Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brother Love

In my post entitled Toxic Church I shared how stressed and anxious I had been at the thought of attending my mother's funeral because of my brother and sister-in-law's shunning of me.

My SIL quite pointedly maintained this position, turning sharply away from me at the funeral. She even told another person that I was the one refusing to talk to her. I considered confronting her over this lie, but there are only so many times you can beg someone to deal with issues between you.

However, my brother did approach me later at the wake, and gave me a quick hug. I felt wary and confused, but inwardly hopeful. I asked him if this meant we were now talking. When he tried to assure me that we'd "always been talking", I told him that this hadn't felt like the reality I'd experienced.

But I really wanted him to know how much I'd valued his overture of friendship, so I said to him as we leaving, "If we are talking, can we have coffee together?" He responded positively, so I asked him to call me to set a date.

I came away hopeful that at least he and I might be able to restore relationship. Sadly, I've heard nothing from him in the weeks since.

As much as I want to see a different outcome, I know I can't control him or make him want to have relationship with me. So I choose to set him free.

I just hope that somewhere, deep down inside he knows this truth:

Friday, 17 October 2014

Is "Bless You" a New Four-Letter Word?

I was responding to a comment on a blog post the other day and I wanted to convey my goodwill by speaking blessing to the other person. I wrote it down, but found myself hesitating over publishing it. I pondered my reluctance for a minute or two until I realised what the issue was.

You see, too many times I've seen self-professed christians writing acrimonious comments to one another and then sign off their vicious verbal attack with the words, "Bless you, brother/sister."

It's as if you can speak any vitriol you like as long as you slip in a christian cliche at the end which somehow sanctifies the whole.

Or not!

In the same way that other words or phrases have come to convey something quite different from their original meaning, how long will it be before "Bless you" becomes a swear word?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

How Do We Measure Goodness?

After a recent hard season of sadness and loss (including the death of my mother), my husband and I were thrilled to have the opportunity of a week away together. No children, no responsibilities. We could please ourselves with what we did, and when.

And so we slept in, ate delicious food, drank lots of wine, and stayed up late watching movies. And we remembered that life is good. And we were grateful.

And we talked about life as it has been in the past, and life as we believe it could be. Life as maybe it was created to be.

And I have come back with a renewed desire to live well in the small things, the mundane, the everyday. To live in such a way that others feel blessed, and loved, and valued.

While we were away, one of the films we watched (and which captured my attention) was "Chocolat", which tells the stories of the people of a small French village in 1959. The mayor, Comte de Reynaud, is a man of strict morals and unyielding religion. He is aghast when Vianne Rocher, a single mother, arrives and sets up a chocolatier in the town. During the season of Lent no less!

The tragedy is that the Comte's religion only inspires him to demand that the villagers accede to his harsh moral absolutes - he seems to care nothing about their lives beyond their outward conformity to this code. And he uses the Catholic priest, Pere Henri, as a mouthpiece for his own bitter, religious dogma. No love, no joy, just self-denial and joyless work. Yet you sense he yearns for something more.

And it is the one he condemns as a sinful temptress who shows genuine care and compassion to those around her. She reaches out to them, invites them in, shares her joie de vivre.

Now I know that many people would point out that she was sinful, immoral, pagan even - but the fruit of her engagement with others was sweet.

Others would say it was all just horribly cliched and that everyone knows that "Hollywood" (a catch-all name meaning anyone who makes films and is not a christian) is always portraying christians in a negative light.

But I'm not so sure.

It didn't feel cliched to me - it felt all too familiar.

And I would like to ask a question. Is it possible that the negative, "Hollywood" portrayal of christians is the result of genuine observation? Can it be that this is what has been seen and experienced?

Toward the end of the film Pere Henri is finally allowed to speak from his heart.

"I'm not sure what the theme of my homily today ought to be. Do I want to speak of the miracle of Our Lord's divine transformation? Not really, no. I don't want to talk about His divinity. I'd rather talk about His humanity. I mean, you know, how He lived His life, here on Earth. His kindness, His tolerance... Listen, here's what I think. I think that we can't go around... measuring our goodness by what we don't do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think... we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create... and who we include." 
Beautiful words, I thought.

And maybe worth considering...