Oh I’m sure there’s a rational scientific explanation. In fact a man in the park told me that
the whole row of trees where one fell all have dead roots so all will fall at some point. Ok so that’s a reason but why that one during Storm Doris on Wednesday? Why not another one? Why not all of them? So as I was talking to him a woman walked past us and we both said Hello to her as we always do then he said “her husband passed away recently” which I knew because she’d told me and she’d told me this is the reason she gets up and walks briskly round the park each morning before she starts her day. Then he said, as she moved further away from us “and she’s had cancer.” She’s still standing, still walking, still able to smile and say good morning.
In fact I know of a few people who are dealing with cancer, bereavement, ill health, divorce, etc who still have time for other people, who still get up each day, who still work, care, smile. Then I know others who are going through similar who have fallen; some to staying home all the time, some to drink, drugs, fighting, bemoaning everything, some even to suicide. So what makes some people fall and others not?
The glib answer could be God, but that’s not true. I know as many Christians who have fallen into that pit of despair as I do those who do not have a faith. I know as many people who are still standing swaying in the wind of the awful things the world is throwing who don’t have a faith as I do ones who do.
There is something more than knowing/not knowing God that has to do with this whole falling/not falling. I think some of it is personality. Some people can just see the positive through things, some can’t. I would say, from experience for myself and those I know, that as a Christian in hard situations it is the knowing that God is there, it is turning to God and
not expecting Him to be a fairy godmother who sorts it out but that He is a true friend who walks with you through it all. For those who say they don’t know God I think it is a tenacity that they won’t let life pull them down, that they will make the most of what they have whilst they on this earth for themselves, their families their friends. I think it is that which causes those with cancers to keep going with
their craft workshops, run marathons, get up in the morning and smile.
So why do some trees fall and others don’t? I think like people they have a tenacity in their trunk that makes them want to stay standing and be willing to face another storm.
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.
This is another thought that arose in my head from the Lapidus conference on Saturday 10th December. It came about when we were asked to give words about what Lapidus was all about but again I felt, like Ubuntu, that is related as much to Christianity as it did to therapeutic writing for well-being.
Jesus said we were meant to be “in the world but not of the world” which sort of, to me, means that we are to be rebellious to the things that the world can take for granted – like putting self first, wanting for us, fear, anxiety, etc. I am not going to put down Christians who worry or are anxious because I know way too many who really are amazing followers of Jesus but who do worry, suffer from anxiety and from depression, have to deal with fear on a regular basis. But I also see these many of these people fighting it all the way. They don’t lie down to the fact that they suffer with these things but they work toward it not happening. I also see this in people who are not followers of God too, who will not let these things overwhelm them even if they are bed-bound, taking tablets, struggling. They are rebelling all the way against these things.
We all need to be rebelling against injustices, fears, greed, the negative things that stop others and ourselves from reaching our potential. I suppose it is why I want to encourage others with using words for well-being. I want to show how this can be a tool to help rebel against the world.
I feel like there is a bit of a rebelling against the system going on with the way people are voting at the moment; with this lean to the far right. How should we respond to this rebellion? Not by ignoring it. Not by being fearful of it. Not by being rude to those who vote this way or think this way. To rebel against this we need to be moving in the opposite spirit. We need to be modelling love, acceptance, justice, peace.
So I go back to my first point – as Christians we should be encouraging each other to be rebellious. Too often we don’t. Too often we hide in our churches – whether big or small, loud or quiet – and keep going with the same old same old. I know I am guilty of this. I need to encourage my fellow Christians, with the tools I have – which is my writing – to think about how they look at others, to be welcoming, to not fear, to be supportive, to be counter-cultural. Sometimes I think there are more people who do not attend church and are not followers of God who are more counter-cultural than Christians. Many are out there feeding people not just over Christmas by all year, are working on ways to support others, to share news openly of the good as well as the bad that goes on, who have time to stop and chat to the old, the lonely, the smelly and the sick.
So I will do my bit over this season. I am hoping that the words we are using in the play I have instigated to be performed at our local church will make people think about how they really view Christmas. It is the bit I can do. And I do hope that I can encourage people to rebel a bit and change the world one little piece at a time with the talents they have. We can’t all invite homeless people to our houses, not just cos not everyone has the space, but some of us just aren’t able to do it because we aren’t made that way. But another way of rebelling, I think, is to not feel condemned that I’m not doing that but to make sure I use the talents I have, the time I have, the situation I am in, to rebel just a bit from the culture I am in.
Oh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”
On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging the greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …
green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.
Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …
(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)
I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across because of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂
Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how much deeper
this new Christianity was.
Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?
So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….
In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.
(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)
How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.
Interesting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂
I’ve blogged before on why I believe in God and what makes me follow Him but I just love it when He does something really clever!
We have started going to a Kesher course. Kesher means something to do with the way Christianity and Judaism is joined together. In honesty I went because I like the woman who is running the course and wanted to support her. And at the time when she set it up we didn’t know many people and so wanted to connect with others. Anyway I am so glad we did. We have only been twice but I am stuck on one thing that we learned this week.
So when Jesus gets crucified the Bible says that Pilate put up a plaque above Jesus on the cross that said “King of the Jews” and the Jewish leaders who wanted him crucified for this very reason got really angry with Pilate and wanted him to take it down. I’d always thought all that was odd. The reason the Jewish leaders had bullied Pilate into crucifying Jesus was because he had declared himself as king, so they said and “they had no other king than Caesar” is what they said. So why get mad about what was there? But also why did Pilate have that plaque put up anyway?
Well it turns out that every person who was crucified had a plaque with their name and what their crime was at the top of their cross. We do often forget that crucifixion wasn’t a special punishment in Roman times but was something they did quite a bit and then they would leave the crucified person there for ages as an example. A bit like we use to do over here and leave the condemned man hanging on the gibbet at the crossroads or in a cage on the side of the city walls, or heads on poles from Tower Bridge. That sort of thing. As an example. And to be a good example it was good to remind people what the crimes were that could get you crucified.
So Pilate had this plaque which says “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” done because that was the rules that went with crucifixion. Well according to our teacher on Friday the way it would have been written the starting letters above Jesus’ head would have given an acrostic which would have said YWYH – which is the way the Jews would write God and it was unspoken. So here is the man they condemned with the word that Jews saw as too holy to speak in an acrostic above him as he was dying. Wow! Now I think that is so clever of God to get all that sorted.
I think He was still trying to make them see that Jesus was truly God but they still didn’t believe it. Instead these Jewish leaders defiled themselves and went before Pilate, the heathen Roman, on the eve of Passover, to demand he take the sign down. They were so angry that they would rather be unclean and not able to celebrate their most important festival. Amazing!
But it also got me thinking of how often we get so stuck on our high horse – whether follower of Jesus or not – that we miss totally what God is trying to say and would rather miss out that accept.
So Sunday I was at the Open day for Gwrych Castle. The theme was Halloween, as it is at this time of the year. Something we can either accept, ignore or try to fight against. For me, as a Christian, I did get some flax about getting involved in something that was centred around Halloween. Did I think about that first of and pray hard? To be perfectly honest – No! I was so excited to be asked to go and do some story telling – something I love doing but haven’t had much opportunity to do ever. Yes I did read to my children when they were small and they loved it. I have read at times but not often enough. So for me the excitement of being asked over road anything deeper than that. :)
So I considered what I was hearing from those around me about whether it was right or wrong to be part of this event. I didn’t think hard about what I had written or the stories I was sharing but stuck very much to the remit I had been given. But as I thought and prayed I felt ok about what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was glorifying something evil.
So I turn up and discovered that there is a team of paranormal investigators there. I get introduced to them because Mark, who heads up the Gwrych Trust likes people to know each other. Also these guys were planning on taking my photo at some point during my story telling to see if I had a ghost presence around me. So I chatted to them and asked what it was all about. Well it is all very spiritual and it gave me the opportunity to chat about being a Christian and the spirituality of that. Hey there’s a lot I don’t understand and who’s to say that all these spiritual things are evil?
In fact from there we had a great chat about how people put us in boxes. When you say the word “paranormal investigator” you get all sorts of ideas. One of the guys was saying that what they do is nothing like what is seen on the TV and that most of what they find is peaceful and calming. He felt there was nothing to fear from it. He also really did not like Halloween and trick or treating feeling that it just frightened people and made a mockery of what they do. Well this gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about how Christians get put in boxes – ok sometimes they are deserved boxes but that’s a bit like the paranormal stuff that is viewed on TV – and was able to talk about Jesus, God making the world, there
being things we don’t know about, etc. It was a great discussion, and one that we both hope to continue with on another occasion.
This would not have happened if I had decided that I was not to go to the Castle and do my story telling on Sunday. This would not have happened if I had gone wanting to denounce everything there as evil. I don’t think ever Christian should go and do this but I do think that we need to be more open and willing to learn, and not to be afraid. To be honest if God really is as big as I’m hoping He is then I had nothing to fear. I would not go and taunt evil because that would be silly but to go believing that I was where God was allowing me to be, and with a heart that wanted to be open and non-condemning, then I was going to be ok.
And actually sometimes it is going with want to condemn that actually can make the judgemental Christian worse than the exploring spiritual person. And I’m just hoping God can do something with the words I was able to share.
Oh I am so rubbish at setting boundaries. I find it so difficult. Maybe I wasn’t taught well as a child? Maybe very few of us get taught how to do it? Anyway it seems that this is the journey I am on at the moment – learning how to set boundaries calmly and firmly without losing it!
This weekend we’ve had those guests staying that really do need boundarying in. This has been a tough weekend. And today I have had to charge them for staining a mattress. And also when I did challenge them he actually, I felt, was quite passive aggressive toward me. Oh man I found it so hard not to be passive aggressive myself back again and not to say “it’s fine” when they offered to pay for the mattress. So yes I did manage to charge them for at least my cleaning time and didn’t lose my temper. But now I am shaking like a leaf and want to cry. I know its silly. Like this is my house, my business, my life, and I have got myself in a pickle being firm to people in my house. But it was so hard.
Mind you I can think of loads of places where I give in and go with people and then try to put my boundaries in later and really screw up and do the whole passive aggressive bit, or even really shout. Actually it isn’t so much their fault, though I may have felt my boundaries have been violated, but sometimes it is because I have not been clear. Too busy people pleasing!!!
With my new venture of facilitating writing workshops I again have to set firm boundaries or I could easily get either carried away and do too much or not be willing to do something because of someone putting me down. I have to work out my life balance. I have things I have to do and things I can do and I have to learn what I can fit into my day and still be me. I need to also find time to write and plan and also just to hang out.
There are some amazing books out there about setting boundaries – which I have read – but actually it isn’t till you have to set them, and then have opposition to them that you realise how you are. Oh yes it is easy for me to set boundaries whether with the Airbnb rooms (yes we are up to 2 now) or with the writing workshops when people are playing ball with them, or even if they give them a bit of a push but when I say “No that’s it” they affirm me. The Airbnb guest being aggressive toward me upset me. Not because he had done it but because I realise how fragile I am about holding on to my boundaries.
So this weekend was hard work. I made some mistakes with the guests, with my husband, with myself, but I have learned a lot through it. And for me learning is always the greatest thing. I am not perfect but I am always learning. This weekend was good – even if there is now a horrid mess that needs cleaning!!! And loads of washing that need doing!! And guests that are arriving soon. – So why am I posting this? Because I told myself I need to publish something on my blog and so I that is also my boundary for me and my writing today.
(Lots of amazing boundary quotes pinched from various places 🙂 )
One good reason is that he gets me for an owner but the real reason I would love to be my dog is the fact that he seems able to forget the horrid things in his life. I know there are dogs that are traumatised when they are puppies that do appear to remember those things and behave sometimes badly because of it. But Renly was treated well in those early years and seems to be very chilled because of it.
Yesterday he had an incident with a very large, very hairy black Alsation. The dog went for him and at one point appeared to have his jaws around Renly’s middle. The dog then let him go. Renly ran to me and I was able to grab the dog by the collar and scruff of the neck. Renly and I then went briskly down to the beach where I tried all sorts to get him to come to me so I could feel him all over to check he was ok. He wouldn’t come to me and kept running away with his tail between his legs and almost glaring at me. He only let me touch him when we saw a lady we had met before. He then sat at her feet and let her stroke him then let me stroke him. He seemed back to his chirpy self then.
Today i was nervous of going to the beach because of this dog but also because I was
concerned that Renly would react badly and be scared. I made sure we were a bit later so we wouldn’t bump into them. But you would have thought the incident had never happened. Renly showed no signs of fear or even slight anxiety.
He has a great memory. In fact just before the incident yesterday he had run to a lady he gets treats from. Today she was later and so Renly set off to get his treat and to play with her dog. In fact he remembers all the people who give him treats and will run up to them, often leaving me a way behind. And the other day we had friends come to visit and he loves their dog but they hadn’t seen each other for 8 months , and in a totally different place, but Renly recognised her and greeted her with such enthusiasm. He remembers key people in his life even if he hasn’t seen them for ages. He seems able to tell with my children that they are family and the boyfriends/girlfriends they bring he isn’t so close to. Yes he is warm and friendly because he’s that sort of dog but his greetings are very different.
So yes I want to be my dog. To be able to remember the good things in life and forget the bad. To be able to not get phased by something that happened once but to be able to let it go and to continue to enjoy the good things in life – which for him are treats, hugs, beach, car and family. Simple life!
I think this part of my journey is about perspectives and today I have been thinking about different lights. The joy of living by the seaside, especially in Britain, is that the sky is always changing and the light is different every day. Yesterday I was walking, a walk I do most mornings, and saw a tall structure that I am sure I had never seen before. On closer inspection it had been there for a while. It was a tall street light!
When I look out to see some days I will see the wind turbines, other days not; some days a few of them, other days lots of them. Yesterday there was an amazing bank of cloud just behind them so that it looked like they were at the bottom of a cliff. The other day the cloud was around their bases so all that could be seen was the blades. The light on my walk
and on my view has very little to do with what the weather is. Where we live often the clouds pass over us to rain on Snowdonia National Park. We are in what is called a “rain shadow” which seems a silly name. I think it should be a “rain’s bypass” 🙂
But the more I thought of light the more I could see that it is to do with what is being revealed, that different place of standing, that different perspective. And I can choose whether I notice or don’t. I can get caught in my own thoughts and miss what the light is doing for today. I have to choose to look, to observe, to remember, and then actually to let it go. No day is better or worse than the other. Each day has its own light – a lot or a little. I have to choose to enjoy the lack of light when the storm clouds are gathering, as much as I enjoy the bright light wishing I had got around to buying those sunglasses.
Velveteen Rabbi talked of our light in “Letting Your Light Shine” in which she expounds how before Adam and Eve ate the apple they were just light and that God had to cloth them with skin after they had sinned to conceal their light. As I read it in the context of the journey I am on and with other things I am exploring within in my understanding of God, we can now almost choose how much light we reveal and also how much light we see in others. There are days when I am walking with God and I know that people see His light, or rather my true God-image light, shining through, whereas there are other days when my light is well and truly hidden. I suppose that goes back to the sermon I heard on Sunday about getting rid of habits and hurts so that we reflect God. And actually I think that is what we should be going – reflecting God – rather than trying to “be good Christians”. It’s up to Him not me. I just need to make the space and let the light shine.
But also I can choose how I view the light in others. I can choose how I want to view them. And people will give out a little light or a lot but I can miss both if I am not really looking. As with the different skies each day on my walk, that I can choose whether I engage with or not, I can do the same with people. I can choose to engage with them and maybe then, like the the tall street light, see something in them that I had not seen before even though I had known them a long time.
And often that means we need to let go of past hurts from that person – or who that person reminds us of 🙂