I woke this morning thinking I should write a blog piece about Prince Phillip but what do you write about someone that you don’t really know that so much has been written about – also by people who don’t really know him.
Well it turns out the news of his death was announce on the anniversary of my stepdad’s death, which was sixteen years earlier. My stepdad born two years after Prince Phillip so the Queen and her family have been lucky/blessed to have him about for sixteen years longer than we got my stepdad. I’m sure that doesn’t make the loss any less for them though.
So this got me thinking about loss and death and when is a good time to die and how should one die. All those who’ve followed my blogs and my old site Diane’s Daily Thoughts, you’ll know that I’ve walked through a few untimely deaths. More than some and not as many as others!
We were talking with friends on Monday – our first friends this year who’ve been able to visit and sit in our backyard to eat lunch – and we were saying about dying well. As Christians we believe that we’ll go to be with God when we die and maybe even catch up with those who’ve already gone. [My hope there is too that God will have everyone who’s died with him whether they professed a faith or not. But that is for another blog!!] So if we believe that we’ll be in heaven then surely we should be preparing for it now. How? I believe by living to our fullest,which does not mean being busy all the time but being present all the time. Being here in the moment. Being content in the moment. Being at peace with ourselves and the world around us. And as I said in my last blog living in kindness and grace.
Death is one of the few things we can be certain of; that we are going to die, that those we love will die – and we hope and pray that it will not be too soon. But then maybe even 99 is too soon.
So for me as a ponder Prince Phillip’s death which is a form of public mourning, because, whether we like it or not, like him or not, he was a public figure who has been part of the UK’s psyche for over 70 years, I hope he died well. I hope he had time to say his goodbyes I hope he was reconciled with his regrets. I hope he was at peace at the end.
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 TheLittle 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.
I have heard so many preaches about “taking every thought captive” and think from one I gained an image of spearing the thoughts like they were fish and casting them away. But I think that is not the point. I don’t think that is what Paul meant when he said
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5
My thoughts are not wrong and do not need to be killed. Yes they do need to be captured and shown in the light of Christ, in the love of God. They need to be acknowledged and accepted as my thoughts.
In an Abbey of The Arts online mediation course she talks about focusing on your thoughts, feelings and emotions:
… allowing some time to move your focus and attention to your body. Allow some time to breathe and connect with what you are experiencing. Notice both physical pain as well as emotions. Bring your full awareness to whatever the experience is, without trying to change it. Notice how you experience this in your body. If you feel sad, how is that manifested in your body? Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.
So I am capturing all my thoughts but not like the spearing fisherman to then discard them but to accept that these are my thoughts. I think making our thoughts “obedient to Christ” means that we learn to accept who we are, what we think and then give it to God. Not to fix, not to change, but to accept.
Here is an excerpt from a fictional piece I wrote around that:
She took a breath and tried to relax. Then all the thoughts and worries and things to do came rushing to the surface of her mind. She held their joys, their fears, their richness and their frustrations. Then she let them go. They rushed onward to the surface of her mind. Each task, each important concern, each trivial chore, believing it should take priority of her time. She let them go. This was the thrum of her existence. This was the pulsating of her life. She smiled. Instead of fighting it she must learn to relax into it and be lifted up on the current of her life.
Being a follower of Christ, I believe, isn’t all about “getting it right” so that God loves us, but is about believing that we are really alright people just as we are accepted and loved by God. And really it is about time we got on a loved and accepted ourselves as He does.
On Thursday I was having some healing prayer and God called me His little princess and showed me a picture of me sat on a rug with Him behind me. He had me between his legs pulled back close to His chest. As anyone, child with parent or with a lover, has sat like that, this is where you can feel someone’s heartbeat. I haven’t done anything momentously good. In fact I’d gone for the prayer because I was feeling seriously grouchy with a lot of things and God didn’t tell me to take capture all those thoughts and get rid of them and start doing things right. No! He showed me that He just wanted to be close to me and to hug me just as I was.
So taking those thoughts captive – I truly believe means accepting when we’re down as well as up, when we’re depressed as well as joyful, when we’re anxious as well as calm, when we’re angry as well as understanding, when we’re fed up of the world as well as when we’re content with the world. It is about accepting not rejecting who we are and how we feel. So I’m not going to throw away those thoughts because also some of my so-called “negative” thoughts are actually a great help to me in understand how I am, why I am and what I’m meant to be doing next.
I read this quote this morning in Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. It’s from Charles Péguy (1873–1914), who was a French poet and essayist. Also this morning in the Guardian online I read this from Julia Gillard, who was the first woman Prime Minster of Australia, “the rapid media cycle combined with social media had disrupted the rhythm of politics and the perception of politicians.”
“What’s wrong with the world today?” we often hear cry. In fact I was at a meeting talking about doing things with young people and that it is getting harder and harder because their attention spans are becoming shorter – and of course social media took the blame. Is it to blame? Or is it more along the lines of the fact that we have come to accept it and not challenge it. I’m not saying switch it off but I am saying that we need to fit in the mysticism, the praying, the meditation, the thinking about things. We see top level council and government meetings tweeted about as soon as we happen. Donald Trump has bought into the whole social media/tweeting in such a way that he appears to just tweet away so he can keep “in touch” but so much of what he says is rubbish and not even spell checked. As yet our politicians over here have not bought in to it but will that only be a matter of time?
But each of us needs to change this too. We need to slow down and to think. We need to change our worlds but being more meditative before we act. There is a rise in meditation and mindfulness but that seems to me to be in a recreation box not in a “let’s ponder before we act” box. As the general public we need to stop wanting a quick answer to things. And yes public enquiries can take too long – as with Hillsborough – but also answers can be wanted too quickly.
We live in a world that wants answers and wants them now. Human beings have always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything but at one time that had to come about slowly, could not be broadcast the moment someone had had a pondering thought. A lot of what we hear and read is more of a thought than a decision. Decisions come with time, with thought, with tapping into something greater than. And yes I think whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Pagan, Agnostic, Atheist, or any of the other religions etc that I have missed out, all want to tap into something more than themselves, whether that is a God, gods, inner self, counsellors, friends, or anything else. But that takes time. It cannot be done in a moment, in 144 characters.
To be able to change this world we need to take time, need to as Kate Tempest said “look at the faces” and “see peace in the faces”. Peace and hope and knowing where to stand. The catchphrase/gateway to silence/meditation point with Richard Rohr this week is “Give me a lever and a place to stand” – based on how Archimedes believed that a lever put in the correct place on the correct fulcrum in space could move the world. For me this has set me off on thinking about where is the lever I’m meant to be standing on, where is the correct place for me to stand and what in my world am I changing. Being the person I am it is hard for me to stop and think and wonder about that. I do want to be rushing about doing but I know that I will not know where it is unless I spend time praying, pondering, journaling, talking to friends, reading, watching, thinking and then …
So to change this world, to see the peace in people’s faces, to really know what is going on and what people think about it we need to slow down, to move into meditation not as a place so we can sleep more but as a place where we can become more effective. We need to also stop expecting our leaders to give us answers now.
(Apologises if I’ve miss quoted lyrics or missed the point. These are my thoughts and how I heard this)
Last night I watch Kate Tempest at Glastonbury. In fact I watched her the night before too. I don’t do the “watching music” normally – in fact I don’t often listen to music. In the car maybe but not just to sit down and listen to. I have to be doing something else. But someone from one of the writing groups that I run suggested we watch her. I have not been able to get her out of my head since. Then, as things generally do, I met with a friend for coffee and she was talking about similar things to the things Kate was singing about. Last night when I watched I also took notes of the things that had stood out to me the night before. The title of this blog is one of the lines and it is the line that fits in most with what my friend and I were talking about – “what we going to do to wake up?”
She starts with a knock out song about the present government and really does take down Theresa May using actual words that May has said. And this is where the media stops in their reporting but Kate Tempest does not stop there. She takes things onward. I think that is what made me listen twice. Yes it is great to hear someone speaking out against the mess our world is in but it is even more awesome to hear someone talk about what “WE” can do. Not them but us. I did a lot of journalling around that afterwards.
Her main song tells the story of 7 very different people being awake at 4.18 and I challenge anyone to listen to it and not see bits of themselves and bits of those they love in it but she challenges each of us to look for the “gods” out there; that each person is born to greatness – “Gods rise in the most unassuming and human way“. Each of us has the power to act. What I felt Kate was challenging each one of us to live out was; justice, recompense, humility and most importantly to realise that we are connected and to live with unconditional love for each other.
One bit that has stayed with me is when she says to realise that the oppressed and the oppressor are connected. I felt, and feel too that it is reflected in the medias response to her set, that we blame the government, blame “them” when in fact each of us holds others back, holds ourselves back, turns a blind eye to things, when in fact we need to realise that we do get what we either vote for or can’t be bothered to vote for.
I loved how she finished – that there is nothing new, nothing set in stone, we have it all in us and there is peace in face of people, but that things will not change until we all realise that they have to and are all willing to rise up and change things. We need to stop consuming and start looking to each other, encouraging each other, releasing each other, helping each other to dream our dreams.
“What are we going to do wake up?” Before the US elections I read of a prophet (I’ve lost the piece so can’t quote fully) that I remember saying that Trump was in the running because we all needed a “trumpet call to wake up“, and that things were going to come into the light. I believe instead of reacting and fearing we need to ask what caused that boy to want to blow himself and lots of young girls as well after a concert in Manchester, what caused those young men to drive a van into people they didn’t know and then go on a killing rampage, what causes the person in the town next to me to want to stab his wife, what causes builders to put cheap inflammable materials into a building and authority figures to turn a blind eye, what causes suicides, murders, the need to buy sweatshop made clothes, to drink, etc etc.
We all need to have that wake up call to find out what makes us happy to moan but do nothing. How much more needs to go on before we all take responsibility?
One of the things I journalled last night was “have I ever spoken to a potential terrorist, rapist, murderer? I don’t know. But maybe I have. Maybe something I have said has awoken a dream in them for something more than destruction. Or maybe because of things I do and say then those thoughts never cross their minds. It is time we all got out there, stopped blaming them and started seeing how we can LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. Perhaps we can only do that when we realise we are all connected, all loved and all have something to contribute?
At church yesterday our vicar asked “What side of the wall would Jesus have been on?” You know what I think? I think he would have been on both sides. Yes both sides. Both sides are hurting and in pain – ok the refugees and those with green cards, etc stuck in airports have a noticeable need but the side behind the wall also have a need.
Those who want the wall built, want Muslims ban, are scared. Not just slightly scared but terrified. They have believed the media hype that all Muslims are terrorists and that we need to beware of them. I’m not sure what they America equivalent of the Daily Mail is but these people are Daily Mail readers. Mind you I often think the Guardian readers only see one side too.
I found it interesting too that there has been this big fuss here in the UK about the wall to stop Mexicans coming into the US and Trumps Muslim ban, but not so much has stayed in the news about the fences and walls being built across Europe to stop the refugees entering the UK. Yes this includes those fences that have now been torn down in Calais.
There was a post on Facebook that said “If you’re a Christian and you support #MuslimBan, you might be a lot of things but you’re not a frigging Christian”. I can see the sentiment behind this but I don’t think it’s true. I think there are Christians who are scared of Muslims, scared of dying, and not fully putting their faith in God. For some it comes out noticeably in saying they support #MuslimBan but for others it comes out in different ways; not believing this they do can be forgiven, not forgiving others, not giving to the poor, gossiping, keeping boundaries in their hearts that keep others out, not doing things that God asks of them. I go on. Yes supporting it shows an uncaring side, a side that is misguided but also a heart that is scared of things, lives in fear. You know I think Jesus would be with these people wanting to change their hearts and wanting them to let go of their fear and to trust him and to love others.
Recently I attended a course about the connection between Judaism and Christianity led by some lovely Christian people. It did reach a point where I could not go any more because they were talking of how the Jews reclaimed Palestine/Israel and I said that I felt we also ought to look at the awful things the Jews had done against the Palestinians. Well I was told that it was prophesied in the Bible so this made it ok, that actually these people (the wave of refugees that I had said were like the Jews prior to WWII) only wanted to come over here to kill us all, and that the Jews ways of dealing with the Arabs were ok because “the end justified the means”!!!. These were not bad unloving Christians but they had got caught up in a side of things that said that if one does not honour the Jews one will not be blessed. And they wanted to be blessed. So I am sure they would be very pro the #MuslimBan but also very caring and loving towards homeless people, people with needs, Jewish people. But they live in a mix of fear of Arabs/Muslims and a desire to claim major blessings from God.
I didn’t want to do the comparison between now and Nazi Germany but I’m going to. Back in the 1930’s there were some good Christians who went along with what Hitler was saying about the reasons why Germany was failing. They supported him to begin with. And even, to save their own skins, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. Not every person who let things happen in Nazi Germany was a bad person. Many were scared and wanting to look after themselves.
So what side would Jesus be on? Again I believe he would be on both sides, wanting to give the refugees the peace and freedom they deserve, but also wanting those who think they should be banned/walls built peace and freedom in their hearts so they can also have the freedom they deserve. When one is fearful or angry or prejudice there is no freedom to truly live. One is always wanting to look after oneself, keep an eye out for those who might take away the blessing/the job/the destiny.
In the next few days I’m doing to look and blog on words from one of Josh Luke Smith’s songs – “Come as you are not as you should be” – because I think it says an awful lot about how we need to think and pray for the who are being oppressed, for the bigots who are doing the oppression and for ourselves and how we should be reacting; how we should be living in peace and in true freedom
As I look out my study window things don’t look much different to yesterday. All us early risers are still up and doing our thing, cars are moving, the sky is still dark at 7.15. I expect there will be a littering of fireworks shells and empty bottles around and about. My family and I will be on very different time scales as when I got up to go to the bathroom at 2.30am lights were still on downstairs. By then I’d been asleep for at least 3 hours.
Yesterday I did spend some time wrapping 2016 up and tying it with a ribbon to know that some of it will ooze out into this coming year. There is no clear cut. We’ve got Airbnb bookings already for this year. I’m waiting on replies for workshops. There will be hurts and joys from years gone by that will move into this new year. A new year isn’t like a new baby where the canvass is blank and ready to write on – although new calendars and diaries give us that impression. It is just the turning of a page.
It can be good to think of resolutions on how we will live our year, but then it is also good to do that every day, week, month. Around the start of each month I take a blank calendar page, put all my set things on it and then take my list of things I’d like to do and find out how I can fit them in; things like an artist’s date to write somewhere different, some study time, catch up with people time. And I also reassess if I stuck to my writing goals on the month before. I cannot say that I will leave it all until the end of the year to do this or it may never happen. But also I do not condemn myself if I do not do as I would have like – whether new year resolutions or my plan for the coming week.
Going back to my question for 2017 – what does it have in store for us? No one knows. We watched Charlie Booker’s Wipe 2016 the other evening which started with him saying “good riddance to 2015. That wasn’t a great year. Let’s hope 2016 is better” and then he goes on to say that in fact 2016 seems a lot worse – esp for us here in the West. 2017 could be even worse for the world in general, or it could be better, or it could be a mix of both.
I had an odd comment to my Facebook Happy New Year message. Someone said “Hope 2017 is better than the last 5 years have been for you.” I’m not sure if they meant it for me or for someone else because in reality the last 5 years have had some really tough and really horrid times in them but they have also had some really great times in them. I could choose to focus on the awful or to focus on the awesome or actually look at them as a whole and say “we made it through” which often is my response. In fact for me there have been many years in my life time that have been horrendous with smaller smatterings of awesome than we’ve had in the last 5, but I’m hear and I’m still standing and I’ll looking forward to what is to come.
Some of my favourite things for this coming year are:
This from Sally McClung who’s husband Floyd has been very sick for a very long time. She posted this on 30th December –
“I remembered a definition of peace that I heard Floyd give in one of his sermons. Peace does not mean the absence of trouble, but the presence of what is good – God is good! We can rest in His goodness even in the midst of trouble, of storms.
Various forms of peace are mentioned 429 times in the Bible, so the Lord certainly understood that “peace” would be an issue, a need in our lives. Our actions, our attitudes may influence peace, but true peace comes only from God.
“Great peace have those who love your law.” Psalm 119:165
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7
“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, and peace.” Galatians 5:22
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27″
And this old faithful poem
The Gate Of The Year
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I’ll still make my resolutions and put in some plans but will hold them lightly. I will look for that good that leads to peace of mind in all that goes on rather than expecting things not to be troubled. I will put my hand in God’s and let Him lead me into the darkness of this coming year. And if by the end of 2017 I trust God more and can see beauty and goodness in more things, situations and people then I think I will have made it.