Spirit of Life

Am I safe? Yes- until I am not.
Am I good? Yes- until I am not.
I am powerful, until I am powerless.

I am not sure I fully agree with Paul, but what he says makes some psychological sense. What does he mean? I do the very thing I hate. I agree that the law is good. I will what is right, but I cannot do it. When I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. Who will rescue me from this body of death?

What is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus [that] has set [me] free from the law of sin and death? What is that law of sin? It seems to me, wrestling with the passage in Meeting, that the law of sin is an external standard of Right- not just the 630 commandments of the Torah, but every external standard, every set of rules for conduct no matter how well-intentioned, every attempt to keep safe by telling others what to do. Every standard imposed from outside, even if I accept it and think it is a good standard and want to live by it.

The spirit of life in Christ has set me free. If I walk according to the spirit of life within me, I will do Good- for I am Love as God is Love. Any other Rule is impossible to obey. And yet we feel unsafe, and we feel threatened by the Others, so Christianity since Paul is filled with these sets of rules. A trans man I met had been subjected to “Heavy Shepherding”, where his church did not believe in his ability to make correct decisions for himself, so his pastor had to vet each one. That comes from Hell not Heaven. I am not safe, and no-one is safe from me. Or, I am safe and good, until I am not. Yet we are children of God, brothers and sisters, so we will act in love.

One ministered on decluttering- not just stuff, but relationships, ideas and memories. Why keep a memory and worry at it like poking a bruise? I said to her after, because it still has something to teach me. My mother’s lack of understanding had so wounded me from the age of nine to 44, when I accepted it. I recounted the memory. She had experience as a teacher, of parents driving their children to achievements they never realised. That’s close enough. I had accepted my mother’s lack of understanding, but today I accepted my powerlessness and inability to communicate my own feeling, which was a lack of confidence. I wanted to be confident.

I am powerful until I am not. Sometimes I am not as powerful as I would have wished. IT FEELS LIKE DEATH! IT SCARES ME! But it isn’t death, not really. I am still alive, even well-situated and happy. If only I could recognise that.

In the afternoon, in the Quaker business meeting, we considered whether we should become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation or remain Unincorporated when we register as a charity. This is fairly dry and technical. What makes it beautiful is the way we deal with it, in discussion before and in the moment of the Meeting. I am open to persuasion, and I am not going just to give in. So I talk to the former managing director of a company with factories in several countries, and feel somewhat abashed, the queer benefit claimant. He could seek to dominate, and I would defy him; instead, we respond in Loving equality.


The very top of St PaulsI dreamed that the astronomer Carl Sagan, symbolising Rational common sense, was bullying my parents in the home I grew up in, symbolising- not- and I had to restrain him from physical violence. It seemed meaningful.

After The Islands, I went to the members’ room, and sat on a couch listening to a man hold court to two admiring women. He explained the Royal Family to them- fair enough, they are American: “Princes William and Harry are top blokes, doing so much. The Queen is wonderful. Sorry if I seem a bit kissy-arsey- what’s the youngest one called? Edward? He’s completely useless. The Queen’s husband is a good bloke though he says some stupid things; Andrew takes the piss, he’s a freeloader. I don’t know if we can still chop off their heads…”

The women are nodding and smiling. I told them there were human rights problems with chopping off heads, but we could always send them to Saudi Arabia. He went on to explain the American gun lobby,  and then the financial crisis: “RBS, that’s Royal Bank of Scotland, were completely nuts, like Enron only worse. They did such stupid, arrogant things…” Then he needed to go for a piss, so they stood outside on the balcony, looking over the Thames, where he joined them shortly after.

As H said, they were complicit. They could have stopped him.

How do you photograph St Pauls? The panorama which is my header image is a bit meh, really: just one thing in a photograph, so what, even though the one thing is very complex and beautiful. I thought I would try this:

St Pauls reflected in glass

Against the stencilled wall, details emerge. I like it, anyway. The previous week, a man had taken one with his phone, through glass, and got the beautiful colours of sunset on it. “Look at that! On a phone!” I admired it. He was looking at CVs, and I asked him how he could know that the word “innovative” was accurate. He can’t, but he phones them, and then meets a few and gets an impression. They tend to burn out after six years.


Well, the last one lasted nine. He does filming, they were filming for James Bond recently, just down there.

Or you can take details.

Under the Dome

I am glad I photographed this statue, south-east of the dome, as I would not have seen the tense hands and naked, splayed toes.

South east of the dome St Pauls

Christian persecution

François-Guillaume Ménageot, the martyrdom of Saint SebastianChristians are persecuted in the UK and the US, for their beliefs. Gay people use discrimination law to drive Christians out of business.

It is a Christian belief that Christians should not condone gay sex. This is most important, because some Christians (including me) believe we should celebrate LGBT as part of human diversity and God’s wonderful creation. So Christian hoteliers refuse a gay couple a double room, and Christian bakers refuse a gay couple a wedding cake, and then are driven out of business by the force of law. The gays persecute them, with the state’s connivance, taking their money and making them pay costs. You cannot lawfully be sacked for being Christian in England, but you can be sacked for expressing your Christianity, for example by stating your disapproval of colleagues’ sex lives.

It is not for me to deny that is a Christian belief, as Christianity is so wide. I had a lovely chat with a lesbian URC minister yesterday- “Lesbian”? “Reformed”? Strange, and wonderful- on how we had both thought that to be Christian you had to believe in Substitutionary Atonement, but it really wasn’t necessary, and was inconsistent with God being Love; and how people want the Bible to be infallible, without internal contradiction and easy to understand. She was angry that seven people at their Synod Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Sebastianblocked equal marriage; but they will not, for ever, and it was only seven. Before she went to her church six years ago, they voted three to one that they would accept a gay minister.

I could say they should just bake the cake, but in the Roman Empire I could say they should just sacrifice to Caesar. “Render unto Caesar”, Jesus said. Because Caesar is not God, the sacrifice has no meaning. Yet we celebrate our martyrs’ courage rather than mocking their stubbornness. The only way to respond is to close the business, or continue paying damages. The law will allow nothing else, if you persist with your beliefs.

Jesus says, Do not resist an evildoer. Pray for those who persecute you. Jesus was addressing Jews under foreign occupation. About forty years later Jews intent on resisting started the Jewish Wars leading to the destruction of their temple in 70 and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in 135, so Jesus’ words were good advice which applies now to these Christian bakers. Resistance will only harm you.

Paul says Bless those who persecute you. Live in harmony, as far as is possible live peaceably, never avenge yourselves- for if we lived by an eye for an eye, the whole world would be blind. This is the only way to win over your persecutors.

Rejoice always

 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thessalonians chapter five. One of the earliest documents in the New Testament, universally thought to have been written by Paul (unlike the letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon which are disputed) it prefigures the power of positive thinking, and with “pray continually”, being in the moment.

More positive thinking from Paul in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Charles Wesley:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

-Charles Wesley, from “Hymns for Those that Seek and Those That Have Re­demp­tion in the Blood of Je­sus Christ”, 1747. Christians say that every baptised person has something of God in them, and Quakers believe that of Everyone. In my meeting, we sang this recently because the tune is so good, though some demurred over that last verse. Quakers are not particularly interested in afterlife- but then I interpret the hymn to mean that Charles Wesley was also writing of the new creation, here on Earth. As was St Paul in Gal 5 22-23:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Experiencing and creating Heaven, here.

Welcome to Heaven

I ain’t gonna grieve my Lord no more:

Oh you’ll never go to Heaven
but don’t you fear
just look around
cos Heaven’s here

Look at the domes in Florence cathedral. On the roof of the dome of the Baptistery, there is a Last Judgment scene as clearly demarked as in John Martin’s Last Judgment.


But in the Duomo it is less clear. There is Jesus, clearly in Judgment, and people who have, perhaps, come out of graves: and they are wandering, perhaps a little up hill, perhaps a little down hill, and Jesus allows it.

Kris K is probably not still here, listening, and that is OK because I am not reading his blog regularly either, but he challenged me, “I know where I’m going when I die, Clare, do you?” My answer is no. Separate from my doubts about the existence of a soul and an afterlife for this individual outside the memories of those whom I touch in this life, I also do not know what my continual spiritual growth may bring me to- it will be beautiful, but I cannot yet comprehend that beauty or I would be there now- and I also do not know whether I may face further trauma, too great for me to heal. And I have hope in the beauty and wonder of Life and the love of God and would like the delight of having life never to end for me: but, what will happen after I die is a less important question than, “What should I do, now?” simply because I am not dead yet.

I Corinthians 5: 1-5:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

So, yes. The church can expel people, in the circumstances of the Church in Corinth, surrounded by pagan sects, as decided by the most exceptional church-builder, the Apostle Paul.

But in less exceptional circumstances, less exceptional people should take more to heart the words of Jesus: “first take the beam out of your own eye”.

I love Kris K’s care for the Church, that I not delude potential followers of Christ, and indeed care for me, that I not be deluded and so damned. And I love his clarity of expression of his clear belief. And I disagree with him, and think Heaven bigger than he imagines. So I think my Quaker meeting is a better Church, welcoming all, allowing us to rub up against each other and disagree and be in conflict, and still seek God’s loving purposes in this moment, together.

I suppose it is possible that Kris K is right, that it is indeed as simple as he says and I am so caught up in the wiles of Satan that I am one perpetually, wilfully blind- as in John 12:40,

The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts–so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.

But that is not what it feels like. It feels like growth in spirituality, maturity, and understanding. And if God really would give a devilish enemy that much power over me, perhaps I am better off in the lake of fire than with such a horrid God.

This is my hundredth post published.