Categories
end of 2022 Reflections

Reflections

First published on GodspaceLight.com on December 28th 2022

Scotland, May 2022 photographed by myself on an early morning dog walk

This is the time of year when we are encouraged by almost everything that passes through our inboxes and magazine reading to “reflect on the past year”. Even in churches we’ll be encouraged to think about that. But when the disciples ask Jesus what is the most effective prayer, he gives what has now become known as The Lord’s Prayer. One of the lines in it tells us to ask for our Daily Bread; not yearly, monthly, whatever, but daily. In other places Jesus is recorded as telling us not to worry about tomorrow, but to cast each day’s cares onto God. He also tells a story about a man who builds a barn to store his grain in which sounds like a really good idea, but then the man is dead the following day; it was a waste of time for him to reflect on his great harvest and plan too far in advance. 

There is a practise I have been into which I think is Benedictine, and it is to reflect on my day as I get into bed. As I ponder and reflect on my day I can ask for forgiveness, can forgive others, can see what I need to sort for tomorrow [though I always recheck the tomorrow things the next day to check I’ve got that correct]. It also means if I have done something that I feel I need to put right I can do it the following morning. 

There is a multi-million dollar/pound/euro industry of self-help books that talk about living in the moment, living in mindfulness. But you can’t be “mindful” if you’re reflecting on something that happened a few months ago. Surely that is contradicting their own teaching. And as Christians if Jesus is saying ask for what we need daily, then do these practices not contradicting our theology?

Also, when it comes to remembering, even during that same day we put our own filters across our experiences: negative, self-blaming, accusing, condemning, positive, etc. But the further we are removed from an event the more we blur it, the more we put our own emotional memories into it. So if we do the reflecting the same day and get the rubbish cleared out, then each morning really does start as a new day – really does start with us being able to truly live out our daily bread

The other thing we are encouraged to do this time of year is set goals. Hands up – who then feels disappointed in themselves by February, or sooner, that they haven’t stuck with their very well intentioned goals? Goals are again like the man who builds the barn; full of great intentions but we don’t know what’s round the corner. We don’t know what the world will throw at us. Loads of things I am doing as this year ends I couldn’t have envisioned, and other things I thought might happen didn’t. So no goal setting for me because like I say for one it isn’t leaning on God, isn’t living in the moment, and also leads to disappointment. 

Instead, I do have some things I would like to come to fruition in the coming months so I am doing some QEC work around them. And there are other things that I need to ponder, check my heart about, talk with God about, and see what becomes of them. 

Though I realise as I come to the end of this post that I do tell a little lie to myself and to you, my reader. I do have a goal. Quite a big goal. It is to continue clearing the junk out of my heart so that I can hear it properly which will mean more QEC, more working with God. This will lead to trusting myself in a deeper way, trusting the Universe in a deep way, and trusting the Creator of the Universe in a deeper way. 

All of which can only come about through daily forgiveness of myself and others and daily asking for those things I need to nourish me throughout each and every day. 

Categories
christmas Mary

Mary

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

I was pondering a piece by Ordinary Pilgrim this morning around Mary and icons from from Medieval European female monasteries that open up to show Mary with anything from just Jesus to the whole Trinity growing within her

Externally, she is portrayed as a simple mother; on the inside she hosts the mysteries of heaven. 

https://www.ordinarypilgrim.co.uk/blog

So I got to letting my thoughts flow through my pen and what struck me is how we have turned this simple, ordinary teenage girl into something super human; have taken something that could have happened to anyone who was willing into an hierarchical structure with, depending on denomination, either priests and vicars, or with pastors and a pastoral team.

Mary was so amazingly ordinary and yet too often people are not allowed to believe this could happen to them. Or have to take it through a leader of some sort – whether vicar or church pastor or whatever the denomination calls those who stand at the front.

The amazingness, for me, of the Incarnation is that it came to an ordinary young woman in an ordinary town. I’ve often wondered if Mary was the first person the angel came to or whether there were others who said No? It is Mary’s willingness that is amazing. But also each of us can grow something of God within us and take it out into the world. We don’t have to be gifted orators, or want to win everyone over to be a signed up follower of Christ. But each of us can willingly say “I have God living within me and I can take that wherever I go”.

I wonder if the line “your kingdom come, your will be done“, which too often we prayer much too quickly but also see as for something bigger, actually is “let that little seed of you, God, that is growing in me come to fruition today”.

So as I pondered what is being birthed in me this season I also prayed for all who profess a faith in Jesus, and even those who don’t, that they would allow what God has within them grown to be something as amazing as Mary allowed.

Jesus does say we will go on to do more amazing things than he did. Maybe, just maybe, that is allowing God’s incarnation in each of us to grow unhindered into all it is meant to be. Not held back by the culture of our churches, our church leaders, our families, our own hearts that can’t believe God would do that with us. And I also prayed for all church leaders of whatever denomination, whatever stream, that they would not get caught up in the machinations of leading their congregations and be able to let the seed of God that is within them grow into whatever it is God wants it to be.

Mary did not know what Jesus would be like when she said Yes to God’s proposal. She did not know what would come next. In fact she did not even know is she would live through the birth of this child – death in childbirth was very common up until very recently. But she said yes. Am I willing to say yes to this seed that God has inside of me whatever happens to me? Are you?

Categories
signs Slow down

Signs Part Two

Yesterday I spoke with my youth group about the Wisemen and about Signs and from that felt I had to do a follow on post from what my co-leader said. I love my youth group because there is no us and them but we all chatter away as equals, just some of us have been doing it longer than others!

Why did Herod’s chief priests not see the signs of Jesus’ birth? I think it was because they were too busy. They were trying to please Herod, fit in with the ruling powers, fit in with each other, do “the right thing”, and were following the status quo. Maybe too they didn’t want to look because it would unsettled the lifestyle that, even though they might not have been comfortable with, they were using all their energies to fit in to.

I think too often even if we don’t like something we try hard to fit in, to stay with it, because it is all we know. Too often we don’t get healed because this is all we know. There is a story where Jesus says to the blind man “what do you want?” and it is obvious. But actually it could have been that the man was used to his lifestyle and actually might have said cash. Peter and John, after Jesus’ resurrection, say to the crippled man “silver and gold we don’t have” as though maybe that was what it looked like he really wanted.

Last night got me thinking – how often are we too busy to look at the signs? Not because we don’t want to know what is happening but because we are too busy, carrying too much trauma, believing what we see and read on the news, on social media, from our friends. We allow our group, whether that is friendship group, church group, work environment, even our towns we live in and our good projects, to be where our energy goes. We do not sit back, slow down, gaze at the stars, try and put together what is the Universe saying, what is God saying.

Last night the comment was made about taking time out to pray to know what one was meant to do, but it was followed by the comment “and then we would find other projects to fill our time”. As if the whole point of clearing diaries, finding out what we were meant to be doing, was so that we could take a bit of time out before filling things up again. But really maybe we need to stop and just spend some time looking at the signs, and the going to worship the miracle God might just be doing that we are too busy, like Herod’s chief priests, to notice.

We need to not just slow down for a season but only walk out in what our hearts, the Universe, God our leading us into. Can we do it? Or will it fall to someone outside, as it did with the wisemen, to notice what is really happening? To come into alignment we need to go much slower.

Categories
signs wisemen

Signs

Taken by myself December 2021

Tonight I’m talking about The Wise men with my youth group. The points I want to look at are SIGNS and GIFTS so I thought I’d post about them.

The other morning the dog and I were out walking before the sun came up. As I looked to the East there was a full moon in a halo of clouds. All the clouds were on fire as they caught the rays of the sun that was still forty odd minutes away from coming over the horizon. This morning was a similar time but much denser cloud cover, and yet I could still see that the some of the clouds were lighter than others where they were again picking up that sun. But if I looked in a different direction then the sky was dark. There was no light at all.

I think the Biblical wise men were wise enough to be looking at the signs that the Jewish believers should have been looking at too. The Shepherds are amazed. They had not been taught about looking for signs. But these people from another land and another religion were looking at signs. They had not prophecies in their religion to tell them about a coming Saviour but they were looking to see what was going on. They were ready when it happened. They were also willing to walk, probably on camel, many hundreds of miles. [Google mapped the distance from Iran to Jerusalem and it is over 2000 miles and could take about 3 weeks – less distance than I thought but still interesting]

So these people took a couple of months out of their lives to journey to a foreign land and back again to worship a king that they had seen in the stars. Amazing.

Do we look for signs now? Or do we wait for someone to tell us? Are we like the learned men with Herod who had to get their prophecies out after the wise men had arrived? Are we willing to spend time looking for something we don’t even know is there but we have a faint inkling? There must have been something that the wise men saw that made them look at other things and come to the conclusion this was worth making a dangerous trek across the desert for.

So as I think about this I have to think am I willing to look at the signs and not just either listen to what I’m told on various forms of media, or just put my head down and not see that the light is coming?

But I also need to be looking in the right direction. As with the rising of the sun if I look a certain way then things look dark but I only need to turn my head sightly and look the other way and things are bright.

Which way will I look? Which way will you look? Which signs will I see? Which signs will you see?

It is all about choice. And Jesus does say about looking to the signs and being ready. [just go to www.biblegateway.com and search “signs”] Are we ready or are we caught in looking the wrong way?

Categories
stronger together

Stronger Together

My dog and my son&daugher-in-law’s dog thinking that if they if they stand together begging they will do better. Who can resist those 4 beautiful eyes?

Google “Stronger Together” and you get all sorts; from the Manic Street Preacher’s 2016 Wales football song to the UK Labour party’s website, to a campaign to stop modern slavery, to the NHS, to supporting people with mental health issues. Stronger Together is very much a thing, a great tagline, an important way of being. Yet why does so much in Christianity talk about giving it to God, of asking God to sort it, to almost stepping back and letting God?

Now I know there are songs and verses around casting your burdens on to Jesus, praying to God about your problems, etc. But I don’t think that means we’re meant to just hope that God sorts it all out. I think we’re meant to be in this together.

As I’ve worked my way through stuff with QEC, even though it isn’t a God centred program, it has led me closer to sorting my stuff out with God rather than expecting God to do it or doing it on my own. I’ve realised these are my things that I’ve gathered, picked up, been hurt by, taken on board, and that I am not able to do them on my own. But just handing them over still seemed to keep them circling. This could be me and maybe I didn’t hand them over to God “properly”. But what I’ve found is as I have come to see things and then shared them with my QEC counselor, done the activational exercises, put in the changes in my thought patterns, then God and I have been able to sort them together.

In other forms of counseling, of therapy, of inner healing, either I’ve taken control and done it my way or have totally handed it over and expected God to sort it. Neither were overly effective. If God and I work on this together then I know I am stronger. But I also know that God is stronger in my life if we do it together. It was like when I prayed and gave it to God God wasn’t able to walk with me, walk along side me, but was sort of left with my stuff. Yes I walked away from it but God and I didn’t sort it. And I think that to be healed of stuff we need to sort it.

I now do it when I get upset, angry, out of sorts, I ask myself what is going on, why am I feel this way. I sit then with God for a bit and we chew over things. I see the triggers, the things that I think I heard but that is from a badly remembered hurt from many years ago. And we all do that. But if I can sit with my QEC activations, with God, with time, be willing to see that I am maybe not hitting the mark – and I know I’ve said this before but really sin is just not hitting the target of all we are called to be – then I can change.

It isn’t easy. It isn’t quick. But Together We Are Stronger. Together God and I can make changes in my life that will have a knock on affect on the world – hopefully.

Categories
christmas Joseph

Joseph

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

As I have said before, Joseph is one of my favourite unsung heroes of the Christmas story. He never says a word. He questions, wants to follow the law 100% – what with Mary being pregnant and all that. As a lawful man he should have had her stoned to death. Funny things laws at times, but that is probably for another post entirely around women’s rights, etc.

The other day I was reading through the Genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17, encouraged by the Red Letter Christians advent calendar. Now this is Joseph’s genealogy because the prophets said that the Messiah would come through the line of David and that was Joseph’s line, hence why Joseph took the pregnant Mary with him to register for the census in Bethlehem, the town of David. So again I am struck by how important it is to God that Joseph is included in the story of Jesus. In the first two chapters of Matthew Joseph is actually the lead protagonist of the tale. It is his actions that keep the story moving and keep Jesus from being killed – first by potential stoning of Mary and then by Herod’s massacre of the baby boys.

The prompt was “which name stands out?” Now I was surprised that it was Jehoiachin [read more about him and his demise in 2 Kings 24:14-15 and 2 Chronicles 36:10]. He is the last king of Judah who gets taken away to captivity in Babylon. Though he does also get treated well by the son of his capture. So Joseph is from a line of kings and there is that royal connection. It makes me wonder how he felt about that. Proud? Disillusioned? Ignored it?

In the UK we have a tradition of royal households being dispossessed by other royal household. And countries like France and Russia have lost their royal households due to revolutions. Once in the UK there was a DNA investigation that found someone who allegedly had more of a claim to the British throne through an older royal household than the present royal family, who were actually invited in by the British government because they didn’t want a Catholic on the throne back in the 18th century.

So here is Joseph of this royal household that was dispossessed by an oppressive regime but who still knows his lineage .

But also back in the First book of Samuel God uses Samuel to tell the people that having a king isn’t a good idea and that they won’t be happy with it. If they just followed God they would have freedom but a king would expect things of them; tithes, to be his army and fight for him, to work in his household, etc.

Now here’s the twist for me – God says that having a king isn’t a good idea then brings in the saviour of not just the Jews but of the whole world through a lineage that God said was not a good plan. Now that is an interesting plot twist. I find this whole thing fascinating and I think it gives great hope to all of us.

We too often do what we really shouldn’t do. It is not like it is a bad thing but it isn’t God’s best for our lives. Often we can feel, and be made to feel, that we’ve missed it and so we don’t see the restoration, the redemption, the way we could be part of something so much more than just us and our little clique.

I’d like to think that once Joseph got his head round that idea that him, a descendant of the royal house of Judah, was now going to be the link between that and Jesus’s kingship over the whole world that he had this huge smile on his face. I wonder if that was why he was able to leave his reputation, his job, his town, and not just go to Bethlehem but then go on to Egypt, to be part of making sure God’s plan came to fruition. And that he was willing not to need to be in the foreground. He could take an active part in Jesus’s early upbringing but be willing take a back seat in the Christmas story.

As I stay pondering this I hope that I am willing to take a back seat and not have to hog the limelight when God allows me to be part of sometimes in the lives of those around me. To not expect that I will get my recognition, my five minutes of fame, but that I will be ready and willing to do as I am being asked by the Creator of the Universe and just let it be.

That is my hope for me through this Advent season and into the unknowing of what 2023 beings.

Categories
Idle Rest

Does Everyone Really Rest?

My Christmas tree December 2021

I said I wasn’t up for posting much at this time of year, but this quote from the Idler’s Almanac really bugged me

In England, before the Reformation, it was a time of complete revelry and not the slightest bit of work was done. Accounts from medieval literature detail how households were taken over with nonstop games, feasts, and gift giving for twelve days. Roasted peacocks would be brought out to meals having been re-feathered and their beaks painted with gold;

Idler’s Almanac 1st December 2022

I worked in a pub when the “Keep Sunday Special” campaign was in full swing back in the late 1980s and would be serving Sunday dinner with drinks to people who were part of this campaign and who could not see the irony that myself and my fellow hospitality workers were still working on a Sunday so they could have their cooked Sunday lunch. And I felt this comment of “not the slightest bit of work was done” and “nonstop … feasts” were in the same paragraph.

The wealthy may not have been working. Some of the farmers may not have been working. Although those with cows would still be milking. But also the servants were preparing the feasts, keeping the nonstop games going, making sure the washing up was done, the party goers had clothes to wear because I’m sure people did not have 12 days of party clothes. There were a lot of people still working. It was a certain people group who were not working.

So even this year when many of us stop to enjoy time either with family or time out, or to endue this period when so much stops, remember those who have to work: not just the nurses but all who are in the health care profession; the farmers who still have to care for their livestock; the teachers who use this time away from school to be planning for the next school year; those in the service stations up and down our motorways because the law says there must always been a skeleton staff on 24/7 365 days a year; the Police, Fire, Ambulance and Coast Guard services, some of whom maybe on call which means they can’t relax into the revelries; those running homeless shelters and animal care centres; the mums and wives who will still be cooking the food and clearing up and keeping the whole show on the road; those manning help lines like Samaritans, Childline, Domestic Abuse charities, Cancer support, etc.

So even like it was back in Medieval revelry time when there were still some doing work over this time, remember those who in 2022/2023 will still have to be working, caring, and keeping going.

I’m afraid we can’t all be idle.