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When Jesus Went Away To Pray

Photo by Diane Woodrow from near the top of Conwy mountain towards the interior of Snowdonia
View from Conwy mountain into Snowdonia

What does that mean? It occurs quite often in the gospels with no real explanation as to what it means. Preachers over the years have explored and explained it and so often it comes down to a doing thing which we’re then mean to follow – petitioning, telling, asking for, listing, talking with. The other day I got a different revelation whilst listening to a podcast on Spotify by Orphan No More talking about mediation – something that was almost banned when I first became a Christian because it was seen as Eastern religion, verging on demonic!! Thankfully things have moved on in the last 30 years.

The way Josh expounded Jesus “going to pray/going to be with his Father” I got this revelation that Jesus went off on his own not to talk, not to ask, not want for anything, but to just go back to the basics of who he was and who Father God is. And it was during this time that God revealed things to him – eg who to pick for his main disciples [Luke 6:12-16]. The more I allowed myself to just dwell on those verses and also on the “Be still and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10] I came to see that as I pondered about peace and stillness with God so God could talk to me.

Earlier in the morning I’d been pondering an issue, done some journaling around it, did 10 mins of yoga, then sat for 10 mins just breathing in and out focusing on the peace and stillness of God and that verse. Almost as soon as my timer went to tell me I’d finished my 10 mins stillness what I felt was the answer to the issue fell into my head. As I was walking the dog later I wondered if this was what Jesus had felt like when he had been hanging out in stillness and peace with God all night. That suddenly he just knew who to call for his special twelve.

I wonder if too often we do too much talking when we’re with God or even too much trying to listen when actually he wants to get us to a place of trust so that our hearts can hear. Too often it is our heads, our minds, that hear but not our hearts. Doing this QEC counseling one of the things to learn is to stop, breath and listen with one’s heart rather than one’s mind. The mind is jumbled up with thoughts and shoulds and oughts and fears and anxieties and busyness. Meerkat/monkey mind, always on the alert. But our hearts know what we really really want. They are still and touch the peace inside of us. If I listen with my heart I feel peace. I think it gives me time to know what I really want, to feel what God wants for me, to slow things down a bit, and to let go of the meerkat/monkey mind that is constantly chattering.

I think if Jesus was fully human then Jesus also had to deal with a meerkat/monkey mind. If he didn’t then he wouldn’t be able to truly understand what we all go through. But he taught that to go away not to petition God but to rest in God’s stillness and peace we could hear the answers to what we need to hear answers to and let go of the rest. I think Jesus spent his times with God alone calming his meerkat/monkey mind and remembering who he truly was – which if Jesus did then so do I!!

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Good Friday!

Etching of crowded crucifixion scene by Nicolaes de Bruyn 17th C
17th Century etching of The Crucifixion (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; John 19:25-27) by Nicolaes de Bruyn

I often wonder why we now associate Easter with eggs and rabbits in church as much as outside of church. I think it is because to accept the reality of what happened to Jesus on the cross is too horrific to bear. It is also easy to gloss over it because the gospel writers didn’t do a description of it, but that was because they didn’t need to go into descriptions of what it was like because their readership knew. Crucifixion was not something that only happened on Good Friday to Jesus and the two unnamed robbers either side of him. It was something that the readership of all the gospels would have seen on a regular basis. It was the Roman’s way of punishing and letting the local populace know what would happen to them if they disobeyed the might of the “Pax Romanus”. For those who fell foul of Roman it was a brutal. Again something that is often not explored.

But Jesus knew the horror of what he was walking towards. He talks of “carrying your cross” which again has become a nice sanitised sermon about setting out on a journey to “give up self”. I think when Jesus said about carrying your cross, him and his disciples had just walked past a row of dying people hung on crosses. Jesus was saying “are you willing to die a humiliating death for what is right and true?” It is the same as turning the other cheek. To carry one’s own cross does not mean that we defend ourselves, or even willing submit to giving up “ego” but that we let someone else have their way even if it is the wrong way to realise the greater good, or as Aslan said in “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” so we can “release the deeper magic.”

We need to remember that Jesus wasn’t all nicely wrapped up in loin cloth hanging serenely from the cross for all to see. He was beaten, crushed, naked and possibly with an erection because apparently when a man is in horrendous pain or when the body is wrenched as it would be on the cross the penis goes erect, which is a place of total humiliation. This is why the Romans did this. Not only did it kill slowly but was humiliating. It was not a nice death and Jesus opted in for this kind of death.

My husband shared a story – and I can’t find a link for it – about a church that makes a Jesus on the cross out of bread. From what I can remember of it they did a naked Jesus and when someone played the soldier who speared Jesus side he accidentally knocked off the bread penis. But that got me thinking about how high Jesus would have been from the ground for a grown man to be able to push is spear into Jesus’ side. I am thinking these crucified people would probably have been hanging just off the ground with their feet almost touching. I wonder if it is worse to be almost touching the ground rather than up high like Jesus is portrayed in many church renditions. I don’t think he was high up and able to see across everyone. Possibly when he spoke to his mother and to John he was only head and shoulders above them.

I’ve also wondered the bits in the Bible during the crucifixion where it says people didn’t understand what he said. Ok some of it was because he was slowly losing the power to breath as his lungs were stretched – another thing that we don’t talk about it in church. But also the site of the crucifixion was really busy with people. There would be those who were quietly weeping aas they watched their family members die hoping ot to be open grief probably did not happen because of fear of reprisals from the Romans. But there would also be the crowd who were there to jeer and catcall to make themselves look good in front of the Roman authorities. They would be wanting to heard saying how pleased they were that these people were being crucified. They were fitting in and covering their backs, denying association with those hanging there. Remember that when Jesus was crucified it was not a sombre religious occasion but something people were fearful of, were glad it was happening to someone else. It was humiliating! Horrendous!

Yes church talks of Jesus rejected and alone but do we really know how rejected and alone. And also how quickly we would probably be to fit in with the crowd rather than stand out say he was our friend and maybe be in the next lot to be crucified?

Crucifixion was crap, horrendous, brutal. I often wonder if that was why the early established church shortened the time from crucifixion to resurrection? So one doesn’t have to dwell on it for too long. Jesus says he’ll be in the belly of the earth three days [about 72 hours] and yet the church shortened it to two nights, about 36-40 hours in total. Half the time. Are we all too willing to brush over the horrors not just of what Jesus went through but of the horrors that goes on in our world now?

Perhaps today should be called “Horrendous Friday” not Good Friday. Though of course it is good Friday because we know what happens next so again maybe that’s why we gloss over the bad bits?

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Imbolc – 1st February

February 1st-2nd marks a confluence of several feasts and occasions including: the Celtic feast of Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, Feast of the Presentation, and Groundhog Day! Of all these things what do we know to be fully true? Or what, like the stories of the Celtic Saints are not meant to be literal or historical, but spiritual, mythical, archetypal, and psychological, resonating with the deepest parts of our souls.

I wonder how often we fight to make things factual. Yes not necessarily “true”, whatever that means, but factual. I know I’ve said it before about someone, and I thought it was CS Lewis but can’t find the actual quote, who says that “the Bible is true” but not factual.

Imbolc is said to be the day when sheep start lambing and when the days start to get noticeably longer; Brigid was allegedly a powerful abbess showing that Celtic Christianity was pro-women; she is also connected with the pantheon of ancient Celtic gods and goddesses; Candlemas is celebrated as the day Jesus was present at the temple in Jerusalem and recognised by Anna and Simeon, yet also within the bible narrative he was in Egypt at this point; and Groundhog day is to do with the shadow of a groundhog and how long winter will last, although we use the meaning for “Groundhog day” more in keeping with Bill Murray’s movie.

But as one thinks over these feasts and occasions with their elements of “truth” we need to realise how much we need them. As women we need a powerful woman, whether saint or goddess, to encourage us as we deal with our homes, our children, partners, and the mundane of life, because no matter how you jazz it up housework, daily feeding of a family, etc are boring and repetitive. But to have a supernatural woman to turn to then it helps.

To have something like groundhog day when, as we step tentatively out of winter and into spring we are reminded that it may either getting better immediately or not. And not just the weather. As we step into another month of the ever extending lockdown here in the UK, I believe, it is good to be able to think that, at the turn of a groundhog’s shadow things could change rapidly or continue for longer. I am wondering if we need to put in some superstition to help us through this lockdown time, something we can turn to that might just help us keep on keeping on? Something that gives us hope but in a “well if it doesn’t happen then it will in time” type of hope.

Hope isn’t instant. Sometimes hope unfurls slowly and only when it has fully come to fruition do we recognise it for what it is. Sometimes what we are hoping for unfurls in a very different way to what we wanted. Which then leads us to Jesus being presented in the Temple and the two old people, who had been waiting their whole lives, recognised him for who he truly was. Factually he was a small baby, child of two not overly well-off parents, but these two old people knew him for what he truly was – the saviour of the world. But the only way they knew was because they had been praying their whole lives. Are we willing to pray our whole lives to see change? To see something amazing unfold?

Even though, as I saw that original sentence on the Abbey of The Arts newsletter I thought the events were unconnected as I have explored through this post I can see that they all fit together like a well-made glove. And this makes me willing to pray for the future. A future I may only glimpse that that will benefit the whole world.

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2020 Review

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Normally I would do my end of year review to coincide with Christmas cards I was sending, whether physical or electronic, but this year I have decided to wait until 31st December to post, and am even tempted to wait until midnight just in case. It is not that I am fearful but this has been an “unprecedented” year.

At the time I would normally have done this post I was still laid up with bruised ribs from falling off that horse though was starting to plan what I would write, and I suppose even Different Christmas was a lead up to that. But then just as I was in the planning stages for that my husband got shingles and has been very sore with that. Then on Saturday 19th Dec Wales announced that all was change for Christmas and we were going into lockdown again – though from the volume of traffic I would say that only means that pubs and cafes have now closed. Not sure if I can see much other difference on the roads. It is definitely not back to April’s sparse traffic volume. But then on Sunday my daughter announced that she had tested positive to covid and so, even though she wasn’t coming up here for the holidays it did mean she was going to have to spend it home alone! All this in just a week!

This has been the strangest of years. Even to the point that our cat went from eating biscuits to demanding that we feed her cat meat from a tin. She now has meat twice a day and ignores the biscuits that sit waiting for her to be hungry enough. If it hadn’t been for the local cat rescue places being closed all the tins that had been in the cupboard for the last few years would have gone to them but now she’s eaten them all.

Talking of pets – our crazy rabbit died in the summer, happily of a possible heart attack whilst he was sunbathing before begining yet another digging project. He was buried inside his own warren of tunnels that he had constructed over the four years he had been living here. He is still very missed and the amount of veg peelings in our food recycling bin has increased.

As with everyone 2020 started normally enough, though it was odd for us because my husband chose to stay home for New Year’s instead of going to a youth hostel with old university friends. So actually even the start of the year was different for us with us being together when we woke on 2020. We went away as always for our wedding anniversary at the end of January, which was followed by my husband going off for a week of intensive Welsh learning on the Llyn Peninsular. He managed to get away climbing with friends in Scotland at the start of March, but by the time he went away then things were starting to change and covid was being muttered about. We had two Airbnb guests, both in the medical profession, who went from saying it was nothing to worry about to slowly getting more and more concerned about it, to our guest from Burma having to cut short his stay so he got home before all airports were closed.

I was supposed to go on my regular March writing retreat but felt uneasy about going which was just as well because suddenly things got serious. So instead of being in Gwynedd I went Cardiff to bring my daughter to stay with us when the pubs closed. We bought her some walking boots the day before the country went into full lockdown. We thought we were going to be walking all over North Wales, but then the 5 mile rule was introduced and we finished up doing lots of walks around where we live. We have seen my daughter more this year, probably a good 4 months of the year, than we have since she went off to university about 7 years ago. I picked her up yesterday, now that she is over her coovid isolation time and will spend New Year with us and stay until this lockdown lifts. So even though we have seen so much more of her this year when it comes to everyone else – my son and our mothers and our friends – we’ve seen them less than normal.

My husband changed jobs at the start of lockdown and has now been working for his new company for 8 months and never seen the inside of his office or met any of his colleagues face to face. We are so grateful for our lovely big house and him being able to work upstairs in his own office. But his is the only work going on in the house because, with all the guidelines and restrictions, it is not safe to run our house as an Airbnb rental home for the time being. Read more about that on Humility. And since not having guests coming and going it has changed how I see the house and what it is for. For now I’m not making any decisions how things will look regarding Airbnb and room rentals in 2021, but I do know I see this place much more as a family home now than a business.

We did manage to get away for a flying visit to Somerset to see our mums and a couple of friends at the beginning of August and my son and his fiancee came up to us for a long weekend in mid August. Both times we were blessed with great weather. And we managed 6 days in Northumberland in late September, though because Northumbeland went into tier 3 we were not able to see one friend who had moved there a couple of years ago, and also a friend’s 50th wedding anniversary party was cancelled. But we did manage 6 days of walking, reading, and resting together.

As well as Airbnb all my work has stopped – no more writing groups, no more schools work, no more workshops in the library. All very strange. But I have been doing a lot of my own writing and a few of my blogs from here are being published on Godspacelight.com which is quite exciting. I have also been working with a young illustrator and we have a book called The Little Yellow Boat which is with BumbleBee Publishing in the process of being put together and published later in 2021. I will tell more about that once it is out in the big wide world. My plans for 2021 are to work on more short stories and other ideas and of course to blog more. I do not want The Little Yellow Boat to be my only publications. I have also been working towards an MA in Celtic Studies and have loved the modules about the Mabinogion, especailly the Four Branches. I am thinking of doing some stores around the women from the Four Branches.

Every year we do not know what is going to happen, but I think 2021 is probably the one where we have the least idea. Will the vaccine prove effective enough to bring back “normal” life? Will we have enjoyed some of the changes and not want “normal”? For some their business will never be the same again. Many will be bankrupt. For others there plans will be delayed and will be able to move forward a year or two later. But also within that not knowing are things we do have control over. I plan to continue with the Quantum Energy Counselling healing work I’ve been doing. I will work on my own writing and develop a body of work and look at being published. I will meet up with people when I walk with my dog and have great conversations. I will email my friends. And I will carry on reading. All these I have control over. As to whether I’ll start Airbnb rental again or whether I’ll be able to restart writing workshops and schools work, that I have no control over, so will hold lightly. Also I do have control over how I behave towards what is going on around me and I hope I can hold Joy and Hope in the right place and walk as God wants me to through whatever is thrown my way.

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It is Unconditional

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Yesterday I finished “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” by Maya Angelou. I’d also just done another QEC session which involved forgiving myself for misinterpreting church teachings and working too hard to earn God’s love and acceptance, whilst at the same time teaching and sharing about that self-same unconditional love and acceptance!!! Goes to show how often we can teach and share on things that we know to be truth but haven’t accepted into our hearts!

In the last few pages of the book, Maya goes to see her vocal coach to unload about how awful she feels she has been to her son, and lots of other issues, and he says “God forgives you, that’s a given. But you now need to forgive yourself”. Wow! How often do we browbeat ourselves about not being forgiven when in fact God who’s totally forgiven us but we are not forgiving ourselves? If God really loves us unconditionally, which I do truly believe God does, then like Maya’s vocal coach we need to believe that it is a given that God has forgiven us. As my OEC coach told me, and she isn’t a Christian in the ‘purest sense’, “From what I gather God loves everyone unconditionally, even the murder and rapists, and wants to heal them too, and so will forgive them so they can be healed.” We need to forgive ourselves so we can be healed.

Maya ends with this book with a story about her and her son in Hawaii. He was only about 9 years old and had gone off on his own, leaving her asleep, for a swim. She was really worried about where he was because he hadn’t eaten breakfast in the hotel. When the police finally find him he says he ate breakfast in place down the street. He had told the proprietor of the place where he ate “See that name?” pointing to the sign above the hotel with Maya Angelou’s name in lights, “She’s my mother and she’s a great singer.” It made me think that I don’t often enough say “There’s my God and it will be cover by our relationship”.

I should be able to know that I can go wherever I want and do things knowing that the “payment” is covered by God because I am God’s child and am totally loved and looked after and will always be fed. Surely this is the message of the Cross – Jesus made the payment for us and we don’t need to have too any more! Now that is exciting! But to believe that I needed to forgive myself for all the times I’d not quite got it.

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Privileged?

Photo by myself – Reykjavik Iceland early morning Oct 2016

One of the big things that is taught about how to look after your mental health is not to compare yourself to others because your trauma, your issues, your situation, is yours and it is hard for you. It may appear easier than someone else’s but that doesn’t matter. As lockdown has eased there have been more articles appearing about how those born from about 1990’s are struggling with lockdown and those born before 1965 are wondering what all the fuss is about.

I have been trying to write a blog post about rights and privileges but it hasn’t been coming. I did do one just after the Brexit vote which flowed but this one was not coming. Lots of drafts but nothing that made sense to what I wanted to write. Then, after receiving a forwarded article from a friend from her local vicar, and going for a long walk on the beach with the dog, it all fell into place.

In this article, from my friend’s vicar, he talks of all the major historic events that happened for those born in 1900 compared to those born in 2000. And yes those born this century have not had to deal with 2 world wars, plus 2 minor wars that the West was involved in, major economic crashes, and the Spanish flu, amongst other things. And yes those things are horrendous and are not comparable to not being able to go to school, not being able to hang out with friends, not knowing if you can go abroad on holiday, of having to wear masks, of being confined at home, miss out on growing and developing as an adult at university. No they do not compare but they are the issues that young people are having to walk through and it does not make them any less traumatic.

As another retired friend of mine said that even though she misses her friends and her clubs, etc, she has had a life that she can look back on when she’s at home on her own. There is the phone to call people and she’s getting the hang of video calling too. But as she says, she’s had her life. Even for myself, I missed seeing people for those first couple of months but now I can go visiting and am even off to England to see family. I’m even restarting horse riding today. I have reached a stage in my life where I don’t want much but that is because I have done things, travelled, partied, had freedom to come and go as I like, in my teens, 20s and 30s.

Also I believe our media has spent that this century pumping anxiety into us from climate change to Brexit to terrorism. We live in fear and are constantly in flight or fight mode but can do nothing to change it. So our young people have been born into this high anxiety media storm with social media and image over riding so much. So no it isn’t a World War pr any of the things listed above, but this lockdown is riding on the back of traumas, anxieties and much more. As well as the media portraying the pandemic as possibly never ending.

So let us be kind to those who look at some of things that we might see as privileges as their right. Let us try and understand why they feel this way and not just tell them that “it was harder in my day“. That really isn’t helpful. That piles on the guilt which makes anxieties even stronger. It becomes not just “what is wrong with the world” but “what is wrong with me“.

I’m sure Jesus would have listened to both the young and the old and all those in between without judgement or condemnation. Shall we give it a go?

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Easter Sunday

DSCN0826 (1)I wonder how the followers of Jesus felt as they woke after Passover. Not the 12 disciples or the women who stayed with him. We know what went on with them. I wonder about those, who are like so many of us, sitting on the edges, are not part of the inner clique. Those who had heard Jesus speak, had felt something stir in their hearts, stayed with him even when they didn’t get picked to be the elite disciples. Those who shouted “Hosanna!” the Sunday previously and who stood at the back of the crowd when others shouted “Crucify him” and felt helpless to do anything about it. How did they feel?

I am thinking they felt a lot of what many of us are feeling now – grief, loss, anxiety, confused, uncertain. Did Jesus come to them? And if he did then when and what was it like?

As we go through these uncertain times, locked in by an unseen enemy, realising what a mess our world is in and how much it relies of economy rather than care, not knowing when this will end or what the future will hold will the Peace of Jesus come to us?

Many this Easter Sunday will be doing virtual church or be involved in things like https://ctbi.org.uk/sing-resurrection/ organised by a friend of mine. But also there will be people, I think, like those who were not connected with the inner circle of disciples and followers, who will just be getting on with their own thing. The thing they did to survive and live after Passover, after the world had changed.

My hope is that Jesus came to those people too. It isn’t recorded in the Bible if he did but my hope is that the Jesus I try to follow came to those who didn’t, or couldn’t, do anything special to wait for him; couldn’t or wouldn’t stop their daily lives. I hope he came for them. So this morning my hope is that whatever anyone is doing, whatever they believe, fear, hope, feel, that they’ll get a glimpse of Jesus and he’ll bring a bit of his healing balm to these uncertain, anxious times.

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Knowing Where You Come

DAN-SNOW-A5-2019-DATES-LO-722x1024.jpgLast night I saw Dan Snow, The History Man, speak at a local theatre. One of the many things that he said that struck me (so be warned there could be many more blog posts to come) was that he knows people say, generally behind his back, that he is only doing what he does because of his family. He paused before saying “Yes I am.” He went on to say that because his parents both had a love of history, that his father was in television broadcasting, because they had money and could afford to go not just to historic places close to home but across the world, that yes that is why he is stood on this stage now. He is doing what he does because of where he comes from.

Here is a piece that dovetails with that –

Jan Fortune in Becoming Your Story Course says “So many people describe themselves as ‘self-made’. It’s an outlandish concept. We all emerge from someone, have childhoods and environments that affect us and exist within various networks, physical and emotional. I’m certain we can make huge changes in our lives, re-invent ourselves, change our values and goals, but the idea that we don’t need others along the path is arrogant as well as unrealistic. No one is self-made”

My thoughts are that if you hear something more than once and it resonates for you then it is for you.

I could weep that I did not have Dan Snow’s upbringing and opportunities. I could weep that I am not Jan Fortune. I could bemoan that I am not a whole host of people. As well as grumbling that I did/didn’t do x, y and z. But I am here sitting in my lovely study watching the snow falling, my little dog snoring between my legs because of my parents,

snow jan 19
My study window as I wrote this post

my life choices, the people I have met along the way, the friends I have met, the people who have spoken into my life for good or bad. All have led to why I am here now.

A lovely friend that I share my writing with said he was amazed that I could write about medieval battles when I haven’t experienced any. Actually that is not true. I have experienced them through what I have read, listened to, watched, visited. All are part of who I am. Yes I have changed my life, reinvented myself, changed my values and goals over the 50+ years of my life. But each and every one of them has been influenced by who I met, what had gone before, or experiences at the time.

Here are just two examples:

  1. I didn’t go travelling abroad because it just popped into my head one day. I went because someone suggested it, even though she didn’t come with me in the end. I went to the place I did in Greece because someone recommended it before I left. And from there the people I met influenced where I went from there.
  2. I didn’t “become a Christian” out of the blue. Lovely well-meaning people invited me to their church coffee morning. From there my life has been again to do with who I met, who suggested what, good and bad things that happened along the way.

So as Dan Snow stood there and said “yes I am here because of my family and I am grateful” I also say I am here in this place now doing what I am doing because of my family, my friends, the influences that have happened.

I am starting off on a new direction with my life – taking my writing seriously and actually telling people I am a writer. I am doing to spend 12 months being mentored to

DSCF0719.JPG
Husband and dog Saturday celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in the rain on Lleyn Peninsula

help this process along. But this has not come about in isolation. It has come about due to many influences and encouragements. Also because of a husband who is content for me to not to have a career but to be home bringing in a modest income via Airbnb and writing workshops, and using the rest of my time writing, writing and writing. I am grateful to him for that.

So I am here typing, looking out my window in North Wales at the snow with my little dog still snoring because of the life choice I made to marry just over 12 years ago. But actually that only came about because I choice to be living in the town I was, etc, etc, etc. So let us all choose to understand where we have come from and many people have made us who we are now.

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Meaning of Life?

I am working my way through a wonderful journaling course by Jan Fortune. I have also just started reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. (A big thank you to Josh Luke Smith for divine conspiracysharing this book on his Instagram ages ago) This quote from Jan’s course jumped out at me because it fits in so much with what I am reading at the moment that Willard is saying the problem with Christianity is. (Note I am only on page 77 at the moment 🙂  )

Joseph Campbell says:

People say that what we’re all seeking a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

I think way too often, as Christians, when people ask us about Jesus, we talk to them about the Meaning of Life, being freed from sin, going to live in heaven. So very, very rarely do we talk about being truly alive – or as Jesus put it “having life in abundance”.

I fully believe that Jesus comes to give us life here on earth in abundance, that his plan for us is that our physical life resonates with our inner most being. But I also believe that, way too often, Christians have made it a serious of dos and don’ts and what one should believe and what one has to do.

I tried this month to do the whole abstaining thing; veganuary. So I gave up dairy, meat013.JPG and even alcohol. It lasted five days before I decided that I needed to finish the elderflower presse off with the gin liquor my daughter had given me. It was a week before I decided to use the cheese that was in the fridge for a meal, to use up the mushrooms that were lurking in the vegetable rack with the turkey that was sitting in the bottom of the freezer. Why couldn’t I do it? Because I was doing it as an “ought” rather than it being something my innermost being wanted to do. And the funny thing is that we generally only eat meat once or twice a week, drink wine only on a weekend, and only have spirits on special occasions! It was in the telling myself I couldn’t that I wanted to. When it is just a part of my life – I suppose part of my innermost being – then it is easy.

The interesting thing is when I feel the rapture of being fully alive then I want to love my neighbour, don’t want to do things that would hurt me or others, want to give something back to the world. Interestingly too when I am in church doing something I love to do – lead intercession, do some play with a deep meaning – I buzz and feel like turning up that morning was worthwhile. Not because there was meaning to it – even though there was – but because it made me feel fully alive.

Willard has suggested being immersed in the Psalms to feel fully alive. I remember when my kids were little we used to read a chapter of Proverbs and a Psalm every day and then something else. Today I read the first four Psalms and yes I did feel better. It didn’t tell me what would give me a meaning to life but showed me how I could equate my innermost being with what I believed and wanted to take onward and outward.

DSCF0397.JPGSo I think we need to stop telling people that Jesus lets us see a meaning to life, or even telling people they don’t know the meaning of life but help to show them the bits of Jesus life that help us all to find true connection with our innermost being and truly bring us alive. And to be honest I don’t want to hangout with a God that doesn’t do that for me

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Working Together

dscf0582Before Christmas I shared my thoughts on encouraging each other. This is an ongoing thing for all of us. I am a natural encourager but as another encourager friend said “who encourages the encouragers?” Well we encouragers do all have to learn that not everyone is an encourager. Some people have other skills and gifting which we all need. You notice here as an encourager I find it hard to list them 🙂

Anyway over that lovely time between Christmas and New year’s day, when my grown-up children had gone back to their respective homes and my husband had gone away for 3 days walking with friends, I sat down and did my review of the year, wrote up my lists of what to do, dreamed my dreams and came up with my plans. I also took down the decorations and got the place cleaned up and ready to face 2019. I started on the morepens qualifiable tasks to begin with – planning and advertising writing workshops, and cleaning. Yes those were the only ones on my list I got to. I have a great writing project in  my head that I need to plan out but I am struggling with it. I have reached a point where I know I am rubbish and it will not get off the ground!! See need of encouragement.

A girl I want to university with had posted on Instagram a devotional book she was reading. Her and I chatted about it a bit. I bought it. It is good. The bit that has encouraged me most of all is where it says to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the famous “love verses” and substitute Jesus for Love or it. Well that has definitely encouraged me.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
4 Jesus is patient, love is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. 5 Jesus does not dishonor others,  Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I know not everyone who reads my blog is a Christian but I am and for me seeing that this whole Love passage is not some unobtainable goal but is how Jesus is to me has really encouraged me. In the version I have in study verse 7 says “always supports, always encourages, always hopes, always trusting.” For me to know that there is someone there who is always encouraging me, but not just always trusting me, always having hope in me is awesome.

But you know what, I’m not now rushing on with my plan for my writing project. I’m still stuck in the doldrums with it but, after reading and meditating on this, I am now being kinder to myself. I am leaning on other people to help me with finding my get up and go. I am reading things and looking up things that will help me to move to where I want to be. After reading this I am no longer beating myself up about not being able to.

I’m not sure if I put that in my last post but for me encouraging someone sometimes isn’t about getting them to move on but is about just staying with them and being there.

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Looking from Llanfairfechan nature reserve to Penrhyn Castle (taken by me 6th Jan 2019)