Categories
judging trust

Dodgy Characters

Picture of man with square black backpack. chosen from pexels.com by Diane Woodrow
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Note this is not one of the people I am talking about but a free Pexels.com image to I don’t show real people.

On the weekend a message came up on a local neighbourhood group about “dodgy men” going door to door in various streets. Well two of those “dodgy men” came to my door. They were actually boys not men and were very honest about the fact that they were ex-offenders and were doing this for a charity to gain credits for careers advise and driving lessons. Now my main worry was that they were being made to do this against their wills as a form of human trafficking/slavery. And I did talk to the boys about this and said I could put them in touch with people who would help.

I did buy some stuff from them and had to pay by cheque as we don’t have cash any more. One of the lads gave me his name and I did google him afterwards. He came from the town he said and yes he had been in prison for fighting. But actually some of the young people I work with in Youthshedz have criminal records. It is often very much a case of “by the grace of God/good luck/being born with different parents in a different part of the country” it could have been me.

But too many people are brought up to be fearful, to panic when they see young men with large black bags door knocking. They worry for themselves and not for the young men. Of course I did not let these boys in my house or do any thing that would endanger myself or my home. But actually that is wise and fair to them as much as to me. It is like not leaving the alcoholic to take charge of the wine cellar. I would be wrong to put temptation before these men but they need my/our support as much as anything.

But also what makes us in a place to judge? We see where someone is at that moment in time but not how they were or how they could be. I have to laugh because I am now running lots of youth based activities but in my youth I was into all sorts of things and was not a “good person” as some would say. But for those I work with and for and who see me dog walking I am a good person now. And yes I am a good person now but when I was in my early 20s the same could not be said.

I think with these “dodgy men” and other people that many fear we need to give them a chance, see the good that is in them, realise they have made mistakes due to circumstance, personality, home lives, and so much more, but they can, with help, support, determination and expectation become more than you see at the moment.

For myself the turning point was giving birth to my son, wanting to change my lifestyle for my boy and then meeting with God in a very powerful way. But for other people it is different things but all seem to include meeting with something bigger than themselves.

Let us all try to give these “dodgy men” and women a chance to desire to meet with something bigger than themselves, to tell their stores and to find a place of belonging.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone – Jesus

John 8:7

Categories
learning Viewpoint

Viewed Through Your Lens?

View across the Solway Firth looking from England to Scotland, photographed by Diane Woodrow whilst on holiday in this area in September 2021, and realising for the first time how much further Hadrian's wall went
The start/finish of Hadrian’s Wall taken by myself September 2021

Every thing we look at or interpret we interpret through our own lens, viewpoint, life experiences. I take a quote here from Michael Moore’s blog that I read this morning

Usually when we hear or read something new, we just compare it to our own ideas. If it is the same, we accept it and say that it is correct. If it is not, we say it is incorrect. In either case, we learn nothing

by Thich Nhat Hahn taken from Learning by Michael Moore

I am reading and pondering on a lovely devotional book by my friend David Pott about the painting of Jacob and his sons that hang in Bishop Auckland Castle called Listening to The Boys. My interpretation of some of the paintings and thoughts are very different to David’s. Because I know him I know he is from a large, close family, who enjoy being together and has been married to the same person for over 50 years. Yes I do also know there have been challenges within the family but there has been a lot of support too. He is also a man – obviously.

When I read his thoughts and look at the paintings I am viewing them through the eyes of a woman who isn’t from a large close family and who has had very different life experiences to David. For instance when I read about Simeon and Levi killing the family of the man who raped their sister I, as a woman, side much more with them and their violent justice than I do with Jacob, their father, who is looking for reconciliation and expecting his daughter to marry the man who raped her! In fact, as a woman who would spent time wanting a father to stand in the gap for her I have often struggled with white, male preachers’ take on Jacob in this story.

I think this is where we have to be very careful when, especially in churches, we say “this is what this piece says”. Too often someone will stand at the front of church and speak for 10 minutes to over an hour, depending on the denomination, and say “this is what the Bible says” when in fact they should be saying “this is what I believe this is saying to me at this point in time“.

As a writer and author I know that what I write gets viewed differently by whoever reads it because the reader views it through their worldview/their lens and I have to learn that it does not mean I am wrong or they are wrong. It means I have to slow down and listen, really listen, and try to remove my world view, my experiences, etc.

I also this is this why it is so awesome to read books by writers of different countries, classes, ethnicities, sexualities, etc to myself. If I really listen, and don’t try to cover them with my known world I can learn so much – not just about the other writer but about myself.

Categories
new road trust

Another New Road

A winding path through woods  taken by Diane Woodrow
A walk in the woods, April 2020, taken by myself

The wonder of being brought, by God, around a corner and to realize a new road is opening up, perhaps—which He alone knows. And that there is no way of traveling it but in Christ and with Him. This is joy and peace—whatever happens. The result does not matter. I have something to do for Him and, if I do that, everything else will follow. —

A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk’s True Life, January 23 and 24, 1958

I go through phases of taking photos of the same thing. Paths have been an ongoing theme. I love the nature of paths. The way they lead you onward and how much one puts ones trust in a path. I think this is why this quote jumped out at me. And the whole thing of being at the start of another year, and my husband had said about someone he follows on Facebook had said about a bend in the road.

But it is Merton’s joy that comes through here about the wonder of a new road. With all the changes that have been going on since the start of the pandemic, which for us in the UK was March 2020, we are tired on new roads. We are tired of walking roads we have no map for. We really do not want to go round another corner and see something new opening up.

Yet Merton talks of wonder and trust, of joy, and of not worrying about the results. And whatever our religious beliefs most of us do fight worry, which the media encourages.

I wonder how different life would feel if instead of being fearful about the new road, instead of hoping the new road will be similar to something we knew, we could step out in joy and wonder, in trust of each other and something bigger than ourselves, not fearing what is to come, letting go of needing to control the situation.

I’m not talking of not doing anything about the injustices of the world, or ignoring climate change, or pretending everything in the garden is rosy. I’m talking about having eyes that are open about what is going on and of wanting to do something to change, but in a joyful, wonder-filled, trusting way

I think we would feel more peaceful, many of our nations mental health worries would ease, and I do wonder if actually we would then have more energy and confidence to really change things instead of living in fear?

Categories
Blown by the Spirit freelancing

Blown By The Spirit

a canal towpath, barges on the canal, trees picking up the early morning sunshine. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Bradford on Avon canal at sunrise August 2021 taken by myself

There was a phrase that I heard many times when I first committed to walking out the Christian faith which was about being “blown by the Holy Spirit”. The way it was taught was that God would send the Holy Spirit which would take us wherever God wanted. In my thinking that meant to other countries, off on mission, etc, etc. But now, as I progress in this journey, I wonder if it is much more an internal things – that I need to let God’s Holy Spirit guide me in my thinking, my ways of doing things, and just the general day to day.

Each moment of my day I should be “blown by the Spirit” [and I wish I could find the actual bible verses that this is from] not just in the big things of life. In fact I do now wonder if too often many of us have missed out on the ordinary because we have been waiting for the extraordinary.

This came to me the other morning as I was pondering about things for this new year. I wanted to be true to my Freelance calling. So, as I do each morning, after doing yoga with the cat [who is often more enthusiastic than I am about it], I sat calmly on my mat and held my work projects in my open hands, along with the rest of the year. I gave up these projects, and all future ones, to God/to the Universe to do with as they willed, and without thinking asked God to blow them as the Spirit willed.

Oh my word! It was the most releasing of experiences. Suddenly I was freed from any burden of them. Suddenly I was free of having to “get them right” and was able to just let them go, to sit lightly with them.

There have been one or two issues with them since that day and at times I have forgotten that I’ve given them to be “blown by the Spirit”. But each time I remember that these projects aren’t mine to hold tightly but are gifts to use my talents in executing I am able to let them be “blown by the Spirit”.

There is such a freedom in that and I am seeing as well as a peace coming from that, also doors opening.

Categories
2022 Don't look up Power of meaning

Don’t Look Up

View of clouds and a wing tip taken on 2nd January over the skies of Europe. Taken by Ben Cromie Diane Woodrow's son
view from airplane on my son’s 1st trip abroad with the army. Taken by Ben Cromie January 2019

Last night I watched “Don’t Look Up“, the Netflix movie that is a satire of politics, social media and so much more. Also as I’d quoted from the film on my Epiphany blog I thought I should watch it. And I was not disappointed. It is a film of over 2 hours long and generally my concentration can wane after an hour and a half. Also I was watching it later than I would normally watch a film. But I was gripped throughout. There was much laughter but also a lot that made one think and needed to be chewed over. This could be a film I watch twice.

It is a reflection on our society and of how so much becomes “political”, causing people to think about it along their own political lines, even down to whether the comet exists or not. The news is full of sounds bites and is all about “keeping it cheerful” with the news of a pop singer being proposed to online bigger news that the announcement of impending doom. I wonder too with covid how much of what goes on is politicized rather than for the best of mankind, and also, like with the comet, how much could have been averted if any of the world governments had acted sooner or if money, or rather profiting from the event, was not an issue.

I am also reading “The Power of Meaning” by Emily Esfahani Smith which looks at the four pillars that give us all meaning; belonging, purpose, storytelling and a transcendent experience. Without being a spoiler alert the film finishes with the key characters gathered together as a group of people who belong together and with a purpose where they tell their stories and one of them prayers the amazing prayer

Dearest Father and Almighty Creator,

We ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride

Your forgiveness, despite our doubt

Most of all Lord, we ask for you love to sooth us through these dark times

May we face whatever is to come in your divine will.

with courage and open hearts of acceptance

Amen

All the pictures at the end of the movie show those most at peace with what is coming involved in something either of belonging or spirituality.

So as my inbox still keeps being filled with suggestions of how I can mark the commencement of 2022 I think I will continue to settle into my place of belonging, finding ways use my talents for a purpose outside of myself, tell my story and encourage others to tell theirs, and find space for God and experiencing the “divine will with courage and an open heart of acceptance” whatever comes my way.

Don’t Look Back” has had a part in encouraging me along this journey.

Categories
2022 new year

Tis The Season Of The Resolution

It is that time of year again, when everyone feels obliged to make “New year resolutions” as if what they had been doing for the past 12 months wasn’t good enough. There is the talk of going on a diet – and the various diet aids are being pushed like made on adverts on various medias. [yet no one says that the winter is the worst time to start a diet because your body naturally wants to hold on to its body fat to keep warm. Start your diet at Easter when your metabolism is more in tune to it] to exercise more [again a similar one to the dieting. It is dark and dreary still at this time of year. To run before work means getting up in the dark. Again wait till the days start to get longer and then enjoy the whole thing], to write more, to be more ….. [add your own] And most of these resolutions are broken before the end of January. Most of this is to do with doing things that you think you ought to rather than the things you want to.

It is why I’ve put the pictures of the animals at the top of this post and Hobbe’s thoughts at the end. All three animals are all doing what they are best at – being themselves, and not caring who is looking. Why do we not all resolve to be more ourselves? More genuine to who we really are? Or even – radical thought – spend time trying to find out who we really are.

So much of how we behave, even down to this desire to do resolutions, around wanting to be what other people think we should do. So we work harder to be appreciated more; lose weight so others will look at us more kindly; get another book published to justify the time we spend writing [ok that’s a personal one!!!]

Instead of making plans and resolutions this year I have put some things I’d like to so in my diary, some projects I do have to get finished, and some ideas I’d like to pursue. But really what I am going to try my best to do for 2022 is “wing it and see what happens“. And after the last couple of years we’ve had as a nation I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea for many more to feel that way?

Categories
End of the year Liminal space

Last Post of 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
change Storm

Storms!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
blessing inconvenience

Inconvenience?

Both the above pictures are taken about half a mile from my house. My town is “on the map” now due to I’m A Celebrity being shot at Gwrych Castle. Both images have had an effect on my town. But it has got me thinking – “what is an inconvenience and what is a blessing?” Or does it depend where you are standing?

The publicity has been awesome. No longer is the town just a sign off of the A55 but is known. We can now say we live in the town where I’m a Celeb is filmed. House prices have gone up, shops have opened, and according to the local council trade has been brought into the town. With people deciding that a holiday in the UK is better than facing the rigmarole of covid testing going abroad it is great to know that Abergele now figures in their choices.

But also, as can be seen from the first picture things are not all flames, fireworks and income. There are footpath closures, pavements blocked, a favorite walk of mine has had to be curtailed until the end of December, and a speed limit of 20mph has been imposed by the castle and 30 along a 60mph road. All to keep people safe. But also inconvenient.

This has got me thinking of how people deal with things they disagree on – not just the minor disagreements in my town but across the world; in governments, with climate change, in businesses, in relationships. How often when two sides to come together to reconcile they actually spend more time putting over their point of view and listening to the other. Or if they do listen it is for just long enough to be able come up with a counter argument. Not really listening to others. Each side would be wanting to brow beat the other into agreeing with them wants to be proved right and the other sides to be wrong. There is no time for understanding.

I think it is why the story in Genesis talks of man eating from the Tree of Good and Evil, because mankind wants to put things in good and bad boxes, whereas if we chose the Tree of Life then, I believe we would hear what the other side was feeling, not just saying, and would try to care more.

As for my town – I love it being a place people now know where it is, I love that things are being done to improve the town, and I hope they continue after covid has stopped being such a big threat and I’m a Celeb goes back to Australia, but also I do find the blocked footpaths and the speed limit frustrating. Is it it good or bad? I don’t think so at all. I am learning that sometimes things just are and I need to accept that.

So my hope is for those on different sides of a fence that they would look and see that on each side there is a human being working through things with their own issues, needs, fears, and desires. Not right, not wrong, but just as it is.

Categories
accepting humble Talent

Talents

A photo of a boot print in soft sand with a piece of seaweed nearby. photographed by Diane Woodrow
Taken by myself on Conwy Beach in September 2021

This post is really a follow on from my post on 7th Oct about Sharing One’s Achievements. It’s taking it one step further and unpacking it more

My poem was one of the top 7 poems pick from hundreds and hundreds – so many in fact that they needed to extend the decision date – from the Science Museum’s National poetry competition. You can find it here – https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/blog/celebrating-national-poetry-day/

Of course I was very pleased and have been moving into sharing my achievements rather than keeping quiet about them and hoping others just happen to come across them, which is what I used to do. Then I would get upset that friends and family didn’t know what I’d done. But of course I hadn’t told them. So I shared far and wide, and my mum and others shared onwards too. A comment from one of my Mum’s friends was “What a clever lady, just to look at an object like that and then give it a voice” My response was to say that I “found it a natural thing to give the pot personality. I do it with all sorts of random objects.” But it got me thinking about how my Mum’s friend and others don’t do that sort of thing. And yes I do do it was all sorts of things.

It got me wondering about how many things we can just do we take for granted rather than celebrate. For instance my seeing inanimate objects with personalities, being able to cook up an amazing meal from random ingredients, people being comfortable sharing their stories with me. And I am sure there are things about me that others see which again I just think that’s “normal”.

My husband retains facts and is a whizz at University Challenge, complicated maths equations, learning new things on the IT/engineering front that I can’t tell you about because I don’t understand them. He takes it as obvious and will say something really sciencey and then say to me “isn’t it?” and I just have to look back dumbly. But also he can’t remember where he left his keys or his phone!!!

But I need to not be upset that I don’t know all these techy, clevery sciencey things the same as he should not be upset that he can’t do somethings too. We all need to celebrate who we are and what we can do.

I did a post ages about about being humble, which I can’t find, and explored how when we are told in the Bible, or elsewhere, to “be humble” it isn’t about being self-effacing but it is about honouring our achievements. It is ok to boast and say “I’m good at putting character to intimated objects” or “I’m good at learning technical things”. The same as it is good to say “I don’t get technical things and often think it is working in the dark arts” or “I really don’t see how you can give a pot a personality”.

So my suggestion today is to look at what comes naturally to you, realise this is a talent that you have, then tell yourself how amazing you are to be able to that. Then if bold enough tell others that you can do X and realise however small it is a talent. Remember the story of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30. Everyone had a different number of talents and the only reason the person with one got in trouble was because they didn’t use that one talent.

So get out there boast about that talent, share that talent and who knows we could start a talent revolution, changing the world one confident step at a time.