Thursday, May 31, 2012

Conversation over a haircut

photo from stock.xchng

I made one of my infrequent visits to the hairdresser. She's pleasant to chat with, and accepting of my lassez faire, low maintenance attitude to hair. My ignorance of product. We compare stories of my children and her grandchildren. I update her about work and it starts her talking about refugees and migration.

Politics and religion. And immigration. #thingswedon'ttalkabout

She tells stories of people she knows from other cultures - all friends, all sympathetic portraits.

Then asks my opinion about refugees. And Islam and fundamentalism and burqas. She took my hesitation as an invitation for her opinions. No worries, I can do listening.

And she's quite happy to share.

Deep down, it's fear. Fear that refugees are extremists in disguise, that they'll get powerful before we realise it and they'll rip us all off by defrauding Centrelink. That burqas hide disdain and contempt for us. That refugees are different, they're not us and we might not like living next door to them.

I preferred her stories of people she's really met.

But sitting in her space, I found it hard to collect a coherent response. Since than I've formed a few ideas, but it's a long time till my next haircut.

I want to tell her about most of the refugees I've met. That they've been victims of religious persecution rather than perpetrators. That they don't want to leave their home country, they have to. In order to survive. That they spend months, years, days on end, mourning and missing their homes. Grieving the wives or children or siblings who were killed. Trying to forget the wounds they've received or the horror-filled memories seared into their brains.

That most of the Arabic speakers I've met are from Christian minority groups, and that the Iranians are those who have protested the Islamic state. That the idea of refugees promoting fundamentalism, or racial hatred when they bear its scars is oddly ridiculous.

That when she talks of pride in Australia and protecting our Australia, maybe the pride and the protecting rob of us the opportunity to be a nation of strength of character and true compassion.

Just a few ideas. What can you add?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I was seven months pregnant when I realised it. The waiting wasn't just for bones to get long enough, a heart to beat reliably or lungs to blossom into countless sacs of diffusing membrane. I needed the waiting too.

The unsettled pregnancy sleep prepared me for waking to someone else's need. And the inability to be relaxed and comfortable in my skin for nine months made me appreciate returning to being me. Somehow, the waiting is how I gradually prepared myself to care for a tiny being. For the emotional reality of it.

Plenty of people are happy to remind me that change is hard. Sometimes marathon hard. Sometimes hit by a semi-trailer hard. And waiting is a way to build up for the struggle of change. A long slow drink before we walk out onto an unknown path.

I have been waiting.

And waiting is not a passive time. I wait with my family amidst the squabbles and raucous laughter, the scrapes and the home reader books. I stopped blogging for a few weeks and didn't miss it. Waiting was busy and absorbing. I am getting ready. Unsure for what.

Caught in that moment of knowing preparation is necessary, but bewildered about how to get ready.

I started to think about the group of faithful waiting in Jerusalem. They didn't really know what for. Just told to wait for the gift. They had no idea what would happen to them.

“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4-5.

They could not have anticipated seeing the flames of God, hearing the wind of his presence and the flurry of talk amongst them. How could they have understood what Jesus meant about a counsellor coming to be with them? That God himself would come amongst them in a new way. A reinvention of the tabernacle.

The pastor reminds me that this is the one festival that the early church celebrated - Pentecost.

 As I wait, I am sharing in that mysterious expectation. I am preparing myself to see God flaming in the world, to hear him blowing past my ears, to witness him bring understanding.

Waiting is the time to pray for eyes to really see and ears to truly hear.

Are you waiting for something?

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Join the Story

I read Donald Miller's book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years last year and Prodigal Magazine are linking some posts about what it means to live a good story. Here is my link...

At the moment I'm working here and part of my job is to listen to stories. Messy stories. Tragic, heartwrenching stories. Stories that make me angry. Or start me wondering how people can do what they do. Think people driven from their homes by war or invasion. Centuries of enmity that spill into personal attacks.

These stories have usually left people anxious or depressed or numb. Sometimes they are desperately grieving and thay struggle to catch their breath. Sometimes coming to another country for refuge brings rejection or extreme poverty or ongoing insecurity.

Their stories should not have happened. They are extraordinary in their barbarism. They are stories where death seems imminent and then somehow the storyteller survives. This brings its own surprises, like guilt or shame or gut-wrenching anxiety.

The temptation of hearing struggles is to try to fix them. To have an answer or a solution. Then we could all feel better. And move on.

But I can't fix these stories. I can't undo them or cure them. And 'moving on' is a lifetime's work.

We so love to do, don't we? Sometimes more than we like to be.

My part in the story is to listen. To hear, to acknowledge and to try to understand. To feel the helplessness. The loss. The indignity. And there is a redemptive power in listening. As the story is shared and known. People invite me into their difficult stories.

Listening is my attempt to live a better story.

One of the things I love most about God is that he invites me to be part of his story.

At a conference last Saturday, I heard the biblical narrative summarised as God working to restore his dwelling among us. That we originally shared an intimacy with him that is lost to us in this broken world. That the temple, Jesus and the church are glimpses of God living in the neighbourhood with us, now. And that the climax of God's story will be the new heavens and the new earth where he dwells among us in a new, restored way.

It is only through this bigger story of redemption and restoration, that I can find meaning in the difficult stories I listen to.

Perhaps you struggle to find meaning in the story sometimes?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blog fast

It's been a long time between posts and I have chosen to justify it by calling it a fast from blogging. I've been trying to study and I've had little of worth to say (online anyway). Real life has been the priority.

The one thing I have been wanting to post is this You-tube clip. Not because it is wonderful or poignant. Rather because it is brash, it is fitting for the National Year of Reading, and because I am chastened by the comment that if you interrupt me, you'll see the 'nasty me'. Too often that is true.