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Shrove Tuesday spring St David's Day

1st March – St David’s Day

Today is St David’s Day – the patron saint of Wales. It is also Shrove Tuesday or Pancake day – the start of Lent in the Christian calendar, at least in the West. And it is the start of Spring. I have also decided that I am going to try my hardest and post one blog post every month. I had read in WordPress’ newsletter that there had been a Bloganuary, which I’d missed. But then I have never been good at doing things when other people did. I never do my month of non-alcoholic drinking during SoberOctober but pick another time period. When I was young and my friends were all going to see some film that was raved about I wouldn’t go, just because it was popular!!! So starting yesterday I’m going to attempt daily postings for a month. I do have 12 prompts all ready to go.

So today’s key days – St David, Shrove Tuesday and 1st day of Spring – are a mix of joy and grief days, especially Shrove Tuesday. This was a day when any of the good food stuffs were still in the store cupboard after a long winter would be made into a meal and eaten in preparation for the fasting of Lent. So it was a celebratory day knowing that for the next 40 days [excluding Sundays and Saint’s days] there would be fasting so hearts would be sorted to remember the crucifixion of Jesus.

As I typed that I was wondering how much easier things would be if we could prepare ourselves for a time of grief or conflict. What if we’d knowing just over 2 years ago that there would be this world shattering pandemic? What would we have done in preparation? How would we have sorted out our hearts? With this with the Russian invasion – which some say was coming for a while – how should we have prepared our hearts?

Do we ever think to prepare our hearts or do we just rushing into things reacting? Did people take life slower in some bygone age? With the times of Lent and Advent one does wonder if they did. I know with both Lent and Advent that is a time of remembering rather than and event happening so that is the difference. That at the time when these periods of mourning were set in place much of Europe was tearing itself apart with war after war after war.

Pick any period in history and some country was invading some other country, some people group was fighting some other people group. This that we are enduring is NOT new. It is just that we have been able to ignore it for a long time because, apart from the Balkan war in the 1990s there has been no fighting in European soil since 1945. But if one looks across the rest of the world even during the 22 years of this century someone is fighting someone whether governments or so called rebel forces or whatever. Sadly also today in 1954 the US tested a 15 megatonne bomb – 15 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima – in the Pacific archipelago of Bikini. So may be we should be preparing our hearts more.

But also this is the time to celebrate the legend of St David. He was pretty amazing, pretty fearless and I do wonder if, even though he did not know what would happen next,he had his heart always prepared, facing towards God and the mighty power the being aligned with the Creator of the Universe.

So how do we do that? I’ve got some prompt that I’ll hopefully get to over the next month but I think firstly it is to slow things down, to wait and not react – whether that is to what we read in the news, in personal affairs, in the things we do – so that when we do move we can move wholeheartedly trusting in ourselves and that we are in alignment with the Universe and not – as Putin seems to be doing – working against the good of mankind as a whole.

Categories
Feel the seasons solstice

Winter Solstice

This post first appeared on https://godspacelight.com/2021/12/21/winter-solstice/

view of sunrise across a field photographed by Diane Woodrow
Sunrise photographed by myself on a morning dog walk

I wrote an article during our “lockdown Christmas” last year about my feelings regarding winter and slowing down. I also wrote an article in 2017 about the Winter Solstice and how the sun stands still for the few days from solstice to Christmas day. So it looks as if I have a bit of an affinity with this time of year.

I do love the roll into winter. I love the ways the days get rapidly shorter and I have to rethink my dog walking times because by 4pm it isn’t fun to walk around the park. Though I also love that if I can get out before 7.30am I can watch the sun rise over the trees in the park. This is a time when I just pray out loud giving glory to God. Christine talked about the Wow factor of Advent and for me every sunrise is a “Wow!” factor.

This morning I was blown away by starting my walk only lit by street-lighting, but then seeing the clouds start to get tinged with light and come into definition. Even though the sun still hadn’t fully risen by the time I got home the world had come into definition. That to me is so awesome. It truly is “new every morning” and I can then remember “Great is his faithfulness” [Lamentations 3:23] So no matter what my mood when I start my walk I come to a place of being with God and giving my morning over before I return home.

I noticed this last year and again this year, people are putting their outdoor Christmas lights on earlier and earlier. I know some of it has been said that because with the pandemic, and other things, life is bleak so people need lights, but the posts by Liz of Pocket Fuel have made me think. In the daily emails for the first week of December she explored how we seem to no longer embrace the darkness as our ancestors would have and how from that we miss out on things – like trusting God in the darkness.

It got me thinking about our ancestors, and I’m talking pre-Industrial revolution, would use the winter season was a time for gathering the family, of sharing the tales that made up their culture. This is when the stories were retold about heroes, monsters, family history, how the earth came into being, etc. But now we have made the winter, especially this run up to Christmas so busy, whether that is rushing round buying, partying, Church services. It is all busy, busy, busy, when in fact our bodies are crying out for us to slow down and the next generation needs to hear our stories, our history, our faith tales.

I am lucky in that in my freelancing work I have being healed of the need to see planning and money as the driving force and have moved more into trusting God to provide so I am more able to roll with the seasons and the daylight hours. But I still have had to think through how not to get sucked into being busy in church, feeling guilty for not saying Yes to everything, for making a quieter way. It isn’t easy. It is countercultural. It takes focus but I was trying.

So as I allow this season and this shortest day to enfold me I listen to my heart – because it is my heart that connects me with God – and then ask my heart what it is thinking and feeling. I breath and pray and then feel safe. And I also want to learn all this so I can take the slowness of the darker season into the spring and summer.

Categories
choice hope joy

Choose Joy

View of autumnal leaves of the tree outside my house taken by Diane Woodrow
View from my study window today

It is the start of the Celtic Advent. Celtic Advent gives 40 days run up to Christmas and then on into Epiphany. I like it because it gives time to reflect and ponder without some of the same intensity as the Anglican Advent time of just that mad December rush to Christmas.

In today’s reading Christine Sine encourages one to “choose joy”. As I looked out of my study window to the gold and oranging leaves of the cherry tree, my constant companion through all the seasons I think it is easy to choose joy today. It is easy to choose joy when there is beauty just outside my window, when I can go and walk in the beautiful park ten minutes from my house and enjoy the changing colours of the glorious autumn season. But how does one choose joy when life isn’t so beautiful?

Yet even when there is beauty around one still has to choose whether to see the glorious colours or to see that they signify impending death. As this season turns around again it is easy sometimes to see what hasn’t been done – the minimal progress at COP26, the impending next covid wave, etc ,etc. Or the path that was blocked or the job that hasn’t happened or the relationship that has gone awry.

But what is joy anyway? The Bible says “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Note it is the Lord’s joy not you trying to be happy clappy that is your strength. And I think that’s the depth of and truth of it all whether you believe in God or not, that you don’t have to build up that joy yourself but just need to turn to it, to accept it.

I read this from a blog post this morning. It is from Alcoholic’s Anonymous, which I seem to be coming across more and more these days in things I’m reading and I am sharing it with the young Youthshedz people I am working with

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.

Call it what you wish – peace, joy, or as the Youthshedz girls were telling me the other day, hope – but you have to choose to walk in it. It is there all the time just waiting for you to reach for it, just waiting for you to accept it.

I’m learning a lot from these young people who have gone through so so much at such a young age and yet they have chosen hope. Ok so not all the time and they have down days and bad days, which is fine. If we are honest then we all have those days, though maybe not so openly, but they make an effort to choose hope/joy/peace.

So as the tree outside my window will soon cast its leaves to the ground and stand bare before me, even though the joy/hope looks like it has gone, I will, no matter what this next busy season throws at me, choose joy, choose peace, choose love, choose hope. It isn’t going to be easy but if these young people can do it then I certainly can.