Categories
Endangered species day Godspace

National Endangered Species Day 2022

First published on https://godspacelight.com/2022/05/19/national-endangered-species-day-2022

Taken by myself at our local park

The 20th of May is Endangered Species Day, another of those days put on to calendars to help one focus on something else. But I wonder how often we see ourselves as an “endangered species,” especially when one sees the cries coming from certain Christian elements in the US around the potential lifting of the laws to allow abortion. 

That is extreme but I wonder how often when we see polls saying numbers of church attendance is decreasing, an increase in various ethnic groups, and a rise in the voice of LGBTQ groups, that some think that we are endangered. When we feel endangered we act in fear, panic and anxiety. It does not make us nicer to be around but makes us harsher. 

The focus is meant to be about endangered animals, insects, flora and fauna, with the hope that we will care about our earth, our environment more. But if we are feeling endangered then we won’t want to do that. We will want to build our walls higher, make our voices louder, our weapons stronger. 

Yet Jesus tells us that when we feel threatened we should “turn the other cheek”[Matthew 5:39], that we should “love our enemies”[Matthew 5:43-48]. He tells us not to be afraid and to trust God in all things. As Francis Spufford says in ‘Unapologetic‘ [and I paraphrase], one of the hardest things about Christianity is that it isn’t about following rules but about our heart attitude. And our hearts need to be trusting God, need to not be filled with fear or anxiety, need to be open to God and listening fully. 

When the natural world is endangered it cannot get itself out of the mess humankind has got it into. It needs that self-same group, humankind, to make the change. But also sometimes with other people, they need to shout to be heard and need to get other people to help with the changes. So when we hear people of different “tribes” to our “tribe” shouting loudly because they need to be heard instead of shutting our ears, building our walls higher, etc we need to stop and listen. We need to really tune into what they are saying, listen to their fears, but also listen to our fears about why we have reacted as we have; of why we want to not listen, feel fearful, want to push the oppressed group down further. 

Unlike the natural world we are the ones with the power to change and to make a better world. We do not need to react. We have the God-given power to act and act in a way that is beneficial for all. But only if we stop hardening our hearts, unblock our ears and really listen to the world – human and natural – and follow God’s true leading in how to act. 

Taken by myself on a beach walk early one morning

Categories
Godspace World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day 19th November 2021

This post was first published on Godspace.com on 19th November 2021

Being grateful for having a toilet must be one of my passions because I wrote an article for Godspace last year on this–although for some reason I did not post it on my own blog! 

To be honest I do have a bit of a toilet obsession, having suffered with IBS for a time, until firstly I stopped gluten and dairy. I did that for a while and then got into QEC Counselling – which I do know I bang on about but it has changed my life. I do still worry about knowing where toilets are and if there are too many people in the house for the amount of toilets. Yes, it is a thought that passes through my mind. And I am sure I am not the only older person who feels that way!

I met up with some older ladies in the park dog walking the other day, and they were doing the thing old people can be guilty of – saying the younger generation don’t know they’re born lucky- and one of the things was about outside toilets. Both ladies remembered having to go out into their backyards to use the toilet and worrying about spiders and other creepy crawlies. Though both did admit they wouldn’t go back to those days; it is alright to reminisce and look through rose-tinted glasses, but we do all like our inside flushing toilets and do very much take them for granted. 

But imagine not having a toilet at all, or when you did go out to a shared outside toilet there was a chance of being bitten by poisonous spiders or snakes, or for the girls, the fear of being raped. And the cleanliness of these holes in the ground is not good at all. 

The statistics on the United Nations World Toilet Day 19th November website are sobering. 

  • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.
  • Every day, over 700 children under five years old die from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and poor hygiene.
  • 3.6 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation [There are about 7.9 billion people in the world so that means nearly half of them do not have safe, clean water to drink or hygienic places to go to the toilet – I wonder how they feel about the whole “wash your hands for 20 seconds in hot water” mantra?]

But did you also know that for every dollar spent on hygienic sanitation and clean water $5 dollars gets saved in medical costs? Wow, so little can save so much. 

But it doesn’t only save on medical costs, it helps with productivity in the workplace. Imagine being a woman without proper sanitation during your period or when pregnant! But when money is spent on toilets in the home, in schools, in the workplace, these women are not only safer and healthier but also able to reach their full potential and truly fulfill their role in their society. They would no longer be marginalised, fearful and “unclean”. 

Sanitation is one of the basic human rights recognised by the UN which are not being met in far too many places. Perhaps as we move towards Advent and Christmas we should see how we can help promote human rights in countries that too often get ignored. One way is to sponsor a toilet via Toilet Twinning, and check out the UN website for ways to learn more. Be alert and aware as to how blessed we are in the West and how much we take for granted, and be willing to see what more you can do. 

You might feel like just a drop in the ocean but if all the drops in the ocean stopped being drops then the seas would vanish. If each of us is our little drop then we can change the world. 

Categories
friends friendship Godspace The little yellow book

Jesus our Friend

Diane Woodrow's dog, Renly, sitting on a rock looking up lovingly
“Can I be your friend?”

These thoughts on Jesus our friend were prompted by Lilly Lewin’s Post from 5th May entitled “Cups of Connection and Joy“, from starting talking about connection the post flows into the John 15:14&15 were Jesus tells his followers they are friends not servants.

How often do we see those in church behaving like servants, running round doing stuff, keeping the whole show on the road, even busy doing the praying stuff – which looks so righteous – but in fact they are spending time in praying, whether at alone, online, in prayer rooms, not to hang out with a friend but to serve.

When I tried to share this I was reminded that the Bible talks of asking for things, of petitioning prayers, etc as if that meant that we had to do rather than hang out with our friend. It got me thinking about my friends and how I behave with them and what I expect from a friendship. I though about the words in The Little Yellow Boat book where she says “She realised she did not want to be rescued and taken home. She wanted help to continue her quest.” She then realises those boats she had dismissed, which become her friends, all have different things to offer and different ways to help her so she goes to them for different things.

My friends are all very different and I go to them for different things and expect different things from them. I have friends who I would go to for help to do things, friends that I would go to if I was trying to workout what to do next, friends that I would walk with, others I have never walked with but drank a lot of coffee with, others no coffee but lots of meals and wine. Some of my friends are Christians like me, and some even think about God in similar ways to me. Some are of other faiths and some none. Some challenge me and turn my thinking upside down. Some are a calming influence. When I met with them I am different depending who I’m with.

I found it interesting that there are many many Bible studies and Christian groups that look at God the Father but very few what look at Jesus as our Friend. I wonder if that is because there is distance between us being able to father/parent someone else and us being someone’s friend? With talking of Father God we can stand back a bit, forgive parents and welcome in God, or if parents repent for our misplaced parenting, but perhaps we keep our distance from looking at Jesus as friend because it would challenge us more. I also think being a friend is much harder to define than being a parent. As I’ve listed above I expect different things from different friends and give differently to my different friends.

Yet every day we can get up and be a friend, in whatever guise that is, but how often do we choose to do that?

Categories
Easter Godspace grief poem

The First Easter Sunday

Also posted on https://godspacelight.com/2021/04/04/the-first-easter-sunday/

Bleak mountain side as the sun rises

Pondering the first Easter Saturday, I wonder what those first disciples must have felt. All their hope was gone, brutally murdered and now hidden in a tomb to rot. For following Jesus they were now rejected by the synagogue leaders and also being watched carefully by the Roman authorities. We know the end of the story we so often forget what that first Saturday after Jesus was crucified was truly like. 

I wrote this poem not only pondering Easter Saturday but also as I was dealing with the grief over the untimely deaths of friends and family I had been praying for God to heal; emotionally, physically and mentally. Pondering Easter Saturday is a good time to think about those prayers we pray that don’t appear to get answered. 

The First Easter Saturday

How? What had happened? 

What is wrong with the world? 

Why is it continuing? 

God why can you not make it stop? 

Just give us time to grieve. 

This is too much. 

There was so much promise. 

So much expectation. 

And now he’s dead. 

All hope of promise is gone. 

It’s over. 

All that we gave our lives for. 

All that we gave up. 

Gone! Over! 

It is finished. 

And who cares? 

Us few that’s who. 

The Passover continues

The people celebrate

They are free at last. 

How? Why? Who could have let this happen?

God how could you have let this happen?

You should have stopped it.

He claimed to be your son.

We believed him.

We are walking dead now. 

They will come to get us soon.

Gone! Over!

It is finished!

So much of our own stories we are in that middle place between God promising and it coming to pass. Even before the pandemic hit most of us had experienced friends and family dying too soon and too painfully. Or of things we hoped would happen not working out as we had desired, or not working out at all. . 

How do we feel when we are grieving, when we are scared and yet other people are celebrating? The Passover was about being free from oppression but the followers of Jesus were under the weight of grief. And grief is a heavy cloak to wear. 

I believe God allowed Easter Saturday to remind us all that we need space to think, to grieve, to wonder. I believe, too, that the church calendar has stolen something from us. When you read what Jesus says it is that he’ll be in the earth three days and nights, not the two nights and one day that our church calendars allow.

Easter is a time for healing, as has been the focus for Godspace. My prayer for us all is that we take some Easter Saturday time and grieve for what we have lost and cope with our uncertainty about the future. I believe taking time out to acknowledge our grief before we move forward is one of the keys to healing and not just brushing things under the carpet. Let’s use Easter Saturday for, what I believe, God intended it.

Poem first published on 31st March 2018 on Aspirational Adventures.

Categories
Celtic spirituality change choice Godspace harvest St Michael

FEAST OF ST MICHAEL

Today, September 29th, is the feast of St Michael. Here are my thoughts on him.

This post was also published on https://godspacelight.com/2020/09/29/feast-of-st-michael/

imageedit 1 3516209275
Photo by Guido Reni – http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/257, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9571452

How do you see St Michael? One of God’s mighty angels? Or, in the UK, a clothing brand by a large department store? [Marks and Spencer’s St Michael’s range] Or as he is depicted in many paintings and church stain-glass windows, the white superhero spearing the brown devil?

Michael, the archangel, Saint Michael, appears all over the place. He’s not just in the Hebrew and Christian Bible, but also in the Quran and in neo-pagan literature, as well as  in countless poems, paintings, statues, music and jewellery. But wherever he appears, he is always strong and invincible.

In the Book of Daniel Michael, the archangel, appears to Daniel and says he is “the protector of Israel” (Daniel 10:13-21) and in Daniel 12:1 saying he will “arise again during the end of time”. In both the Book of Jude (1:9) and in the Book of Revelation (12:7-9), the Archangel Michael is stronger than Satan and defeats and banishes him. In the Quran Sura 2:98 says “Whoever is an enemy to God, and His angels and His messengers, and Jibrail and Mikhail! Then, God (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers.” Some Muslims believe that Michael is one of the three angels who visit Abraham (Sura 11:69).

Neo-pagan tradition has leylines, lines of spiritual energy that pass through various points on the land. The most famous one is the St Michael’s leyline; which goes from St Michael’s Mont in Cornwall, through Glastonbury Tor to Bury St Edmunds, Norfolk. There is another St Michael’s leyline from Skelling Michael, Ireland, through St Michael’s Mont, Cornwall to Mount Carmel in Israel.

In Alexander Carmichael’s The Carmina Gadelica, compiled during his travels as in the Scottish Highlands and Islands during the late nineteenth century, 29th September, the Feast of St Michael, was a time for great celebration; with feasting, dancing, visiting the ancestral graves, horse racing, and young people to find a partner. Ray Simpson says in Exploring Celtic Spirituality, every husbandman would give food to the alms-deserving as an offering to “the great God of the elements who gave him cattle and sheep, bread and corn, power and peace, growth and prosperity, that it may be for his abject, contrite soul when it goes thither”. Saint Michael’s feast day was seen as a day of promise to the young and a day of fulfillment for those older, and a day of retrospection to the aged. Carmichael says, “it is a day when pagan cult and Christian doctrine meet and mingle like the lights and shadows on their Highland hills.”

Around the same time Carmichael was gathering his The Carmina Gadelica, the Catholic church in Rome was under persecution from the King of Italy, and the pope wrote this prayer to St Michael.

St Michael’s prayer “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.”

So again I ask, how do you see St Michael? End time deliverer, patron saint of the harvest, the defeater of the devil, a great redeemer, a connector of power lines through the earth? Which one of these Saint Michaels do you want him to be? Or maybe, in these turbulent times, we need him to be all of these – to help us take joy in what we have reaped and what will fulfill us during these times (harvest), defeater of the devil/our enemies, one who can redeem the earth to its purpose, and able to connect the power of the earth to help redeem us from global warming, pandemics, etc.

These are times of great trial, times when we need to look above and beyond, times when we need all the help God has, but also time to rejoice in the good of what is being harvested. Perhaps we do need to stop and reflect and see this day as a day of promise to the young. A day of fulfillment for those older, and a day of retrospect to the aged. Let us pray the prayer but also rejoice and remember that St Michael, and God, are all these things.

REFERENCES:

“Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources” by Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie  for the quotes from Alexander Carmichael’s The Carmina Gadelica

“Exploring Celtic Spirituality” by Ray Simpson