When Calls The Heart

I love a cheesy show. I love all the bad things ending with a happy ending and it’s one of my guilty pleasures along with musicals, pride and prejudice and The Godfather films. Last night in North America, the TV programme “When Calls The Heart” aired the season finale. One of the main characters died. I am a geek and love following the stars on Social Media. The abuse and vitriol thrown at these people because of what happened on the show is incredible.

Now I can understand getting sucked into a programme so much that you feel it’s real life – I did it with The West Wing, when Zoe Bartlett was captured. I was expecting BBC News to give an update! That taught me so much.

I have a few shows that have pulled me in  so much that I have the DVD box sets – Friends, The West Wing, Brothers & Sisters and Rizzoli & Isles. But never would I ever think to send a message to the stars, if not to thank them, for what happened on their show.

Last night just proved some things to me, from what I can see and have experienced, we in the Western  World don’t know how to deal with death. we are really good at celebrating life – death not so much. It makes us uncomfortable. We don’t know what to say to someone who is dealing with death and bereavement. I now I have read and written about it before. Were all those people angry because of the show plot or because it means that they have to deal with a sentiment that they don’t like. It makes us uncomfortable and means that we have to face the questions about who we are. It means having the tough and lonely nights and it can mean losing connections with people because they don’t understand or don’t want to be around.

I was taught by my parents that death is not the end and in many ways it’s a celebration. I was never not around it – my parents conducted and officiated lots of funerals. I now can testify that until you are in the midst of a close and personal bereavement – you can’t or wont fully understand it, because it is the end of one part but the beginning of a whole new you.

So, I reckon those people watching the TV last night and seeing the processing of Jack’s death aren’t angry because of him leaving, but are angry because they felt emotions they don’t understand. Me – I will see the episode when it appears on Netflix and I will cry like I do for a cheesy tv show, but I will also grieve the people I miss and love and again I shall embrace that moment of longing.

when-calls-year-four

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today i am 49

Today I am 49, I feel older than that some days and younger than that some days. As I have never been this age before I am not sure what it is supposed to feel like. But as always, I look back on the last year and laugh, cry, smile, remember, and more importantly thank God for the fact I am here to celebrate another birthday. So here’s a list of 49 moments from the last year.

  1. I have realised I can speak good Italian – a week in hospital does that to you
  2. I ticked a few things off my bucket list this year – attending meetings at the UN was one of those
  3. I can offer advice when asked
  4. I am reading more diverse books
  5. My Pride and Prejudice collection has exploded
  6. I am learning about uncomfortable issues like passive racism
  7. I love to cook
  8. I rediscovered the cooking passion
  9. Verona is a very cool city to visit
  10. I miss people and places, but mainly people
  11. Grief is a long term process
  12. Presence is better than words
  13. It’s okay to spoil myself
  14. It’s okay to take time for Estelle
  15. I don’t like walking but it’s good for me
  16. 51°c with no air con is too hot.
  17. Blue Skies always feel better when it rains
  18. I am loved by so many people
  19. I am a terrible patient
  20. I can talk with passion about Social Justice issues anywhere – including just before my colonoscopy
  21. My tribe is the best.
  22. Words count
  23. 10 years went by fast
  24. Sometimes telling people you love them makes a difference
  25. Technology has been a blessing
  26. Binge watching means I get hooked on shows like “Designated Survivor”
  27. I still cry at happy endings
  28. Jazz is my favourite chill out music
  29. Gospel does my soul good
  30. Making new friends is a good idea
  31. Dancing is good
  32. Tears in private or public are okay
  33. I am blessed
  34. I watched 4 transfusions go in my body
  35. I discovered my blood type
  36. I am grateful for strong friendships
  37. I still get scared
  38. Being a grown up is not always hard, it can be fun too
  39. Sometimes I laugh in inappropriate places
  40. The peri-menopause is not nice
  41. My favourite gelato this year is “Rice Pudding”
  42. Watching my favourite Italian football team live was fun
  43. I have had some big dreams this year and they excite me
  44. I enjoy preaching
  45. Taking photos is fun
  46. As my buddy Bronwen says, “something shifted” and I have moved on in an area of my life
  47. I still love happy endings
  48. I am creative
  49. A few years ago . Lt. Colonel George Pilkington told me about how he always reads the Psalm for his birthday that year with the same number of years as his age. So here is Psalm 49

49 1-2 Listen, everyone, listen—
earth-dwellers, don’t miss this.
All you haves
and have-nots,
All together now: listen.

3-4 I set plainspoken wisdom before you,
my heart-seasoned understandings of life.
I fine-tuned my ear to the sayings of the wise,
I solve life’s riddle with the help of a harp.

5-6 So why should I fear in bad times,
hemmed in by enemy malice,
Shoved around by bullies,
demeaned by the arrogant rich?

7-9 Really! There’s no such thing as self-rescue,
pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
The cost of rescue is beyond our means,
and even then it doesn’t guarantee
Life forever, or insurance
against the Black Hole.

10-11 Anyone can see that the brightest and best die,
wiped out right along with fools and dunces.
They leave all their prowess behind,
move into their new home, The Coffin,
The cemetery their permanent address.
And to think they named counties after themselves!

12 We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.

13-15 This is what happens to those who live for the moment,
who only look out for themselves:
Death herds them like sheep straight to hell;
they disappear down the gullet of the grave;
They waste away to nothing—
nothing left but a marker in a cemetery.
But me? God snatches me from the clutch of death,
he reaches down and grabs me.

16-19 So don’t be impressed with those who get rich
and pile up fame and fortune.
They can’t take it with them;
fame and fortune all get left behind.
Just when they think they’ve arrived
and folks praise them because they’ve made good,
They enter the family burial plot
where they’ll never see sunshine again.

20 We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long.
Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.

Not Speaking out

Racism

Maybe we’ll say “I’m not racist” but today I would like to talk about passive racism. Racism exists because we do not say anything.

What is racism?

One definition is: Each trend, psychological or political likely to rise to theory or be justified by the law, which, based on the alleged superiority of one race over the other or another, encourage or cause social discrimination or even genocide.

In the Bible we read, “There is neither Jew nor  Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; because you are all one in Christ Jesus. “Galatians 3:28

In no part of the Bible, we read that God has chosen a person because they come from a special race.

Today, we must think more than ever, that defining people by where they come from is wrong and we cannot remain silent. Passive racism is simply when we do not talk and we remain silent.

Today we look at how to crack racism and the lesson we see in a simple sentence from the Bible.

Being a believer means being present and active in our community and fighting injustice wherever we are. To challenge those around us.

21 years ago before coming to Italy, people were talking about the country of pizza, pasta, ice cream and the Mafia. I can tell you that now I fight saying that Italy is pizza, pasta, ice cream, mafia and much more. Being passive and denying the richness of Italy put me in the shoes of a racist.

Our Bible reading from Acts chapter 10, reminds us that we have to include people, we cannot exclude people from the body because of the nation they represent.

We are called to destroy the walls and barriers that the world constructs and speak out.

Maybe you would say that this is not of the church, but for the politicians, my answer is that it “is for every citizen …” Racism is against the law of the country and also against God.

  • Scripture and Racism or Inclusion
  • My answer

Scripture: Acts 10: 34,35   Then Peter began to speak  he said, “In truth I perceive that God does not show partiality,   35   But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is acceptable.

These two verses are found in the midst of Peter’s speech.  Cornelius undoubtedly had a true faith in the Word of God, as far as he understood, though not yet clear, faith in Christ.    The gentile/judaizing controversy is more about circumcision than baptism and rumbles on through Acts 15 and several passages of Paul. What Peter realises through this encounter is that God is drawing all kinds of people to Himself. Jesus had promised the gospel would go to the ends of the earth in Matt 28. Now fulfilled. But Christianity won’t emerge from being a Jewish sect for a while yet, and both sides will live with the tensions. Peter’s “gentile Pentecost” is foreshadowed by Acts 2 and the giving of the Spirit on all people. It is the great Babel reversal: people who were divided by language when they thought themselves greater than God are united in common understanding when they fall under the Power and influence of the Spirit. The Risen and returned Christ unites all the nations in Rev 7.

Thus, a change in the people of God begins. In Galatians 2: 6, Paul repeats the phrase “…. God has no personal regard” to a people reputed to be converted from pagan religion. To make it understand that racism or favoritism has no place in the kingdom of God and his people. It’s very easy to say, but the message does not belong to us. Paul also repeated the phrase in Romans 2:11. To make sense that the reputation or culture of doing things does not count with God, what counts is experience with God.

In Leviticus 19:15, we see and read, “Do not commit iniquity in judgment; you will not regard the person of the poor, nor will you pay a special honor to the person of the mighty; but you will judge your neighbor with justice “

In racism, poverty often belongs, unfortunately, to a caste. Discrimination, as in India, people coming from various parts of the country are poor and maybe as we are today watching the Roma people. Racism can be influenced by the culture or class of a person.

The boundaries of culture, country or ethnicity cannot deny access to a person to the Kingdom of God. Often, a barrier is placed in front of people not having access to the programs, but through Christ blood on the cross all over the world, the barriers are removed.

Racism is not only in the action we do when we do or say something. Racism is often in silence.

Racism and me:

A personal story; For so many years I grew up with a slight dislike for the people and the country of America. A bit like my dad with the Germans and French after World War II. At some point, I met the Americans, we became friends, I went to America and even celebrated her wedding to her husband. That woman is one of the most important friends for me, she’s like a sister. Knowing her family, I had to ask for forgiveness from God for my silent racism towards Americans. Now God has given me so many American friends and I love them lots.

Ecclesiastes 3: 7 reminds us that there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. Returning to the Galatians 2: 6, people expect us to say something as a leader, and remaining silent our testimony will never bring anyone into the kingdom of God. It does not mean, talk and criticize, but to explain and dialogue with love. as we read, for example, in Ephesians 4:15, but the truth in love, may grow up in every way into him who is the head, even Christ. “  In love by showing the world the work of the devil. As Paul reminds us in the same book to be imitators of God walking  in the light (Ephesians 5: 1).

We need to talk and admit that we are different in the world, Peter denied Jesus three times with the cockerel crowing. Peter knew of the sorrow of Jesus by denying and remaining in silence. The sorrow that we bring to God when we don’t challenge racism is a rotten witness only helping to build barriers in our communities and the world we live in. We should be known as something different. People waited for Peter to be different. In his silence, he did not show himself to be a follower of Jesus, set apart. If we aren’t careful we will resemble the Pharisees, unless we do and say something different. Living the gospel even in uncomfortable moments.

Conclusion:

Having the courage to talk about the racism we see every day on TV, in our communities, at school, in the supermarket, we share the hope we have. The hope of 1 Peter 3: 13-15 ” Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. During the story of the Good Samaritan, we see that all of them passed by, but not the Samaritan.  *** The Samaritan, the despised outsider, crosses the divide that the religious professionals are not prepared to cross. ***

Unfortunately, we often go and say nothing but a “Samaritan” will do something. Not speaking we perpetuate an expectation that the world is waiting for. Let’s become the people we are called to be and be active for God and not passive in our actions and words.

life goes on

Life goes on……………..
I don’t like the month of JUNE and this year will be ten years since my parents were “promoted to glory” or they passed or died or are no more – yes I am bordering on quoting the whole of the dead parrot scene from Monty Python, but I won’t.
Over the last few weeks I have discovered personally that for me grieving is living. Living with the everyday knowledge that you won’t hear their voices again, has probably been one of the hardest experiences for me. I am grateful for Youtube and a video of my parents doing what they did best – leading a church in worship.
I have cried openly and at surprising moments over the last few weeks as several times, the grief has hit me when I least expected it; although having 2 Mothers Day festivals in 2 months probably didn’t help. I am grateful to those that I have been able to be honest with in my pain. And who all these years later walk the road with me.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, can I say it takes a village to walk and grieve with an individual or family.
Life takes over when the music has faded and comfort is no longer found in numbers.
Life takes over when you need to eat and cook and clean and people expect you to get back to it.
Life takes over the grief when you are invited to a party and don’t feel like going because you might bring the mood down.
Life takes over when you see a family enjoying being together and your dream and wish that you could do that mundane shop again.
Life takes over when people don’t know what to say and you find yourself comforting them.
Life takes over when you don’t want to be nice to anyone anymore or have them be nice to you. Life takes over when you are in the supermarket and everyone is just getting on with life and you want to shout, “ I miss my parents.
Life is unfair. I am grieving and don’t want to be happy.” Life takes over when you have to explain the whole story – again!
Life takes over when even now you pick up the phone to tell your mum or dad about your day and then realise you can’t.
Life takes over when you are in so much pain that you sob as you fall asleep because “your village” have been amazing and you don’t want to burden them anymore.
Life takes over when you put your grief aside to walk the path so well trod with someone in your village.
Life takes over but the grief and the constant sadness never passes, it lessens.
Life takes over the grief and you thank God for that bit of breathing space.
Life goes on even when you don’t want it too and some days you are grateful some days you wish it had stopped at the last laugh, hug or I love you.
Life goes on and the village gets smaller but they are still there and so are you going through life.
You see life goes on……………….and so does the grieving.

Appointed………..

Some days, I wonder if I know what I am doing and that’s after 13 years of working with men and women in prostitution and victims of Human Trafficking.

I ask myself the question what did my leaders see in me that I didn’t?

In 1996, I left Italy and was appointed to The Salvation Army project in London to work with people in prostitution. I wondered what their reasoning was (as many before have and I am sure will still, not about me but about their present appointments). I arrived and it was raining and all I know when I arrived was that I was in a place that many wanted. There was a famous saying, “Lord give me any cross but Kings Cross” and this was the other side of peoples thoughts. I was nervous and excited and all of the other emotions you face. I wondered if I would make it through the first week after realising that I had no skill sets I thought appropriate (turned out I did!), but here I was the Centre Manager of an outreach to women in prostitution.

Soon after I invited to a training for managers at a hotel in Milton Keynes hosted by Beyond The Streets and I knew then that I wasn’t alone. I felt a little more confident to talk to agencies and chat to those I met. I didn’t feel so stupid when a woman asked me for help whilst injecting a drug or running away from a client. I knew in that moment I had the opportunity to make a difference and the appointment made some sense.

Cadets (trainee Salvation Army officers) came and helped as did lots of “called” people, some of whom didn’t stay around so long when the calling meant late nights and wet/cold walks with little results; but many bothered and committed to those days and nights when it snowed and rained and we were ignored. I still didn’t feel called to this kind of ministry, but I was beginning to feel like it made sense and I fitted into this little weird world. This was all before it became a fashionable thing to do.

And here I am 13years and few months down the road, feeling “called” to this kind of ministry; feeling I am good at it; have something to offer and I come alive when I get to meet the people to  whom I am appointed to.

I have had the privilege of reaching out to those that the world shuns and the world sees as Victims and I see as Survivors. To those that are classified as unlovable and a commodity.

This is still my privilege and a morning in the office in Rome has reminded me that I am good at this and yes I do feel called to the sacrifice as found in Isaiah 58 (The Voice Translation)

6. No, what I want in a fast is this:
        to liberate those tied down and held back by injustice,
        to lighten the load of those heavily burdened,
        to free the oppressed and shatter every type of oppression.
    A fast for Me involves sharing your food with people who have none,
        giving those who are homeless a space in your home,
    Giving clothes to those who need them, and not neglecting your own family.

Then, oh then, your light will break out like the warm, golden rays of arising sun;
    in an instant, you will be healed.
Your rightness will precede and protect you;
    the glory of the Eternal will follow and defend you.
Then when you do call out, “My God, Where are You?”
    The Eternal One will answer, “I am here, I am here.
If you remove the yoke of oppression from the downtrodden among you,
    stop accusing others, and do away with mean and inflammatory speech,
10 If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need,
    then your light will shine in the darkness,
And even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.

Some days it’s easy to get fired up and shout; and some days I feel like that there is a world that doesn’t want to listen.

So my question is: Called or Appointed? Both for me, one lead to the other.

GLP outreach

I Am An Operative Theologian……..

Theology as far as I have always been concerned was something for everyone else, until a few years ago when I was asked to read a paper on The Theology of Prostitution. Yes, there are a few out there. I am intelligent, but not an academic. I read because I want to and not because I have too; well until recently. And then a few years ago, I wanted to be able to speak intelligently when I needed too about the ministry I am involved in and suddenly, I was searching for books. And in May 2014, a book was published and bingo, I had the desire to read and to learn and to soak it up. The book in question is  Stopping The Traffick – You can find out more and buy it here.

This morning I was reading it again, for I think the 3rd time and I came across the following quote.

Practitioners are effective “operative theologians.” They live and work close to human pain and suffering and bring God’s grace to bear on chaotic situations.

(CHAPTER 8 HOW CAN WE SURVIVE IN THE MIDST OF THE MESS? Theological Reflection , by Bill Prevette)

wow – that’s what I am and it makes sense. I am an “operative theologian”. I am someone who understands the need for Theology to sometimes make sense of the ministry I am involved in. You see I am convinced that theology only makes sense when it is grounded in the ministry/work we are involved in practically. There needs to be a balance of both the thought and the practical otherwise all we do is work or think (and there are far too many theorists and people who ‘just do it’ in the world.)

This idea does not just work for the sphere of work I do but for all ministries. Work with the elderly, refugees, addiction services, the homeless, children, youth and churches…………the list is endless. Let’s all be Operative Theologians and know why do what we do. You see together they make sense, separated not all.

I keep learning from this book and I will keep learning.