Today is Clean Monday which Christine Sine explores a bit of in her post Meditation Monday for today. This is a festival in the Christian Orthodox Church, a public holiday in Greece, for people to prepare for Lent.
In the Western Protestant Church we often wait until we are in the 40 days of Lent which starts on Wednesday with Ash Wednesday, before we start the business of trying to find time to set our hearts towards God. I like the idea of having whole day beforehand, before even Shrove Tuesday, which was the day for eating the last of the winter’s rich foods before the Lenten fast. So even before celebrating and preparing the Orthodox Church was clearing out.
I like the idea of clearing out firstly before celebrating and feasting and then moving into fasting and connecting. For me this means keeping my heart right and working on the whole forgiveness things, the whole “clean hands and clean heart” and of creeping closer to God in the way that works for me.
In Christine’s blog she says that “because Orthodox celebrations still follow the Julian calendar rather than the Georgian calendar we are familiar with, this year Clean Monday is on February 27th as Eastern Orthodox Ash Wednesday is March 1st.”
I rather like that Clean Monday comes on 27th February. That is the day of my friend’s funeral. It feels, for me, like that will be a time to clear out some stuff inside of me to do with her, to do with what she represented in my life, and move onwards in a different way.
With all the friends I have each fill a different niche, each have different “functions” in my life. For my friend Tessa that we cremate next Monday the part she filled in my life cannot be filled by another and that’s ok. I have been feeling over the last week that what she filled doesn’t need filling any more, that even before she died the time had come for me not to have that need in my life. But now that she has really gone I have been having to clear out that need. So for me, with my heart, I think Monday 27th will definitely be a Clean Monday for me.
Always if I want to write about something simple I will put a photograph of my dog in. This is because, as you’ve seen from other posts, he has a simple view of life. His biggest decision he had to make this morning was whether he ran across the park to get a treat from someone he knew or not. In the end he decided it was a bit too far for just a small treat. But he appeared content with his decision.
Anyway I’ve not been to church for a long, long time. I try church on and off and then find that it all gets too much for me. I can’t do it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hang out with God, don’t ponder the whole faith things – again as you will have noticed in these posts. But it is the complexity of the whole church thing I find hard work. [Interestingly I was reading a post on Facebook this morning that asked if maybe we knew too much and that from reading ALL the letters in the Bible we knew things that were never meant for us. An interesting thought. Perhaps we should only ever read the gospels and talk to God??]
So yesterday I was pondering, praying and planning for the series I want to start with the youth group I co-lead looking at The Lord’s Prayer so that the young people see The Lord’s Prayer as a template and not something you rattle through as fast as possible. [If you look back through my posts or search “Lords Prayer” you’ll see I’ve looked at a lot of this before] What struck me was the simplicity of it all.
Basic tenant – you have to believe in something not just bigger but beyond your understanding who created the WHOLE universe and also not only cares for you but loves you unconditionally just as you are. You are loved unconditionally by the Creator of the Universe. This Awesome Creator gives you everything you need each and every day for whatever situation you are. Not what you think you need or think you ought to have but the simplicity of what you need. But also you have to believe that what you get is what something/someone greater than you knows to be right.
I think that’s why Jesus said we were to say “Abba Father” because a good parent knows their children’s needs, especially when that child is under 10. Remember too that in Jesus’s culture children were moving into adulthood from their early teens and being expected to make their own way in their world, not as we treat children!
So this Amazing Creator thinks we are awesome just as we are and loves us just as we are. But we will make mistakes. The Creator knows that and doesn’t love us any less for it. Though we can love/like ourselves less when we make mistakes and not believe we are loved unconditionally just as we are. This, I believe, is why we have to forgive regularly. I have to forgive myself for each time I mess up, each time I lose it, each time I am fearful, each time I just don’t live up to who I truly am, etc, etc. And for me if I know that My Creator loves me unconditionally even when I screw up it is so much easier to forgive myself.
But then comes the hard bit – or at least I find this bit harder – I then have to forgive others. I am working on this and it is an ongoing process. But I also think it is why Jesus told Peter to forgive 70×7 or whatever the sum was. Because it is an ongoing thing not just for different offenses but often for the same offense. But if I believe am loved unconditionally then so is the person that hurt me. If I can be forgiven then so can the person who hurt me.
Just the other day I got hurt really badly. It hit on an old wound and reopened it. I wanted to lick it for a while. Instead I took this hurt to God and was reminded that I was going to be doing this whole Lord’s Prayer thing with these young people and I realised I need to forgive. It wasn’t easy because the person couldn’t see what they had done wrong. They felt justified in what they had said and done. But that didn’t matter. I still have to forgive. I had to let go.
I noticed I hadn’t forgiven when I was writing an email to someone and started to put my moans into it. Thank goodness I didn’t press send because I was able to delete it all and write something more uplifting.
No where though in this forgiveness process have I felt some heavy hand telling me I “Must“. It has been a gentle thing inside of me. I often wonder if because we are made in God’s image then there is a part of God inside of each and every one of us. And I do wonder if prayer is as much tapping into that as it is speaking to something outside of ourselves.
So Simple Christianity – I am loved unconditionally just the way I am, I can ask and receive what I need each and every day, I can be forgiven each and every moment of every day once I realise I’ve screwed up, BUT I need to let that flow outwards to others,, which means I have to love them unconditionally and be willing to forgive them every moment they do something that hurts me.
Melissa has asked if I would do my third World Toilet Day post in a row. How could I refuse!
Did You Know?
More people in the world have a mobile phone than a toilet. Of the world’s seven billion people, six billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines – meaning that 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have proper sanitation.
I want to start with this quote. I do like a good statistic. But the more I look at this I see that there are 1 billion people who do not own mobile phones but 2.5 billion people who do not have proper sanitation. From my reading of this there are people who own mobile phones who do not have proper sanitation. How can one see owning a mobile phone as more important than being able to go to the toilet in peace, safety and hygienically?
Is it lack of knowledge? Is it lack of understanding? Is it lack of awareness of the importance of good hygiene? This really has left me pondering.
All of you who have read my previous posts on World Toilet Day will know how passionate I am about toilets. I am having a bit of a worry at the moment because I am going to stay with a friend who has just moved house and I am wondering about how many toilets she has in her house now, especially as she has told me her daughter and her family, which includes a husband and two kids, might be staying the same time as me.
I decided to google the history of toilets and it turns out they have been around since Neolithic times with an understanding of the need for bodily waste to be somewhere away from where people are living. So why do 2.5 billion people not have access to proper sanitation?
accepted patterns dissolve and uncertainty grows, we become more vulnerable to feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear
I think this quote might be of help. As Wikipedia says, the developing world is struggling to get good sanitation. I wonder if the above quote is a clue. All of us across the world are facing a time of “accepted patterns dissolving and changing” which we are all struggling with in the West but imagine if you are in a developing country, a war-torn country, in a refugee camp where you have no stability. War is raging. There is famine. You are displaced from what you know and love. The whole population is dealing with “feelings of insecurity, anxiety and fear”. What is going to be most important – communication or sanitation?
I know if I was fearful for my family, my children, my friends, I would want to be able to contact them so would put my money into making sure I had a good phone that could be charged up quickly and easily. If I could get money through to feed myself and my family via my phone I could see that as the most important thing. When I needed to go to the toilet then I would wish there was somewhere safe to go but for the majority of the time it may not occur to me. And for the men who are very much leading in these countries it is only when they need to defecate that they would probably think about it at all.
Also what is more glamorous if you are a young man wanting to look good in your developing country – making sure there are toilets or carrying a gun and a phone?
So as I ponder this I do not blame the people who have the phone but no toilet. I think of the unstable world we all live in and pray “Your Kingdom come, Lord” as well as “please help us all to forgive ourselves and each other”.
I start with the archeological dig’s skeleton, because we are all going to die And as an old dog walking colleague once said, his Mum died when she was in her 90s and it was still 10 years too soon for him. And I was reminded of the shortness of life last week when my daughter messaged to say her ex-boyfriend’s current girlfriend had died suddenly in the night, probably of meningitis. This girl was only in her mid 20s. Too quick and too soon.
But there was a quote a read on Instagram, which I can’t find again, about how life is short and yet we learn to fear each other rather than love each other. I wish I could find it again because it is really good. Then I heard on Cunk on Earth’s Faith episode, about how Christianity preached love and forgiveness and then killed anyone who would not practice it!!!
These things over this last week have left me wondering why we do not love and forgive more than we hold grudges and fear people. I think it is fear rather than hate. Hate I believe comes from fear. As I keep saying the more I do QEC counseling the more accepting I can be of others, but also the more I see that it is my traumas and fears that used to hold me back from forgiving and accepting people than the people themselves.
This isn’t to say that I am swinging my doors wide open to fill my house full of people. That is something I have learned that I do not like and find hard. That is not to with others but to do with me. But it does mean that I can smile at people when I’m out, engage in conversation where I am listening to them, where I am not worrying about how I will look or if they might “get one over on me”. Instead I am accepting myself and them, giving us both/all our space to be who we are, realising when I react to something someone has said it is as much my issue, if not more so, than their fault.
I think, as I get older, my greatest wish is to be accepting of myself fully, forgiving of myself fully, accepting of others fully and forgiving of others fully. Some of these issues I will have to work through with QEC and other stress/trauma calming techniques. But that is my greatest wish to reach a point where I can appreciate all people and myself, and that all people can do that for each other.
I’m ending this now as I can feel myself going into a rant about governments, etc and I want to keep this post free of that. Maybe next time?? 🙂
Why is it that it is so much easier to remember one’s mistakes and faux pas than one’s triumphs?
Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow writer and something slipped out of my mouth that I did not mean to say. He was a bit irritated by it at the time but I apologised and the conversation resumed. All the way home in the car I was waiting for my friend to say something about the gaff I’d made, but she never did. All she wanted to do was talk about the serendipity of being in the building at the same time as this person she knew through other outlets. And we twittered on about how amazing life can be, etc, etc.
But still when I was out with my dog walking I could feel the embarrassment of it. As I pondered by reaction rather than what I’d said I realised that it was actually my autonomic nervous system [ANS] that had gone into fight/flight/fawn/freeze mode and I needed to calm down my “meerkat” panic.
So as I walked I pulled my ANS back into a calmer, relaxed place via things I’d been taught via QEC – telling my ANS to realign – which is just says “ANS come back into alignment“, repeating “I’m safe, you’re safe, we’re safe” thus convincing my subconscious that there was nothing to worry about, and also being grateful – for the encounter with the fellow writer, for the time with my friend in the car there and back, for the joy of walking my dog. By the time I got home I was calm.
Even as I write this I can feel myself laughing at what I said, because it was daft and out of order, but I do not feel that awful grumpy-dragging-me -down-ness that I have felt in similar situations before. I can see it as a mistake I made and that I have learned from but not an “end of the world” thing.
It has made me wonder how many times I may have not done something, or even done something, because I was in that heightened “meerkat” mode – fearful, hyper-alert, anxious – rather than acknowledging it, taking those breaths, realigning myself and being able to let it go. Because that is very much what I did – let it go.
It also made me think of the lines in the “Lord’s Prayer” – about forgiving and forgiveness. Too often we are ready to forgive others but how often do we forgive ourselves. Or even how often do we say “Lord, forgive me my trespasses” but we are not willing to do it ourselves – thus making us bigger than God???
So as I realigned myself, stepped out of my fight/flight/fawn/freeze mode, I also forgave myself for what I’d said and have been able to get on and do things – which today have involved sending a proposal for some work and entering a writing competition. I have moved on from my faux pas!
My third day of thoughts on my version of The Lord’s Prayer. Today is “your kingdom come, your will be done” to this I always add “in my life and my world.”
Is this a selfish, egocentric attitude? I think it depends on how you view yourself and your connections. For me I see myself as connected to others who in turn are connected to others. For instance, lady in the park told me that the random conversation we had the other day, which brought back memories of her going to Paris with her late husband, made her day and that she was able to cope with a shop assistant who was a bit stressed. I didn’t even meet the stressed shop assistant but my connection with a fellow dog walker supported that shop assistant. And who knows what the kind words from the from the dog walker brought to the shop assistant and so on and so on
Also I am coming to believe more and more that the energy I give out – whether negative or positive, fearful or safe, joyful or angry – affects those around me and again then affects those they come into contact with. It is a bit like my understanding of chaos theory – of how a butterfly flapping its wings in a forest can lead to a hurricane somewhere else in the world! OK for all the scientists who follow me this is a my simplified version!!! 🙂
Maybe me being kind to people and doing my best to walk with an energy of trust, peace and joy, can lead, one person at a time, to peace in the Middle East, which if boiled down to its basic level is people being afraid of people and what they can lose.
I suppose this comes full circle back to believing I have enough, which can even lead to knowing I have lived long “enough” as have those I love. [Of course I don’t want those I love to die in pain but I have to be ready to let them go when the universe says “enough” on their time here – but that’s for another blog!!!] But if I believe I am living in “enough” and that I am walking out God’s Kingdom and Will in my life/my world, then I do not need to fear lose or fear getting it wrong, which brings me back to “Forgiveness” of myself and others.
Makes you wonder sometimes if the Lord’s Prayer was written upside down and should have started with “get ready to forgive yourself and others, trust there is enough to go round, and believe you are doing your best to work out God’s Will and Kingdom in your life and that this will affect others”.
So to carry on with my thoughts on how I am praying The Lord’s Prayer at the moment.
The reason I’ve picked this picture is that when we judge ourselves and so don’t forgive ourselves, we are like these reeds; knocked over, lying flat, struggling to function. But, if we tune into what I believe Jesus is trying to tell us in The Lord’s Prayer, we will recover, stand up again, and be all we are meant to be.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” we recite. I need to forgive me before I can forgive you. Jesus talks about judging others and being judge, which I think goes with this. And it isn’t God judging us or not forgiving us, but ourselves. I don’t believe I follow a judgemental God but I do believe that I can be a judgemental person.
Here is a trivial for instance of me being judgemental. I used to judge what people were wearing so if I had to go out with the dog when I was still in my pajamas [he won’t pee in the garden so sometimes if he’s bursting he has to be rushed to the small patch of grass at the end of our road] I would be convinced people were looking at me and judging me for being in my pjs. I’m not sure anyone noticed or cared. But it did mean when I went out I was often looking at what people were wearing, but now I’ve stopped looking at what people wear and judging whether it is the “right” thing to be out in, and so this morning when I had to rush the dog out I didn’t think what anyone would think of me.
But also the “forgive myself and forgive others” thing is also that if I can’t forgive myself for screwing up I am not able to forgive others for it. So in my morning post-yoga praying I adapt this line “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” to “help me to forgive myself through today as I screw up, which I know I will, and help me to be kind to others who will also screw up, upset me, hurt my feelings or generally do something I don’t like. Help me to keep short accounts and keep my heart open to knowing when I’ve not forgiven myself and also have allowed someone else to upset me” It is all a bit long winded and I can see what the gospel writers shortened it. But actually for me I see the lines in The Lord’s prayer as almost like journal prompts to lead me to something bigger and deeper.
Also starting the day like this means I do spend my day being able to forgive others quickly because it is already in my head.
Yesterday I finished “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” by Maya Angelou. I’d also just done another QEC session which involved forgiving myself for misinterpreting church teachings and working too hard to earn God’s love and acceptance, whilst at the same time teaching and sharing about that self-same unconditional love and acceptance!!! Goes to show how often we can teach and share on things that we know to be truth but haven’t accepted into our hearts!
In the last few pages of the book, Maya goes to see her vocal coach to unload about how awful she feels she has been to her son, and lots of other issues, and he says “God forgives you, that’s a given. But you now need to forgive yourself”. Wow! How often do we browbeat ourselves about not being forgiven when in fact God who’s totally forgiven us but we are not forgiving ourselves? If God really loves us unconditionally, which I do truly believe God does, then like Maya’s vocal coach we need to believe that it is a given that God has forgiven us. As my OEC coach told me, and she isn’t a Christian in the ‘purest sense’, “From what I gather God loves everyone unconditionally, even the murder and rapists, and wants to heal them too, and so will forgive them so they can be healed.” We need to forgive ourselves so we can be healed.
Maya ends with this book with a story about her and her son in Hawaii. He was only about 9 years old and had gone off on his own, leaving her asleep, for a swim. She was really worried about where he was because he hadn’t eaten breakfast in the hotel. When the police finally find him he says he ate breakfast in place down the street. He had told the proprietor of the place where he ate “See that name?” pointing to the sign above the hotel with Maya Angelou’s name in lights, “She’s my mother and she’s a great singer.” It made me think that I don’t often enough say “There’s my God and it will be cover by our relationship”.
I should be able to know that I can go wherever I want and do things knowing that the “payment” is covered by God because I am God’s child and am totally loved and looked after and will always be fed. Surely this is the message of the Cross – Jesus made the payment for us and we don’t need to have too any more! Now that is exciting! But to believe that I needed to forgive myself for all the times I’d not quite got it.