am i a justice seeker

yesterday on the fabulous The Match Factory – Justice Seekers blog Nick Coke presented some challenges to me and all fellow Justice seekers. Today I decided to take some time to look at them. and ponder upon them a bit.

here are my thoughts.

  1. Present: justice-seekers understand there is no justice to be done from a distance. there are far too many people who stand up and speak and shout from a soap box about the injustices in the world. if we are not present and involved regularly, how can we ever become a voice for the voiceless. Theory is easy but I know that when I sat down with a woman forced into prostitution that I saw a woman and not a statistic. one of my favourite days of the week is Tuesday – it means I will meet the people I write about and read about each day in the office.
  2. Migrants: All are migrants, wanderers through life. JRR Tolkien famously said, “that all who wander are not lost”. I am a migrant of God’s choosing. I am a foreigner in this land and as Scripture says this world. I wander dreaming of a better world. I want to see the end of Human Trafficking and Slavery. I want to walk alongside and talk as Jesus did with people. My home is not based on my location; it based on where God calls me.
  3. Contemplative: justice-seekers know more than anyone that activism is futile without contemplation, prayer and Biblical reflection.  With contemplation the activist fixes their eyes on Jesus – ‘the author and perfecter of our faith’. ah yes, and this is maybe the hardest for me in some ways because it requires me to sit still and read and learn. But it also reminds me of the need to know why I do what I do. The need to step up to the plate and get on with it. The need to “Be Jesus in my community and not just Do Jesus”. The need to not go where Angels fear to tread but to only go where I believe I am called to be. if you go to this blog entry of mine, it was through prayer and contemplation I learnt something: Learning why…… it’s here that I needed to learn when to go forward and when not too.
  4. Prophetic: the justice-seeker has eyes to see an alternative future to the present reality. I have never seen myself as a prophet or prophetic. recently though I have identified in myself the fact that I always seem to search for the gaps in ministry in the place I am and go for that. Looking back I can see it clearly over the last 23 years of ministry. Looking back I realise that actually it may not have seemed prophetic but it probably was.
  5. Kingdom-minded: although never naive of the world as it is, justice-seekers will have a vision of the world as it should be – the kingdom of God established ‘on earth as it is heaven’ here I would like to add the old sentiment, but not “so heavenly minded the individual is of no earthly use” . i want to see the kingdom of God here in my community. I want to see the name of Jesus spoken in faith and praise and not as a swear word. I want to see an upside down world to the one we have now, the one that God saw when all men have enough to eat, to drink. The possibility of education and fairness. i want that we ‘fast’ for the naked to be clothed and the hungry to be fed, the lost to find direction and that each day will be a day of Jubilee.

at this point I would add a no.6 to the list: Crazy & Courageous. For me there is a need for us to be a little bit crazy, to not fit the mold and definitely to be courageous. It is in those moments that we see change and developments. Because the crazy and courageous don’t think of self. They deny themselves and take up their crosses and follow where God leads.

Thanks Match Factory for the provocation of my thoughts and yes I am proud to be a Justice Seeker.

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Theory and Practice

Here’s something I have written for a some friends. Take a look at all the posts not just mine and thanks to The Match Factory for the privilege.

All that’s left to say………goodbye

I’ve questioned

I’ve wondered

I’ve cried

I’ve denied

I’ve moved 

I’ve stayed 

I’ve called 

I’ve listened

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that these days made sense

And yet it’s in the stillness and silence that I find some peace

There are moments of raw grief

There are episodes of emptiness

Maybe one day I’ll understand

Maybe I never will

Maybe I won’t need to understand 

This isn’t only because of you my friend

This is about all those encounters with loss 

The time spent wondering why

The only true response is there is no answer why

And all I am left with is “goodbye”

©Estelle Blake – 19th August 2015 (3rd edit.)

I’m here to share with you some rare And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity…….I’m beautiful!

so during the month of August, I have decided to share something everyday on my Facebook profile to help me and my friends learn something new about the world we live in. Today, I chose to share about beauty.

Bette Midler is one of the singers I play when I want to go to another world and dream and think and relax and there are several songs that make me smile. here are the lyrics of one of those fabulous songs.

This is the Divine Miss M
And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: ”

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, so beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

“Go away, little girl,” they used to say.
“Hey, you’re too fat, baby, you can’t play.”
“Hold on, miss thing, what you trying to do?
You know you’re too wack to be in our school. ”

Too wack, too smart, too fast, too fine,
Too loud, too tough, too too divine.
I said you don’t belong. You don’t belong.
Too loud, too big, too much to bear,
Too bold, too brash, too prone to swear.
I heard that song for much too long.

Ain’t this my sun? Ain’t this my moon?
Ain’t this my world to be who I choose?
Ain’t this my song? Ain’t this my movie?
Ain’t this my world? I know I can do it.

I’m not too short, I’m not too tall,
I’m not too big, I’m not too small.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
I’m not too white, I’m not too black,
I’m not too this, I’m not too that.
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!
Ooh, don’t lemme start lovin’ myself!

I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!
I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, I’m beautiful, dammit!

I seriously am beautiful but it took me a long time to get to that place of believing this about myself.

Let me start at the beginning. I am loud and I did that to cover up who I was on the inside: insecure and weird and different and bigger than others. I actually didn’t like being the girl who had to wait whilst her friends went into shops to try on clothes. I didn’t enjoy the reality of people not wanting to sit next to me. I never liked being big, but it became a part of my rebellion to a society that suggested beauty was about a Barbie.

A few years ago Mel and Andrea came into my life and along with Kathy, they would begin to call me out about the comments I made about myself in public. Andrea – told me blatantly that I was to stop the self deprecation I used in my church leadership and in presentations. Every day Mel called me beautiful. She would write me notes that always began “to my beautiful Stelly”. Kathy has known me in so many guises that she sees when the stuff is bad.  So you see after being challenged by these fabulous women, I actually began to believe that I was beautiful. I repeated it every day. I took time to see that when I smile, I shine. I am at peace with the body that is in front of me. This doesn’t mean I don’t want t to improve, it means that I love the person that I see every morning in the mirror. It means that I am a beautiful person.

Yesterday a friend posted on facebook that she was surprised because someone had called her a gorgeous lady. She is stunning. She is such a beautiful person but I can remember those moments. Beauty is Beauty. In some cultures, bigger is better. I have received so many marriage proposals from one ethnicity and yet in my own culture my beauty is often questioned.

I have a book on my bookshelf, “I Hear  A Seed Growing” by Edwina Gateley. In this book she writes something that was part of this self-discovery for me.

Only a few people believe themselves beautiful. That saddens me: it is a diminishment of the human potential for grace and excellence. i would like to help people believe in their infinite potential for beauty – otherwise when we all diminish ourselves we diminish God also. I want to call forth the seeds of beauty God has planted in abundance.”

I realized that I was diminishing the God I believe in and the creation He made in me.  It’s not easy to believe in your own beauty. It’s not easy to look at what is in front and like what you see. It’s not easy to see people everyday not believe in who they are. It’s not easy to say “I am beautiful”. I need people to hear the truths that are out there. You are Beautiful or Handsome and the world will believe it if you do. It’s not about the clothes we wear or the shape of our bodies (and I know I need to work on that but that’s a whole other blog!), it’s about the fact that we are created gorgeous – don’t doubt it. Remember to tell someone today and if you don’t hear it said – repeat it to yourself everyday in front of the mirror until you realize that you are actually gorgeous.

remember what Bette Midler as The Divine Miss M said,

And I’m here to share with you some rare
And stimulating insight into my cosmic fabulosity.
It’s really very simple. I simply believe with all my heart: I’m beautiful “

…. and just maybe it wont be a rare and stimulating insight after a while.

discovering………………

Last night, I had the most awful attack of Homesickness. I have no idea where it came from. All I know is that it left me with the sense of loss and pain. I found myself wanting to buy a plane ticket and fly to where? I have no idea where that was supposed to be. I know why but this is not the place to discuss that.

I made the decision to go for a walk today, no matter how hot it was getting and how much the heat would hurt. So, a few weeks ago, I found this Villa in the back streets and so I got off the bus and arrived there.

Hidden Treasure.......
Hidden Treasure…….

it was hot and arriving at 12.30pm in the midday sun was mad, but after walking through the park. I was so pleased I made the effort. It was full of hidden gems and included a cafe; open air theatre; columns (their description of two Obelisks);a science centre; art museum and then this place. I want to know more. I want to discover more, so a visit in Autumn needs to happen.

Has my homesickness passed? More or less – yes? And the walking around Rome after getting on the wrong bus means I had time to process and make a decision about what to do when it happens the next time. How to deal with the elements that brought it on.

I will go back, when the sun is not so strong and enjoy the walk even more.

 

Downgrading a Dream 

So I know I only wrote a couple of days ago, but I have this thought going around in my head. It’s something that happens easily to me. Close my eyes and “BAM” I need to write something down. (I started this post at 12.05am last night)

I love the word vulnerability but I think sometimes it can be seen as a negative idea. I used to think that too and the more I go on this journey of social media and life I realise that being vulnerable is okay; but not as a tool searching for sympathy. It’s about being who I am in the good and the bad. It’s about honesty in my dreams for myself and ministry and when that doesn’t happen how I see it then allowing myself to be me in front of people who may not care but need to see that there is strength in vulnerability.

Today my fear of looking vulnerable (and weak!) saw me downgrade a dream I have. A dream for me and the ministry I am involved in.  Just so you know – I don’t have a car provided and that’s strange to some people. I am okay with that but I do wonder if it would make life easier for ministry and it definitely would for me personally.

Now I need to say that this is not a plea for a vehicle but just me explaining myself.

Here is my ultimate dream car – driving around the streets of sunny Italy in this would be amazing.

My dream car
My dream car

Here’s what I think are sensible ideas for ministry in Rome.

sensible option
sensible option
great idea
great idea

This is what I think would be the most useful for getting the message out about The Salvation Army in Italy but impractical for outreach as its only a 3 door vehicle!

The PR Machine
The PR Machine

And here’s what I reckon I might end up with for darting around the city.

the possibility
The Reality

Now the vulnerability bit is trusting God that He has the time & provision sorted and exercising that belief & not posting random statuses asking if someone has money they want to give me for a scooter.

Downgrading the Dream is believing that the ministry is only ever going to need a scooter and not the minivan or Hackney carriage (& I genuinely believe both are needed)

I suppose the point is that in the strength of my vulnerability I need to believe in a God that will supply my needs and not my wants. A God who understands my heart and will help me to see His ministry as something I am involved in  Not downgrading the dream to fit the circumstances of where I am, but rather enhance my belief in a God of the Impossible.

So back to dreaming and I might as well got for it – I am upgrading my dream to this:

Upgrading the dream
Upgrading the dream

 

What dream have you downgraded recently to remain calm & sensible instead of vulnerable and a little wild?

 

Where do I sign up?

At the beginning of the month of July, I along with 15,000 other people attended The Salvation Army congress in London. A chance to celebrate 150 years of our existence and yet again I wanted to sign up to the fight. 

As I am now back in Rome and have spent a week with a young woman learning about this crazy ministry I get to be involved in; I am challenged to stand up and shout. Rosie wrote this on reflection after a week of living and working in Rome. 

“…’vulnerable’ people come in all forms with very different needs. I really saw this this week as I went from listening to Estelle talk about international campaigns such as ‘Up For School’, to packing bags at a food bank, to an outreach programme working with people in prostitution.”

Way to go 17 year old woman to make me think. And so I am thinking as it’s Tuesday about the women I shall meet tonight and the team I will be with. The familiar faces that are missing when we pass by. The ones that we know by name and call out to us for a hug or a word or a smile. 

Green Light Project
Green Light Project
Recently an interview was published in The Salvation Army UK’s magazine. Here is a small excerpt about The Green Light Project. 

In December 2014, Estelle took the GLP to the streets of Rome. The first stage of this fortnightly outreach involves slowly forming relationships with the victims. She explains: ‘We take tea and coffee and chocolates to two areas in Rome and are slowly beginning to make some contact with victims of trafficking and prostitution. Already we’re beginning to see some great opportunities and we’re beginning to pray with people. Now they greet us with hugs and kisses and say “We’ve missed you, where have you been?”.’

Initially Estelle has trained officers  from command headquarters (& other church members)  to be part of this ministry, but the plan is to extend this to corps members as the project expands.

I know all the fancy words make it sound like I am doing something special but you know what makes it special, a woman calling to me and hugging me and telling me that we are the people they look forward to seeing as we speak from the heart and with love. With no judgement of the person in front. That’s a compliment, an encouragement and a challenge. I want to represent Jesus whenever I am out in this world. I want people to know that they are loved and needed and can be redeemed and life is not about the street corners and the car parks of Rome. I want them to know that Jesus can transform them and that I will love them and then love them a lot more. 

Being a light
Being a light
I am challenged to be a light in the darkness. I am challenged that a simple “hello and how are you?” and “would you like a coffee?” can change the lives of individuals.

Challenge to be a light in the darkness
Challenge to be a light in the darkness
So where do I sign up? Again?