A difficult journey

A year ago I walked away from a relationship that would have at some point cost me my life. It was the realisation that I was alive but not living, merely existing, that drove me to walk.

Desmond Tutu forgiving
I left a business, a spouse , a home, many acquaintances, a few good friends. It all seemed so wonderful to people looking in from the outside. Simply put very few of my needs were being met. The satisfaction of my needs had been gradually eroded over a five year period. While everything may have looked hunkydory from the outside, I was living in misery.

The one constant that I had was my faith. Ironic that the person who incubated my faith was the one I was walking away from. In fact I comfort myself with the fact that I didnt really walk away with nothing, I took Jesus with me.

No matter what happens to me in my life, the one constant that remains is Jesus, And she led me to him. It was the conscience that Jesus gave me and the understanding that the way I was being was not the Christian way, that led to my departure.

But I digress.

This weekend I am travelling back to that place that I left. I'm travelling back to say a proper goodbye. To close the door. Forever.

The hardest part of this is that I will be going to visit my dying mother. In all likelihood it will be the last time that I see her. But like most relationships that have run the gauntlet of time, this one was less than ideal. It will be painful nevertheless.

I am going to forgive and just perhaps I will receive forgiveness too. I However go from a position of strength, as I have addressed all my demons regarding this episode in my life spiritually. I have sought out the forgiveness of Christ and received it.

What others think, no longer matters anymore. For so long in my life, I based my decisions on what others thought, or what I thought they thought. Now I base my decisions on what Jesus thinks and whats important in my life right now. My faith has liberated my soul.

Sometimes we simply need to close the lid on an issue permanently. The ashes in the urn. A burial at sea. And so Im going to actively close the door on family relationships that have done nothing but hurt me. Sometimes we do do good things for no return, but rarely do we do good things when we know the return will be negative. Im going to Cape Town to neutralise the return. For Ever.

And Jesus is riding in the jump seat.


So which rules apply?

As a gay christian, I struggle a lot within my faith. I hear arguments from both sides that attempt to make it simple. I have just read a blog post penned (or typed) by a prominent outspoken and respected Christian theologian. He is also the priest that baptised me and brought me in to the family of Christ. So I must respond.

Baptism of homosexualsThe arguments for accepting homosexual relationships within a biblical context from the
extrapolations of the same context, to the language used in scriptural quotes can be equally complex as the arguments against accepting homosexuality which embarrassingly quotes both old and new testament scripture, but seems to ignore the verses on both sides of the biblical fence (The old and new testament) which highlight the hypocrisy where the church accepts divorce and female leadership.

I have to make a point, that I cant help but feel no one else seems to have noticed. The rules changed when Jesus died.

If they didn't change, why do we worship on Sunday? There is NOTHING that I have found scripturally that explains why the Sabbath is now a Sunday and not a Saturday. If we go according to the rules set out in the five books of Moses, then we should be attending church and worshipping on a Saturday. So can someone please explain to me why we are worshipping on a Sunday, if man is not allowed to interpret and contextually apply God's laws?

Then there are the obvious observations. Most Christians I know eat bacon, shellfish and are quite happy to pour a cheese sauce over their steak. In fact the consequences for having intercourse with an unclean woman are greater than those for eating pork, which are nevertheless dire indeed. So we find ourselves in a church that doesn't take umbrage to the fact that we consume all these forbidden foods, nor does it refuse marriage to those engaging in premarital sex and it certainly doesn't prevent remarriage of those who have divorced, so what is the whole gay issue?

Jesus came to fulfil the covenant, and so he did, so we didn't have to. He created a new covenant. That we love one another as he loves us. This doesn't mean that we have no rules to live by. Even Rabbi Hillel said love one another, do unto others as you would have them do to you - the rest is commentary.

As I understand it that while Jesus was alive he was fulfilling the Hebrew scripture, his arrival and eventual departure was the fulfilment of this scripture, it's completion. Closure. At the moment of his death, a new era began. An era that allowed us all to share in his grace. No more of the over reaching 613 commandments that restrict every part of every day of the lives of the faithful.

When the curtain tore in the temple, the old covenant ended and the new covenant began. The new covenant that means I can eat bacon, shellfish and worship on a Sunday. The new covenant that ensures that as long as I am hurting no one, I can love anyone and in fact should love everyone. The covenant that places upon me a responsibility to evangelise truth. Not cloud it with ifs and buts from the past.

When I was baptised, I lay my past down at the cross, including the near impossible 613 commandments that I failed regularly at keeping. My baptism didn't wash away my hair colour, my skin colour or my education, intellectual or spiritual gifts and it didn't wash away my sexuality, because that is how G-d made me. What it did do is wash away my sin - the man made part of me.

What belongs to G-d, he has kept in me and what belonged to man he washed away. Every time I confess and take communion, he does that for me again. And again and again.

Because Jesus died, the rules changed.

Yes I know Paul refers to homosexuality (again the context is highly debatable and suitable for a whole new post) and the place of women in the new testament. Don't forget that Paul was human. The letters he wrote may well have been divinely inspired, but they were written by a human. Much of Paul's writing is very obviously influenced by the teaching of his former mentor Rabbi Gamliel, who as we all know was operating on the premise that the old covenant was still in operation. We also need to recognise who he was actually addressing in the letters and the context of their lives and lifestyles.

I once read an excellent interpretation on punctuation and it broke down how differently we understand things that are said based on where the punctuation falls in a phrase, sentence or paragraph. I really see how this applies, since most of us have only the direct translation in our bibles to rely on. What happens when we start moving the commas, full stops and semi colons? And in the same way, when we start to view the lives and contexts in which Paul was reaching out to the addressees of his letters.

All of a sudden the perspective changes. To mature in Christ and his message, we are also expected to explore the evidence and not simply take everything at face value as do children, but to explore and develop an understanding of deeper context, within the scriptures that are available to us.

I look at the Gospel as the core of my faith. I read it in its context. It is largely the foundation of my faith that was prepared and constructed BEFORE Christ died. The Gospel illustrates the fulfilment of G-ds purpose and the creation of a new covenant. The covenant to love one another in the context that we do unto others as we would have them do to us. Our colour, financial or social status, and certainly who we love has become irrelevant.

So before you start, telling me that I am an abomination before G-d perhaps you should start going to church on Saturday(no driving -walking only), ensure that you have all the sacrifices sorted, no pork, no shellfish, no cheese sauces. make sure your menstruant women are separated from your men and be sure to have the threads of your clothes checked because wool and flax are a no-no. In fact there are 613 tick boxes to complete and then come and tell me that the covenant that I am part of excludes the people I can love.

You cant pick and choose the rules as you go along. Either you're with the old rules or the new - I have chosen Christs rule - love one another as I have loved you.


Vocation in the church - even for the unworthy


Foundations in faith

Those close to me will know that on the 16th February 2015, I got onto a plane in Cape Town with a
Suitcase, my daughter and £300. I didnt know it at the time, but there was no turning back.

Having spent the last two years in South Africa, the country of my birth, I had decided to return to the UK, my home and country of origin. I was walking - no running away from a relationship that had collapsed around me and that I could do no more to rescue. It was like escaping a burning building, that I myself had unintentionally set on fire.

As a Christian, I had gone to church most days in South Africa and took communion on average three days a week. I prayed everyday, in private several times a day. My office was in a rented building that was an Annexe to St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town.I had access to clergy that others watched from afar, and yet I still couldnt find the peace and comfort that I desperately wanted.

I frequently ate Friday morning breakfast with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Enjoyed the company of his daughter Mpho, had conversations about the world over tea with the Dean of the Cathedral Fr. Michael Weeder and had the pleasure of passing conversation with the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. NONE of these gracious people knew the pain I was suffering. I had to leave my favourite quiet sunny spot in the Cathedral cloisters where I used to retreat with my sandwich and juice and to meditate after my lunch, to truly find myself overseas in the cold miserable winter of Scotland.

My ex partner used to call me a religious tourist. At the time it was meant to hurt. But I have taken the term and turned it into something positive. Because my faith has been and continues to be a journey and it has taken me from Synagogues to Churches to Cathedrals and back, when I returned to Glasgow I could not go into St Mary's, my mother church. It was simply too painful. The first time I went in, I looked at the pew where Jaye and I had sat together, in the same place, Sunday after Sunday. I grieved for us for our shared faith. After all she had influenced my path to Christ. I went on the Alpha course. It drove me to ask the questions that led to my baptism.

And yet the same issues that drove me from Judaism can still threaten my life in the Church. Ive always wanted to do more. To be more. I am self employed - by necessity rather than choice, but again I believe this is divine providence as these circumstances have given me access to the church that others cant have.

Those that have read my previous posts know that I have plodded along waiting for G-d's will to manifest and to direct me. I met a female priest that simply turned my view on the church inside out and then turned it inside in again. She is a true ambassador for Christ despite her own suffering, and also a warning that Satan tries very hard to detract from those who are truly invested in their faith.

The breakdown of my relationship, the impending death of my mother, the struggle my family has been having financially are all tools that Satan has utilised to detract from my relationship with Christ and then when in my darkest hour and while looking in the most unlikely of places, Jesus sent me a rescuer. A priest. A woman whose own journey has been difficult and filled with stumbling blocks and yet she has not left her saviour. She has felt alone and abandoned and at times bereft of her life past, but has gracefully simply hacked her way through the jungle she found herself in and called out to Christ and he has answered.

She was sent to cross paths with me so that G-d could remind me that this journey is a not a simple road trip, not a fun day out, That our choice to serve Christ is a lifelong commitment that we take and even when the going gets tough we have to keep going. Some on the same journey will trip us up, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without realising their own folly. But when Jesus wants us for his own, the rules of men matter not. When we trip up on that journey and we dare to stand up and start following that path again, G-d reappears in all sorts of forms to make it a reality, to open doors and create new avenues.

My biggest problem in finding my rightful place in the church has been spurred on by guilt. I have always felt so unworthy. My whole life has been a series of incidents which of course I now realise have been designed to teach me and drive my spiritual journey. I reached a point last year when i decided that I was simply just too tired. I didnt want the drama any more. And so I simply decided it would stop. And for the most part - it did. When this actually materialised, I realised I could decide anything and it would happen, it was simply up to me to make it happen.

And so this very quiet fantasy I have had since I first witnessed the Thurifer swing that thurible with such gusto in church just under seven years ago has come full circle. I have always wanted to do it. I admitted this to my vicar after a confession this week. And he smiled and said "Why not?" I mentioned this to Michelle and she said I should train as a server. She knows how I LOVE ritual and the Liturgy. She knows how I love Jesus. And so I have taken my first step in finding my vocation within my church. I would never be able to become a Deacon as Ive been divorced twice (Some sins we pay for throughout this life) But Jesus has plans for me and by becoming a server I can satisfy my need for ritual service and also find a mission amongst the poor and elderly to satisfy my need to be part of Evangelical service.

And all this has happened because of the love and encouragement of a priest, whom herself has been judged and obstructed.

I pray that this priest will be rewarded for her selfless and compassionate contribution to souls such as mine. No strings attached, no judgements, just simple straightforward care, compassion and direction, that means that today I can walk into St Mary's and its is no longer the past that haunts me, but the present that inspires me and gives me a place to get respite for my soul.

Finally my path opens before me as an ambassador for Christ because a priest who has understood my struggle, my pain and my suffering has switched on the light!

If you want to read her blog (mostly directed at Childrens ministry) have a look at Foundations in faith. And remember those who are the best to guide us through the most difficult journeys in life are those that have already travelled those paths.


He comes back for you

It has been a very long time since I posted on this blog. A very very very long time. I first started
jesus comes back for you
writing on this particular blog, when I converted to Christianity and was baptised at St Mary's Cathedral in  Glasgow. A Scottish Episcopal Church and a member of the Anglican communion.

I have always had faith, believed in G-d and yet have always struggled with how to contextualise him in my life. Of course to contextualise G-d and how your faith applies to your everyday life, then you have to actually decide how you perceive G-d. Far too many people seem to brush over this very imporant detail.

All this upheaval in my faith happened when aged 40, I came out as a lesbian. So many friends argued that being a Christian and being gay is not compatible. Well I'll have you know that based on that reasoning being a Christian and smoking is not compatible, as are multiple modern "normal" Practices of our daily lives. (divorce and remarriage, premarital and extramarital sex - both heterosexual and homosexual just to name a few....)

I realised that G-d has given me salvation I need and like my concept of G-d I have to contextualise how the bibles speaks to my faith.

Around the time, I came out there was a female priest in Stewkley, England (Church of England) that was having a difficult time. Her problem of course was not being a Christian and being lesbian, but rather that she had a publicly visible role and in order to spare the Church embarrassment she faced a Sophies choice scenario- lie or leave. The devil you do, the devil you dont......

How well you will fare as a lesbian or gay person in a Church environment is quite reliably measued by the way that the church hierarchy treats its own clergy. I identify strongly with this woman's situation for a number of reasons.

First of all she had been married and has three children, just like me. While I had an interest in women when I was younger, I married and struggled with sexual relationships until I came out and started being honest with everyone around me. She came to realise her sexuality as a result of an ongoing battle with depression and relationships that touched her during that battle.

Perhaps what annoyed me the most is the salacious and viscious way in which the newspapers decided to villify her for her very difficult journey - just because she was a vicar. This of course makes it very difficult for the church hierarchy to do the right thing and support their priests particularly when emotional health is at play, simply because the Church is pressurised into being seen to do the right thing, than rather actually doing the right thing. If anything the Church should have turned its power against the papers rather than the vicar, which so obviously was the case.

Problem I have with this, is that Jesus was a radical, a mover and shaker of his time. he touched the untouchables and challenged the society in which he preached. I dont see the Church of England doing this. Its all PR and pomposity. Michelle Morton wasn't given the space to deal with the emotional fallout and to be honest the press have a lot to answer for the pain it must have caused her children and husband too.

I actually crossed paths with Michelle (now Michelle Bailey) many years later and she has remained faithful to her G-d and to Jesus. She continues to serve within the church as a children's worker in which she exceptionally skilled and I hope that one day soon an even handed and fair bishop will give her a licence once again.


I take communion regularly from an openly gay priest in Glasgow. In fact the vice provost at the Cathedral is in a civil partnership.

I will make two points about the bible and homosexuality. Firstly all the alleged references to gay sex happen to be nuanced in all sorts of other scenarios, which change the context entirely and in fact often do not refer to gay sex when read properly and secondly theres a fabulous scriptural quote about logs and splinters in eyes. So if youre divorced (and especially remarried) Jesus specifically forbids that but says nothing of homosexuality! Furthermore when quoting from Old Testamant Scripture dont get me worked up about the fact that most Christians I know eat pork and shellfish, so when you say those laws dont apply anymore then it would be prudent not to pick and choose which apply and which dont, but simply to apply New Testament doctrine using the Old Testament as a guideline and context where biblical foundation is found in the new Testament.

I will write another blog entirely on whether the bible is straight from G-d or not and how I can claim to be a Christian by believing anything other than it is!

And by the way the Epistles of St Paul were written by a man, to other men. They may have been inspired by G-d and his faith , but lets get real, they could only have been perfect if written by Jesus himself, which they were not! Paul had his own agenda and only by understanding where he came from will you understand the reasoning behind his communications and prolific letter writing.

And it doesnt matter what the church or its congregation do to you - If youre faithful Jesus comes back to get you.









Life and other plans


Counselling


I just love the line from John Lennon's song - Beautiful boy, "Life is what happens to you when your'e making other plans"

All my life, I have been juggling multiple pans on the fire. I have struggled to come to terms with the idea that removing pans from the fire progressively will make my life easier and improve my ability to focus.

There are so many exciting things to see and do, in our relatively short life span and indeed life gets in the way.
My youngest child is now nineteen years old and suddenly I dont have to deal with schools and other agencies on the scale that I did before.

My son qualifies in December and my older daughter in March. They have grown up and life is suddenly leaving these huge voids.

Most people who know me personally, are aware that my spouse and I have separated. I could write a daily blog about this, but I decided to maintain both our privacy and seek counselling instead. Twice a week one to one and a group session as well and five months down the road, I'm coping. Note coping - not recovered.

The five months have also brought another change. My life has been nothing short of chaotic the last five years, and the last five months have been relatively conflict free. Not stress free, but conflict free. Every single problem or issue I've had to deal with has been dealt with in a calm way. I haven't felt attacked or vulnerable, and some issues have been rather daunting.

I had an interaction with my spouse on Tuesday and it rapidly escalated into an aggressive situation. I was told I made her get rude and angry. It was my fault she was being angry and nasty. One thing I have learned in the last five months, is that we choose to behave the way we do. In every situation. Its very convenient to blame everything on auto response but...... its about awareness.

When we create an awareness of how we behave and develop very simple habits when interacting with others, we control our responses - mostly.

The first thing I have learned is that by learning to assess the situation, rather than respond immediately with a knee jerk response, I take control of how situations affect me. When someone is shouting at you, this could be an indication of further aggression, or they could be warning you of something. Its all in the context.

My spouse is angry with me. She was angry when we met. She is still angry. She shifts the focus of her anger as people move into and out of her life. We must have been attracted to each other, because when we met, we were both angry people. For very different reasons.

I wouldn't say, I have no anger left in me, but I do know why I have been so angry for a very long time, and by identifying it, I can focus on other things in my life.

My daughter returned from being on an extended holiday this week and she noted how much calmer I am. How content I appear to be. I have similar problems to five months ago and a perhaps also few new ones.

I have pretty much isolated myself, in order to cope with the demons that have come out during counselling, and I am now slowly returning myself to the world in a completely different way.

Nevertheless, I love my spouse. For five months, I have worked on fixing all the broken things about me, that she has dictated must be fixed before we can be a couple again. While fixing the broken me, I have realised a few things. She doesnt believe she is damaged in any way. There is nothing about her to fix and therefore she doesnt believe that has made any contribution intentional or otherwise to the state of our marriage.

This is difficult to grasp as I know I have done some very damaging things. I also know that I have to own my actions for myself. But here is the breakthrough. I dont MAKE her do the things she says and does. She does.

I am not responsible for what other people do. I am responsible for what I do. This has completely changed my approach to relationships.

I now know that I also have to take responsibility for how I respond to thinsg that other people do that I dont like. The problem that we all have with this, is that we worry about the "collateral damage". If I tell my daughters boyfriend that I dont like his behaviour, will she defend him and attack my position? Probably. But we all have to decide what our thresholds are and why, And these Thresholds change over time.

Currently there is an issue with one of my children. But this child needs my emotional support more than my advice right now. But in time the threshold will change and we'll being discussing the way forward as my childs mindset over their situation develops.

And so my life has changed. There is far less drama, I am responsible for my own situation and my own outcomes, I have to find my own way forward and I have to balance my desires and goals with the emotional fallout that comes with them.

At the moment I cannot go to Church, I still struggle to go to the place that my wife brought me to. It still hurts to remember. But I know that time heals all things and soon It'll be my place rather than Ours. And then I will start the next Chapter of my life without the emotional baggage Im working to hard to unpack right now,