Mandela and Merton

Below is a quote that was read out yesterday at a day I attended which was about exploring our future vocations. I found it incredibly powerful. It was used by Nelson Mandela in a speech he made, his inauguaration I think. I dont know who actually wrote it – do let me know if you do.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

also read out was the Thomas Merton prayer I have blogged once before, but will post again, because even through my unbelieving times and my ‘angry at God’ years, I have had this prayer on my wall for years and years.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. 

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. 

And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone

a few thoughts on ‘church labels’ and ’18-30’s’

Help!

What am I? (apart from weird)

Am I a fundamentalist? Er, no for sure!

Liberal? Yeah most probably …

Evangelical? Whats one of them?

So most of you following my twitter feed/facebook and who read my last blog yesterday will probably have worked out that I am at a Christian Conference.

Spring Harvest to be precise … check out www.springharvest.org if you have never heard of it, or would like to know more, even better want to come in 2013.

Anyway, so yeah, here I am at Spring Harvest, again, after coming last year and being really surprised. Surprised at the week itself, and surprised at how challenged my own attitude was. And that’s not always easy to say is it? Not many people go round with a placard saying ‘I’ve got a bad attitude’. Neither did I, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t mean particularly, I just wanted to come and have a fight. Try and annoy people. Be sceptical. And if anything was said or talked about that did not fit into ‘my view’ that obviously it was wrong. Somehow God really challenged my attitude of being intolerant of intolerance. It took a while to realise I was just as bad as those I disliked for being intolerant because I was intolerant towards them.

So here I am again. Spring Harvest 2012. I had planned on going to some stuff today, and trying to write something reasonably spiritual, intellectual and interesting as a blog, then I realised that isn’t me really is it. I’m not especially clever, and my knowledge of God and the bible is pretty lame compared to the amazing people I am surrounded by, and in total awe of.

I decided I needed a rest day today (I know I know, its only the second full day, but I’m knackered!) and it’s been brilliant. I had breakfast, another nap, a chat on the phone with some friends, and coffee. Time to think and more hot chocolate/drinks/time to think and write. ( I am going to have to buy some if not all the talks, as I think I have missed a few I would quite liked to have been to, plus apparently there was a really interesting lecture this afternoon that I missed on woman in leadership – another thing I really like about SH is its apparent commitment to equality in church leadership. The main preach in the morning is by Ness Wilson, a church a leader, and there are many awesome woman involved in running Spring Harvest, and doing the teaching/talks)

One of the things I have been thinking about is the huge array of people here this week. The huge array of people I have met so far. I don’t know if it is just me, or the friendliness of the people here, but I just seem to end up in conversation with people (don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining). There are a huge variety of folk who have all come away for a week, most of whom want to learn more about God and spend time with other Christians. And that’s great … really great.

But that has made me wonder how many denominations there are here? I have no idea. I don’t know if Spring Harvest would know either. So far in the short few days I have been here I have heard or met people from the Church of Scotland, Church of England, a Pentecostal church, Nondenominational, United Reformed and Baptist church.

I am sure there must be more too.

I don’t know if Spring Harvest is a particular denomination or not, I don’t think it is. But then I got thinking about the terms fundamental, evangelical, and liberal.

They get used a lot to describe people don’t they ?

I’ve often heard people say ‘oh I’m an evangelical Christian’ or ‘ I go to a fundamentalist church’ (that kind of thing anyway, its fair to say I have not met many/know many fundamentalists).

I have spent some wondering today whether it matters or not? After all, there are folk who would say that it does not matter, and the only important thing is that you believe in God and would call yourself a Christian.

I kind of get that … but actually reality is that it doesn’t work that way does it, because otherwise we would all ‘just be Christians’ and there would be no denominations at all – maybe that would be a good thing? I don’t know?

So, how do you know ‘what you are’? How do I know ‘what I am’?

Answers on a post card please – alternatively just use the comment box – i’ve had to put ‘moderation’ on due to some really vile comments coming through but I always approve normal comments, even ones that disagree with me 🙂

The other thing I have been thinking about, and plan on spending some more time thinking on and writing about is the 18-30 things.

Spring Harvest has an ’18-30’ venue going on this year (I think they had it last year too) and over the last year or so it has become increasingly apparent, well to me anyway, that doing 18-30 stuff is becoming the ‘thing to do’. I’m experiencing this in the church I am involved in too – they have a passion/desire to try and reach out/create something that includes and involves and is 18 to 30 relevant.

Whenever I talk/tweet about this, it is not just about SH or criticising anything they are doing specifically. Its trying to think about it all in the wider ‘big church umbrella context’.

Now some of you are probably wondering why it has anything to do with me. I’m not a church leader. I’m not a leader of anything. I don’t have any sway, and I am not really able to back up my thoughts with anything solid other than them being just that, my thoughts, and the thoughts of some other people I chat to.

The reason why I am writing about it though, and thinking that it has a little bit to do with me is because I fit into that age group. But the end of that age range. As a nearly 28 year old, I am supposed to ‘fit in’ to the 18-30 group.

But do I? And do the other people who are my age? Do we fit into something that is trying to focus on an 18 year old, just leaving school, maybe going to Uni, maybe just starting work, maybe going on a gap year or on one. Do we fit into the group that is trying to focus on 18 to 22 year old somethings who are students and who are at University? Who are studying and struggling with life choices, careers paths, where next and all of the other things that come along with that life (not that I would know about any of it, having not been to uni).

Do we fit? And should we?

Or does there come a time when we have to admit adulthood and engage with mainstream adult programmes when it comes to events and church life?

Anyway, just a few thoughts from today … just noticed the time, ironically have to dash other wise I’ll be very late for the 18-30 Function event that I’m head to this evening – already late as I should be there now, ops!)

its been exactly 4 years since i tried to die …

Its quite a strange feeling … being alive when your not supposed to be.

I guess some folk would say I am meant to be but the way I see it is I’m not.

Four years ago I took an overdose. People would say that people who take overdoses are not serious, and are only crying out for help. Maybe that is so for others but it isn’t for me. I truly wanted to die. And as far as I was concerned I had taken enough stuff, in a big enough cocktail to ensure that I did die. I didn’t plan on surviving. Its fair to say my state of mind was a bit irrational. Thinking back now, my mind was screwed (it still is) but back then it was screwed in a much bigger way.

It is really hard to describe the day, four years ago. In fact a lot of it is blurry. I just remember being so desperate for the pain to go, that I could not see any other way out. My life was never meant to have worked out the way it had.

Stuff that had happened was never meant to happen. When I was a very small child, I could never have imagined what was going to be ahead of me. When I was a child the things that happened to me that were wrong were normal. Wasn’t everyone abused? (It wasn’t until I got older did I realize the answer to that is no).

I have written before, a few times about the darkness, the pain, the hurt, the desperation. The no way out and no where to go feeling. The heart wrenching all hope is lost feeling. Because that is how is felt. I had nothing. I was nothing.

So what was the point in being alive?  I didn’t see any …

So I tried to kill myself.

Imagine the feeling of waking up, a bit hazy, dazy and realizing that instead of being somewhere else (I had no idea where I was going to end up, I think my head thought it would be a hotter kind of hell than living, because that would be what I deserved) however even that was the better option than actually being alive (does not make much sense really when you think about it does it, but then I didn’t (still don’t often) make much sense) …

I was devastated to be alive.

 But that was four years ago.

I keep saying four, because I cant quite believe it to be honest. Four years! It feels like it has been a long long four years, yet it also feels like it has flown by.

The biggest thing I cant quite believe, and would never have imagined in a million days would be the change since then … how life has moved on.

Yesterday I tweeted something on the lines of ‘it’s the day before the day I tried to kill myself four years ago and instead of smoking, drinking and self harming I’m getting ready to go to Spring Harvest – a Christian conference’ – (obviously it was a bit shorter on twitter!)

I have the honour and privilege of being at Spring Harvest this year, and I’m really thankful to the people who have made it happen. And as I was getting packed to come, I was thinking about the fact its been over a year since I last cut, I don’t smoke any more, and I have the odd drink, but that’s it.

Last year I arrived at Spring Harvest on the back of a bet with someone who reckoned I wouldn’t survive a week at a Christian conference, despite having already been to a few. Not only did I survive the week, I think I survived it quite well.

Everything I thought it was going to be, it wasn’t. The fights I was looking for didn’t happen, and I went away from the week realizing that actually, despite my protests and issues sometimes I am a Christian. Yes, I am a Christian.

I am still trying to work my way round, understand the true meaning of Gods love, and really get to a place of belonging. There is a heck of a lot that I don’t understand – a heck of a lot … but I am firmly on the journey of trying to understand.  I still need to learn more about why I am here, what the meaning of my life is and why the stuff that has happened happened. I know that there are no easy answers to any of these questions, and that they are things that I am going to have to explore.

This afternoon, instead of going to the seminar that I had planned on going to, I went and spent an hour chatting to someone from the Pastoral Team here at SH. It was something I was a bit hesistant about, but something that I felt my soul stir into doing and I’m pleased I did. I felt like I was given a little clarity to my thoughts and feelings about today. And how God fits in to it all. Because He does.

I know that process isn’t going to suddenly become easy, but then I’m used to not easy.

But it’s a process that has now started.

One of my new years resolutions for 2012 was to spend more time concentrating and focusing on the future. Thinking about where it is heading, trying to ascertain the pathway I’m meant to be on, career wise, spiritually and personally.

And so, I supposed you might read this blog and think it is not doing that. Which is true, kind of.

I want to keep moving on wards, forwards, and part of that process is to process the past. I know I have spent some time talking about the past, four years ago in fact, I feel I have to. I have to mark it somehow. And the marking it somehow is more about celebrating the fact that I am alive . Its about remembering where I was, thinking about the years and the journey I have been on because that’s all so important when it comes to thinking about the future, my future.

I feel like I am marking it by writing this blog. Short of shouting out to everyone here, at Spring Harvest that It has been four years and I want to celebrate life right now the only way I know how to mark it is to write.

 IT HAS BEEN FOUR YEARS, AND I AM ALIVE, AND THAT IS GOOD!

What has happened is a part of me. I can not erase the past. I can not erase the scars that my body bares, and I can not erase the torture that sometimes haunts my mind.

But I can use some of those experiences, exactly how I don’t know yet.

But I want to look to the future.

I want to talk about it. I want to share my story.

I want people to know my story because more importantly I want others to know they can survive too, and that can happen by me sharing my story.