Categories
judging trust

Dodgy Characters

Picture of man with square black backpack. chosen from pexels.com by Diane Woodrow
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Note this is not one of the people I am talking about but a free Pexels.com image to I don’t show real people.

On the weekend a message came up on a local neighbourhood group about “dodgy men” going door to door in various streets. Well two of those “dodgy men” came to my door. They were actually boys not men and were very honest about the fact that they were ex-offenders and were doing this for a charity to gain credits for careers advise and driving lessons. Now my main worry was that they were being made to do this against their wills as a form of human trafficking/slavery. And I did talk to the boys about this and said I could put them in touch with people who would help.

I did buy some stuff from them and had to pay by cheque as we don’t have cash any more. One of the lads gave me his name and I did google him afterwards. He came from the town he said and yes he had been in prison for fighting. But actually some of the young people I work with in Youthshedz have criminal records. It is often very much a case of “by the grace of God/good luck/being born with different parents in a different part of the country” it could have been me.

But too many people are brought up to be fearful, to panic when they see young men with large black bags door knocking. They worry for themselves and not for the young men. Of course I did not let these boys in my house or do any thing that would endanger myself or my home. But actually that is wise and fair to them as much as to me. It is like not leaving the alcoholic to take charge of the wine cellar. I would be wrong to put temptation before these men but they need my/our support as much as anything.

But also what makes us in a place to judge? We see where someone is at that moment in time but not how they were or how they could be. I have to laugh because I am now running lots of youth based activities but in my youth I was into all sorts of things and was not a “good person” as some would say. But for those I work with and for and who see me dog walking I am a good person now. And yes I am a good person now but when I was in my early 20s the same could not be said.

I think with these “dodgy men” and other people that many fear we need to give them a chance, see the good that is in them, realise they have made mistakes due to circumstance, personality, home lives, and so much more, but they can, with help, support, determination and expectation become more than you see at the moment.

For myself the turning point was giving birth to my son, wanting to change my lifestyle for my boy and then meeting with God in a very powerful way. But for other people it is different things but all seem to include meeting with something bigger than themselves.

Let us all try to give these “dodgy men” and women a chance to desire to meet with something bigger than themselves, to tell their stores and to find a place of belonging.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone – Jesus

John 8:7

Categories
learning Viewpoint

Viewed Through Your Lens?

View across the Solway Firth looking from England to Scotland, photographed by Diane Woodrow whilst on holiday in this area in September 2021, and realising for the first time how much further Hadrian's wall went
The start/finish of Hadrian’s Wall taken by myself September 2021

Every thing we look at or interpret we interpret through our own lens, viewpoint, life experiences. I take a quote here from Michael Moore’s blog that I read this morning

Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing

by Thich Nhat Hahn taken from Learning by Michael Moore

I am reading and pondering on a lovely devotional book by my friend David Pott about the painting of Jacob and his sons that hang in Bishop Auckland Castle called Listening to The Boys. My interpretation of some of the paintings and thoughts are very different to David’s. Because I know him I know he is from a large, close family, who enjoy being together and has been married to the same person for over 50 years. Yes I do also know there have been challenges within the family but there has been a lot of support too. He is also a man – obviously.

When I read his thoughts and look at the paintings I am viewing them through the eyes of a woman who isn’t from a large close family and who has had very different life experiences to David. For instance when I read about Simeon and Levi killing the family of the man who raped their sister I, as a woman, side much more with them and their violent justice than I do with Jacob, their father, who is looking for reconciliation and expecting his daughter to marry the man who raped her! In fact, as a woman who would spent time wanting a father to stand in the gap for her I have often struggled with white, male preachers’ take on Jacob in this story.

I think this is where we have to be very careful when, especially in churches, we say “this is what this piece says”. Too often someone will stand at the front of church and speak for 10 minutes to over an hour, depending on the denomination, and say “this is what the Bible says” when in fact they should be saying “this is what I believe this is saying to me at this point in time“.

As a writer and author I know that what I write gets viewed differently by whoever reads it because the reader views it through their worldview/their lens and I have to learn that it does not mean I am wrong or they are wrong. It means I have to slow down and listen, really listen, and try to remove my world view, my experiences, etc.

I also this is this why it is so awesome to read books by writers of different countries, classes, ethnicities, sexualities, etc to myself. If I really listen, and don’t try to cover them with my known world I can learn so much – not just about the other writer but about myself.

Categories
Celtic saints Heroes

No More Heroes Anymore?

Stature of a saintly figure in a bishops mitre surrounded by an iron fence set in a park. Photographed by Diane Woodrow May 2016
St Patrick in a park in Dublin – taken by myself May 2016

The title is pinch from The Stranglers’ song No More Heroes song from released in 1977, which also contains the line about Leon Trotsky which helps me to remember how he died. But that’s another story.

Last week Christine Sine in Godspace suggested doing some research around known Christian figures of the last century; for example Martin Luther King. What struck me as I pondered this was how different the tales are about modern day Christian heroes compared to the Celtic saints. Our known figures come with feet of clay and one is not afraid to mention their faults, whereas the Celtic saints were very much on the line of mythological figures who conquered all evils, including things that would lead mere mortals astray.

But I wonder have we gone to far with pointing out our leaders flaws. Yes it is good to have accountability but how often do we mention our leaders good points, the trials they struggle through, the enormous decisions they have to made every day, as well as being reminded that they are human.

The writers of the Celtic saints did not want their readers to know that these men and women were actually fallible human beings, but now our media only want to point out the fallibility of our leaders without reminding us of their good points too.

I do not think either swing of the pendulum is beneficial to the reader. With Celtic saints the reader or listener to the tales knew they could never aspire to be so amazingly godly so why try. And with our current leaders why would anyone want to be in their position when each flaw and mistake is headline news?

Perhaps we need to pendulum of judgement to swing slightly back the other way, so that yes we do see the flaws and mistakes our leaders make but we also see the struggles they do with trying to lead our world, our nation, our institutions.

For 45 years [which is suddenly a very long time since I was a quiet punk] I’ve been humming No More Heroes and through that time we have so few heroes remaining without being blown out the water. I wonder if this is what encourages to feel anxious, unable to commit, worried at who leaders us? Are they really as bad as the media has us believe? And were those Celtic saints as amazing as their publicists would have them believed to be?

Categories
new road trust

Another New Road

A winding path through woods  taken by Diane Woodrow
A walk in the woods, April 2020, taken by myself

The wonder of being brought, by God, around a corner and to realize a new road is opening up, perhaps—which He alone knows. And that there is no way of traveling it but in Christ and with Him. This is joy and peace—whatever happens. The result does not matter. I have something to do for Him and, if I do that, everything else will follow. —

A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk’s True Life, January 23 and 24, 1958

I go through phases of taking photos of the same thing. Paths have been an ongoing theme. I love the nature of paths. The way they lead you onward and how much one puts ones trust in a path. I think this is why this quote jumped out at me. And the whole thing of being at the start of another year, and my husband had said about someone he follows on Facebook had said about a bend in the road.

But it is Merton’s joy that comes through here about the wonder of a new road. With all the changes that have been going on since the start of the pandemic, which for us in the UK was March 2020, we are tired on new roads. We are tired of walking roads we have no map for. We really do not want to go round another corner and see something new opening up.

Yet Merton talks of wonder and trust, of joy, and of not worrying about the results. And whatever our religious beliefs most of us do fight worry, which the media encourages.

I wonder how different life would feel if instead of being fearful about the new road, instead of hoping the new road will be similar to something we knew, we could step out in joy and wonder, in trust of each other and something bigger than ourselves, not fearing what is to come, letting go of needing to control the situation.

I’m not talking of not doing anything about the injustices of the world, or ignoring climate change, or pretending everything in the garden is rosy. I’m talking about having eyes that are open about what is going on and of wanting to do something to change, but in a joyful, wonder-filled, trusting way

I think we would feel more peaceful, many of our nations mental health worries would ease, and I do wonder if actually we would then have more energy and confidence to really change things instead of living in fear?

Categories
Blown by the Spirit freelancing

Blown By The Spirit

a canal towpath, barges on the canal, trees picking up the early morning sunshine. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Bradford on Avon canal at sunrise August 2021 taken by myself

There was a phrase that I heard many times when I first committed to walking out the Christian faith which was about being “blown by the Holy Spirit”. The way it was taught was that God would send the Holy Spirit which would take us wherever God wanted. In my thinking that meant to other countries, off on mission, etc, etc. But now, as I progress in this journey, I wonder if it is much more an internal things – that I need to let God’s Holy Spirit guide me in my thinking, my ways of doing things, and just the general day to day.

Each moment of my day I should be “blown by the Spirit” [and I wish I could find the actual bible verses that this is from] not just in the big things of life. In fact I do now wonder if too often many of us have missed out on the ordinary because we have been waiting for the extraordinary.

This came to me the other morning as I was pondering about things for this new year. I wanted to be true to my Freelance calling. So, as I do each morning, after doing yoga with the cat [who is often more enthusiastic than I am about it], I sat calmly on my mat and held my work projects in my open hands, along with the rest of the year. I gave up these projects, and all future ones, to God/to the Universe to do with as they willed, and without thinking asked God to blow them as the Spirit willed.

Oh my word! It was the most releasing of experiences. Suddenly I was freed from any burden of them. Suddenly I was free of having to “get them right” and was able to just let them go, to sit lightly with them.

There have been one or two issues with them since that day and at times I have forgotten that I’ve given them to be “blown by the Spirit”. But each time I remember that these projects aren’t mine to hold tightly but are gifts to use my talents in executing I am able to let them be “blown by the Spirit”.

There is such a freedom in that and I am seeing as well as a peace coming from that, also doors opening.

Categories
2022 Don't look up Power of meaning

Don’t Look Up

View of clouds and a wing tip taken on 2nd January over the skies of Europe. Taken by Ben Cromie Diane Woodrow's son
view from airplane on my son’s 1st trip abroad with the army. Taken by Ben Cromie January 2019

Last night I watched “Don’t Look Up“, the Netflix movie that is a satire of politics, social media and so much more. Also as I’d quoted from the film on my Epiphany blog I thought I should watch it. And I was not disappointed. It is a film of over 2 hours long and generally my concentration can wane after an hour and a half. Also I was watching it later than I would normally watch a film. But I was gripped throughout. There was much laughter but also a lot that made one think and needed to be chewed over. This could be a film I watch twice.

It is a reflection on our society and of how so much becomes “political”, causing people to think about it along their own political lines, even down to whether the comet exists or not. The news is full of sounds bites and is all about “keeping it cheerful” with the news of a pop singer being proposed to online bigger news that the announcement of impending doom. I wonder too with covid how much of what goes on is politicized rather than for the best of mankind, and also, like with the comet, how much could have been averted if any of the world governments had acted sooner or if money, or rather profiting from the event, was not an issue.

I am also reading “The Power of Meaning” by Emily Esfahani Smith which looks at the four pillars that give us all meaning; belonging, purpose, storytelling and a transcendent experience. Without being a spoiler alert the film finishes with the key characters gathered together as a group of people who belong together and with a purpose where they tell their stories and one of them prayers the amazing prayer

Dearest Father and Almighty Creator,

We ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride

Your forgiveness, despite our doubt

Most of all Lord, we ask for you love to sooth us through these dark times

May we face whatever is to come in your divine will.

with courage and open hearts of acceptance

Amen

All the pictures at the end of the movie show those most at peace with what is coming involved in something either of belonging or spirituality.

So as my inbox still keeps being filled with suggestions of how I can mark the commencement of 2022 I think I will continue to settle into my place of belonging, finding ways use my talents for a purpose outside of myself, tell my story and encourage others to tell theirs, and find space for God and experiencing the “divine will with courage and an open heart of acceptance” whatever comes my way.

Don’t Look Back” has had a part in encouraging me along this journey.

Categories
epiphany

Ephiphany

First published 6th January on https://godspacelight.com/2022/01/06/epiphany/



Free download from https://pixabay.com/photos/star-moon-wise-men-three-kings-6880592/

What do you think of when you think of “The Three Wise Men”? Are they those guys who get slide into the nativity scene in church just before things get cleared away at the end of the Christmas season? Do you see them as three or more or what? Why did only the gospel of Matthew mention them? Why didn’t Luke with is boasts that he then makes in The Book of Acts about writing a true historic account in the both his gospel and part two?

I seem to be drawn to the Wise men/the three kings as I’ve written other posts about them, even one on this site last year. So I thought I’d check them out a bit more. Now I’d been told at some sermon somewhere that they were possibly Zoroastrians and I found some interesting stuff on this website, http://www.religioustolerance.org/zoroastr.htm, which might explain why Matthew, who was allegedly writing to help the Jewish people understand Jesus, includes them. The site says

With the exception of religious conservatives, most religious historians believe the the Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs concerning God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, the virgin birth of the savior, the slaughter of the innocents, resurrection, the final judgment, etc. were all derived from Zoroastrianism.

These men did not just use astrology to show that the birth of the Son of God had been predicted in the heavens but also were able to connect in the virgin birth and also resurrection, not to mention the way Herod chose to slaughter the innocents.

Matthew’s gospel starts with the genealogy of Jesus, which includes the women in his line, Joseph’s acceptance of who Jesus was, the visit by the Magi, the escape to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents. When looked at in the light of the above quote about the Zoroastrians it looks very much as if Matthew is speaking to those who would have known this. I feel that he is saying to show how big this whole birth of Jesus is and how inclusive. It includes women; it includes accepting the miraculous; it includes deep grief too.

How often do we want to include grief in the wonder of Jesus being born? But it is a fact of life. I won’t expand on that because there have been some good posts in https://godspacelight.com/ that you can search for. But I think it is one of the amazing things that Matthew makes us aware of, if we look properly, that the miraculous and grief sit hand in hand. This is part of the inclusivity of things. It isn’t just to include men and women, people of various colours, nations, sexualities, and more but it is to include all the range of emotions from joy to grief. If we look properly we can see this as yet another miracle. God doesn’t get rid of certain emotions and life events but knows and understands and walks with us in them.

So as we enter 2022, for many after the last two years with trepidation and uncertainty, with anxiety and fear, let us remember that Jesus was born into this, that God understands this, that we are not walking in alone.

And I’ll end with a prayer one of the characters says towards the end of the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” which I saw on Jon Kuhrt’s blog the other day, which I think is worth holding on to as we enter this unknown year which will be filled with miracles and grief and all points in between.

Dearest Father and Almighty Creator,

We ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride

Your forgiveness, despite our doubt

Most of all Lord, we ask for you love to sooth us through these dark times

May we face whatever is to come in your divine will.

with courage and open hearts of acceptance

Amen

Categories
2022 new year

Tis The Season Of The Resolution

It is that time of year again, when everyone feels obliged to make “New year resolutions” as if what they had been doing for the past 12 months wasn’t good enough. There is the talk of going on a diet – and the various diet aids are being pushed like made on adverts on various medias. [yet no one says that the winter is the worst time to start a diet because your body naturally wants to hold on to its body fat to keep warm. Start your diet at Easter when your metabolism is more in tune to it] to exercise more [again a similar one to the dieting. It is dark and dreary still at this time of year. To run before work means getting up in the dark. Again wait till the days start to get longer and then enjoy the whole thing], to write more, to be more ….. [add your own] And most of these resolutions are broken before the end of January. Most of this is to do with doing things that you think you ought to rather than the things you want to.

It is why I’ve put the pictures of the animals at the top of this post and Hobbe’s thoughts at the end. All three animals are all doing what they are best at – being themselves, and not caring who is looking. Why do we not all resolve to be more ourselves? More genuine to who we really are? Or even – radical thought – spend time trying to find out who we really are.

So much of how we behave, even down to this desire to do resolutions, around wanting to be what other people think we should do. So we work harder to be appreciated more; lose weight so others will look at us more kindly; get another book published to justify the time we spend writing [ok that’s a personal one!!!]

Instead of making plans and resolutions this year I have put some things I’d like to so in my diary, some projects I do have to get finished, and some ideas I’d like to pursue. But really what I am going to try my best to do for 2022 is “wing it and see what happens“. And after the last couple of years we’ve had as a nation I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea for many more to feel that way?