Tag Archive: stories


I listen to people talk about a “new normal”. I hear it as something ‘out there’ and I wonder, “Who’s making it? Who’s working on building the new normal?”

Sometimes I catch up with friends (over zoom or for a socially distanced walk) and they’ve discovered something wonderful in this season and they ask: “What can I do to keep this? How can I keep living my life with this in it once things go back to normal?”.  There is that word again. Normal. This idea that normal is something that happens outside of us and is controlled by forces outside of us. But what we’re really talking about is life, or culture, and culture is made up of ‘the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by a group of people’.  How and why is lockdown having an impact on these?

In trying to come up with a parallel for this lockdown experience, I started thinking about the idea of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage is a conscious stepping aside from life as normal in order to explore and experience a totally new environment such as: a journey to the Red Centre, walking the El Camino or doing an internship, or taking a sabbatical often for a time of discernment or at a time of transition such as a relationship or job ending.  Anyone who has had experiences of this kind will know that it is not the destination that teaches us something, but rather what we learn along the way.

We have not been able to choose to take this pilgrimage, but regardless there are similarities: We have needed to let go of the ‘way things have always been’ and consider what else they might be. The routines aren’t there, the busyness, the commuting, the activities and events that take up our time… the bustle of life has slowed because we cannot travel more than 5kms and need to be home before a curfew. There is an invitation here to consider, what is essential to us? What can we survive well without or even is a relief to stop? Unbidden, we are being asked to reconsider, “What are my values, beliefs, assumptions…”?

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you sit with a empty horizon before you and allow the land to speak to you, you will discover how full it is; or when you walk (and walk and walk) and hold silence within yourself knowing yourself to be walking where many others have walked, and will walk again, you can identify both as singular and part of the collective of all of humanity; or when you visit a new country and experience being the person who doesn’t know the language, the food, courtesies, jokes or the slang and might know for the first time that you can be the ‘other’ too… it’s not the place we go that changes, or the places we come back to – but us.  I don’t know that change is the right word for this because, really, it’s remembering, and re-membering. A coming back to the wholeness of who we feel called to be, and how we can be – and become – that which we lost sight of somehow.

Here’s what can happen on a pilgrimage: when you walk, you meet and get to know your own neighbours, you might discover a little library, a lovely garden, a cute letterbox – familiar and new as if you were trying to memorise the face of a loved one before you lose them, suddenly there are details you never saw before and they are precious; or when you are removed from friends, family and the usual social circles, you paint a spoon for Spoonville, put a teddy bear in the window, or leave groceries at the free pantry. Learning without words, without touch, without ever meeting, I can connect with someone and that can be profoundly meaningful; or when you are stuck with someone, or stuck apart, stuck in a job you need or stuck on a job you love and can’t go to right now, you recognise the fragility of life and how important it is to do what you love with the people you love best and who love you well – what will it cost you to have that? What is it worth to have that?

This seems the spot where you might easily drop T.S. Eliot’s ‘the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time’. T.S. Eliot wrote these Four Quartets during World War II and the air-raids on Great Britain. It is good to remember that these times ARE precedented. Pandemics have ravaged with worldwide impact before, as disease arrived on cruise ships so too it came with the First Fleet. People have lived through experiences wondering if the world would ever be the same again, wondering whether a safe world would exist for their children to grow up in. It is this line from Eliot that drew me today:

last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

The new normal belongs to you.
It is yours to discover. It is yours to remember.

I invite you to gently and creatively engage with any/all of these questions through journaling, a vision board, mind map, or other mindfulness practice you enjoy, as you make your way onwards.

Is there anything you have discovered a lockdown love for? Make a list… what did this teach you about yourself you didn’t know before? What needs did these meet?

Make a list of things you have felt you’ve missed or lost in lockdown. What do you value about them?

Are there things that you haven’t missed? What has putting these down, freed up capacity for?

Land, family, law, ceremony and language are five key interconnected elements of Indigenous culture – how have the interventions and new laws of the lockdown impacted how these elements in your life have looked over the past few months? Was there somewhere outside your 5kms you longed for? How were rituals different, such as birthdays, weddings or funerals? Have you been using Zoom, Google Hangouts, Discord… or silenced by in accessibility of software or skills?

Has this time brought up things from the past that have been painful or difficult? Honour that. Celebrate what you know about survival. Consider doing a compare and contrast of then and now as a way of seeing how far you’ve come and how much resiliency you have learned. If someone was absent – who is present? If someone harmed – who is healing?

Has this time brought attention to or caused areas of your life to become painful or difficult? Honour that. What is this telling you about what’s important to you? One way to enter into this conversation might be to map What Is/What Could Be. Know you are worthy of dignity and respect and a life that fulfils you and brings you joy. Are there any steps, however small, that might create movement between what is and what could be? Take them.

Did you take up new, or see changes in, the roles and relationships you have through COVID? As teacher, partner, parent, friend…  acknowledge these shifts. Have you learned something about your expectations of yourself and others?

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“We are protectors of the mountain.When I stand here it is as if I’m standing on my mauna. When I look out at all of you, it is as if you are standing on the mauna.”

 

If you don’t know what the Mauna Kea trouble is all about you can read more in the article linked here…

“Nearly ten years ago, a multibillion-dollar international collaboration led by the University of California and the California Institute of Technology planned to build the largest telescope in the Northern hemisphere on the summit of Mauna Kea, a sacred Hawaiian mountain. It is the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the ocean floor; higher than even Mount Everest. In 2015, kiaʻi, protectors of the mountain, prevented that work from starting …”[continue reading]

On Friday 2 August there was a gathering in Fed Square to stand in solidarity with the protectors at Mauna Kea. It was bigger than that. We stood also in solidarity with the protectors at Ihumātao, and the protectors across the Pacific Islands feeling the impacts of climate change.

In Maori the word whenua means both land and placenta. It is what nourishes us. To be tangata whenua  is to be indigenous, to be at home, to be naturalised. To build or develop land in ways that that does not consult with indigenous people or consider their use and value of the land  is to show yourself to be a stranger in that place. Do not think that colonisation was something that happened long ago and far away when it’s impacts are being experienced in real ways here and now… it’s happening just up the road at the Djab Wurrung Embassy.
Mauna Kea… “the firstborn child of Wākea of the sky and Papa of the earth. Mauna Kea is the piko, the center or umbilical cord, the point where all energies converge. It is a place where the akua dance in their human forms, a place to chant, pray, and remember how to be in proper relationship to creation. It is the highest temple. The mountain is an ancestor to the Kanaka Maoli people, born long ago in the ongoing song of creation. For well over a thousand years, to honor this ancestor, the Kanaka kept the summit pristine, pure, and accessible only to those who ascended with the proper conduct and ceremony.” (Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder)  and the government is approving a telescope to be built that is dug in two storeys below ground and stands 30 storeys tall.
Through language, story, dance, chants the people, the tangata whenua, sing aloha to the land. The tangata whenua are kia’i – protectors of the land. We invite you home. We invite you to be a protector of the land. We speak and sing in many languages, Aboriginal, Hawaiian, Solomon Islands, Samoan, Maori, Niuean… we speak and sing with one voice.
Please listen.
Hawaii (Mele)

Solomon Islands (great spoken word poem… “you may treat us like dirt with your lies but the very dirt that you treat us as anchors the foundations we build our lives on…

Maori/New Zealand (Haka)

Maori/New Zealand (Tiaha)

Samoa (Pese)

Fast Learners

footscray walk my neighbourhood view Melbourne CBD trainline

Some out-of-towners are in the Big Smoke for the game, a Mum with two boys visiting their city Aunty. Exclamations such as: “Wow, look at that big building!” (3 storeys) give them away. They turn their attention to the inside of the train and ask for an explanation of the priority seating sticker.

“Well, that’s to say that if anyone comes along who is blind or on crutches or in a wheelchair, you will have to give this seat up for them because they need it more. It’s also polite to offer your seat to anyone who might be older than you”

“Oh. Do you want this seat Mum?”

“No. Thank you.”

#fastlearners #stories #Footscray #preciousorprecocious

Disability Pride

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups

Footscray disability pride wall paste ups birds

I detour, then stop, for a close look at Footscrays’ Disability Pride paste up wall (🖤LOVE!🖤) a young African man comes up and offers to take a photo with me in it, I explain what I’m up to, nothing really, and ask him in turn – it’s his birthday and he’s hanging with friends in the sunshine, just thought I might want help…
#myneighourhood #myneighbours #nogangshere

There’s a wall viewing and doco at The Sun today if anyone’s keen…

footscray station footscray market

There is an altercation down by the station. Shouting and swearing. It’s hard to gauge how to respond sometimes – witness, walk away, walk towards… I understand better these days that raised voices can be a mark of our desperation to be heard. What was clear to me, as observer, is that the participants knew they each felt unsafe, but couldn’t see in the moment that the other person didn’t either. Different genders, different cultures, different capacity, different experiences… The ways we are different from each other can be obvious but the ways we are the same can be subtle.

I walk towards…
All of us want to feel safe.
#safetyfirst #deescalation #pt’chang

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A take home message of any indigenous event such as ‘Land and Place: Indigenous Perspectives in the Era of Displacement‘ these days is that non-indigenous people need to do their own homework and help to educate their mob but it can be hard for individuals or churches to know where to start.  This is a synthesis of some suggestions that arose from the NAIITS launch sessions and yarning circles and some other resources that I’ve found useful along the way that resonated with what I was hearing…

  • Do undergrad or postgrad study in indigenous theology with indigenous teachers through Whitley at the University of Divinity!
  • Visit collections and exhibitions in national galleries and museums – like a First Peoples tour of the Bunjilaka Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum, a guided walking tour of Melbourne CBD through the Koori Heritage Trust, or visit Narana.
  • Folks go on pilgrimages such as the walking the Camino de Santiago, or Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem… what if we connected with the Creator Spirit right here in this place? Visit Uluru, an intentional community like Campfire in the Heart,  or just go camping in an area of native bush near you and experience the land around you… if you’re not sure where to go (ask permission and) join the mob sitting in at the Djab Wurrung Embassy protecting 800-year old birthing trees from a motorway extension that’ll save drivers merely 3 minutes.
  • Connect with the mob at Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH). The Indigenous Hospitality House is a Settler (non-Indigenous) household on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne, Australia. The residents open their home to provide short-term accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need to come to Melbourne for hospital business. They also make space for others to rethink their Settler identity and discipleship journey in light of Australia’s colonial history – they run bible study series, host regular Learning Circles,  and have published a book called Tales from the Table on their reflections and learnings from 15 years of hosting guests.
  • Explore and practice different rhythms of ritual and liturgy such as those of the Wilderness Way Community – put phones down to leave chronos time behind, take off shoes to connect with the earth, everyone is outside so you are hearing the Bible stories orally and acting them out. There are no mikes or screens or songsheets – a lot of the songs therefore are call and response or echo format…
    Everything I need is right in front of me (x2)
    Can we be manna, manna?
    Can we be manna for each other? (x2)
    See more suggestions for meditating in your watershed here.
  • Integrate daily, monthly, annual rhythms – in what you read, watch, who you follow on Facebook or on Instagram, what you do and where you go. Commit to knowing more than you did yesterday or last year. Learn significant dates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians and find ways to acknowledge and observe them as an individual, a family, a community, a church… as a nation. You will find art and activism, celebrations and song.

Just like Aunty Rev Patricia Courtenay said: ‘Know the past, change the future’

Stops can be starts

grey car help your neighbours my footscray

I walk home from Metrowest, shopping bags swinging. Over a low fence to my left, I see 3 people working to get a car rolling off the lawn – maybe with these bouts of heavy rain its sunk down on the grass. “Another pair of hands make a difference?” I call. “Yeah? Maybe?” they answer. So I put things down and join the line up at the hood. “On 3, 1…2…3…”. It takes a few swings to get momentum on it but then the car rolls smoothly onto the driveway. We don’t even exchange names but, for a brief moment, we have shared common ground. #stopscanbestarts  #commonground 
 #walkingmyneighbourhood 

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Equal voices Conference Melbourne October 2018 banner

There are lots of things I could write about the Equal Voices conference.  The conference covered a lot of topics and held space for a diversity of expression and experience of intersection of gender, sexuality and Christianity. Particularly powerful over the weekend were vignettes shared by ordinary people at the start of main sessions… framing, contextualising and grounding everything else. Five minutes to canvas their story and be heard.   Five vulnerable and incredibly courageous minutes.

Theirs are not my story to tell.

If you have 5 minutes to spare reading on this topic, here’s what I’ll say and pay attention because this is important.

I found myself feeling righteous anger listening to some people’s stories and some people’s sessions. Sometimes family, ministers, friends, society… say incredibly insensitive and wounding things. Sometimes this is by accident but sometimes it’s on purpose.

I realised that I, the ally, was getting angry but that other attendees and participants were not and once I noticed this I found someone to ask about it. Their answer went something like this: “Oh, I used to get angry, I used to try and explain, I used to try and work on change that relationship for that person to accept me but I don’t do that now. I’m tired. There’s just a few people I worry about, like my Mum, and everyone else I just don’t care.”

 I didn’t survey the room. This community of people were already processing a lot this weekend but take a moment to scale that up… it’s not that this person doesn’t care, it’s that they care too much, so it’s a personal cost they bear everytime they have to defend their Being to someone they expected to love them. They are resigned to it.

If you have someone in your life right now who is vulnerably, courageously, sincerely and repeatedly trying to explain something to you about their gender identity or sexuality, TUNE IN. They care about your opinion, they care about their relationship with you and  they are trying to share their life with you. They are trying to share their Self with you.

Do not think that silence is compliance, that silence is agreement, that silence is you winning…

…it’s more likely that in that silence that person is making a very difficult choice about whether they can afford the capacity to be around you anymore, to explain anymore, to give you 5 minutes anymore. Maybe in that 5 minutes, you lost. You lost them.

5 minutes.

A lot can change in 5 minutes.

Someone can cut you out of their life in 5 minutes. Someone can take their life in 5 minutes.
In 5 minutes, someone can share their Self with you. Maybe you hear a story told in someone elses voice at a conference and for the first time hear your own and you know you’re not alone.

Equal voices Conference October 2018 banner

Deep, deep thanks to the Equal Voices Melbourne organisers and all you vulnerable and courageous storytellers… especially the ones whose stories we haven’t heard. Be assured, we want to meet You.

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

A rainbow doesn’t have pink I tell her
If God wanted girls to wear that colour
you’d see it in the sky.

Fingering each rack with disappointment
she rejects a blue top, a skirt in purple
even a belt in sparkles and gold.

Grandma, you don’t understand
everyone has pink
Barbie has a pink car and shoes.

Pink is weak, silly and girlie, I grumble
you need a colour that shows your strength
a royal blue or brilliant yellow.

She leads me to the teen department
a field of sequined and shiny black leather.
Witches are strong, she says and grins.

 

Martha Morseth
Dunedin #NZWOMANPOETS