Tag Archive: life


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Trigger warning for suicide. If you’re feeling down, please reach out to friends, family or support agencies like Beyond Blue, Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800.

 

There was a suicide in my sphere recently. Not someone I knew but it impacted lots of people that I know and in the aftermath we talked, trying to make sense of it. It’s not something easy to make sense of. We tried to find out details, as you do – who/why/when – and learned for a variety of reasons that further information wouldn’t be forthcoming, people worry that a suicide might lead to more suicides. I hear that but at the same time, I wonder: if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t know it’s happening, how do you prevent it? This person, whose name we don’t know, who we don’t know anything about – we have shed tears for them, we want to acknowledge their life and their family, want time back to tell them they were loved because we know the surety of that whatever else we do not know. Now that I am conscious of my not knowing, I look it up. More than 8 people a day in Australia, one every three hours… more than from cancer (ABS, 2015). I don’t know that we really begin to understand how the comings and goings of people in our lives matters deeply.  My coming and going matters, your coming and going in my life matters whatever context of work, of community, of relationship… A life lived shorter than it might be is always tragic.  I felt a grief inside me that didn’t feel appropriate to show, didn’t feel appropriate to share – it wasn’t supposed to belong to me because this person didn’t belong to me except that we all belong to one another.  So I asked myself: Where is appropriate to show grief? And took myself on an excursion to the local cemetery (as you do). The following poem is made up of words entirely taken from words written on people’s headstones. It  isn’t intended to be some macabre or nihilistic exercise… but the opposite. What words of comfort or solace could we have said if there’d be time? What message of love? Read them and be comforted, be solaced, be loved now. Hear them deep in your soul, take them in and let them nourish you.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will know the essence of life.

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Peace, perfect peace,
let your song be delicate,
the flowers can hear.
In God’s care.

In the midst of life we are in death.
Let not your heart be troubled
neither let it be afraid.
In God’s care,
not here but risen,
Love’s Tribute.

Always loved, always in our hearts.
Sadly missed.
Behind all shadows standeth God.
Some time, some day, we’ll understand.

So deeply loved, so deeply mourned,
till we meet again, at rest,
in heavenly love abiding.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Thy will be done always in our hearts.
Loved and remembered.

Resting.
All losses are restored and sorrows end
in God’s care.
Those we love don’t go away
they walk beside us every day
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

 

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All that isn’t
All that is
All out of my hands
but I hold it
just the same

All that is mess
All that is mystery
All that is ‘out there’
and within me
just the same

 

Talitha Fraser

 

God, what does Your Great Economy have to say to this who knows its worth? Let me trust to Your providing for what is pleasing to You. Drop what should be dropped, yield what should be yielded, share what should be shared, confess what should be confessed. Let some fall, let some break, let some call, let some run late. If it is not of You – let it lie, let it die, that I might know life anew in You.

Fragile, I wait.

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Fragile, I wait.
Soft new tendrils shooting
are greeted with joy.
There is little definition,
no certainty
but possibility
and that is enough
to hope.

Talitha Fraser

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…death cannot be eroded.  It is a part of life, and it actually imparts meaning to life because it involves a basic contradiction that is essential for an understanding of human existence. Why should Christ have died on the Cross if death were simply an absurdity?  Christ’s death rests on the presupposition that every death is tragic. And his death imparts to every death a dimension of hope and victory. Christ on the cross hallowed the agony of love. The gift which Christ offers to those who love is the cross, and it is this gift which purifies love.

To love life as it really is means to accept it in its total reality, which includes death; to accept not only the idea of death but also those acts which anticipate death, in the offering and giving of ourselves.

…In a sense, every sacrifice of our personal interest and our pleasure for the sake of another person or simply for the act of ‘love’ is a kind of death. But at the same time it is an act of life and an affirmation of the truth of life.

Preface, p.16 – Thomas Merton, from Love by Ernesto Cardenal

A light

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A light comes into the world.
A life comes into the world.
And the world cannot
extinguish it.

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We can sometimes find ourselves at a crossroads in our life – this job or that, this community or that, this city/country or that… these times can be terribly isolating as we wear well-worn tracks in our own minds going over what we know (again and again) but not knowing how best to move forward.

A Quaker Discernment Circle can be a good way to move forward through any liminal space. These circles hold space for deep listening to your own heart and wisdom and God’s call. This space doesn’t critique and is not intended to be intellectually analysing or deconstructing but hearing spiritually.

Invite as many people as you would like – but it’s easier if it’s not unwieldy and you can all fit around a common table or lounge room floor. This might be 6-10 people say. Good qualities are: people you trust, people who know you well, people that ask good questions, people that are invested in you, friends/mentors/elders…

Quaker expressions  use a lot of silence. Silence is active worship.You will be changed. There is an expectation of that.

In our silence we are together and connected to others present. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking (don’t stress if you start but a shopping list, but…) take a thought as it comes, dwell on it as you need to – it may or may not become ‘ministry’ (you might merely hold or pray it silently without expressing it aloud), someone else might say it, it may not need to be said.  In this listening silence there is no veil(s) between you and God and these intentional spaces can provide ministry that is uncanny to what’s on your heart and mind.

While someone might ask a question aloud…  They do not give “answers”.  Only you have your own answers to deepen your spiritual life.

A loose framework for a Discernment Circle might look something like the following:

Introduction – A facilitator/host says what the space is for and gives and overview of the circle

[silence as we become present to the person
and the purpose of the circle]

Presentation – when they’re ready, the person who is discerning takes as much time as they need to describe what the choices are that lie before them and any/all the ways that is conflicted in their heart/mind/body/spirit.

[silence – the voice of the discerner is held
without judgement or interruption]

Open and Honest Questions – those present may ask questions, they may not. The discerner may elect to answer aloud, they may not. The purpose of the questions isn’t to seek answers (resolve/close) but to open new channels of thought for consideration (broaden/open) thus the questions should be framed an open-ended queries rather than being binary.

[silence – explores the possibilities that may have been opened,
what might this mean for what was first shared]

Mirroring – those present may repeat words or phrases from the discerners presentation that have stood out/echoed/resonated and feel significant.  Sometimes when we are trying to make a choice we can lose sight of what is most important but as we talk there are often clues in our tone, emotion and vocabulary. In this space our community can echo these back to us and help us hear our own deepest yearning. n.b. don’t critique or explain, let the discerners own discernment speak for itself.

[silence – this time of holding the discerner at the center,
their fears and longings, can create a lot of vulnerability.
We are yet “holding”, what can be encouraged and strengthened
as we send this person out?]

Affirmations and Celebrations – it is likely that the discerner has shared a breadth of what they feel called to and responsible for, this is a space for those present to share encouragement that builds up and resources this person as they continue along their Way. What can be affirmed about their passion? What have they shown deep caring for and commitment to? What qualities are demonstrated in the desire to discern well and deeply in whatever choice is being made?

Note: some people might like to have pens and paper on hand for prompts or pictures and it’s sometimes nice to give these to the discerner at the end of the circle.

IMG_0063I have been struggling recently… just figuring out how to exist well in a world where so much feels obfuscated by the power of things unseen to influence and affect my life.  Things and people that seek to control my choices by limiting my choices. As a way of praying, personal confession and speaking to powers I wanted to somehow create a physical metaphor for the ideas circling in my head and this is how the idea for the veil came about.

What follows here is a series of images that seeks to playfully and prayerfully explore, critique, live-into-being the answer to some of my own questions around this idea of what barriers are coming between us and being able to see God clearly…

Here are some of my queries:

In what ways does this veil shelter or smother me?

How can we know and be known through such thickness that clouds and blinds us?

At a recent team planning day, the facilitator mentioned that the church “as we know it” has 17 years left… it’s dying.  What does this mean if we reflect on the Church as the Bride of Christ? Is the church glorious? …holy and without blemish? ready?

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Revelation 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed [are] they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

The Greek word ecclesia, for church, means “The called-out (ones)” i.e. the church is its people, if the institutional church as we know it dies – what does that mean for the called? Does God become a widower?

What does it look like to live with full access to God? How can we remove the veil that creates separation between God and humankind?

Covenant symbols in Christianity: BRIDAL VEIL
“Not only does the bridal veil show the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God, it reminds us of the Temple veil which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross. The removing of the veil took away the separation between God and man, giving believers access into the very presence of God. Since Christian marriage is a picture of the union between Christ and the church, we see another reflection of this relationship in the removal of the bridal veil. Through marriage, the couple now has full access to one another. (1 Corinthians 7:4)” [from about.com]

How might we compare and contrast this invisible veil with a hijab or niqab? What is visible and what is hidden by them?

I first wore the headscarf at the age of 18 (with no pressure to wear it from parents at all even though they are very devout religious leaders in our community). My reason for wearing it was that I was at a point in my life where I was growing in my faith journey and wanted to make my surrender to God visible. For me the headscarf was an extension of my prayer (it is exactly what I wear when I pray).  The act of wearing a scarf had nothing to do with a man, whether it was my father, brother or husband. In fact, my husband did not see me without a scarf until we were engaged. This in itself raises an interesting function that many women who wear the scarf also acknowledge- that the scarf can liberate their bodies from the insistent objectification of women in the public space. It demands that people deal with them based on their intellect, values, manners, behavior, ideas, etc and not based on their looks. Quite a strong feminist statement.            – Dr Nora Amath

Is the Church lost? What is it looking for? What does it need? What does it pray for? Is it lonely? Is it static? Is it dead/dying?

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No one knows what makes the soul
wake up so happy

Maybe a dawn breeze has blown the veil
from the face of God.

~ Rumi