Forgive and Embrace (and oppose?)

Here’s a messy stream of consciousness from my brain to yours — thoughts on Forgiveness, Donald Trump Supporters and Love in the Midst of.

This first image (off of Twitter) is one of the most challenging that I have ever laid eyes on. Even its layers have layers. (The second image is the original, recently photographed on a car in America). Let’s talk about this.

It’s actually too complex this one. It’s a rabbit-hole of a picture once you start asking the questions. i.e. Forgiveness? What does that look like? What does it even mean? And what does it look like to forgive utterly while simultaneously absolutely condemning abusive behaviour?

Love…love is a messy, multi-layered journey of a thing. Forgiveness, I think, is similar. It’s not as easily defined as we might normally assume.

Add the words, “Unconditional” to love and/or forgiveness and suddenly the complexity rises exponentially. Throw a mirror in there (Love as you want to be loved,forgive as you want to be forgiven) and it doubles down on complexity.

Mind you, mirrorwise, I know if I was a Trump supporter sporting a sticker like that I’d want my forgiveness with a side-order of “WTF do you think you’re supporting?” Maybe not fully unconditional in the traditional sense, maybe just fully EMBRACING but with an acknowledgement of difference in understanding. Not distance, but difference.

What does it look like to Forgive, Love, Embrace and Oppose? (After a lifetime of deeply personally-felt attack phrases like, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” I’m torn to even be asking myself how to Love the Voter, Oppose the Vote.)

This image has captured one of my current very present debates: What does love/forgiveness look like in the MIDST of personal (or national) battle?

Most forgiveness occurs after the event (think of Corrie ten Boom forgiving her Concentration Camp guard after WW2, Heidi Baker’s friend forgiving her husband after he died, or even Jesus at the end of time saying “It is finished. I forgive you.”) But what of forgiveness (being forgiven, and forgiving) in the middle?

And that’s what the inside of my brain looks like, ladies and gentlemen. A stumbled upon image, a debate, a stringy uncompleted series of questions, and above it all, “Love? Questionmark?” painted in rainbow colours.

Join the discussion (and peruse more of my brain in a glass case) on Twitter @MattDrapps

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Jitters and glitter

I have Pre-Pride jitters.

It’s the mix of fear, expectation, excitement and panic that you get when you’re doing something both old and new.

A new job role, meeting a friend’s family first time, inviting someone over who’s not been to your house before, or trying a new risky option off a menu in a trusted restaurant — It’s that kind of flutter of jitters that I’ve got.

I’m off to Pride, and I’m terrified
Imagine if you were an alien, like Alf or Mork or from Men in Black, living amongst humans, but unique at the same time. You’re slightly off kilter, but you can pass for “mainstream” most days.

Imagine being told all your life that Aliens are coming who will destroy humanity. At first, you believe it and are suspicious of alien activity, staying away from Area 51 just in case, sometimes wondering if you are one of those destructive aliens yourself.

Eventually you realize that what you were told is wrong, Aliens aren’t evil, won’t shred humanity, and are inherently interested in being a part of humanity’s rich tapestry. You know some Aliens. You’ve met them, love them, and they are brilliant and beautiful just like you.

But then imagine being on the bus to an Alien convention, where there will be HUNDREDS of Aliens, a celebration of alien culture and some of the most hidden aspects of alien life out of full display for all to see.

It’s terrifying. But exciting.

I’m on my way to Pride and I’m excited.
Like the Alien, I’m freaking out about interacting more openly with gay culture. I’m expecting glitter, and dancing, and bright costumes. Those are aspects I understand and am comfortable with. But every culture comes with good parts and bad parts and parts that are neither good nor bad, and all of these will be open and on display for a day. I’m not sure HOW to feel about that. What kind of Alien am I? What aspects of culture make me uncomfortable? What lifts me up? And what am I afraid of?

My big fear? It’s that what I was told is true, that I’ll show up and the Aliens won’t be the positive, loving community I’ve learned them to be, and that instead I’ll find them busting out of humanity’s chest like the alien from Alien.

I’m on my way to Pride, and I’m freaking out!

But no.

We are not aliens. We ARE humanity. We cannot destroy it by being who we are within it. In fact, instead, this weekend is a great opportunity for those outside of LGBT+ culture to look in, without judgement, and to learn something they might not already know about humanity. Because LGBT+ culture is not Alien, but an aspect of the rich culture of humanity we love so much.

I’m on my way to Pride, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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Brexit;Chexit

“I don’t know if I know him anymore, you know?”

I was admitting to my friend, L, between taking bookings at work, that I’ve lost my connection with God.

L works with me on reception and is one of those incredibly honest, open people who enable you to say what you’re thinking without filter. “It feels like I woke up and I just don’t recognise the person I thought I knew as God anymore. Have you ever seen that thing when one of your friends suddenly changes and you wonder if you ever knew them in the first place?” (We both knew people like that.)

phone.jpg

It was Thursday, the day before Brexit and almost three weeks since the shootings at the gay club in Orlando. For the first time in my life I could see Christianity the way that I imagine many agnostics do — as a giant, mutually agreed upon delusion. Much like the way the public would feel in an episode of Dr Who when the Daleks are explained away as hallucinations caused by a national gas leak. Have we all agreed from the top down to believe in God because it’s easier than facing the fear that he might not exist? Big and small evidences of God from my own life suddenly felt like coincidences, Bible verses felt like flat meme proverbs (you know the Facebook ones that say, “Sunshine is the ray of life, so love yourself like the sun does.“), and the love I feel from and to God felt similar to the love I feel from and to my pot plant Henry. Like, I projected it and I got it back from my own projection.

donna rose

I felt like the elegant bag of belief that I usually carry around with me was empty and dry, and more importantly, for the first time, I couldn’t be bothered to theologize it full again. (“Is the glass half empty of half full?“, “That’s not a glass it’s a drawing of one.“)

Given time and energy you can explain or explain away anything — ask any theologian whether it was okay for God to kill all the firstborn of Egypt and they’ll almost hands.jpgwhip up a wide variety of formulas that ensure their God is squeaky clean. Would it be okay to date someone you knew was involved in mass genocide? And yet, here we are engaged to Christ, veils at the ready, lamps lit.

I explained it to another of my friends like this: “We’re taking a break at the moment, God and I, but we still care about each other. It’s like when you run into an ex that you’re still in love with at a party, and there’s a sense that you both really want to talk or be near each other, but you’re also worried that if you agree to another dance, one of you will get even more hurt.

On Saturday morning, we all woke up to Brexit. (Well, I woke up to a Facebook message that said, “F**k.“, and responded with, “Nooooo…“, because I knew what that meant). It was the first time I’ve encountered a national, or personal, crisis without my best friend, closest companion and (imaginary?) councillor by my side.

It didn’t feel right to pray about it, in the same way it felt so wrong for people publicly opposed to LGBT People in life to pray with them in death (#PrayForOrlando), I felt it inappropriate to turn immediately to JC in crisis today, when we’d only gone on a break days before.

We held hands for a bit though, while I walked into work, but in silence.

As my social networks exploded with people surprised by, commenting on, angry at, shocked amongst, the Brexit story — I found myself pondering my own Chexit (or gradual exit from organised Church). As Britain prepares to divorce itself from the EU, I’m wondering what will happen with my own separation from the image I’d created of God. Will we figure it out, will we not? Will I find he’s unchanged and I’ve changed, or will I change and find him again? Is the wholeness of God willing to be contained by doctrine, or is there a space for the mystery of expanse?

I spent yesterday with some of my dearest Christian friends, in Sheffield. One told me, “When you’re trying to find your way, it can be like in Mario Kart — first you swerve too far into organised religion, then you swerve too far out of it into universalism, then you swerve back towards the symbols you know, then you swerve out again, but over time you find you are more balanced and able to stay on the track towards the goal without crashing as much.

mario.jpg

I saw a post on Twitter on Friday, one of the first I encountered in Post Brexit Britain, “I’m off out to sit on a rock that’s been there for millenia and watch a river that has flowed for millenia,” said an artist and Methodist minister, “to ground myself and wait for hope.

Even in the midst of Brexit and my own personal Chexit THIS felt like wisdom and I admitted to the Creator (who, nameless and formless as s/he may be just for the moment, I still find myself believing in), “Let’s wait a while. And see.”

__

Keep connected, get in touch, send love to @mattdrapps on Twitter.

*Disclaimer: My blog is my brain in a glass box, the thoughts I have today may not be the thoughts I have tomorrow or last year and are not intended as definitive statements.

Image of telephone from here: http://www.datacentremanagement.org/wp-content/plugins/RSSPoster_PRO/cache/d2687_office-ip-phone-shst.jpg

Image of Doctor Who’s Donna and Rose from here: http://tvmedia.ign.com/tv/image/article/895/895508/turn-left-20080731054120134.jpg

Image of hands from: http://pshomegazette.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/couple-holding-hands-photographic-p.jpg

Image of Mario Kart from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e2/Mario_Kart_Wii_screenshot.jpg

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A Prayer for Orlando

I’m feeling angry. I want to roar in the face of everyone who has stood against the LGBT+ community, to point, to say, “This is the kind of result! This is 20 dead! This is hearts broken, families ripped apart by anti LGBT rhetoric! This is the action that backs up your anti-LGBT words…”

I’m trying to keep calm instead.

We don’t know the attacker, who he was or what he wanted. We don’t know the motivation, whether religious or selfish or something else entirely. I have no right to place the blame anywhere, let alone on my own religious family and friends.

I am the first one to say, “Forgive!” when others are wronged, and when my community is damaged here I am shouting, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!” Who am I to roar. My literal family weren’t shot to death, my closest friends haven’t been chased from a club. My heart is with those for whom this is parents, and partners, and children, and best friends, and ex’s.

rainbow

Oh God. What is this world?

Why are we humans so intent on destroying one another?

With little else to do but cry out in response, let us pray.

God our Father and our Mother, our brother and our friend,
Ever close, though often seeming far from the broken nakedness of our world,
We pray.
We Pray for Orlando,
We pray for peace.
We are thankful for safe havens and spaces in our own lives,
And we pray for an increase in safety for all,
For an increase in hope,
For the families and friends of those injured or killed,
For the gunman — also human, now dead — and for those he knew and who knew him as a person too.
We pray for the spirit that unites and brings together to continue to bind us as humans to one another in love.
May the God of glory bring hope to the hopeless,
Peace to the fearful,
And comfort to those who mourn.
Jesus who came to earth,
And felt all,
And died for all,
What do you look like today, in our 21st century world?
Are you mourning as we mourn?
Are you weeping as we weep?
Do you hear us as we angrily shout into the wind?
Do you gather your little children, your humans, your people, into your arms to heal their hurts (as the hospitals do, amidst chaos and gunshots and fear and war)?
Do you pour out forgiveness to both the terrorists and the terrorised,
The hurt and the hurtful?
How can we seek to look more like you, in moments like this,
Living love out in the midst of human war in the midst of domestic peace?
God of love, let love win out.
God who stopped storms with a word, step in.
God, for Orlando, for America, for the LGBT community,
For the world and all it’s unique and beautiful humans, we pray,
Let your will be done and your kingdom come,
On earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our violent thoughts and we forgive those who are violent towards us,
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
Ever more,
Amen.

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Jesus’ Prayer – Our Response

You know those days when you start tweeting and you just can’t stop? The words come pouring out like water from a jug and you just go on writing. I had one of those eveings on Monday. I used to think of them as “Twitter Rants” but I guess they are “Twitter Outpourings”. I’ve always thought of my Twitter account as my brain in a glass jar, available to be read.

What I wrote on Monday has stuck with me, so I’ve pasted it together below.

Continue reading

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A Prayer of Women

I’m sharing a post today (anonymously, but with permission) from a dear friend. Thanks.

‘Today is International Women’s Day. Some of us gender outlaws can find this day a bit tricky, so here is my prayer for International Women’s Day:

For those of us who stand in the messy no-man’s-land of gender but endure violence aimed at our perceived womanhood

For those of us who battle our own bodies

For those of us who struggle to have our bodies taken seriously

For those of us for whom motherhood is a painful subject because of biology and society

For those of us who wrestle with masculine and feminine and what it means for us

For our dmab trans sisters who are murdered and persecuted and not having their womanhood acknowledged

For the bi and pan girls who swim in an estuary of sexuality

For those of us who can’t trust our own biology

For those of us who are square pegs in round holes

For those of us who live lives of being in-between, of never being enough but always being too much

For those of us who feel like strangers in the land of gender

For those of us who dip our toes in womanhood but aren’t brave enough to dive in

For those of us who feel God has rejected us

For those of us looking for our tribe

We hold fast to the knowledge that God is the God of the stranger and the strange, and that God’s radiance will light our path.

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love [them] as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
Leviticus 19:34 ESV” ‘

image

I think this prayer is honest, hopeful and humble. I’m thankful for all the women in my life.

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Be the world’s Valentine

Ahhh…Saint Valentine…It’s the time of year when we take note of this chap, and what he stood for. There’s some mixed reports over his exact life and death, but his martyrology remembers him for secretly performing marriages against the orders of the Roman overlords.

 

earth kiss

Emperor Claudius II had declared unmarried men fought better in war, and would not allow marriages to take place, but Saint Valentine believed it was better for people in love to be committed to one another in marriage. After being jailed, he prayed for the jailer’s blind daughter’s sight to be restored and by a miracle it was. As a result, the jailer came to believe in God. Later, Saint V was beheaded for what he believed.

val

Makes you think! Are there areas of your life where your commitment to showing and allowing love is worth dying for? Have you recently stood against national injustice? (i.e. Standing with the Junior Doctors, helping welcome refugees, etc) And is there an area of your life where you would love to see a miracle?

This Valentine’s Day, enjoy the moments, be yourself, and have a think, “What do I stand for? And what do I long to see?”

Have a great Valentine’s!

han solo

 

(Earth Kiss Picture from here: http://www.rebellesociety.com/wp-content-uploads-2013-04-pinterest-earth-kiss/)

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