Rivers

I wrote this poem almost two years ago and had planned for it to be spoken word but kind of chickened out. It’s pretty nerdy but it makes me smile; I hope you enjoy it!

 

I don’t want you to think I’m one of those Hollywood-esque, star struck, over the top, over-dramatic twenty-some things who thinks that life is easy.

I don’t want to fill your minds with clichés like “the more you learn, the less you know” and “what goes around comes around”,
I just want you to realise that we all have dreams, goals, ambitions.
We all have places we want to reach one day and you need to realise that that’s okay.
And this is my dream.
Every time I put pen to paper it’s like a river flowing down a mountainside.
There’s something in the way my mind intertwines with the words I have been speaking since the day I started to talk.
My connection with syllables and similes, adjectives and adverbs, alliteration and hyperbole, is something that I can’t quite describe.
For a while I was afraid of this gift.
Surrounded by musicians, painters, dancers I was afraid to let my talent shine because “nerd is the word” always came to mind.
I can’t lie, I love to sing, so I took up guitar and made a half-assed effort at writing songs.
But my lack of persistence took over, ever so slowly, and, eventually, I once again picked up my pen and paper and did the one thing that comes oh, so naturally.
People ask me why I write, why I’m so ready to place my heart in the wide open space we affectionately call “the interweb” for everyone to see.
Well, friends, I’ll tell you this now: I’m not the only one and I have been inspired by many other great writers to do what I do; I am definitely not alone.
Whether they focus on poetry and prose, sing their hearts out, rap faster than George Watsky, write fan fiction, or take part in the blogosphere, there are plenty of other people doing just what I do.
But, sometimes, I wonder the same thing (for different reasons, of course).
You see, the path that I have chosen may never pay the bills.
The government don’t want to support those of us who dream higher than numbers and equations so I guess I’m stuck…
Writing out words that protest how frustrated I am, even though David Cameron will never listen.
If this is democracy then why are the arts and humanities never given a chance?
So maybe it’s all in vain, right?
Maybe this foray into spoken word poetry will never go any further than the pages of social networking sites, Forever ignored by the artists who inspire me and never found by the people who need to be inspired.
But, until words go out of fashion and those of us who create art are placed in prison,
I will keep writing.
Until the day I die I will fight for the use of language.
And I’m sure some of you will laugh at me when you hear this,
Some of you will cringe and some of you might even feel the need to ask “why?”
And after hearing my previous words I will assign you to the “lost cause” group,
The people who just don’t want to understand because you don’t like what I do and I’m fine with that.
You may make more money than me but, as film maker Mickey Smith once stated,
“If I can only scrape a living, at least it will be a living worth scraping.”

Ruffling feathers and thinking outside the box.

Something hit me like a tonne of bricks this morning.

For years I’ve struggled with the fact that I don’t tend to agree with a lot of people in the Church on certain things. I’m very liberal, and quite opinionated, and things like gay marriage and abortion and women as leaders, well basically I’m pretty much for all of them (when I say I’m pro-abortion I mean I’m pro-choice rather than pro-life).

But this isn’t going to be a post all about those things because that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to get across to you today.

For the longest time I’ve felt like I just don’t agree with people on certain topics and that because of that, because of the way some people have treated me or spoke to me because of those opinions, I thought I was doing something wrong or that my faith wasn’t right.

I know already that a tonne of you are sitting there ready to quote all the Bible verses you can think of to me on those topics; please don’t.

And why not? Because it’s just not about that; it’s not about that at all and never has been.

This morning in church we sang ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ by Rend Collective Experiment and it hit me that I’m just as much an important part of the Church as all the pro-lifers and people who don’t support gay marriage.

There’s a line in the song that goes like this:

“We are Your Church.
We need Your power in us.” 

And it’s so simple but it has so much meaning.

We, as in all the people who are Christians, are a part of the Church, the Church with a capital ‘C’, the one that means family and community, not the church building. And because we’re all a part of the Church with all our differing opinions, all our wounds, all our flaws, all our gifts, we are all important. So regardless of all those things, putting all of that aside, we need the power of God in us to love people just like He loves us, to be the shining light in the darkness.

Yesterday a girl I hardly know any more took it upon herself to publicly attack me on Facebook because of the way I had presented my opinion on women as leaders in the Church. She didn’t necessarily disagree with my opinion but felt it was her place to tell me that the way I had presented it was “ridiculous” and “ignorant” (using those exact words). She told me I was presenting the Church in a bad light and that if I continued this way people would get the wrong idea of what the Church was. She kept calling me her “sister in Christ”, which was really very patronising, and eventually apologised but continued to tell me what I’d said was unbiblical and even said, “I guess I’m just too quick to point out flaws.” The cherry on top was when she told me she would pray for me and that I was on a “slippery slope”, that I was putting myself in the position of God by saying that the Bible wasn’t necessarily always relevant to our current times.

In that situation, “I’ll pray for you” is just another way of saying “go f*** yourself.”

I’ve never been so unbelievably livid and I’m sure the way I responded to her made her think I needed even more of her prayer.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me; a situation where someone who barely knows me takes it upon themselves to “rebuke” me and tries to say that’s what they’re meant to do as a good Christian and that they’re doing it out of love.

Both of these people did nothing but make me angry and push me even further away from the Church, using the fact that they’ve gained “great” teaching from doing missions or going to a supposedly brilliant church to try and justify why they’re doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m good at this whole Christianity thing, not by any means. But what hit me this morning is that while there are some people who don’t question a lot, there are quite a lot of us who do, and not necessarily questioning God, not necessarily who He is or who Jesus was, but we wonder if we’re really meant to take such a strong stance against things like gay marriage and abortion.

I think there’s a lot of people like me who, if totally honest, would say they’re unsure about some things in the Bible. They would say that they don’t know if a lot of the apparently important stuff was maybe lost in translation because humans are flawed. 

So while I could have let what that girl said get to me, it has actually strengthened me. Not in my annoyance with the differing opinions in the Church, but in knowing that I am who I am, in Christ, for a very good reason.

At the end of the day being a Christian is about loving people. If a Christian believes gay marriage is wrong, if they don’t think women should be leaders, if they’re pro-life, I need to love those Christians just as much as I love everyone else because we’re a family, we’re a community. I don’t need to be best friends with them, but loving people is the most important thing.

After my experience yesterday, after being “rebuked”, being spoken to completely condescendingly, after being patronised and told, “you’re wrong, you’re ignorant”, I’m going to take that and turn it into good.

So, to all my fellow liberal Christians: please keep being who you are, keep supporting whatever it is you support that you find constantly ruffles a few feathers. Thinking outside the box is not a bad thing and your salvation is not found in your opinions, it is found in nothing other than Jesus Christ.

x

 

Christianity isn’t cute.

I slept terribly last night; tossing and turning, waking up all the time. I woke up again at 8:45 am and lay there for a while, staring at the wall next to me, wondering what was wrong.

Eventually it hit me.

I haven’t been very close to God recently. I haven’t been angry with Him, or upset with Him. I haven’t began doubting His existence or questioning whether I should give up following Him. I’ve just gotten really distracted. Distracted by all the new things in life, all the new people, the new places.

This week I almost resigned myself to just not caring until I care again, but I don’t think it really works like that.

So this morning, while failing miserably at sleeping, I browsed through Facebook and Instagram, and saw a lot of posts by a lot of Christians, and realised what makes it so hard to turn back to Jesus at times like this.

We have made the Gospel so cute and fluffy and friendly. 

Jesus was nailed to a cross by his hands and feet and made to hang there until He died. He endured one of the most painful deaths known to man because He was the perfect sacrifice for a broken, messed up world. How that relates to the very cute, friendly gospel message we seem to have created in 2013, I do not know.

We’ve made Christianity about “being good” and not saying ‘shit’ and hating on gay marriage and being pro-life and telling people they’re wrong. We’ve made it about drinking tea and dressing well for church and always having our Bibles with us.

We’ve forgotten that when Paul said he was the “worst of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) he had spent his time, before choosing Christ, killing Christians.
We’ve forgotten that Rahab was a prostitute.
We’ve forgotten that Noah was a drunkard.
We’ve forgotten that Peter totally denied knowing Jesus.
We’ve forgotten that Judas betrayed Jesus after kissing Him on the cheek.
We’ve forgotten how Samson used women.
We’ve forgotten that David was a murderer.

But we act as if Jesus died on a cross so we could eat cake and dress modestly and never be angry with life.

We’ve defined what a relationship with God is meant to look like and totally forgotten that we’re just the same as Rahab and Noah and Paul and Judas. But we still judge people around us and tell them how they live is wrong because it makes us feel some sort of pride; that’s not what Jesus wants.

In the west we’ve surrounded ourselves with really fun Christian music and helpful books and cute church stories for kids, so much so that we’ve forgotten how to really have faith. We’ve turned Jesus into a physically attractive white man. 

In North Africa, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in China, they don’t hold on to God because their favourite Christian band just released an amazing song that’s “so anointed”, they do it because they know it’s their only hope, that if they let go and try to get through life, through persecution, on their own they’ll never do it.

I don’t know for certain, but I highly doubt Christians being persecuted across the world are debating their feelings on abortion.

We’ve forgotten that we’re all the same. That we all mess up, that no amount of Bible reading or prayer time makes us any better than anyone else and that that is the exact opposite of what Jesus wanted for us. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying for us we would have nothing so stop leaving that part out of the Gospels. Stop leaving out the part where God, something that I can’t even explain because the concept of a god still baffles me sometimes, became human, became a helpless baby who had to rely on two totally lost people to look after Him as He grew up, and knew that He was only on this planet to eventually die. But He did it so He could know us. So He could be a part of our mess. So He could hang out with the disciples, twelve guys who didn’t really have a clue what was going on, so He could meet countless people who would never believe He was God, so He could give sight to the blind, so He could allow the lame to walk again, so He could eat dinner with tax collectors, have His feet washed by prostitutes, so He could spend time with the outcasts of society, so He could break the rules of the Sabbath and tell people that loving God was nothing to do with any of that.

There’s very little Christian music and art that I would say I love because I think a lot of it is very cheesy, but there’s a guy called Levi the Poet who is one of the most talented spoken word poets I’ve ever heard. He is passionate and honest and doesn’t pretend like being a Christian is easy and cute. One of my favourite poems by Levi is called O Captain, My Captain, and you can watch it right here.

x

Life is good.

Tonight I had a catch up with a friend from the workplace I left in June and she told me about the total mess that it has turned in to since my leaving.

I only really have one thing to say on the matter: I have never found myself feeling as grateful for where I am in life as I do tonight.

Every day I go to college and I find myself stressing out over timing or burning myself or not using enough seasoning or making mistakes that I think are stupid… But I’m learning. I’m constantly learning and am constantly being encouraged by my tutors and classmates.

In my lovely ex-workplace I was made to feel stupid, like I wasn’t good enough, like being bad at that job made me totally incapable of ever doing anything even remotely useful. In recent months I’ve come to realise how big a lie this is, and how I’m actually really damn good at quite a few things, that I’m so entirely blessed with so many different gifts and that they are all things I’m beginning to use on a far more regular basis than I ever did while working.

Sometimes I get stressed out, I get scared, I feel a bit sick, I want to cry… But tonight I realised that I absolutely love it all because I’m growing and I’m learning, and not just in college. I’m more involved with my Church now, I’ve introduced music back into my life on a more permanent basis, and I’m writing more. I’m using every creative outlet I have, I feel like I’m really reaching my potential these days.

But there’s so much more, there’s so much more to learn, there’s so much more time to grow and to experience so many new things. Sometimes I wish I’d done this college thing when I was 18, but I wouldn’t have been ready for it then; I love it now because the timing is perfect. My love of good food wasn’t quite existent until I reached about 20 and when I was 18 all I wanted to do was see bands play every week and write about it.

One of my favourite things about going into college every day is seeing the sunrise. It sounds a little crazy, I know. Who really wants to be up early enough to see the sunrise? But, on clear days, when I’m on the train on my way to Belfast, and the sun is rising and shining across Belfast Lough, making the whole of Belfast and Carrickfergus and all the other little towns on the edge of the Lough this gorgeous orangey golden colour, while the water is so still just waiting for a boat to cover it in ripples, I know I’m doing the right thing.

I came from a situation that forced me into a sense of depression. Every day for ten months I walked through the doors of a metal building that had awful air conditioning and was lit terribly, and sat at a desk for eight hours while being yelled at by total strangers for something that I had no control over and hated every minute of it. I was constantly annoying someone due to the fact that I had been wrongly employed and wasn’t really sure what I was doing.

Now I’m content. The work may be hard, and I may still be terrible for complaining (I’m going to try and work on that one because I really have nothing to complain about and they’re never serious complaints), but I am in a good situation; in fact I’m in a great situation.

And I don’t think this is it either, I think life is only going to improve.

x

1:00 am Poetry; it’s been a while.

She’s found herself in a maze again.

He was right in front of her and all of a sudden he’s gone, like a kite in inconsistent summer winds that die all too suddenly.

Autumn is creeping in and she’s found herself in new spaces, wondering if she’s been lying to herself for the past ten years, trying to see through all the junk she’s slowly building up around herself, shying away from all the things she used to cling to.

Small talk is her crutch now,

“How’s your week been?”
“Oh, it’s been fine, and yours?”

Do we really care about each other any more? Or do we have to keep hiding who we are and how we feel to make things easier?

I don’t even think she sees beauty in the sunrise these days, I don’t think she cares much for crashing waves or the sound of seagulls at sunrise. We document all these beautiful moments but can’t we just look at them? Can’t we just take them in for five minutes without demanding that they’re documented? Can’t we just breathe them in and remember what they meant to us, can’t we just remember how we felt?

He’s always there, he’s always waiting for us to return, to realise he’s the one we need, but getting to that point isn’t as easy as it sounds.

You have to want it. You have to want to put in the effort to talk to him, to read his book, to be near to him.

But she doesn’t want to.
I don’t want to.

She wants to get to the part where she figures it all out, where she stops being so sceptical of the choices she made, where she stops letting her heart make her decisions but that feels like an eternity away.

And life changes in an instant. You think the moment you’re in will be the most important one forever but ten minutes later it’s all over and the next chapter is already half way finished.

There are no such thing as curve balls, this is just what we should expect every single day.

Nothing stays the same, plans change, people leave, new people take their place.

They may turn their back on you but you have to fight for everything you believe because that’s what matters.
You are not too much but because of your fear of this you make yourself too little; don’t be too little.

Don’t ever think that you’re too small to put up a damn good fight because “though she be but little, she be fierce!”

And sometimes I stay up so late that I can hardly keep my eyes open, but caffeine is no use.
I’m just searching for something better than what I’m putting myself through now, trying to grow stronger, more resilient, but this won’t happen until I’ve lost my apathy and all the things that are hurting me.

We can’t do anything other than one day at a time. We can’t make things go faster, we can’t change where we are in the moment, we can’t turn into a different person, we can’t make something that feels awkward and uncomfortable feel safe all of a sudden. We can’t deny who we are or what we feel. No matter how long we put it to the back of our minds it won’t go away, it will just grow stronger until all we can do is be honest with ourselves.

Nothing is certain right now.
Nothing is clear, nothing is simple.

Now it’s time to get some sleep.

x

Being worth more than many sparrows.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to Church as usual and I’m going to be helping with what we call ‘Little Church’. This is basically a way more laid back, simpler version of Sunday School for the toddlers in the Church and I absolutely love it. I love how simple the little kids are, how all they need are some toy trains and a plastic tractor to be content. These little ones are told from the day they’re born that Jesus loves them, that they are important, that they are of great worth to Him. It doesn’t mean they’re brainwashed, it doesn’t mean they’ll never be able to make their own decisions (I was brought up in a Christian home and still went through a period of turning my back on God and going a  bit wild when I first went to university), but it does meant that, from the very beginning of their existence on this earth they know that, no matter what, God is always there for them.

I’ve spent a lot of time questioning God, you see. I’ve considered all the possibilities that He doesn’t exist, that the Bible is wrong, that I’ve made a bad decision in following Him. But when it’s all said and done, when I’m tired of questioning, I still believe that He is real and true and that He is my Saviour. I still know that the clouds might cover the moon and stars but it doesn’t mean they’re not there. I still know that God is always good and that in itself is a reason for me to smile. I can’t let go of Him; I’ve never been able to and, at 23 years old, I think I’m long past ever giving up on Him after seeing Him do so much in my life.

I might struggle to pick up my Bible, to sit down and pray for long periods of time, but that doesn’t change the truth. Instead I say little prayers when things come to mind, I browse the Bible on my phone when I’m on the train to and from college, I choose to sing to God when I feel too weak to do anything else. He doesn’t need me to devote hours every day to sitting with Him. Don’t get me wrong, It’s important to do this (the spending time with God part, it doesn’t need to be for hours…) but my salvation is not based on how much time I spend reading my Bible, it isn’t based on how long my prayers are. My salvation is based on what Jesus did for me, on His forgiveness, on His choice to die for me because He loves me so much. 

No matter what I do, where I am in life, who I know, regardless of any of these things, God will not let go of me, He won’t turn His back on me, He won’t walk away from me, and that is all that matters. This life is not about getting married or having a great job or gaining worldly success, it’s about chasing after my Jesus and living for Him. I am so important to Him and I owe Him my life. He loves me just like He loves the little ones I’ll be spending tomorrow morning with and, just like them, I will always know this truth regardless of what happens.

Matthew 10:29-31
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
(NIV)

x

Friday night ramblings/Forgive me, I’m tired.

It’s been a while since I wrote something really coherent, and I’m not sure this post will be any different (especially since I’m tired and writing at 12:30 am on a Friday night). Life’s become a bit mental recently, everything has changed; I’m still me but my surroundings are all over the place.

I’m finding myself in one of those weird seasons in life where reading my Bible doesn’t seem too appealing. Sometimes I love reading the Bible but right now I just want to pray. I’ve been stressed out a lot and I keep talking to God and asking for help, and that’s not bad, but I worry that I’m forgetting what He did for me and the fact that it’s not all about me, that it’s 100% about Him.

I’m unsure about a lot of stuff too. Some big stuff, some stuff that a lot of people disagree with me on. I’m once again finding myself in a situation where I’m pretty certain I’m going to get terribly hurt, a situation that I have no control over and that I hate, but a situation that will inevitably help me to grow and that I will walk away from a stronger person, more certain of who I am.

I used to think that when I graduated from university that that would be me finished with growing up, but the closer I got to final semester, and handing in my dissertation, and moving home from Scotland, the more I realised I was no where near being grown up and that I have no idea when anyone really is grown up. I don’t think anyone ever really grows up any more, people just dress better and go to work.

I love college, I love having the opportunity to learn again, but it doesn’t feel like what I know as education. I don’t live with my friends any more, I get the train home every day and eat dinner with my parents. I love home, I love family, I love community, but I’m unsure as to where I am in life any more. So many of my friends are getting married or having kids or starting new jobs, they’re settling down and have figured things out. I still don’t know where I’ll be this time next year; it’s exciting but I miss the security I had as a university student, of knowing that I was in Stirling for four years and that it wasn’t worth worrying about anything after that.

Sometimes I blame myself for not figuring out what I wanted to do before graduating, for not falling in love with the media industry and becoming a wild film critic and writing for Empire magazine, or sticking with the dream of music journalism I had at eighteen and spending all my time seeing bands play and moving to a big city somewhere on the main land. Part of me wishes I’d moved to Glasgow or Edinburgh and found a job, any job, just so I could say I lived in a big, beautiful city in Scotland and hear bagpipes at some point most days and see Haggis in my local Tesco.

Sometimes I’m happy with security, with comfort, with home. Sometimes I want to be the total opposite of the person I am right now. But I know there’s no hope for me in that, for running away from what I know is true and real. It’s not that I’m afraid of the unknown; in fact I’m the total opposite. I travelled across the USA on my own twice, I wanted to move to Poland for a year and teach English if I didn’t get into my catering course, the unknown is my comfort zone. I’m afraid most in the places I do know because they’re reality, they’re what I face on a daily basis.

But I think I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be okay because the lost have to get found at some point. I believe that Jesus does the most work while we wait, while we wonder what’s going on, while we grow increasingly more impatient with life. In those times He is breaking us, moulding us, and shaping us. He lets us get hurt so He can show us how much He loves us when we realise that we need Him and nothing else. Making idols out of anything in life, choosing anything over Him, is always a bad decision. Once again He is going to hem me in, guide me back to Him and tell me He loves me.

I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with that because it means I’m safe, it means everything will be okay, it means truth has prevailed.

I’ve seen Him do so much good in my life before and that won’t change now, that won’t change because my situation is different. Learning to guard my heart and fix my eyes upon Him was one of the most important things I have learnt in the past year.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m content. I am insanely blessed and, when I compare my current situation with where I was a year ago, life almost seems perfect. God has answered all of my prayers, every single one, I’m blessed beyond words. I’m just figuring it all out with Jesus, where on earth my next step will be.

I’ll keep you posted.

x

PS Don’t hate me for being entirely incoherent. I think every writer probably goes through this…