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?

Categories
End of the year Liminal space

Last Post of 2021

A bare tree with a waterfall behind it 
photographed by Diane Woodrow
Aber Falls Dec 27th 2021 taken by myself

I love this time of year, that liminal space between family Christmas and the start of the new year. A time when meals are inventive because food needs to be eaten before it goes off but it is a challenge to work out what goes with what. The buzz of a house full of family is over, but it is too soon yet to take down decoration. My head wants to start tidying and organising for the new year but with the decorations still up there is only so much I can do, and also my head is enjoying this liminal time.

Though as I write this my lovely husband may is still off work, but he is working for me during this “down time”. I was offered a project which to do with making a historic walking map of a local village. He is much more skilled in route planning on a map than me so is doing an amazing job getting my project to a place where I can then add in the historic content.

With this project and another project from last year sitting and waiting to be completed, and then other writing projects in the air, I am trying to sort out some kind of schedule for the new year but trying to to hold it lightly because who knows what 2022 will bring.

But also because this, for me, is a liminal in-between time, where I know the days are getting longer but it is raining hard and so this extra daylight is hard to notice, but also like I say I can’t quite get organised because of the decorations still being up and the fridge still needing to be emptied, I can only think, ponder and wait until Monday when things roll properly into 2022.

I remember when I used to work in bars before I had children this time between Christmas celebrations and New Year’s Eve was always a fraught time, where tensions were high and anticlimax loomed. I do think to hold this time wisely one needs to accept that, even if one is working, this is still an in-between place where routines are still out of sorts. And for most of us this is what the last nearly 2 years have been – a time when we are stilling in a liminal space waiting to get back to some sort of routine.

Will 2022 allow us to get back into some sort of routine? Who knows. But I know that I will do my best to carve out my own rough routine day by day, week by week, month by month, holding each and every part of that schedule lightly and trusting that someone/something greater than me knows best

Categories
Feel the seasons solstice

Winter Solstice

This post first appeared on https://godspacelight.com/2021/12/21/winter-solstice/

view of sunrise across a field photographed by Diane Woodrow
Sunrise photographed by myself on a morning dog walk

I wrote an article during our “lockdown Christmas” last year about my feelings regarding winter and slowing down. I also wrote an article in 2017 about the Winter Solstice and how the sun stands still for the few days from solstice to Christmas day. So it looks as if I have a bit of an affinity with this time of year.

I do love the roll into winter. I love the ways the days get rapidly shorter and I have to rethink my dog walking times because by 4pm it isn’t fun to walk around the park. Though I also love that if I can get out before 7.30am I can watch the sun rise over the trees in the park. This is a time when I just pray out loud giving glory to God. Christine talked about the Wow factor of Advent and for me every sunrise is a “Wow!” factor.

This morning I was blown away by starting my walk only lit by street-lighting, but then seeing the clouds start to get tinged with light and come into definition. Even though the sun still hadn’t fully risen by the time I got home the world had come into definition. That to me is so awesome. It truly is “new every morning” and I can then remember “Great is his faithfulness” [Lamentations 3:23] So no matter what my mood when I start my walk I come to a place of being with God and giving my morning over before I return home.

I noticed this last year and again this year, people are putting their outdoor Christmas lights on earlier and earlier. I know some of it has been said that because with the pandemic, and other things, life is bleak so people need lights, but the posts by Liz of Pocket Fuel have made me think. In the daily emails for the first week of December she explored how we seem to no longer embrace the darkness as our ancestors would have and how from that we miss out on things – like trusting God in the darkness.

It got me thinking about our ancestors, and I’m talking pre-Industrial revolution, would use the winter season was a time for gathering the family, of sharing the tales that made up their culture. This is when the stories were retold about heroes, monsters, family history, how the earth came into being, etc. But now we have made the winter, especially this run up to Christmas so busy, whether that is rushing round buying, partying, Church services. It is all busy, busy, busy, when in fact our bodies are crying out for us to slow down and the next generation needs to hear our stories, our history, our faith tales.

I am lucky in that in my freelancing work I have being healed of the need to see planning and money as the driving force and have moved more into trusting God to provide so I am more able to roll with the seasons and the daylight hours. But I still have had to think through how not to get sucked into being busy in church, feeling guilty for not saying Yes to everything, for making a quieter way. It isn’t easy. It is countercultural. It takes focus but I was trying.

So as I allow this season and this shortest day to enfold me I listen to my heart – because it is my heart that connects me with God – and then ask my heart what it is thinking and feeling. I breath and pray and then feel safe. And I also want to learn all this so I can take the slowness of the darker season into the spring and summer.

Categories
change Storm

Storms!

Above are a selection of images of a local beach, local park and local roads on or before the storms passed through. Unfortunately I haven’t taken any of the storm damage in my park

I was lead in the bed this morning listening to the last of Storm Barra singing through the telephone wires. And it got me thinking about not just the recent storm but storms in general and our reaction to them.

We’ve been living here for nearly 6 years and Storm Arwen, ten days ago, was the most destructive storm we’ve witnessed. There have been a catalogue of trees we know of and areas that are well know where devastation has been wrecked. It even stopped filming at the I’m a Celebrity site over the road from us. It was fierce. As I walked the park with a friend who is born and bred her she was grieving the loss of trees that had been there since she was a child. She even remembered climbing in one of the three that had fallen. But I got to wondering how we see things as destruction when in fact they are there for change, for space for something new. Perhaps that is true with other things too; projects, ways of doing things, ways of church, of government and even of people.

There was much talk at some point during this pandemic of this being a time to change the way we did things, but from what I see the old has not been allowed to die even though it is swaying wildly in the wind. Those who feel safe with it, who have known it for so long, want to keep it there, are not ready to mourn its passing.

But then it is easy, almost, to be critical of wider things like church structure, governmental structures, capitalism, etc etc, but what about me? What in me and what I do am I keeping alive when I should let it die? I have a post which will be published on Godspace on 21st December which looks at the darkness and I think this might be the prequel or sequel, or just another part of, looking rethinking me.

Are we each willing to look at ourselves and see what we need to let fall to the ground, to let go of, even if for now it is beautiful, offers protection and shelter – as using the tree analogy? Or am I happier to sit back, talk about how “they” should change rather than look at me?

Categories
christmas Joseph

Joseph

Photo by Burkay Canatar on Pexels.com

Who is your favourite person in the Christmas story? Mine is Joseph. I think Joseph was one of the most amazing people in the Christmas story and we hear so little about him. Here was a man who willingly gave up his life, his reputation, his livelihood and even his family to look after Mary and the promised child. We know he gave up his family because when he arrived in Bethlehem for the census a culture that is known for its hospitality did not have room for a relation and his pregnant wife. Part of the story we don’t get in our closed nuclear family world of today. But it was something that those few words that spoke of “no room” would have spoken to the audience it was written for.

I wonder how God showed up to Joseph. It could not have been full on angel vision with lots of trumpets and things because the whole town would have known and would have believed. Again we can so easily forget the way towns were in those days and how doors were open and everyone lived on top of each other, knew each other’s business, and didn’t have to put up with all the noise and light pollution we have just got used to. Though again with that in mind I wonder how Mary spoke with the angel and was impregnated. Probably much more subtly than we could imagine.

Anyway God managed to find a way to speak with Joseph in way he understand, listened to and believed, which caused Joseph change his mind about divorcing Mary and leaving her to possible stoning to totally looking after her. He took her with him to Bethlehem even though she was heavily pregnant. He would have already presumed that his family there would not welcome him in because news would have reached them that this girl was pregnant before they had wed. But by taking her he protected her from any harm that may have befallen her back in Nazareth. He was then being willing to move down to the Jewish community in Egypt to save the life of this child that wasn’t his.

Would we have been able to do this? To give up all including our reputation for something we don’t know to be fully real? But also why do we not honour Joseph in the way he should be? Why is he such a minor character? I think there needs to be more sermons focused on Joseph and the understated, Godly way he behaved as an example to us all.