening light shines on its hide like velvet. He runs over to Isaac and invites him over to see the cow in its green pasture, solid and big and bountiful. “Look…” he says, “Look what God has brought to us- now we can have milk in the mornings- butter, cheese!”

But the cow became a shadow between Isaac and Joseph.

And one day, God visited Isaac and asked him what was wrong. Isaac said “It is the cow Lord- it has made Joseph into someone else. He used to be my friend.”

And God was sad.

“Isaac,” he said quietly, “If I can do anything for you- if I can grant you a wish, what would it be?”

Isaac looked up at God with cunning eyes.

“Kill the cow” he said.

Community.

As followers of Jesus, it is our calling, our aspiration, our tranforming power, and the very characteristic of the children of the living God.

Oh… and it can be hard.

Because real community implies closeness to those around us. It suggests relationships that go beyond the surface into the deep, undefended vulnerable parts of us.

And in doing this we are beautiful- as we serve and support, as we learn to love and let go our selfish stuff for the sake of the beautiful other. As we break bread and share wine.

But in doing this- we also are ugly- as we compete and squabble, as we dominate and oppress in the small things of a day, as we take in information and filter it through a screen of past hurts. As we nurse wounds and pick at the stitches until they burst and bleed on our communal table.

What was Jesus thinking of when he threw together his own band of disputing disciples? When he cautioned them that others will know that they are his followers by the love they had for one another?

Perhaps, just perhaps if we survive the examination of the stuff that we hide most carefully from the other- and we do not run away to build our own ego’s from bricks formed out of the manifest failings of our perceived inquisitors…

Perhaps then we might find that community is possible.

Because we Christians live in the overlap of what life is, and what we long for it to become.

The fruit of the Spirit is love…

dscf1942

Speak tenderly my loved one
My heart is laid wide open
Ventricle and clavicle
Could easily be broken
Vulnerable and winnable
Hungry for your mercy
Like a wanderer returning home
Weary thin and thirsty

I hear your distant voice
Dancing in these mountains
Your music in the flowers-
And flowing in the fountains
Come away with me my love
In this hillside let us dally
Apple of my shining eye
Lily of my valley

Against such there is no law…

fruit-1

A continuation of some stuff based around the list of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5.

This poem kind of nods at all the fruit Paul mentions.

You can see the others by clicking on the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ category on the left.

Love is not against the law
Although in judicial circles
It is not encouraged

But where the Spirit of the Lord falls
Love is between us like oil on bearings

Joy is not forbidden
But wherever it breaks out
It is fragile
Like a bubble
In a pine forest

But where the Spirit of the Lord rests
Joy beats like a dancing drum in the middle of us
Calling us to dance

Peace is never prohibited
But like a dove above a shooting range
Its flight is fraught with danger

But where the Spirit of the Lord lives
The boundaries we keep are soft
And we are learning how
To forgive

Patience is permitted in most places
But only if you use it quickly

But where the Spirit of the Lord lingers
Patience is like the summer sun
Drawing out the sugars in the ripening fruit
Sweetening the harvest

Kindness is condoned even in the most unlikely places
But it will win you few contracts
And is not conducive to
Promotion

But where the Spirit of the Lord comes close
Kindness kind of follows after

Goodness will not result in a jail sentence
But neither will it pay its way
In the global village superstore

But when the Spirit of the Lord smiles
Goodness becomes the common currency
Gentleness is no crime
And in many places it is a clinical necessity
But it is easily overlooked
In the shadow of another conquest

But where the Spirit of the Lord draws near
Then hands all rough from hard works
Become softened to hold
And to heal

Faithfulness is never a traitor
Yet we live like weathervanes
Spun by the seasons
To face the prevailing winds

But when the Spirit of the Lord moves
Promises no longer require the threat
Of legal recourse

pulpit

Self control is thundered from the pulpit
But just in case the message falls on deaf ears
We deploy the secret pew police
Rule books at the ready
Swinging their
Truncheons of truth
To crunch the knuckles
Of the apostate

But when the Spirit of the Lord comes amongst us
There is a perfect law called…

Freedom

Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

Emily and Will, somewhere in Wester Ross, 2003

The fruit of the Spirit is kindness

kindness

I was sore
Abraded by the road gravel
And you wrapped me
In a soft bed
Of kindness

I was weary from the world
And like a soothing embrocation
You took these road weary feet
And slippered them
In front of a warm fire

I failed
Again
And stared down low
Until the soft music in your voice
Brought to me possibility
That I too
Could be loved

That I too could love
In return

So may you be showered with blessings
Like blossom petals
Butterflying about you
In this beautiful breeze

kind

Castles and boundaries…

We humans are so good at creating boundaries- in groups, and out groups. Nations states often seem to have a dependent relationship with their enemies.

We have seen the extremes of this- the walls around China, or Berlin, and now- Palestine.

This learning to love thing- it is tough.

I have commented before on how difficult living in community with others can be- how it peels you and then salts the sore bits. (See here.)

At times I think that anyone who tries to live like this is engaging in a foolish ritual, that is guaranteed to be fruitless and painful. Like squatting in spurs.

But then I see a flicker again of how things should be. A friend with an arm around another, seeming to generate warmth that is tangible. Or a relationship that has been bad, now made good… and the picture given to us in Acts 3 seems possible.

32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

But lets never kid ourselves that this path of love is an easy one- or even an instinctive one.

our rambling old house

our rambling old house

We British people have been blessed with many good things- comparative peace, the rule of law, freedoms that others envy. Our experience of poverty and injustice is often second hand. But sometimes, our castles are seiged- just a little,,,

We live in a big old house in Dunoon, that we regard as God’s house. (Although, somewhat unfairly, the mortgage is ours!) We try to keep open doors, and offer respite to folk who need it. We use the many rooms for all sorts of different things, and for us, the house is a blessing through which we seek to bless others.

In our town there are many issues over boundaries and access to property. Our house is accessed over a rough track that goes over land owned by another property. This is no problem of itself- there are laws that deal with ‘kith and carriage’, and the requirement to maintain people’s rights of access. Our house was built in 1840, and used to be a hotel- so these are not new issues!

But there will always be some for whom this becomes a problem. We were unfortunate enough to have one of these people moving into the property over which we accessed our house. He decided that he did not like other people using his lane, and did everything he could to try to make it difficult for us, our visitors, and the other people who live up the lane.

He narrowed the entrance, and put in huge speed bumps that damaged cars. He refused to cut away obstructive trees. He blocked the lane with vehicles and refused to let our visitors in or out. He set his dog loose, and laughed when it attacked me.

Neighbours got involved in pitched battles with him, in which he threatened violence. Police and solicitors were involved. We tried our best to stay out of it all. We tried to build a relationship with him, and to speak to his wife and his young son, who would scurry on by. We worried about what sort of life they were leading in the midst of all this aggression and anger.

But living with this eats away at you. Finding a position of love and forgiveness in the shadow of such unpleasantness- this is hard.

It was a great relief to us when he moved away, to a more isolated location up country.

But this being a small town, I keep bumping into him, or his wife. He glares, and I seethe a little.

I need some Holy Spirit help… perhaps yet there will be an opportunity to show something of Jesus…

One thing that happened a couple of days ago though,was that we received a solicitors letter informing us that half of the house next door had been built on our land. It was asking us if we would give consent for the boundaries to be re-drawn.

It was an easy decision to make, and felt very good.