I’ve never quite felt that I fit in. Maybe we all feel like that. Maybe it’s part of being a human being, part of growing, part of finding our true selves. Some, however, are forced into the margins through prejudice, tribalism, poverty or misunderstanding. These are the Exiles. I want to recognise them, welcome them, celebrate them, and so I’ve written a series that hopefully does just that.

Exiles 01: Each Life

Blood and bone, muscle and gristle, heart and mind, spirit and Other. Each life dreams of heroic deeds and worthy words and original ideas. We travel through life ignoring our mortality and grieving the loss of Halcyon Days whose memories are soft-edged and perfect but, in truth, were as tarnished as the ones we live now.

Each moment moulds us and forms us, each day a thousand choices make us who we are. But we often choose to be distracted, to not notice the beautiful minutiae, the chips and scars that make us more interesting, the moments of loss and wonder that cause us to be weathered, worn and amazing.

Instead we choose mass-produced plastic nonsense, fluff and must-have conformity, cowardly cynicism, corporate logos and marketing ploys. We bend light and time in an attempt to become someone else’s version of wholeness.

And then, when we step off or, more often, fall off the train we find we are not ourselves – our unique, awe-inspiring, expressions of humanity – we have become shadows, a collection of lost opportunities, dimmer lights and images of beige compliance.

This diminished life was not meant for us – we are too precious, too loved, too cherished to become pale versions of ourselves. Each life is held in the hand of God, if only we knew it. Each life is His delight. Each life has boundless potential. Each life is glorious and each life is precious.

We belong to each other and we belong to God.

Exiles 02: If I were to Believe

If I were to believe in a god, it would be one who knew what it was like to live real life,

One that knew, first hand, suffering and poverty and injustice – all the gritty stuff,

One that knew friendship and family and community,

One that laughed and cried,

One that knew love and loss,

One that tried to make this ball of dirt a better place instead of sitting in some perfect existence idly waiting for us to tell him how good he is.

One that knew the vulnerability of being a baby, the rawness and wonder of childhood, the awkwardness of adolescence, the responsibilities of adulthood.

One that would live life to the full but still know death was coming.

But what God would do that?

Exiles 03: Untouchable


The smile, the intimate gesture, the knowing look, the hearty laughter, the shared life.

Deadened nerves cannot help the heart-ache, the loss, the disconnection, the backward nightmare tumble from those who loved and were loved. Washed up on a desert island amidst an ocean of untouchable humanity.

He shuffles, ready to run from the missiles – both verbal and stone – towards the Rabbi. Fear and faith lash and scratch at each other. Faith wins, marginally, and he dares to raise his eyes and sees compassion.

A word is enough, the Word is enough, but a hand reaches out. A touch for the untouchable, a touch from the untouchable, man to man with the Divine thrown in for free. Life to life and a welcome back into the family.

Nerves, long dormant, crackle into life and he feels the warm dry breeze on his face. He feels long forgotten fingertips and presses them together as if for the first time. He feels the tears pour down his cheeks.

And now.

Now he can go home.

Exiles 04: Thief

I live the life of casual violence, disregard for others and light fingered discounts; don’t turn your back on me. Cut purse, cut throat, cut price items down a dark alley.

You can trust me, honest mate, they fell off the back of a donkey, totally legit and selling fast, going for a steal.

What yours is mine and what’s mine was someone else’s.

I’m an opportunist, a lucky dip, bump and run chancer, shadow dancer, window glancer, with a punctured grin and mirthless smile and the slightest flick of the wrist.

Then the inevitable day, the blind alley, the locked doors, the unscaleable wall, the heavy hand on the shoulder and it’s over.

The cheeky fantasy, the twinkling promise of riches, the fables of infamy – all gone.

And as quick as a flash, I’m on a cross, dancing my final jig, hung out to dry and die with another dipper by my side and some guy who doesn’t belong, who did no wrong.

And for the first time in my life, I see the difference between right and not, there beside me in his eternal eyes, and my heart melts, and my eyes blur, and I see this for what it is – injustice.

I hear the mocking, I see the sneers and I say something like, “No not him, me yes, but not him”, and I pull my most barefaced stunt, only it’s not a stunt, it’s the one true, the one pure, desire I’ve ever had and I ask, “Can I be with you? Can I go where you go?”

And through the pain, a whispered, an unbreakable promise,

“Today you will be where I AM.”

Exiles 05: Branded

Decaf skinny latte,

bling bling paparazzi,

froth and veneer posing as essential,

a tap on the shoulder,

a feint, a distraction,

Oi! Over here! avoidance of reality.

Don’t look too hard,

let the eye slide over,

look for a brand that makes it all OK.

And on the edge of the herd,

some stray falls foul of life,

and is brought down by the insatiable jackals,

and branded as poor.

Exiles 06: Boom

The death of everything, the mantle of darkness, the end of God.

And then.

The merest of firefly light, the tiniest ember of hope.


The Son of Big Bang begins in a hole in the ground,

Identity and belonging and purpose and peace and joy and love spiral and tumble outward and onward,

Unstoppable, an apocalyptic wave of the Divine,

It doesn’t disturb even one blade of grass in the garden but it melts hearts and changes souls wherever it can find purchase,

It jumps in front of darkness and evil, like a child playing hide and seek and shrieks with laughter,

And nothing can stop it.

It weaves through lives, it heals, it mends, it soothes,

And nothing can stop it.

It changes time and law and thought,

And nothing can stop it.

It forgives, it renews, it illuminates,

And nothing can stop it.

And nothing can stop it.

And nothing can stop it.

Exiles 07: Woken to the Spring

Could there be a better place, a place more refined, more on the edge? Could there be more than this, O Holy Night, beyond the stars of grief that run so deeply?

Into the darkness we stepped but now we dine on light and love. Into sweat and tears we dived but now we emerge from that dark ocean, rivers running from our bodies and suns to lead the way.

Surely this is what we were born for, surely this is why we were constructed brick by brick, element by element. Love knows this pattern and exults, it dances and weaves.

Grimly, we were once held in the Shadowland of defeat, but now we arc the heavens and touch the fingerprints of God. We ascend beyond our understanding, we drape knowledge about our person, we dress each other in dignity and ask no more questions and see no more differences that separate us, but see the differences that enhance and progress us to being more human than we’ve ever been.

Unlock the long forgotten cupboards and air the lost fabrics for we are no longer alone, we have woken to the Spring.

Exiles 08: My Face

What is it about my face?

Is it that I am too young or too old? Is it that I bear the wounded lines and furrows that speak of pain and sorrow?

Is it that I am too pale or too dark, that my features tell of my race?

Is it that my hair is dishevelled or the wrong colour or unfashionable? Are my glasses too inexpensive or not on trend?

Is my disability too evident, too uncomfortable for you? Are my scars exposed, by blemishes uncovered?

Is my make up too garish or unexpected? Are my piercings making you wary, my tattoos making you decide to withdraw?

Are my teeth broken or missing, do they expose my impoverished past or label me now as poor?

Is it that I cannot meet your gaze? That I am unconfident or unskilled at discourse? Am I too broken for you?

Am I too female or too male or too neither or too both?

What is it about my face that makes you think I am anything other than precious?

Exiles 09: There is one who

There is one who knows the aching of your heart, the deep desires of your soul, who stands by you as you stare into the void and reaches to hold your hand and whispers in your ear, “you are loved.”

There is one who sees your frustration and shares your pain, who rages at the injustice and casual carelessness of power, who looks into your heart and says, “For now, you are my eyes, my hands, my mouth – go in peace.”

There is one who wants good for you and those around you, who cheers you on at the top of his voice without fear of embarrassment, the proudest of parents.

There is one who continues to hold you, even in the darkness and bad decisions, who will not let you go, who knows what you can be, who knows what you will be as you grow and learn and love together.

There is one who dances with you and shouts for joy until you are both hoarse, who makes something beautiful with you and in you, who splashes paint and music and words absolutely everywhere.

Exiles 10: Strip Away

Strip away the ritual, the ceremony, the music that you love, the music that you hate, the words you know and the words you don’t.

Strip away the altars, the gates, the décor, the grand architecture, the protocols, the “right” clothes, the country club mentality.

Strip away the illusion of being right, the certainty, the abhorrence of other, the projects to the poor, wealth and power, status and respectability.

Strip away the persona you project, the carefully manicured Sunday Self, the register of attendance, the piety you hide behind.

Strip away everything.

And there find God

Exiles 11: I Stand

I stand for the oppressed, the bullied, the unbelieving, the hopeless, the hungry; for the crying, sighing, wish-I-was-better, broken baggage of life.

I stand for those who can’t stand it any more and sometimes that’s me; for those who didn’t grow up in the right area, the right family, the right class.

I stand for old ladies on buses with blue rinses and yearning eyes, wanting to be young again and remembering a golden time that never existed.

I stand for the Queen, though I’m not a Royalist. I guess I just respect someone who has shaken a million hands and looked into so many shaken faces.

I stand for my friends, my little family; for art and music and books; for gentleness and respect and peace and love.

Exiles 12: It’s Not You I Doubt

It’s not you I doubt, O God, my Father, my Divine Empathy. It’s not you.

How could I ever doubt the one I met on a winter’s afternoon so long ago; though, in truth, you’d visited many times in disguise, or at least I perceived it as such.

It’s not you I doubt my Burning Star, my Hiding Place, my Holy Patience. It’s not you.

How could I doubt the one who waits for me at the top of each hill, who never leaves my side, who follows me, carrying all the things I’ve forgotten.

It’s not you I doubt, my Warm Gentle Breeze, my Stormy Sky, my Moment of Peace. It’s not you.

How could I doubt the one thing I know to be true, my very breath, my still small voice.

You, who spring from ambush shrieking with laughter as you bowl me over.

You who hide in sketch and song and scene and move me to tears.

You who look back at me through the eyes of strangers and challenge my flawed mortality, my incomplete theology, my unbaked humanity.

It’s not you I doubt.

Of all things.

Not you.

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