Monday, 30 April 2012

Thoughts on Spring, the News and the Good News for the Oppressed

The wettest April for 100 years ends, and today spring is definitely in the air. Which is good for anyone intending to head out to use their new trailer tent this weekend (given to us gratis by friends of the in-laws). My car read 12.5* Celcius this afternoon. We'll be whipping out the sunhats any day now.

Convalescing means time for thought and contemplation. I've read the news a fair bit this past fortnight. I have also been reading, though my attention is like that of a hare. My hopping hare brain is reading 'Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretations of the Death of Christ' (much more exciting than it sounds - and very readable) by Morna Hooker. I read a few pages and then have to stop. Not because the style is off-putting, but because she reveals so many extraordinary things about the death of Christ, which I had previously (naively) considered I knew all about.

For instance, in the Old Testament, to be killed by crucifixion, or 'hung from the tree' as I believe it's termed, was considered a curse. If you died in this manner you were cursed. So this would have been fully understood by those insisting on his death, and by the early Christians. Also, despite nearly 2000 years of depictions of Christ nailed to the cross, have you ever seen a naked Christ? Neither have I. But indeed he was naked. Crucifixion was the ultimate punishment of the day. It was designed both to be as utterly humiliating and torturous as possible and to act as a deterrent to anyone with anti-Roman leanings. Somehow, despite having understood the agonies of Christ's pain, it is the accompanying degradation, the fact of his nakedness, that takes my breath away. I can't think about it without wanting to stop the pain, and to cover him up.

Christ Mocked (The Crowning with Thorns) c. 1490-1500, 
Hieronymus Bosch, The National Gallery, London.

In reading the news this week I followed the story of a footballer, who was convicted of the rape of a severely intoxicated young woman. The fact that she was in that state is a different issue. She was as calculatedly preyed-upon as any victim in a dark alley. So how does our male-worshipping culture respond? By illegally revealing her identity to hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people, and subjecting her to vicious, misogynistic, threatening language. 

Both the degradation and pain of the naked Christ, and the degradation of the rape and public humiliation of the young woman, reminded me of the story from Judges:

'So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer.

Judges 19:25-28 NIV UK

Just like the two men who filmed the footballer as he raped, the men of the house in the story did nothing to protect the 'concubine' (she isn't even given the dignity of a name). She was so violently attacked that she died. Her humiliation and pain are unimaginable. Why did no one stand up and stop it happening? Why is the same thing that happened several thousand years ago still part of our 'civilised' culture?

Later in the bible, God says:

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?'

Isaiah 58:6 NIV UK

This is God's justice.

'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.'

Luke 23:42 NIV UK

Sunday, 29 April 2012

If You Forget My Birthday, Can I Stay a Year Younger?

Still recovering, still spending so much time sitting. And thinking. 

I spent a lot of years not celebrating my birthday, and not being valued or cherished. So I do like to make a fuss of myself, at least to a degree (believe me, if you know me, you'll realise that's a big deal because I'm just not the fuss-making type. My husband tries to convince me that shopping is a good thing. I am baffled). I have learned that to love oneself is a truly blessed thing to do.

'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'. The words of the most beautiful human to have ever lived. 

Loving yourself: not to be confused with arrogance, or self-aggrandisement. That is around in abundance. Arrogance actually reflects a lack of real love for yourself. If you really loved yourself, you'd know you have no need to demonstrate how much better than other people you are. And when you understand what this means, loving your neighbour comes as second nature.

Anyway, it was my birthday <insert funky picture>

Woo! I had a card from my parents and from my sister, one from my husband and three from friends. I also had a few text messages. Thank you!



MIL and FIL forgot. So did SIL. I think because of this I am entitled to stay thirty-four twenty-six for another 6 months at least.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

This recovery from surgery is taking its time. All I did was serve dinner. Three rounds in the ring with a sumo wrestler would have about the same effect. Still, they were grateful, even asked for seconds.

Anyway, I received an email earlier telling me that Renee & Jeremy have recorded a new song, 'Yellow'. Their songs remind me how precious childhood is. You don't get second chances at life. Being small is special.

And being a mum is a gift. 

Remind me of that the next time HRH (the boy: tall, blonde, blue eyes, behaves just like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory only he has learning disabilities; charming and insanity-inducing in equal measure), sticks bread ready-buttered in the toaster, or wets the bed and denies he's done it until the stink is so bad several hours later that you realise there must have been BUCKETLOADS of wee, or when he screws hooks into the ceiling of our rented house... and that's just the past 24 hours. Ain't life grand? ;-)

Losing Hope; Finding What I Never Looked For

I'm recovering from surgery so I have time to write. Bear with me.

Television programmes like The Voice can be inspirational. I rarely watch telly, but that programme has had my husband and I transfixed since it began a few weeks ago. If I had a voice that could melt butter, I'd be thrilled to have the opportunity to be coached by Will.I.Am, etc. We watched a young lady whose hair had fallen out as a youngster and never grown back. She'd lost all confidence in herself and seemed to view her chance on the show as regaining her dreams. I have my doubts. For all the amazing voices, there will only be one winner. Most will just go home and back to obscurity real life. Even the winner... well, they'll be famous for singing. They may well become rich and enjoy a lavish lifestyle. But when they're gone, will they have done anything remarkable? Will spending a lifetime (if they are lucky enough) being simultaneously worshipped and ridiculed by the media leave any real legacy? I'm not sure.

Contradictions filled my head after watching The Voice. I had dreams once. I don't any more. When life lets you down often enough you realise that dreams are not worth hanging onto. You begin to search for something else, instead. 

Much of my childhood was stolen, my teenage years were anything but normal and then I was coerced into marriage by a man when I was young (21, he was 33), naive and easily manipulated. 

Dreams don't come true. 

Except one: when I was left a single mother after a decade of miserable marriage, I lost hope in everything. I had abandoned any chance of a career by listening to that man and his empty promises (not only were they empty promises, he hurt and abused me in more ways than I can name). I'd had dreams of making up for the illness that snatched away my teenage years, of going to college and then onto university. I ended up living on next to nothing, not 'allowed' any money of my own, totally isolated from all former friends and family.

Anyway, without going into too much detail, the final, absolute soul-destroyer was the discovery that he was a paedophile, which came after nine (misery-filled) years of marriage. He was arrested. I never saw him again. When the police told me what he had done... I can't describe it. I remember thinking of the children's story 'Chicken Little', where they all believe the sky is falling down. For me, the sky had fallen down. I had no hope left.

My only reason for living was my children. The eldest has Autism, with many ADHD traits. He became aggressive to his siblings and to me, and instead of sleeping at night would wander the house, moving things, breaking things. 

I was already broken. No Zoë left. 

Social Services ignored me, saying I was inventing my son's behaviour. And of course it all had a huge impact on the emotional wellbeing of the other two children. I was lucky enough to have the support of my children's schools (they witnessed my son's behaviour), school nurse, paediatrician, you name it. But still Social Services acted as if I was simply rather annoying. I didn't fit their little tick-boxes. They refused to see me for who I really was. Worse still, they refused to see the pain their inaction caused my children. Eventually I had a breakdown to the point that although I fed and clothed my children and got them to school each day, I basically stopped doing housework. My overloaded brain just couldn't think straight. Couldn't even think how I was supposed to manage, where I was supposed to begin. I count myself lucky that I've always had a strong dislike of alcohol...

It was around this time that two things happened. I began going to a new church, which had a Celebrate Recovery group, and a fortnight later, the original social worker, who had been there all through the child protection stuff when my ex-husband was arrested and convicted, visited my house. I think if I hadn't been through everything that I had been through, they would have considered it a case of neglect. But she knew - and at least to a degree she understood. Then came months of Social Services arguing whether the 'Disability Team' were responsible for helping me, or the 'Child in Need Team'. Needless to say, I still got no practical help. But my new friends from CR came and cleaned my house from top to bottom over the course of a weekend. 

I have never known such kindness.

The pastor's wife sent me flowers from her garden. And I began the slow journey to recovery, and learning what the idea of grace really means. I still think it's something most Christians struggle with. That's partly why I'm writing this. 

Earlier, I wrote that there is one dream that has come true. The best part of a year after I began going to CR, I began to pray for a husband, not so much for myself (though I was desperately lonely and felt utterly rejected) but for my children. I knew I had read that God looks after the fatherless, and the widows and orphans. I spent a whole day praying with all of my being for a father for my children. 

A few days later, I saw an ad for a free weekend on e-harmony. I thought 'why not?' and up came the name of a man who lived in the same town as me, with similar interests, etc. We exchanged emails. Within a month he was telling me that he loved me. I had been so hurt before that I daren't believe it. One night he was babysitting (for the first time) and when I returned home, I found that my son had attacked him (his ADHD made even worse by drugs that were supposed to calm him). My new friend was covered from head to foot in vaseline and his face was bleeding. I thought that was it. What kind of man would stick around now?

But he did. He stayed with me and held me until the wee hours. We married six months later. Every day he tells me I am wonderful. Every day he sees things in me that I never saw in myself. And these things teach me about the way that God loves me, too. Every day I tell him he's my hero, my knight in shining armour. He just shakes his head and grins.

The words of Jesus, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, have been made true in my life:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord’. 
Luke 4:16-19 J.B. Phillips New Testament

I guess I have realised I don't need dreams, not worldly dreams anyway, because God's dreams are always  waaayy more imaginative than mine. God's great commission is so great, and so radical that it sets the oppressed free. 

That's why I became an Advocate for Compassion UK. Because this way I, you, anyone can change the world, one child at a time. I don't find the superstars on The Voice (entertaining as the show may be) half as inspiring as the real-life changes brought by the work of Compassion. They are heroes.

Friday, 27 April 2012

In the Beginning: Life After Facebook

'In the beginning was Facebook the Word, and Facebook the Word was with God, and Facebook the Word was God.'

So many people have blogs nowadays. So many people use facebook and twitter. I used to be a facebook addict (I do not use 'addict' lightly). After a year or two I realised it brought out the worst in everyone, including me. I lost a formerly good friend through a stupid facebook argument. I wish I could mend that. Liam, I don't know what happened, but it wasn't worth losing your friendship.

Facebook is not real. And twitter serves as much inane purpose as its name implies. 

Those hastily-written 'friendly' posts (LOL!!!) are no substitute for face-to-face relationships. Facebook gives its users an entirely false sense of relationships. Vulnerable people are lulled into a fake notion of friendship, sharing things they just wouldn't share in real life. 

I was even bullied on one occasion. I was shocked by the sheer venom from people nutters whom I'd never met and over something I hadn't done. She (the instigator)  was mentally ill and used that as an excuse to hurt people... Not me, Goldilocks. I choose to be healthy, thanks. So I'll stay well away from facebook and twitter and anything that looks remotely like them.

I've resisted beginning a blog because it seemed so damned self-indulgent. But I have ended uposting way too much on someone else's blog

and that's not really appropriate either. I've always been a big thinker and I just can't find the off-switch (for my brain, not my 'puter) so... blogland, here am I.