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Mint. Deadly. Fierce. There aren’t even words. You, you my friend, are a survivor. This pandemic took things away from you, you didn’t know it was possible to lose. You had never put a back stop or safety net round those things because it was inconceivable the world could change so much in so many, myriad and drastic ways. And here you are. Breathing still. Being-still. You are all over this. Well, maybe some of it’s on you, but you are HERE for it. You are PRESENT. So much stopped and you’ve kept going. Eat your heart out Energiser Bunny, I’ll show you who’s still going, and going, and going!

Maybe this strong, resilient, survivor-triumphant thing isn’t really your scene but – just for a minute – lean into it.

What’s one thing you’ve learned or done in the last year or two that you couldn’t have conceived of before? Learned how to make cinnamon scrolls? How to use Zoom break out rooms? New level on Halo? Made, then broke, and broke again, the records you set for Netflix binging? Moved out? Gone back to Uni? Homeschooled, cooked, cleaned, worked fulltime and paid the utilities? Way to adult!

Mentally, or literally if you’re feeling crafty, create and give yourself an award certificate, or a medal, or a trophy, or a flower crown.

You’re really great.

Where’s your energy at today?

A: GOING FOR A WALK?

As you walk today we encourage you to pick something up (or several things) that represents what you feel like you’re holding right now. Is it sharp? Is it heavy? Rugged? Smooth? Beautiful? Ugly?

Carry this with you for a while as you walk and as you come for the end of your walk, we invite you to consider is this something you can put down? Is this something you’re able to leave behind? Do you want to throw it? Or perhaps it may be that this is something you take with you and in your home find a place where you might see it – maybe on a dresser or on a windowsill where you will see it every day.

This is something you are carrying. It’s outside of you. It’s not all of who you are. You are not defined by what you are carrying. It is apart from you, and actually rather small as you look at it now in the grand scheme of things. It’s something you can hold in your hand. You are able to pick this up and put it down as you need to.

B: NOPE. JUST NOPE.

One reason it might be hard for some of us to feel ‘hope’ and ‘possibility’ right now is that the inchoate rage and unrelenting grief we haven’t expressed might be taking up all of the room.

I suggest getting lots of strips of paper or post its and writing down whatever thoughts, feelings, resentments are pent up inside of you and spewing them onto each piece then disposing of these in the most satisfyingly melodramatic way possible for you: tear them into little pieces; cut them up with scissors; stab them onto a cactus plant; let them burn; make a TaskMaster episode by giving yourself 10 mins in a plastic lined room with a range of assorted props with points for most creative destruction.*

You have missed weddings for this, not seen family for months/years, this was going to be your OE, you don’t even LIKE sourdough…all of us hold dreams and visions of how we thought our life was going to go that have been derailed. Most of us have been socially isolated from the friends and fam who might have helped us process this, and regulate our feelings about it, along the way. We’ve just been pushing it down and away because we can’t get into it right now. Today is your lucky day!

*Observe OHS and stuff. There will never be another you.

“I don’t know how to start healing when the wound is still being inflicted” – Katie Wheeler

Read this brief article/comic series by Katie Wheeler and see what resonates in it for you.

Meditative exercise:

Take a moment to seat yourself comfortably.

Take a deep slow breath. And another. And another.

Tune in to your own body. Are you carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension? Where is this located in your body?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to what this part of your body is telling you.

Imagine for a moment, someone else you care about. Where in their body are they carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to recognising the other.

Imagine for a moment, someone you don’t even know. Are they physically safe? Are they financially secure? Have they lost someone to COVID? Are their family in another country? Where in their body are they carrying any pain, injury, discomfort, or tension?

Take three more deep, slow breaths being present to recognising the other.

While we are all having different experiences and these are impacting us in different ways, we can recognise in this moment that we are all experiencing pain. Our pain connects us together. How can you have compassion for yourself today? How can you have compassion for others?

Did you know that trauma-informed recovery suggests that we can ‘trick’ our unconscious brains? The Old Brain (the lizard) is the primal ‘fight, freeze, or flight’ response. All action and not a lot of thought. Sound familiar? Whether we are conscious of it or not, it is likely our brain is operating currently under messaging like: This is a really big problem. I can’t do anything to change it. We’re all Feeling Unhappy Chocolate Kinder Egg Dropped.

By stepping outside and taking a few shots using macro on your phone you can very quickly observe up close many small universes that are continuing merrily uninterrupted by the events that touch your own life. The bees still buzz, the ants march up the hill and down again, it’s spring as I write this and the sight, and smell, of new flowers opening are all around me.

If you are able to travel you might find that the ocean offering a wide horizon is what you need to feel possibility. The mountain top view might help you feel on top of things. Experiment with bringing your body and attention into a different space today and observe whether your mind moves to a different space too.

If you were a child and there was someone there to take care of you, what would you want them to do for you?

Today, do this for yourself.

  • Wear the softest, rattiest, oldest thing you own if it comforts you. Or a superhero cape.
  • Make delicious, nourishing comfort food that fills your heart and your belly. The home food your Grandparents taught your parents, and your parents taught you. Eat the honey you brought back from NZ or the Chicken ‘n’ Rice Chilli Sauce your family post from Malaysia. Feel connection to people far away.
  • Have a bath. Take toys.
  • Play outside.
  • Do something for no good reason like spin until you’re dizzy, roll down a grassy hill, make a daisy chain, blow bubbles, or find shapes in the clouds.

Blessed are you who expect God to be more intimately revealed in exile, for you shall behold the risen Christ.

Blessed are you who finds abundance in scarcity, for God will give you everything you need.

Blessed are you who are hungry for God’s grace, for you will find and recognise it in strange forms in which comes along.

Blessed are you who realises incarnation happens in the world as it is, for you will find relationship anywhere.

Blessed are you who thinks the future is always bigger than the past, for you will always be excited by what God’s doing next.

Samuel Wells. Heartsedge session 3. Wednesday 10 March.

I have struggled to get into Lent this year.

My current forethoughts are around these queries… in my hemisphere (southern), it is summer/autumn and there is abundance, harvesting, preserving… it doesn’t seem like a time of year that makes much sense to give things up. I think that part of ‘giving up’ for Lent was that people died because there wasn’t enough food to get through the winter. They had to food ration to make it through. I like the idea that feasting on Sundays was someone bringing out a faithfully reserved jam, or stewing their last apples. The community survived the winter because they worked together. Spring brings relief of the austerity measures. Because of this, Lent has made more sense to me when I took something up (rather than personally giving something up) because it connected me with others.

With over a 100 days of the last year spent in lockdown, I think we’ve given up on plenty: a 5km radius, a curfew, only so many visitors or none. What do the learnings of our season and context in this moment have to say to our rhythms of church?

In the Eastern Kulin seasonal calendar March is Iuk Eel Season. Hot winds cease and temperatures cool. The days and night are of equal length – rather than austerity, what if we heard a call to balance? If you’re anything like me, areas of: exercise, food, drinking, social connection, and work became unbalanced during COVID and boundaries between home and work, and work and rest, have blurred. How might they be redefined?

The Iuk (eels) are fat and ready to harvest as they make their way downstream to spawn at sea. On the way they change from the dark pigmentation of freshwater eels and become silver. What if some of those things that have felt ‘lost’, like access to our creative outputs have actually been maturing during this time? What procreative energy is in you, seeking to move, to be fulfilled in its purpose and becoming? What brightness emerges from your season of darkness? What does it look like to make space for this procreation through Lent?

The Binap (Manna Gum) is flowering, and the hot summer air dries it’s sugary white sap (manna) and this a good treat to eat – what have you looked forward to all this time? How sweet is it after the wait?

My second thought is that Jesus knew the road he was walking, and what was at the end of it. He walked it anyway. When we commit to choose to do something difficult, we know there’s going to be times that’s hard. When we follow our commitment maybe, in a small way, this is an act of solidarity with the path/choice Jesus walked and offers insight to his sacrifice. So, when you live on the 7th floor and give up stairs, if you’ve left your bus ticket up there then you’re going to be tempted to take the lift. When faced with a choice between as easy and a difficult path – what do we choose to walk?

I think all of us know of relationships that broke up during lockdown. People decided to move – regionally, interstate, “home”. People changed jobs. In the crucible of limitation people had to make choices about what was most important. Decisions about what was necessary to flourish in scarcity. These decisions weren’t made lightly or easily, sometimes they were forced by circumstances outside of our control. The choice when there were no other options to choose from. Hard choices. Choices that cost us something. National Close the Gap Day and Harmony Day fall at this time of year… we reflect on the long road so far and the hard road to walk yet, what choice can we make but to keep walking? On the flip side, lockdown gave effect to many restrictions we thought couldn’t be done in the face of climate change – is the hard road that, despite our freedom, we continue to live within our restrictions of travel, working from home and shopping within 5kms?

Easter falls in April this year, when morning mists begin and nights become longer, we move into Waring Season. Wombats emerge from their burrows becoming active. Migrating birds arrive from Tasmania and male bulen-bulen (lyrebirds) display their mounds, tail feathers, and songs to attract a mate.

We know where we have been. Where are you planning on going?

What expectations did we have of ourselves over the last year that we did not meet? Of others that they could not meet? As you emerge from the burrow and become more active, how do we show the best of what we have to offer to each other again? We need to forgive ourselves and each other for what we have done and all we have left undone. Let’s have Good Friday and grieve, acknowledge what we have lost, but let’s also have the resurrection of Easter Sunday. What does it look like to celebrate that the season of loss and grief might be over? What about making a commitment to have friends or family to your house? To share and hear the stories of what the last year has been? To share you hopes for the future. To share a hug.

The community survived the winter because they worked together. Spring brings relief of the austerity measures.

A Paschal moon rises.

Place

Today I am writing about place. Specifically about how do you capture the essence of place? Stories, memory, land and an invitation. Word count = 0. Work in progress…

This morning at BKI we had a memorial service to remember everyone in the community who has passed on (remembering our elders).

Gloria and Ross Kinsler were mentors and friends of Ched and Elaine’s for more than 30 years. As Presbyterian mission co-workers in Central America they promoted popular theological education and organized Sanctuary solidarity. Since
2014 BCM has honored their legacy in our Kinsler Institutes. Ross went home to God in December; Gloria lives with dementia at a skilled nursing facility in Pasadena, CA. We give thanks for their faithful work and witness.
Rev. Murphy Davis, co-founder of The Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA, worked for decades in prison justice and homeless advocacy. She passed in October 2020 after a 25 year battle with cancer, chronicled in her memoir Surely Goodness and Mercy (2020).

A table is covered with a purple cloth for an altar, though we’re square cubes we are in a circle – we reach out (in zoom, participants are encouraged to hold their hands up as if to make contact with those to either side of them in gallery view). On this morning we have a memorial for Ross Kinsler and Murphy Davis… we light two candles and have flowers for Gloria, for all those ‘gone to glory’ to ‘join the cloud of witnesses’. The table is set. Invite people at the table to share stories… we hear remembrances from people who know these elders well as a litany of names rolls down the chat.

Love is a harsh and dreadful thing. It requires us to give and receive.

– Mother Theresa

We are a living memory – activists, disciples, Holy Fools, followers of freedom pathways, the ways of the water keepers, the inspiration of artists and poets… they do not die, they multiply.

I share this link to the Murphy Davis campaign…”Let’s Get Well”. I think it is a beautiful thing to rally for encouragement and healing – to lift each other up. As someone who had rallied, and rallied and rallied where this has felt like a fight, I love the idea of rallying to encourage and affirm one another…

https://www.centerforracialhealing.org/

Rose Marie Berger – Bending the Arch

In answer to Seamus Heaney’s Station Island and Pablo Neruda’s The Heights of Machu Picchu, Berger unmasks the worldview of westward expansion from architect Eero Saarinen’s arch in St. Louis to the Golden Gate in a way that subtly and mystically taps the unconsciousness of the intended audience. When she writes “We never entered the West on bended knee,” the impurity of language used in this epic creates tension between discourses and creates a charge or pressure on each sentence that pushes the reader toward declaring an allegiance. Drawing on historical documents, the Latin Mass, and multivalent voices, Berger moves through the anguish of unintended consequences and leads the reader through the “ghost dance” of feeling to the powerful Pacific Ocean, which enters human consciousness like a dream. Entangled historical memory, climate crisis, and inverse expansionism compress into a spiritual reckoning to face the world to come. (January 2019). Book available here…

We bury his heart, but not his love, never his love.

Rose Berger, Bending the Arch

“Incarnational Engagement with Restorative Solidarity in and between Red, Black and Brown Communities” by Alison McCrary

Alison McCrary is a tribal citizen of the Ani-Yun-Wiya United Cherokee Nation, a social justice lawyer, Catholic activist, restorative justice practitioner and a sought-after speaker on social justice, spirituality and liberation.

“Accountability IS love. We only speak truth to those we love”

– Alison McCrary

Look at the work of ephemeral artist Ted Lyddon Hatten: http://www.tedlyddonhatten.com/#/coffee-grounds/

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There are symbols: a compass, an hourglass, entangled trees, an uncaged canary…
-is there a balm in this thickness of loss?
– can our scars point the way through
– what story will take us to firmer ground?
– whose silence will we hear finally?
“Our community lost things we didn’t know we could lose.”