Friday, August 29, 2014

LGBT and church - facing new truths





At times in my life I gain a new insight or understanding, which impacts greatly on me and my life ... only, when I look back I realise that it is not new at all and I have known that particular thing for some time - but at arms length, from a distance, without really knowing it in my heart.

This year at Greenbelt my heart was truly opened to the treatment LGBT people receive in some churches and from some Christians.

This was my third Greenbelt festival and each time I blogged about it, I have mentioned LGBT people - Made in God's image and Life begins .So the issue has been tugging at my consciousness and conscience for a while ...

I have friends who are gay Christians, friends who have wanted to enter into church ministry and are not able to do so because of the relationships they are in. I have known this! Why have I not felt it until now?

This year at Greenbelt, not only did I attend the OuterSpace Eucharist (which has become a firm part of my festival experience), I also attended a number of panel discussions about the concept of marriage and whether LGBT people are a gift to the church, rather than a problem. Most importantly I listened to stories - stories by people who are forced by the church to choose between their calling to ministry and their calling to a loving relationship with another human being; stories by clergy who were severely sanctioned by the church for marrying the partner they love; stories by people who receive more love and compassion working in a supermarket chain than in the church they would love to serve ...
Most touching and amazing is the fact that again and again I heard people say "I do not want to leave the church", "Despite it's flaws and faults I love my church" and "I would not want to harm the church". People who say "I don't agree with outing gay bishops. We should enter into that power game."

That blows me away!!

I have come away from Greenbelt to weigh this new understanding and knowledge, to pray about it, to read more and discuss more.
I have joined the Inclusive Church and asked for an information pack from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement.
I am looking forward to the journey of learning more, understanding better and working out what is best to be done about it. I don't as yet know ... but I know there is work to be done!

What puzzles me most is that as Christians we believe we are made by God to be the best we can be. Unlike our atheist friends we don't think we are a chance combination of genes that give us certain attributes and abilities - we believe that God has made us in a deliberate and knowing and wonderful way!
We also believe that we are instructed to use those talents. To use them to build a better world - God's Kingdom on earth.
And we are meant to encourage, enable, empower, support and motivate others to do the same.
Don't we??

And then here is the church, the very institution which should encourage and empower us to use our gifts and talents, and it says to some of us "No, not  you ... God doesn't want your talents!"
Really??

Can I encourage you to find out about this topic?
To read, hear and listen?
To join groups, petitions and actions?

And most of all, keep those who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and those who are in the authority to make (and change) those decisions in your hearts and prayers.
And let them know that you do.

Here's to a church which loves and welcomes all unconditionally - regardless of race, gender, economic standing, (dis)ability and sexual orientation.
It's what God does.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Humanism, being a Christian and the parable of the Eaton Mess

When @Naradee12 first asked me to write a piece for her secularscarlet.wordpress.com blog I thought “I can do that”.
… Then I checked out the blog and found myself thinking “I’m not sure I can do that”. There seemed to be a strong anti-religious sentiment and terminology such as “eradication of religion” simply makes me feel a bit uneasy.

I am a Christian. I grew up in a Roman Catholic family but left the church when I moved away from home at the age of 18. For many years I had little to do with religion – although I was drawn into a church service once in a blue moon, for a while dabbled in Paganism (there is still much I like and respect about it) and at some stage developed an interest in Hinduism.
Then, quite unexpectedly, in my mid-30s I returned to the Christian faith and have been an actively and openly practising Christian ever since. My faith acts as a daily reminder to be more caring, more forgiving and more loving, to be less selfish and self-absorbed and to strive for greater things than personal gain, power and reward.
Of course I am not saying that you
have to be a Christian to do these things – but simply that for me the framework of the Christian faith acts as a daily and constant encouragement.

Quite often atheists have said to me: “I respect you, but not your beliefs” to. I
think that’s meant to be a compliment, but I find it quite difficult to get my head around that statement.
For me the two are firmly connected. My beliefs shape who I am. Where I see myself in relation to God and other people
is who I am. To those atheists I would respond by saying “If you respect me you also respect my beliefs, because my beliefs are what makes me!”

I would also say “judge me by what you
know about me, not by what you assume to know about me based on your assumptions”.
I am talking about my
personal beliefs. Find out about those, rather than judge me by what the Pope said in 1997 or what some Televangelist preached last week or what you were taught in Bible school when you were 7 or by some obscure Bible verse which really gets your goat.
Or simply judge me by my words and deeds … because
they mirror my beliefs.

I believe in God
I also believe in humanity.
I believe in equality and in Human Rights.
And I believe in our ability to live together in peace and harmony … and I am passionately convinced that the only way we can create societies like that is to listen to, learn from and respect each other!
I guess that makes me a humanist.

Jesus summed up all religious teachings into two laws: “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself”.
He modelled this by concerning himself with the most needy, excluded and vulnerable members of the society of his time; those you were considered unclean, sinful or undesirable – menstruating women (yes, I know!), adulteresses, tax collectors, lepers, non-Jews, the mentally ill and the physically disabled, to name a few.
He considered religious rules to be there to benefit people, and criticised them sternly when they were used to burden or control people. Religious teachings are there to benefit people, not the other way round.
Jesus was a humanist too!

My hope is that we all be HUMANISTS before we are theists/desist/atheists and that rather than try to eradicate each other we fight for and work towards the humanist values which will build more loving and caring communities.


The other evening we had Eaton Mess for dessert.
For those of you who don’t know what Eaton Mess is, it consists of broken up meringue, whipped cream and fruit (typically strawberries or raspberries) mixed together. Imagine a mashed up Pavlova!
Now, I’m not too keen on cream and my husband doesn’t really like meringues … but we both agreed that in an Eaton Mess all the ingredients really complement each other.
Take the cream out of the Eaton Mess and you no longer have Eaton Mess. And cream on its own is just, well, cream.
I wonder whether there is a lesson for building society.
Perhaps to create diverse, tolerant and understanding communities, we need to get in together, mix with each other and get messy!


Find me on Twitter under @solsikke66

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Practice Self-Acceptance (by Gini Grey)

Before I write anything else I must make very clear that this is not my blog.

Some years ago I came across a blog by a woman called Gini Grey. This particular post spoke volumes to me, so much so that I copied and pasted the text and saved it as a word document on my PC at work. Cleaning up my PC I came across it this week and found the message as profound as I had back then.

Ginigrey.com's website seems to have disappeared and her Twitter account (@DailyInsights) has been inactive since 2011.

Gini, I hope it is okay to resurrect your post on "practicing self-acceptance" here and now. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing - Thank you!




Practice Self-Acceptance When You Feel Unaccepted 
When you practice self-acceptance it doesn’t matter if you’re not accepted by family.
It would be wonderful if each and every one of us was fully accepted by our family for who we are, what we do, and what we believe in (even if they don’t agree). But unfortunately, many parents and siblings feel they have the right to judge, criticize and advise family members who stray from the path according to their world view.
It’s as though they fear that their world will crumble if the rest of the clan doesn’t act, think, and feel the way they do. Yet in reality, it is our uniqueness that makes us special and creates richness in the world. When family supports us to be our authentic selves, forgives us for our mistakes, and loves us unconditionally, we feel accepted.
So what can you do when you feel unaccepted by family? You can practice self-acceptance. Accepting yourself and your life choices even when others don’t is imperative for living a life of joy and freedom. Without self-acceptance, other people’s opinions become bigger than you; taunting, shaming, or swaying you to make decisions that aren’t a natural fit. When you honor your values, beliefs, gifts and talents, you speak your truth, follow your dreams, and allow others to do the same.
Self-acceptance leads to acceptance of others, which creates a ripple effect into the world. So begin by accepting yourself and your life choices. Here are suggestions on how to do this.
Trust your heart and soul. If you listen to your heart and soul for guidance on what path to follow you will never be led astray. No one knows what’s best for you except you. When your mind becomes concerned about others’ judgments or rejection, tune into your higher self and trust your heart and soul’s truth.
Refuse to take on invalidation. A person will only feel the sting of invalidation if they take it on. Don’t take your family members’ opinions personally. In reality their judgments have less to do with you and more to do with their own beliefs, programming, conditioning, fears, regrets and insecurities. Stand firm in your life choices and let others deal with their own triggers and reactions.
Stay amused and in a state of non-resistance. What we resist persists, so the minute you tense up against another’s non-accepting tone, comment or behavior, they’ve got you. In order to be bigger than your family’s judgments it helps to be in a state of non-resistance and amusement. Stay relaxed, see the humor in their small mindedness, and remember what’s truly important to you.
Recognize what’s behind others’ judgments. Instead of being hurt or offended by a family member’s judgment of your lifestyle, beliefs, talents or career choices, look at what’s behind the judgment. Judgments come from fear not love. A man raised in the depression era who frets about his children’s financial security will discourage his son from pursuing a career in arts or entertainment. A woman may criticize her husband’s growing interest in a new hobby because she’s worried it will take time away from their relationship. A woman may snicker at her sister’s personal growth journey because she’s concerned they’ll drift apart. Recognizing others’ fears will bring out your compassion and ease the pain of judgment.
Surround yourself with supportive people. Cultivate friendships with people who can see and honor who you really are. Spend as much time as possible in the company of others who have high self-esteem, follow their dreams, and encourage you to do the same.
Love yourself unconditionally. When you fully love yourself, flaws and all, it’s less painful if others don’t accept you or your life choices. Find ways to express love to yourself on a daily basis. Nurture yourself, honor your emotional, physical, mental and spiritual needs, compliment yourself regularly, and focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Even just saying the simple phrase, “I accept myself” feels healing.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Nice people


No further words needed ...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Come and see!



Today in church we read the following passage from John's gospel
The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter). - John 1:35-42 
I am struck by the words of Jesus: "What are you looking for?" and "Come and see".

What am I looking for in my faith? And have I been looking right?
I often feel that I want to be and do so many things in church and live my faith in that way ... but what about looking much closer to home and seeing the small things in my daily life - my own family, my work? What about living my faith there in everyday situations, rather than looking elsewhere beyond?

Today I took my camera and went for a walk. 
These are the things I found when I looked closer and took in the detail.

"Come and see!"

















 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

First signs of spring


If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” 
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Friday, January 17, 2014

Saving Ted

Today, on the way to the allotment, I spotted a bedraggled dirty little soft toy in the back street. It was lying on its front and I didn't give it much thought.
On the way home I took a closer look.

Here is what I saw:



















I took pity on him, took him home and gave him a hand-wash.



















Here is how well he scrubbed up. He must be brand-new and even still has his tag attached.




















Now, what shall I call him?