Monthly Archives: May 2018

Year of Self Compassion #21 #speeches

Two years ago my weekly blog was called Dancing with Speeches and each week I wrote or rewrote a speech. It was challenging and at times a lot of fun, putting words into the mouths of others. From time to time a speech was prescient – I still get goosebumps when I read the one I had Donald Trump giving on getting the Republican nomination.

This past couple of weeks two events have stood like bookends in my life and have rippled deep down to my foundations. One the death of Archbishop Leonard Faulkner and the other the conviction of Archbishop Phillip Wilson. The first marked a life of a man who kept fidelity with his fragile, authentic leadership and the second a life marked by what appears to me as ill informed and unrepentant. The male church leaders in the Archdiocese will be gathered up to face their future in the light of leadership lost and here is a speech the acting leader might give.

“My brothers, we gather today knowing our leader is charged and convicted. While we bring our compassion to him and all those like him, who at times may even have been ourselves, covering up truth, having a bad judgement, aligning ourselves with legal advice or perhaps being blind to our unconscious bias, today is not the day we turn inwards. Today we turn to the victims, their families and those first responders.

We place ourselves in their shoes. We sit and we listen. We accept and hear what they have to say to us. We take ourselves the edge of our discomfort and wait. We examine ourselves in the light of our first guide and teacher – a child – the one who arrived in a stable under the threat of death from oppressors – the one forecasted by a star – the one held by a mother. We are called to listen to the shepherds, our pastoral associates, who time and time again are the ones who have heard and continue to give witness to the stories of abuse. We are called to listen to the magi, prophets and medical experts who bring healing to those who have been abused and who need to be equipped with new gifts for the road ahead. We are called to listen to the creatures who have comforted and held those broken with their fidelity of wagging tails and soothing purrs. We are called to hear from mothers who have sobbed and lost their children, executed by power through despair at their own hand or by way of drugs and alcohol. We are called to hear from the victims themselves.

On this day we will not take pity on our plight of being left without a leader, because we have one. We look to the child. We examine our hearts and genuinely ask ourselves what does this child call us to do. The very first instruction is to come as community – not just one class to this moment in our story. To do this work on our own is neglient and fundamentally flawed. It is central to the reason we find ourselves here. We must invite women into this conversation. We cannot and must not continue to listen to legal argument. We must listen to a compassion argument. We must stop talking and bow our heads, kneel and offer ourselves at the altar of a cradle. Holy innocence is sleeping there. Shame and sorrow will take their time and work through us as they must. But again we need to put them aside. The humiliation and grief of victims and their families has been and continues for many to be soul destroying. Their pain is an invitation to solidarity, to witness and to redemption. Reconciliation is the path to hope and we will need to find people who can be our guides and bridges. We cannot do this alone.

I invite you all, to go back to your parishes and communities and listen to your pastoral workers, invite them to help you open your ears and hearts to the acts of witness and what they know, to listen to victims and their families. I ask you to do this today. We will gather again in a week. We will not do anything else together today. Now I know some of you will bunk off and go play golf, others might gather in a pub and chew the fat, some of you may close up yourself and secrete to your room. But I implore you in the name of the Christ Child you follow to be vulnerable like this babe and receive instruction not from the laws of the land, but the laws of the love.”

Year of Self Compassion #20 #truthtopower

This week I have been chastised, metaphorically beaten up, listened up and loved up. The thread holding these diverse and sometimes divisive experiences has been that ancient maxim from the Quakers speaking your truth to power. And there are all kinds of power – power of the purse, power of persuasion, power of the big end of town, power of the secrets, power of pretense, power of the system – there is a laundry list of power at play in our lives every single day. I am overwhelmed by some of the powers that are circling in my worlds and this warrior princess is more weary that warrior at the moment.

To tell the truth to power is one thing and then to deal with the consequences is another. I have been thinking about Rosa Parks who said enough was enough and stayed seated. The consequences for her and her community were far reaching and the liberation did not happen straight away. My thoughts have also turned to Charlie Perkins who too hopped on a bus and kept on driving and headed into the centre. And on this Pentecost Sunday my thoughts also go to the pathetic group huddled together in an upper room too scared to go out and speak their truth to power and then were afforded a surge from a higher power to kick them along out into the street to spread their good news. Speaking your truth to power comes at a price and every now and again that price feels too high, and a cup drawn from the well to keep you going is essential. A dear friend brought her cup and cakes around for me yesterday – such a simple act of kindness coupled with her listening ears was a salve.

I watched the royal wedding as I heard The Kingdom of God choir was going to do Stand by Me and I wanted to hear that. This is a hugely political song and one loved by Martin Luther King, it was even inducted into the US Library of Congress for its special place in history – this is no ordinary song choice – it is political. But I was in for a bigger treat with the sermon by the leader of the US Episcopalian Church Rev Michael Curry – the first time this church has had a black leader. His homily about love being the way drawing from slavery, the bible, Martin Luther King and I wondered for a moment if Beyonce was going to get a mention (see Beyonce Mass in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco if you want to know more). This was a truth to power moment in history, with billions watching around the world, Chicago born Rev Curry preached on human rights in the 1,000 year old Windsor Castle, the home of a colonial power who had traded in slaves, built kingdoms and queendoms on the backs of the poor, who pillaged jewels from far off lands, who put generations in servitude on their ancestral lands. He preached about love, which for each of the couple had their own versions of what that meant in their families of origin. (I say Amen. All the people say Amen.)

We all remember the broken-hearted 8 year old who had scrawled “Mummy” on the flowers adorning his mothers coffin. I am a republican and long for Australia to be a republic. I am rarely interested in the royals, but watching this ceremony I was fascinated to see the new world of the USA influencing the old world of Europe with the message of love. Choosing Stand by Me – my favourite song of solidarity – turned it all around. Here were the gospel singers offering up their voices to stand with Windsor – an invitation to come to a new party – one where everyone is equal and well that sounds quite a lot like a new world order or indeed the same gospel being preached from the pulpit! I love these twists and turns, these moments in history when you know something is about to happen. All the signs are there, the foundations have been put in place and the truth to power actions will be louder than the speeches.

I was uplifted by the preacher. I was uplifted by the music. I was uplifted by the actions of a young couple who had found love. Love is always the way. There is no other way but to love and draw deep from the courage that love demands to speak your truth to power. Using the platforms of privilege many of us has a price tag and I felt encouraged and reminded of that last night. Speaking your truth to power will bring collateral damage, sometimes friendly fire, but there is no stopping that justice river roll into town. In this year of self compassion I may have to soften my approach to be more gentle on myself, and go a bit slower to bring others with me, but there is also the truth to be spoken and the power to be challenged. And now that Stand by Me has been sung at Windsor and the grandson of a black slave has preached love is the way there too, I have another well to draw from in those moments I find it hard to dig deep. Thank you Team Markle.


Let justice flow like a river Photo by Phil Houston on Unsplash

Year of Self Compassion #nesting

Another morning and it’s a week now since I moved into the granny flat at the back of the property. The morning chatter from the birds and the night time stalking of the possums reminds me I am just another creature in this universe. The rolling thunder of trucks heading up and down Willunga Hill carrying produce of the Fleurieu to and fro are also keepin’ it real. This is a site first created for a human who is long gone, and since been occupied by others – family, friends, travellers and tourists -and now it is making its way by turning into a dwelling for me. Not quite there yet, but it is beginning to feel like it could become home.

The shedding of so much of my life, and the lives of those I have shared a home with, to fit into this space and make enough room inside of me as well to fit. What is it that makes us fit or not fit in somewhere? There is familiarity, invitational grace, comfort, welcome, anticipation you will have what you need when you arrive and can leave a legacy. The decisions about what to take and what to leave behind, what needs to be constructed, reconstructed, bought new, are decisions of time and space. What serves me at this time in my life? There is no need for 27 tablecloths when you don’t have a dining room table any more and there isn’t room for one anyhow. Yet that table has hosted conversations of life and death across generations and bares the signatures of little ones in crayon on its belly. And all the CDs, a bridging technology with little to offer into the future where on demand tracks can be voiced to be heard. I could go on and on with a litany of items from clothes to spoons – exactly how many teaspoons do you need – no more than two or three people could fit on the verandah so why would I need 16 teaspoons?

In choosing which paintings or prints can come with me, I have discovered I have a hierarchy of what art I like the most. All the art made by Australians especially those from Central Australia went to the top of the list, an early piece by my grandson as a pre-toddler has come too. I have noticed what is unique has taken precedence in my making choices – things that could not be replicated or replaced. Signs of what belongs to me and what I belong to are fused in notes falling out of books and in the programs of concerts past. Memories can travel with the pilgrim without any need for a material reminder.

The visceral and vicarious moments waft in and out on the incense I burn, to purify the space of those who have been here before me. This is my attempt at limiting the impact of friendly fire in the flashbacks I am having in this time of disruption. I have popped some lemons on the counter to coax out a lemonade attitude to this move. It seems to be working.

Some of the fruits of labour and love lost, are making their way to recycling bins, charity shops, the street verge and other homes. It will take a while to settle as it is space I have never occupied and not even slept a night in despite all the years the cottage has been on the property. Over time, this could become a nest for me to fly in and out of and a sanctuary for my Self, but for now I am gathering twigs and working out the best scaffold to hold me between the branches, and batting off the agony of making a new nest alone.

Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash