Archive for January, 2017

Telling Tales

Posted: January 25, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

A couple of weeks ago I shared something of my history of depression, and we began to talk about how we as a community can hold space where we can talk about mental health, where it’s okay to admit that things aren’t okay.

I’ve been reflecting since then on why it is so important for us to tell our stories, and here is something of what I’ve been thinking.

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Stories define us     When I was studying A Level Drama, I played the Old Woman in Philip Ridley’s Brokenville. In the wake of an unknown disaster, an old woman and five teenagers tell stories to comfort a mute and frightened child. They don’t remember who they are or what has happened to them, but it gradually becomes clear that they are weaving elements of their forgotten histories into their tales, so that they begin to remember a little of who they were and discover a little of who they can be. Telling our stories helps us make sense of them, so that the act of storytelling is a powerful tool in shaping our selves and our futures, whether our audience is a friend or a stranger or God or our own heart. That is why spiritual practices such as the Examen, which encourage us to process and seek meaning in each day, can be so formational.

Stories connect us     Tenx9 is an initiative begun in Dublin, which invites people to gather to hear nine people take ten minutes to tell a real story from their lives. One review of an event said “I saw humble, raw, unadorned, talent…tell stories that made me tearful. All sorts of tearful. Sad tearful, laughing tearful, the sting behind the eyes when someone puts into words that which you have left at feeling and not even put into thought. Just people. You and I type people…people who had wrestled and twisted and rifled through corners for those words. They had risked the precious and decanted onto paper those particular thoughts and faces from the past.” I’ve not had the pleasure of going to one of these evenings, but I manage they engender a real sense of connection, if only for a brief moment. There is something disarming and beautiful about being given a glimpse into someone’s life, and it is an honour and a joy to experience the thread that a story can tie from one person to another.

Stories release us     I’m not entirely sure about the mathematical accuracy of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ but I do believe that telling our stories can break the power they have over us. It is through telling the story of my mental health that I have come to better understand some of the things I experienced, which has allowed me to transform those experiences into something I can handle without the need for full safety gear. There are other stories I am still learning to tell in the same way. There is a danger that we can rehearse our stories to the point that telling them becomes a performance we are no longer fully connected to, and we can edit and manipulate them until they become something not quite like the truth, but if we can guard against falsehood and keep pushing ourselves to describe the scenes that still feel raw, our stories can give us the words and the power to move the narrative forwards.

The more we practice the art of storytelling the better we get at it, so may we find more ways of telling our stories – creatively but honestly, to ourselves and to our communities – so that they may become a wrap that holds us and a chain that links us and a truth that frees us.

 

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In Time of Trial

Posted: January 18, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

I’m afraid I’m cheating this week. Instead of writing a new post, I want to direct you to this one by Jim Friedrich, which looks at how we might respond to the alarming reality of President Trump. I’ve found it really encouraging, and I hope you will too.

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The flow of love is constant

Posted: January 11, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Sunday night, Simon offered us the Methodist Covenant Prayer, to read and to contemplate and perhaps even to pray.

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

exalted for you, or brought low for you;

let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessèd God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

And the covenant now made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

It is a really powerful prayer of commitment and surrender, but it is only one of half of the vow.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. ~ Psalm 32:8

Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. ~ Psalm 50:15

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10

I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. ~ Isaiah 44:3

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ~ Ezekiel 36:26

I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. ~ Hosea 2:19-20

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. ~ Joel 2:28

This is the covenant that was made in heaven and ratified on earth through Christ, and this is the relationship we enter into when we say those words of promise.

Covenant is not convenient but it is constant. God keeps faith with us and that allows us to keep coming back to faith with him. His promise makes possible our prayer.

And so I commend these verses to you to dwell on this week, in the hope that they may encourage and strengthen you, as the prayer provokes and challenges you.

I also leave you with this, which has been running through my head and gave me the title for this post. (The picture is the link.) It is perhaps my favourite Revive song, so I won’t spoil it by trying to say anything about. Just enjoy.

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New Year, New You?

Posted: January 4, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

It feels like the marketing machine goes into overdrive at this time of year, trying to sell us everything from diet plans to face creams to smart phones, each bearing the promise that they will make us more beautiful/successful/popular (delete as appropriate), and all at a bargain price of course.

It can be really easy to get swallowed up by it all and give in to feelings of inadequacy, making earnest resolutions we know we will never keep because we feel it is what the world demands of us.

It can also be really tempting to kick against it all, stubbornly declaring that resolutions are for suckers and we don’t need to change anyway.

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As is so often the case, I suspect the healthiest path lies somewhere in the middle. Romans 12:2 tells us “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” because the world has got the pattern wrong. Sew its template together and there are all sort of bulges and holes that aren’t supposed to be there, extra bits of material that get in the way and gaps in the stitching that let the stuffing out.

And yet we are all works of progress, and none of us is perfect yet. Romans 12:2 goes on to call us to “be transformed by the renewing of [our minds]” because there are new patterns of being and thinking and doing that we still need to learn. God’s pattern pieces come together to create a very different sort of life, one that is both freeing and fulfilling, and so we need to keep seeking to cut our cloth to the creator’s design.

God gave us the fabric of our lives, and loves our colours and our prints, so renewal is not about scrapping everything we have and starting again, but about making the very best out of what we have.

Perhaps then we should resist the mentality that says out with the old and in with the new, as if there is nothing in our lives worth keeping, and steer clear of rejecting the new to stick with the old, as if everything in our lives is sorted. Perhaps we need to look at the cloth we have been blessed with and ask how we can keep on fashioning it into something truly beautiful.

Last January we started looking at styles of spirituality and rhythms of life, and we discussed and experimented with a number of ways of refreshing and resourcing our prayer lives. A lot of that material is on our Good Stuff page, but for now here are some of the ideas we came up with as a community, which may be helpful as you look to the new year, and a slightly-improved-if-not-entirely-new-you.

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