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.

Categories
honest open

Say It As It Is

Beach at Rhosneiger, Angelsey.

It is that time of year when I slow down on my postings. I’ve got a job freelancing in a local high school and potential for another one. That means lots of prep and lots of waiting for funding to be approved. I find it quite tense and I have to honest with myself about that. There is no point saying I still feel creative when actually my head is elsewhere. Also with Christmas coming up I get a bit panicky about it. Silly things like feeling like I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do, see who I want to see, buy the gifts I’d like, etc. So again I have to be honest with myself.

I have just read “My Brother’s Name is Jessica“, which is about a younger brother dealing with his feelings about his older brother wanting to transgender. The parents are busy with the mother’s career in politics and they want to pretend nothing is going on. The part that, for me, opens up the whole story is when Sam shouts at the journalists who are asking probing questions about Jason, the older brother, “My brother’s name is Jessica“. I was on a train and I sobbed. For me it was then that everything comes out into the open. There is no more hiding. No more pretending everything is alright. Everything is in the open. It is at that point that things change. I won’t say any more because it will spoil the story and I would say this is a “must read”. It is one of the few books I have read this year in one sitting.

Too often we try to hide things, pretend everything is alright, hid the truth. I was working some 12-13 years old kids the other day and we were looking at the Stevie Smith poem “Not Waving but Drowning” and how too often not only are we drowning but smiling, but also we often pretend that other people are just waving so we don’t have to ask how they are, don’t have to be open with them. As with the novel it was not just that the rest of the family didn’t want to understand what Jason/Jessica was going through they also had things in themselves they didn’t want to look at.

I think sometimes we do worry that if we are open about how we feel that we have to live out that. So say I say that I feel sad/angry/jealous [those are feelings I often have to deal with especially this time of year] then maybe I worry that I can’t then be happy/content, etc. But, as I’m sure I’ve said in another post, it is possible to acknowledge our feelings, the feelings of others, but it doesn’t mean we have to “live on that island”. All of us live with nuances of a bit of this and a bit of that. It is also why I don’t like to call feelings positive or negative feelings. They are just feelings. Being angry is as true a feeling as being happy. They are both full on real feelings that come from a place of me and what I carry. But if I hide those and then wave away then I am pretending even to myself that I am not really drowning.

So like Sam with his feelings of what is going on with his brother/sister let us be open and say it as it is. Let us be willing to say “I love you because you are you but I need some help getting my head round why you are doing what you are doing“. Let us being willing to say “this is hard work and I need some help because I really want to get some understanding around this“.

Let us all learn to be honest, to say it as it is, but also to know we don’t have to live isolated on that island of confusion. We are all able to change, to learn, to move onward, and to love each other and the process.

As the sea will move over those rocks in the above picture and will change the way the beach looks as it moves the sand, stones and wares away the rocks, so we can move, change and be smoothed if we allow God/The Universe to roll over us. And also to reach out to each other. We are not alone in this, but it can feel like that if we keep quiet and pretend that we are waving when in fact we are drowning.

Categories
World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day 2022

This post first appeared on Godspacelight.com https://godspacelight.com/2022/11/19/world-toilet-day-2022/

Melissa has asked if I would do my third World Toilet Day post in a row. How could I refuse!

Did You Know?

More people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet. Of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines – meaning that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation.

https://www.worldtoiletday.info/

I want to start with this quote. I do like a good statistic. But the more I look at this I see that there are 1 billion people who do not own mobile phones but 2.5 billion people who do not have proper sanitation. From my reading of this there are people who own mobile phones who do not have proper sanitation. How can one see owning a mobile phone as more important than being able to go to the toilet in peace, safety and hygienically? 

Is it lack of knowledge? Is it lack of understanding? Is it lack of awareness of the importance of good hygiene? This really has left me pondering. 

All of you who have read my previous posts on World Toilet Day will know how passionate I am about toilets. I am having a bit of a worry at the moment because I am going to stay with a friend who has just moved house and I am wondering about how many toilets she has in her house now, especially as she has told me her daughter and her family, which includes a husband and two kids, might be staying the same time as me. 

I decided to google the history of toilets and it turns out they have been around since Neolithic times with an understanding of the need for bodily waste to be somewhere away from where people are living. So why do 2.5 billion people not have access to proper sanitation? 

Another quote:

accepted patterns dissolve and uncertainty grows, we become more vulnerable to feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear 

Michael Meade, Mosaic Voices podcast page – healing and making whole https://www.mosaicvoices.org/episode-299-healing-and-making-whole

I think this quote might be of help. As Wikipedia says, the developing world is struggling to get good sanitation. I wonder if the above quote is a clue. All of us across the world are facing a time of “accepted patterns dissolving and changing” which we are all struggling with in the West but imagine if you are in a developing country, a war-torn country, in a refugee camp where you have no stability. War is raging. There is famine. You are displaced from what you know and love. The whole population is dealing with “feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear”. What is going to be most important – communication or sanitation? 

I know if I was fearful for my family, my children, my friends, I would want to be able to contact them so would put my money into making sure I had a good phone that could be charged up quickly and easily. If I could get money through to feed myself and my family via my phone I could see that as the most important thing. When I needed to go to the toilet then I would wish there was somewhere safe to go but for the majority of the time it may not occur to me. And for the men who are very much leading in these countries it is only when they need to defecate that they would probably think about it at all. 

Also what is more glamorous if you are a young man wanting to look good in your developing country – making sure there are toilets or carrying a gun and a phone? 

So as I ponder this I do not blame the people who have the phone but no toilet. I think of the unstable world we all live in and pray “Your Kingdom come, Lord” as well as “please help us all to forgive ourselves and each other”. 

And then I will donate some more money to https://www.toilettwinning.org/ or https://www.wateraid.org/stories/toilets-save-lives or https://www.christianaid.org.uk/ or other charities like this. 

Photo by Gabor Monori on Unsplash

Categories
FIFA World Cup

The World Cup and Human Rights

From BBC.co.uk’s coverage of FIFA world cup page https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0015ypx

I think there are lots of issues to do with holding the World Cup in Qatar but I think there are very few that are unique to Qatar. The main one is that the World Cup is usually held in the summer so the players can play for their clubs as well as for their country. Because it is being played in the winter this year there are going to be differences within the club games. But I am not quite sure why there is being such a fuss about the human rights issues.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there are major human rights issues in Qatar and much of the Middle East around woman’s rights, LGBTQ rights, migrant rights, but I do not believe this area is unique for it. The Olympics were held in China which also has a poor record on human rights. The world seem to have forgotten the Tienanmen Square massacre, where Chinese troops slaughtered their own people for protesting. But still the Olympics went ahead.

There are many countries that have appalling human rights records whether to do with sexuality, gender, race, religion, age, and yet still major sporting events happen in these places. But then like many of the people who are allowed in as refugees does it depend what are view of these people are?

I think of the people crossing both the Mediterranean and the English Channel in tiny boats at exorbitant prices. First the question needs to be ask about the human rights in their countries that they are leaving, second why do they not stop in other countries along the way and work so hard to get into the UK, and then third why is the UK so reluctant to let people in? Do we have a good human rights record in the UK when it comes to certain people groups?

I do think it is right to use these big events to raise issues about the state of human rights in these countries and challenge the leaders of these countries about how they treat others. But I do think so much in sport also comes down to money. Qatar was willing to pay billions to get ready for this event, and they are preparing for other major events too. These oil rich countries do have the money to do this. With the budget, if that is what it is called, that has come from the UK chancellor this week is anything to go by the UK cannot afford to hold a major sporting event.

Yes these countries to do need to sort out how they treat women, LGBTQ people, migrants, and others, but then so does the UK. Perhaps instead of just muttering about it there could be a major campaign by world leaders to look at human rights issues, to change their own policies first and then to encourage other countries to do the same.

But I do think we need to stop looking at the economic issues and what we really want. If the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics or Formula One motor racing or major golf tournaments or other sporting events can only happen in places that can afford them and who treat others well then maybe they would have to cease. Who would be happy with FIFA announcing that there would be no more World Cup because no one could really afford it as we are in a world recession?

Categories
enough Listen to my heart

Enough And No Further

This is just a good excuse to put a photo of my friend Tessa on my blog post. She has been very ill and since before lockdown wasn’t able to get to the sea side. She lives about 50 miles inland and it was all too much for her. Well she has since been diagnoised and getting treatment so my daughter and I took her on the train to her nearest seaside just to show her she could do it. This was the place on our walk on beach where she said “that’s enough. I’d like to turn round now.” So enough and no more. [Picture was taken about 11.30am but it was a dark old day!]

Today I was reading a book about women in history. I had been struggling along with it and its many references to Mother Goddess. Not because I believe God is male but more because it was being placed as a fact. I then reached a line which quoted John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God”. It went on to say that this was a lie and that history had invent him.

Now as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I think we’ve missed something amazing by giving God a gender and that when the Bible says about how God made man and women in God’s image then God must be male and female, all genders and none. So I’ve got no issues with the argument that God isn’t a “he” but I do have issues with then the creator god being a “she” as though that makes it alright.

But the for me what has made me stop is that sometimes we all have to say “enough and no more”. It is not that I want to make this author believe that God is male but also I find that I reach a point in reading where I had to say this is enough for me and put the book down. I come across this sometimes in historic books or programs, where I feel that author or presenter has gone too far off piste and I am not ready to go with them.

My son used to ski. My husband went out to join him once. My son skis off piste. My husband doesn’t. My husband had to go his way and let my son go his own. Both within their comfort zones so to speak.

So it isn’t that I am not open minded. I hope that I am. But sometimes it gets to a point where I am not ready to go as far as the author or presenter and you know that is ok. So I would not say this author is wrong, but I would say, like with my friend and the walk on the beach, that this was enough and I’d like to go back now.

I was reading some stuff about listening to your heart and going with your gut feelings and how too often we don’t do that. Well for me my heart says that is enough and so I will listen to it. Something I am learning more and more to do.

Categories
Keepsakes memories

What Do You Keep?

Back in December 2021 my dad died. I didn’t know about this because we hadn’t really spoken for a while and his late wife’s daughter had chosen to nurse him herself without letting me know. Sometime in January she sent me somethings of my dad’s. I was going to take a photo of them but for now I am not ready to show them to the world so you’ve got a photo of what the tide going out on my weekend dog walk.

But it is what my dad held on to for so many years that has amazed me when I look through the parcel or when I think about it. There was a photo album, an address book and a diary all from not just before my parent’s married but from before they got together. From what I know they were dating from about 1957 and then married in 1959. So these things predate that.

The diary talks about my dad’s time in New Zealand, of things like worming and vaccinating sheep and the odd trip to the cinema or being invited to someone’s house for a good cooked family meal. The address book is great in that women’s names are written as “Miss First-name Second-name” not just first name and a number. It is all very formal. I didn’t see my mum’s name so it must have been before they met. And it is great to see those photos of him in his early twenties or maybe even younger. He was very good looking and seemed to have a love of cars. It is that love of cars which is probably the only thing I remember of him.

One of the poignant things is that even when we were on speaking terms he never showed these things to me and now I cannot ask those questions of “who’s that?” and “where’s that?” and all those other things I might like to know.

But my biggest question is “why did you hold on to these things for so long?” and “why is there nothing else?” These is this huge gap of over 65 years that he’s held on to these things through three house moves with us, divorce of my mum, divorce of his second wife, downsizing with this last wife and all the things that must have been thrown away. What made him keep these things?

At the moment we live in a big house, just me and hubby as kids have left home, so we have lots room and lots of stuff. I have my own study which is crammed with stuff – diaries, notebooks, journals, books, photos, etc. If I had to downsize what would I keep? How many years would it go back?

I’m making yet another start on writing my memoirs which I suppose is why this is wandering in my mind – what do I put in my story and what do I leave out? But also because of moving, of being homeless for a time, of putting the need to keep my children’s things as a priority over my own, I don’t have stuff that goes back that far. Yes my mum has put together a photo album for me but the choices for that were hers not mine. Apart from those things she’s put together I’m not sure I have much, apart from a very small photo album, of a time before I had my children.

Though I do also know I threw a lot of stuff away because at the time the memories associated with it were too painful. Perhaps the reason that there is only one photo album, one address book and one diary all pre-1957 is because the memories of somethings were just too painful to keep?

All in all those it has got me thinking, what do we keep, what do we throw away, and that age old question – Why?

Categories
Begging crowdfunding

Crowdfunding or Begging

Last week I went down South to visit my mum and catch up with some friends. My chosen companion whilst driving is Radio 4. So I drive for about 5 hours listening to various things, some of which stay with me and some I just forget.

One thing that stayed with me was an article about people who were struggling to pay their bills who were putting up pages on GoFundMe or similar crowdfunding pages. The one woman that they concentrated their feature on was a young woman who had only just gained an MA in journalism but was now out of work. She had set up a page to pay her rent and bills until she got the job she wanted. One of the reasons she was on was that she had raised more than she had asked for. At one point in the interview she said that she knew she could take any job but that she wanted to wait to get into her chosen profession.

What I wanted to know were her thoughts to the homeless person she probably walked past regularly, the beggar on the street, the tramp. Did she and those that had given to her campaign see those people as valid? Would they give as much to them?

I think too often we judge by the cover. So people will give to the pretty young woman who has fallen on hard times but not to the smelly dirty person who is on the street.

I also think that by giving on one of these crowdfunding sites one can distance oneself from the cause. It just takes the push of a Paypal button and money is moved to this woman’s account. I do remember my daughter saying that when she was in London more and more buskers especially were getting these free credit card machines and it did increase their takings. None contact. None involvement.

Whether it is the pretty young woman who wants a top job and isn’t willing to be a part time barmaid or supermarket worker or the long term homeless, is it that we really do not want to know the why of how they got to that place? Are we willing to slow things down, get into a dialogue, find out what is really going on? I think I am as much to blame. It is easier just to push that campaign button, that easy give button, that “sign here” button, than it is to slow my life down, work out what areas of live I really do want to focus on and really dig deep into what is going on here.

Just an aside – when I was planning this post it was going to be very much about berating the middle class aspirations and how no one cares about the downtrodden, but as I have written, as often happens with me and writing, I have changed my view point. I am now pointing back at me and asking what would I really do? Am I similar to what has gone on? Sometimes I think it is good for all of us to have a real look at what we are saying and whether we too are hiding behind something.

Categories
Captive thoughts

Take Every Thought Captive

Photo by Anna Bondarenko on Pexels.com

This post title is taken from 2Cor 10:5 which says “take every thought captive”.

I heard a sermon once about how we were to spear each of those thoughts, capture them, so to speak. And I’m sure there was an analogy of standing in a river trying to spear those thought like someone spearing fish. So you had to get a good look at that thought, spear it and then fling it away.

A friend and I were talking about spearing our negative thoughts over coffee yesterday and we both seemed to have the same internal picture. But we both realised that as we did the spearing so we gave those thoughts a good look, even examined them to decide if they were good or bad thoughts. Sometimes we even chewed those thoughts over before casting them aside and even once cast aside we might still give them another good ponder, poke them around a bit, see if they were still edible.

But that was not doing either of us any good. It also wasn’t helping us to live in that true peace and joy of God. In fact keep looking at these captured thoughts doesn’t mean giving them a poke afterwards. I don’t think it even means judging those thoughts. But I also don’t think it means ignoring them.

To be honest with ourselves we need to acknowledge that some thoughts, which come from things people have said to use or done to us, trigger traumas, trigger feelings, that if we don’t acknowledge will fester inside of us.

So if I just throw away those thoughts that are painful and don’t acknowledge that it has caused a reaction then I am cheating on myself and actually could go on to doing harm to myself, my relationships, my future. But also if I pick and poke at that thought, work out who is to blame for me feeling/reacting that way then I am also going to do harm. The person or situation that caused that thought may not have meant how I reacted to it. So if I chew on that thought again I will cause harm to myself, my relationships and my future.

So what are we meant to do with these thoughts if we can’t attribute blame, cant judge, cant investigate, can’t throw away? I think we are meant to accept them as our thoughts, notice and acknowledge them, accept this is what we are feeling/how we are reacting, etc to whatever, and then hand them on to God/the Universe/a High Power.

So whether is it the craziness of the UK political situation, fears of covid, fears about economy, global warming, education, etc, etc, worries about what to do in our future, … [add your own] , we acknowledge openly to ourselves this is how we feel, these are the thoughts that have swum through the river of our mind are ours, and then we capture that thought and pass it higher.

As the song in Frozen goes “Let it go, let it go“. But don’t just fling it away. Instead hand it onward to that higher place/person/being that can handle it.

Here is a piece I wrote on a similar vein 4 years ago. It is interesting that my thoughts haven’t changed much, even if I didn’t remember writing the piece. Taking Thoughts Capitve

Categories
joy peace

True Peace, True Joy

Sunrise over my local park. Taken by myself Oct 2022

There is some stuff going on in my life and I spent half the night planning my speech to say what I really thought, talk about my hurts, my fears, etc. I felt I had a right to say this. Funny how we are brought up that way. And then go on to do some self improvement stuff which talks to us about firm boundaries, being honest, our rights, etc.

Well for me about 5.30am I felt an almost audible voice asking me why I felt the need to say what I felt, why I needed to put over my point of view when in fact no one has asked for it. So I chewed this over, noticed a few repeated patterns that I thought I’d dealt with, and then asked what I could do to change.

What came to me was Philippians’s 4:7 “The peace of the Lord that transcends all understanding” So being me I journaled around that.

What came up was that that real joy and real peace are there for us no matter what is going on in our lives, no matter what we are feeling. It doesn’t mean that we deny our feelings. Often living in that total joy and peace of God/the Universe we can be more open and honest with ourselves about how we feel. In fact I googled an article around this and the writer said how they go walking with their anxiety rather than trying to hide it, and this was from a piece that started with the Phil 4:7 verse.

How would I describe that total joy and peace? I don’t know. All I can say is that I know it is there. I know I can tap into it whenever I want to, though often I don’t try to – which is when I say what I shouldn’t or do what I shouldn’t and let my fears, issues, self-righteousness, hurt others.

The whole point of something “transcending our understanding” is that it transcends it, which means we cannot and should not try to understand it. What would be the point? It makes no sense to be fearful but at peace, to be grieving but feel deep joy. But then what would be the point of understanding everything?

It is great to have mysteries and as a Christian I do not want to understand all that is God. I do not want to be able to figure God out. Well what would be the point of that?

I have to trust in God with all of my being, not understand God with all my being. I have to let go of my need to sort it all out, of my need to be right all the time. I think if we all lent into a higher power of some sort, let go of our need to control each and every situation, let go of our need to figure the whys and wherefores of everything and just accept that somethings just are.

So today I am accepting that no matter what is going on in my life I am going to walk in a place of peace and joy that is bigger than I am, that I don’t understand, and that is ok.