The day I got into a fight with a street Preacher …

I was reminded the other evening about the day, a few years ago, when I got into an eyes red rage fight with a street preacher. Actually, maybe it is unfair to say that we had a fight, because I never gave him the chance to speak. I’m amazed actually that I didn’t punch the guy.

It was in the middle of a city centre. That I was visiting. And waiting for a friend to arrive for coffee.

A few minutes earlier, as I was arriving at our meeting place, I could see the crowd gathered, so being the nosey that I am decided to go and see what was going on.  I stood at the back of the circled crowd of about 60 people, with shopping bags in one hand and a smoke in the other. And I watched. And I listened.

I was starting to get a bit bored, but decided to stick it out a bit longer because my friend had text to say they would be 5/10 minutes as they were running late.

So I stuck around and continued to watch and listen. And that’s when it got a little bit more interesting.

Because that was when someone else, who had also been watching and listening decided to have their say too.  Someone who looked like maybe he had been sleeping rough. Someone who looked like maybe he could do with a good wash, a shave, some clean/non ripped clothes and a good meal or five. Someone who maybe looked as though he had been in a few scraps.  Someone whose words were slightly slurred, because they’d perhaps had a little bit too much of whatever cheap alcohol he had been able to lay his hands on.

Someone who looked like they just needed some love and care.

Someone who felt that he needed to respond to what the guy on the stool was shouting.  Someone who felt that life’s darkness and pain was better dulled with alcohol and drugs, and someone who felt that we could find our own happiness. He was someone who needed to tell the crowd to just be happy being who you are.

This guy made me smile. Because despite his obvious dishevelled-ness and alcohol induced merriness he had a beautiful twinkle in his eye (the eye that was not black and healing from wounds) and an apparent desire, however big or small to cling on to whatever life was offering him.

I’ll never forget seeing the shock in his face, and I’ll never forget the horrified feelings I felt when, whilst addressing the crowd with his own ‘be happy’ message, the preacher guy, having stepped down from his stool grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him backwards, so he could get back up on his stool, and tower above the merry man, whilst still having a grip on the merry mans shoulders.

And with one hand gripped on his shoulder, which appeared to make the merry man powerless to move, with the other hand he started waving and pointing at the merry man below him.

And then it started. The preacher man, holding and pointing started shouting at the gathered crowd, which was getting bigger as each second went by.

Addressing the crowd, pointing at the merry man he was shouting at the top of voice –

‘do YOU want to be like this’, ‘do YOU want to end up looking like THAT because if you don’t follow God you will’

and a couple of other things I don’t recall. I simply could not comprehend or believe what I was witnessing. And then he yelled

‘do you want to be like him? a nothing, worthless, a no one’

What? Did I just hear that right? Well I didn’t have to question long because a second after he said it the first time, he repeated it again, pointing at the merry man and asking the crowd if they wanted to end up like him, a nothing, worthless, a no one.

The look of bemusement and bewilderment in the merry mans face will never leave me.

It was at that point I saw red. It flashed across my eyes.

I grabbed my bags, stormed through the crowd, up to these two men, one on a stool with a firm hold on a vulnerable merry man and intervened. And when I say intervened I got hold of the merry man and moved him out of the way, and put myself in his place, but instead of facing the crowd and having this guy looking down on me and berate me, I got my finger in face and started shouting back as loudly as he had been shouting at the crowd.

As I said at the beginning, I’m amazed I didn’t punch the guy. Or swear. But I didn’t. However, my mouth ran away with me (what a surprise I hear you say) …

I shouted at him how dare he. How dare he speak to someone like that, how dare he lay his fingers on someone, how dare he pass judgement on someone. How dare he abuse and mistreat the vulnerable. How dare he suggest that someone was not worth anything? How dare he?

I shouted at him that the Jesus I knew would love a person like this. That the Jesus I know and I have read about in the Bible would love, cherish and care for a merry man like him, that the Jesus I know about is a Jesus who believes in people, all people, including this merry man being worthwhile, precious, valuable and definitely not a no body. That the Jesus I knew about was a Jesus of grace and mercy and kindness. And on I went, for about 5 minutes, telling him and the crowd about the Jesus I believed in which was everything opposite to what he had been preaching.

I ended by shouting at him that the Jesus I knew about would LOVE this man.

At this point, the merry man had wondered off. I stopped to draw breath and realised I had run out of things to say, so I picked up my bags, turned on my heels, leaving the street preacher speechless, and a crowd clapping and shouting as I stormed back out of the circle and back down the street we were in.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, simply because I have been thinking about it. Every now and then over the last few years I’ve thought about the merry man, wondered where he is now, and hoping he is ok. I hope that he knew he was/is loved by someone. And I’ve thought about the street preacher and the continued untold damage he is doing in ‘Gods name’ and hoping those that he affects negatively are being scooped up by gentle souls who can whisper the real truths into their lives.

I think about the anger it stirred in my soul. The red rage that flashed because someone in front of my very eyes was being told they were not worth anything. That person could have been anyone.  It could have been me.

It has been me, over the years.

I don’t believe anyone, who ever they are, where ever they have come from, wherever they have been, whatever they have done is worthless.

This is what stirs my soul into action, to speak out against injustices when I can/when I see it, such as this time, or other times when I speak out loudly on behalf of other people.

Its what stirs my soul to work with vulnerable people, be it young people, the dying, people with mental health issues, people with learning disabilities, people on the fringes of society for whatever reason.

I believe that Jesus loves people, including this merry man. That He is full of grace, and mercy, and that He cherishes and sees all as worthwhile.

I just hope/long for the day when l fully believe that that includes me too.

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When was the last …?

A few years ago I spent the night praying. AND I wrote 2 things. I’m reposting/blogging them tonight because I have a sense of needing to. And a sense of needing to re hear the words myself too.

I think Part 2 is the most important tonight. 

when was the last ….? – Part 1

Stop … just for a minute …

 

When did you last say ‘I love you’ to someone?

Anyone ? … a friend? Your family? Jesus?

 

When did you last say ‘I love You to Jesus’

When did you last speak to Him?

When you last pour out your soul to Him?

When did you last tell Him whats on your mind?

 

Why not try it now …

 

He loves You! He is waiting …

 

He is waiting to hear from you … He wants you to talk to Him … He wants you to pour out your heart to Him

 

He longs for the day when all is surrendered

He longs for you to stand before Him, in prayer, in worship. He longs for you to come to Him.

 

He is stood with His arms open wide, waiting to embrace you … To surround you with Love, Grace and Mercy. He wants to shower you with blessings after blessings.

 

Stop …

Praise Him,

Worship Him,

tell Him how much You Love Him!

when was the last ….? –  Part 2

When was the last time someone said to you ‘I love You?’

 

Stop ….

Listen …

Hear the voice

 

Maybe it’s the smallest, faintest sound.

Maybe it’s a whisper, blowing in the wind,

Maybe it’s a loud bang, so loud it hurts your ears,

Or maybe, just maybe it surrounds you in the every day noise.

 

Have You ever stopped to listen? … to hear …?

 

Try it now …

 

What do you hear? What do you want to hear?

 

Don’t be scared, or afraid.

 

Listen to Him say ‘I love YOU’

 

Surround yourself in the whisper, the wind, the loud bang, the everyday noise. Listen to Him saying ‘I LOVE YOU’

 

YOU are LOVED

YOU are PRECIOUS

YOU are VALUABLE

YOU are FORGIVEN

YOU ARE HIS CHILD!

Whoever you are, wherever life has taken you, whatever you’ve done …

 

Just stop, and listen …

 

Listen to Him saying

 

‘ I LOVE YOU’!

a response to ‘Paedogeddon’.

I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. In fact since the 15th November. Since I read the ‘Paedogeddon: of God and Monsters’ written by Sara Kewly Hyde and published on Threads here;

http://www.threadsuk.com/paedogeddon/

I’ve been trying to respond since then. And I have written and rewritten this blog several times now. And then I decided I would write it, and try and put down in words some of my personal thoughts. The thoughts I had initially.

Because however hard I try to come up with something deep and meaningful, I am not sure I can. However hard I try to come up with something that is ‘seen’ as ‘theological’ I am not sure I can. In fact I am sure I cant.

I’ve discovered all I can actually come up with is my own personal, deep down, gut instinct response to what Sara wrote.

I have been challenged. Big time. I have not been able to stop thinking about it. Since I first read what she had to say, it has played on my mind, and I have thought about it at least once a day, often more.

I am a survivor. I grew up being abused by the people who should have been caring for me. By the people I should have been able to look up to. The man who should have been a father to me abused me. I was abused by someone else who was unable himself to deal with being abused. 

I also, as a young adult, in my early twenties was assaulted one day, in the street, just down the road from where I was living at the time. When that happened, that day, my life changed. Forever. Yet another thing was taken away from me.

I had nothing left. It pushed me to the brink of death, because just over a year later, I would try to kill myself (here by the grace of God and all that).

 Sometimes I am able to eloquently describe and talk about what it is like to be abused, and raped. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am able to put into words the pain, shame, fear and torture that fill your mind. It is torment.

However hard you try to wash, scrub, cry, scream, cut and plead away the pain, the memories, the nightmares, they don’t go.

They will never go. They will always be there. And even though in time, you may be able to try to start living a life, a different life again, those memories will always exist. Sometimes they are more painful than others. But a day does not go by, when some memory surfaces. Somewhere, sometime during a normal day, something will trigger a memory. It could be a smell, a word. Something. Anything.

But what I have learnt as I grow stronger (and I shall be forever grateful to those people who support me in this journey) that life can be lived, and lived well. And that is the journey I am on, learning to live life, and live it well.

I am learning to laugh again, to smile, to be loved, and to love.

And it is going well. I think.

But then every now and then something comes along that halts you. Makes you stop. Makes you remember even more intensely than you already do. Makes you reflect more so than ever before. And makes everything so loud once again in your head.

That has been my experience since the Jimmy Savile expose happened. Since it was revealed that he was a predatory child abuser, and that his victims could be as many as 500 and counting.

Since everyone has been talking about child abuse, and rape. Since it has not left the front page, and Internet, the conversation in the street. Since the topic has been everywhere. And that is why I wrote this:

http://fragmentz.org/2012/10/13/some-thoughts-on-being-a-survivor-and-jimmy-savile/

 

To put into words, and convey some of my thoughts and feelings that had been aroused so much more than they usually are.

However, reading Sara’s Paedogeddon article made me realise that my response was just that. It was my response. It was the emotional and personal response of someone who has experienced the pain of abuse.

And this is where the clanger kicks in for me: it was NOT a Christian response. And it was not a response that considered the offender. In fact I never really thought about it from those points of views. I never really thought about what it means to be a Christian and a survivor, to the point where I have to then think about how I think about and respond to people who rape and abuse. Not properly anyway. Not deeply. Not with any meaning.

Until I read Sara’s thoughts. Her article was so well written. And it touched on topics I have not wanted to, have not been able to, and have tried to ignore.

But I have no choice but to. I have no choice, as a Christian but to confront these issues.

So how would I respond? If I was face to face, or in the position where I had to be with or engage with an offender.

And this is where I come a little stuck. This is where my head goes round and round in circles, and this is where I have written this blog so many times, and still not managed to write a coherent answer.

The best I can offer is I don’t know.

The best I can offer, after chatting about this to many people, including close friends, other survivors, and my minister is this: I don’t know.

The truth is, I really know how I would respond to someone who I knew was or had been a child abuser, or a rapist. I don’t know how I would love them, or even if I could. I don’t know how I would respond to someone sitting in front of me in church, who was a known sex offender.

Maybe I would want to hit them. Maybe I would want to scream at them. Maybe I would want to walk away and never have to think about them again. Maybe.

Or maybe I would want to talk to them. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t.

But I ask myself this: do I have a place myself, a place in a Christian community if I am not willing to accept this line that Sara wrote:

‘The church needs to be a place of acceptance and healing for the abuser and the abused’.

Ouch.

But it is true. Painfully true.

If I talk about, and expect, and desire, and wish to see His church, THE church understand, accept and have a place for a survivor of abuse, then surely I have to accept that it is also a place for an offender. I have to accept that there can be/is/has to be a place for them too. That they also need to be part of a community that will accept, love and support them. I have to accept that they are people too.

She says this

‘There has to be grace for those who have committed even the most atrocious, life wrecking crimes , and those cripples by the effects of these crimes, otherwise the cross is a nonsense’.

As a survivor, and a Christian I HAVE TO BELIEVE that Jesus came for the people who abused and raped me too. That He came for people who abuse and rape others. Otherwise, as Sara put it so well ‘the cross is a nonsense’. And deep down, no matter what state my relationship with God is, I know it is not nonsense.

But that is big. That is big stuff to get my head around. But I am trying to. Slowly.

But how does this actually play out?

And again, that’s where I come to ‘I don’t know’.

I could give you the answers I’m ‘meant’ to. The answers where I say I would greet them with open arms, welcome them into my community, my family, and love them. But whether I would or could, I don’t know?

I could give you the answers that I have thought about for the last few weeks, that have gone round and round in my head, the ones where I have tried to be deep and super spiritual, but actually those answers wouldn’t be being true to myself. Because the answer I have is I don’t know. I simply don’t know.

But I do accept that there has to be a place for them. The church has to have a place for them. Because deep down, deep down where it hurts so painfully, I know Jesus has a place for them. He loves them, like He loves me.

Knowing that is not easy. Trust me. I don’t say it in a blasé way.

But it’s the truth.

I have to accept that these people have the right to be engaged with, supported and part of Gods Kingdom, like I do.

But I also have to accept that I do not have to everything and anything to everyone and anyone.

When I threw this topic out on to twitter a few weeks ago, I had a chat with Jon Beech who you can find here: @_jonb

I asked something on the lines of, how as a survivor should I/could I engage with offenders. His response startled me. I was not expecting it.

He asked back whether I should have to.

His point was: I cannot, and not have to engage with absolutely anyone and everyone I come across. I do not have to be all things to all people. I can’t be.

So I have to accept my limitations. Whilst accepting child abusers and offenders may have a place in my community, and probably already do, that I just don’t know about I have to accept I don’t HAVE to engage with them. And that unless God somehow struck me with lightening and convicted me in such a way that made clear that I was meant to, that actually I can keep myself safe.

At the top of Sara’s article on Threads, it says this in a blue box ‘ who has all the answers? Not us, that’s for sure. But ignoring the questions doesn’t make them go away’.

And that’s the truth. Who has all the answers? I certainly don’t, but the questions will not go away. So we must keep discussing them. We must keep talking about them. And we must be honest.

So, I bring this to an end, probably without writing about what I started out intending to. I am a Queen of tangents.

But rest assured, these topics are ones that roll around my head on a daily basis, and are never too far away from my thoughts, so if you ever want to join in the conversation with me, feel free to contact me. I’m open to all thoughts.

 

there IS hope.

Most days I sign into here and I often glance over how people have ‘found’ my blog. Its often by googling something, and then they land here. And often the things people type are relating to surviving abuse, depression, church, mental health, self harm amongst other things.

Sometimes people land at Fragmentz by typing something like ‘is there hope …’. Is there hope for … a self harmer? A depressive? A survivor?

My response to those people is YES. LOTS. And I really hope by stumbling across this blog that those people who are typing those things are able to find hope in this space.

And that those people are also able to find hope in the life they are living.

Because there is hope. Maybe it is small grains of sand shaped hope, and maybe it might be something bigger. Maybe it is something very quiet, or something very loud.

But however big or small, quiet or loud there IS hope.

Whatever it is you are facing, whatever storm you are in the middle of, keep hanging on to hope.

If you are unwell with depression or other mental health issues: there IS hope.

If you a survivor of abuse and/or rape: there IS hope.

If you battle with self harm: there IS hope.

If you struggle with suicidal ideations: there IS hope.

If you are fighting to stay above the water, for whatever reason: there IS hope.

I believe this for you, if you are a Christian. I believe this for you if you are not a Christian.

However some of the searches people have typed and found my blog with, related to battling issues and Jesus. I truly believe Jesus still loves you, whether you are depressed or not. Whether your self harm or not. Whether you battle with God or not. Whether you are a survivor or not.

He loves you. And has a hope and a future for you.

One of the most important bible verses when it comes to hope, and my own life, is this:

Jeremiah 29 verse 11 –  ‘I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for’ (The Message)

Please know, wherever you are, whoever you are and whoever you believe in,

you are precious. 

You are valuable. 

You are beautiful. 

There is a hope. 

There is a future. 

As I sat writing this blog, the last verse of a poem I wrote called ‘the whisper’  came into my mind. It is this :

As the years pass by, the scars never go, but begin to get lighter
She sits down, and watches life go by, and the sun getting brighter
And as she confronts all of the things in her life she fears
In the stillness the previous whisper of ‘I love you’ is all she hears.

I dont pretend there is an easy way for life to happen. There isnt. Life is tough. But please know and live in hope that brighter days can exist. That even though the memories never go, they can be lighter, things can be brighter.

Please know you precious, your are valuable, you are beautiful. 

You are loved. Loved. LOVED. 

Fragmentz @ Spring Harvest 2012 (Part 1)

I had the real privilege of being able to attend Spring Harvest 2012. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve become a proper Spring Harvester (whatever one of them is – I was recently informed by a ‘regular’ that this is what I’ve become) … I’ve been converted to Christian conferences. Well, this one at least.

You may have read some of my blog, written last year about my experience at SH 2011. It was interesting, and one I was not expecting whatsoever. I had gone on the back of a drunken bet, ready for a fight, and ready to find it mind blowingly frustating and annoying. In fact, I actually had secretly hoped it was, because it meant I could spend the next few months moaning about ‘typical’ Christians, who like to spend a week in a bubble wrap and spend time exploring everything that is not relevant to life today. So, believe me how surprised I was to find myself experiencing something so very different. To read more about last years SH do check out this link, where you’ll find the relevant part midway through that blog – another year has gone-goodbye-2011-hello-2012

So, anyway, back to 2012. I went to Spring Harvest at Skegness again. This time, it was not on the back of a bet, drunken or sober. No bet at all. I actually wanted to go. Really wanted to. I remember tweeting someone the week before sometime, while I was washing up one day, standing at the sink reflecting on how the same time last year I was dreading it, whereas this time round I was actively looking forwards to going.

What a surprise eh? Well, it sure was for me!

One of the things I had hoped to do, while at Spring Harvest was blog. And I did. Twice. Not quite as many times as planned.

See the links for the two blogs I did manage to publish while there … its been exactly 4-years since i tried to die and a few thoughts on church labels and 18-30s

Thing is, when I am writing I can sometimes spend hours typing, and then going over what I’ve written, and then wondering if its ‘good enough’ before I publish. The other thing is, I always write from what I have going on inside my head. Inside of me. And so, what I write about tend to be things that I could talk about naturally, or that I’m passionate about, or have got laid on my heart to put into words. I often write about things I have been thinking about for sometime. I often write about things that have affected me, or that do affect me, my life, the lives of people around me, and issues that affect our world. But they have to be things that I have processed.

And so, I quickly decided that actually, although I really wanted to blog about my Spring Harvest 2012 experience, it would have to be done after the event. Maybe months after (like this post in fact). Because, I needed to be able to just spend the week there. Experience the meetings, the teaching, the seminars, meet people, have those coffees, sit on the beach, chill and do all the things that people do when they are away for the week at a Christian conference.

And then, most importantly I needed to go away, and process. Think about the stuff I heard. Think about the stuff I saw, felt and experienced. Think about the people I met, and the things they said to me. The things we talked about. Think about my experience of God that week, and life in general.

Having laid all the above out, brings me to the point now, where I’m starting to be able to put down in blogs about the week.

The week of huge privilege meeting some amazing people. Hearing some amazing stuff. And spending some amazing time with God.

Early on in the week, in fact the very first full day of Spring Harvest, I wrote the blog ‘its been exactly 4 years sinceI tried to die …’. It was quite emotional actually, sitting in the coffee shop, on site, writing a blog about how 4 years ago to the very day, I took an overdose with the full intention of wanting to die. Some people think it is a bit morbid to think about it. But I see it as a celebration of life. Because although things did not immediately get better, it was that day that life, my life hung in the balance, and for some reason it was meant to be kept going. I was kept going. I did not die. And, now, 4 years on I am so glad I didn’t. So that is what I mark. That is what I celebrate.

But it is important to me to remember where I was. Those days when I could not get out of bed. When I could not get showered, or dressed, or go to work. Or do anything. The days when all I sit was sit and smoke, self harm or dream about the day when I died. Because remembering those days keeps it real. It does not mean I ‘dwell’ on it as such, but it just means I can recognise how life was back then, and then how different it is today.

Its important to remember those days, and then think about the fact that 4 years on, I have been so so blessed to have had some amazing people put into my life, who have loved me, cared for, and who still do love and care for me. If only I can be even half the blessing to other people that these folks have been in my life, then that’d be cool. They are immense people that I am so thankful for. And that, even now, amazing people, who really inspire me, are being put into my life. And I’m thankful for that too!

My week at Spring Harvest 2012 was so varied, from dropping hot chocolate and swearing loudly in front of the coffee shop staff (who found it firstly astonishing a Christian at SH would swear, but then ending up in a great convo) to bumping randomly into a woman I know from my town, who burst in tears on me, and then spent 3 hours in said coffee shop (I became a regular that week) talking about life and the entire universe, where we both laugh, and cried. From meeting people who were leading seminars and main stage talks who inspired me immensely, to sitting in the Skyline at midnight chatting to an old time friend I’d managed to catch up with. From sitting in lectures that were so relevant to life in 2012 (so much so I ordered the entire teaching on USB – I know, I know, that really IS keen isn’t it?!) to supping wine late at night with my lovely chalet buddy who I had never met before SH. From upsetting old ladies in the toilet queue by talking about my habit of using the mens when the Q’s are too long and tattoo’s to experiencing God in a huge huge quiet and gentle but immense way. And so much more.

One of the many things I came away with from SH 2012 was this:

Despite my weirdness, and my quirks, and I have plenty of those. Despite my mess. Despite the screw up that my life has been and often is, despite my inadequateness and my insecurities I can be me. I can be who I am, and still belong and be loved by God and His people. And that however unworthy and small it is, I can and do play a part in His Kingdom.

I dont quite know how that plays out … right now, but I am assured that somehow I am playing a part in His Kingdom. I am His child. He does love me. And that even though I still have some working out to do, I do love Him.

Maybe my faith is ‘child-like’. But thats ok. I might not be good at the ‘deep’ theology, or the big facts. My bible knowledge may be poor. I might not be as clever as some of the people I have met, but thats ok, because I am me. Not them. And thats good. The world needs them. But perhaps it needs me too.

I am reminded of Jeremiah 29, verse 11. Where it talks about the hope and the future God has for us. For each and every one of us. Including me. So although, I don’t know what the future holds right now, what I do know is, I have one. And that excites me.

And thats how I left Spring Harvest 2012, after a few days, with excitement. About God, life and the future.

(I’m leaving this there for now, as I have said all I want to, but I’m hoping to write more about some of the things I’ve touched on in this blog and some of the experiences at SH more in depth, so they will come in time )