Sunday, September 18, 2016

Why here? This Moment?

A friend posted a link on her website to a youtube where a poet, Dave Harrity, encouraged his viewers to take ten minutes out of their busy lives. They were to find a bench, to sit and observe people and traffic, and then write something about them. I think it was supposed to be a busy town centre where there were lots of things to observe. I chose a bench beside the river, not in the centre of town, not much traffic, but people strolling, and dogs, and bikes and pushchairs, and a river in full flow. The trees were in heavy leaf and the paving stones were damp with almost dried-up rain. It was nice to sit still and watch the water, and the people, and to be just an observer rather than a participator. It was restful, a space to breathe, to do nothing, to think. I made notes.

Afterwards I downloaded his book “Making Manifest” which promised a programme of meditations and writing prompts on bits of scripture. Apparently I was supposed to put away any other notes I was following and allow my writing heart to be exposed to the stirring of the Spirit.  I’m supposed to be discovering myself, peeling back the onion layers, as it were. I’m not sure that I’m doing it right. All too much of my thinking life is navel-gazing already.  I’d much rather think about God – which is probably where the book is heading!

At the end of every chapter there is a writing prompt.  Exercise 3 - What events led you to this moment? Take time to think about the recent epiphanies in your life – moments of awakening and realisation.  Pick one and reflect on in in no more than ten sentences.

It’s my notebook and no one is going to read it.  I can write more than ten sentences if I want to. No doubt keeping to the task is all about discipline and developing essential writing skills but it wasn’t a recent epiphany that came to mind. What events led to this moment? This living in Inverness as opposed to somewhere in the Midlands where I have my roots? This job that I do, teaching in a secondary school? This church that I go to?  This poetry writing vibe I possess? “This moment” is too vague.

I settled on why Inverness?  What event led me here? Nothing recent.

I went back to 1986 or thereabouts.

It was a letter written by the pastor of a church that my mum had started attending. I was working in Cyprus while she was living in Rugby. I was a member of a highly conservative Plymouth Brethren church and she has just joined a happy-clappy charismatic church planting project.

It was a neat letter, a very long letter, written by someone I had never met and had every intention of distrusting.  Plymouth Brethren and happy-clappy churches had little in common. Did I not know my 1 Corinthians 13 – the gifts of the Holy Spirit coming to an end now that we had the complete written Bible truth? It would appear not – that same Spirit and His gifts were soaked into every line of the letter. The pastor spoke of a way of living as a Christian that had little to do with the way I was living mine. A walk of faith went beyond following rules and regulations.  If the Holy Spirit was like the white rabbit, and I was like Alice, I was supposed to be on an adventure.

The letter provoked a response. A yearning, a hunger, a longing for the adventure. My mum had found a way of being a Christian that brought her joy. Now, I’m not saying I was not joyful. It just seemed that joy oozed out of her. She breathed joy, she sang joy, she prayed joy – she enjoyed Jesus in a way that I didn’t.

Somehow, in those pages of the letter, the Holy Spirit, leaked into me.

I still went to the Brethren Church on a morning and on an evening, but I went elsewhere in between – a charismatic church that met in a hotel somewhere along the beach.

The Holy Spirit settled and made Himself at home in my life. He rearranged my spiritual furniture and put His pictures on my wall. He was never intrusive.  I don’t think He ever needed to ask because He already knew I’d say “Yes”.

And then one day He asked me to make a decision. It was time to choose. My Sundays had become almost unbearable. I was finding it increasingly harder to live as a Brethren – the kind of Brethren in that place and at that time which is not everyone’s experience of the Brethren Church. The charismatic “me” was becoming hard to restrain. I was leaking in the Sunday evening gospel meeting. I became a woman who would not be silent.

So I gave in. I recognised the call and began an adventure.

I wouldn’t be here in Inverness without that letter, the words of the pastor, the hunger it created in me and my capitulation.

And the adventure continues.

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