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
epiphany

Ephiphany

First published 6th January on https://godspacelight.com/2022/01/06/epiphany/



Free download from https://pixabay.com/photos/star-moon-wise-men-three-kings-6880592/

What do you think of when you think of “The Three Wise Men”? Are they those guys who get slide into the nativity scene in church just before things get cleared away at the end of the Christmas season? Do you see them as three or more or what? Why did only the gospel of Matthew mention them? Why didn’t Luke with is boasts that he then makes in The Book of Acts about writing a true historic account in the both his gospel and part two?

I seem to be drawn to the Wise men/the three kings as I’ve written other posts about them, even one on this site last year. So I thought I’d check them out a bit more. Now I’d been told at some sermon somewhere that they were possibly Zoroastrians and I found some interesting stuff on this website, http://www.religioustolerance.org/zoroastr.htm, which might explain why Matthew, who was allegedly writing to help the Jewish people understand Jesus, includes them. The site says

With the exception of religious conservatives, most religious historians believe the the Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs concerning God and Satan, the soul, heaven and hell, the virgin birth of the savior, the slaughter of the innocents, resurrection, the final judgment, etc. were all derived from Zoroastrianism.

These men did not just use astrology to show that the birth of the Son of God had been predicted in the heavens but also were able to connect in the virgin birth and also resurrection, not to mention the way Herod chose to slaughter the innocents.

Matthew’s gospel starts with the genealogy of Jesus, which includes the women in his line, Joseph’s acceptance of who Jesus was, the visit by the Magi, the escape to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents. When looked at in the light of the above quote about the Zoroastrians it looks very much as if Matthew is speaking to those who would have known this. I feel that he is saying to show how big this whole birth of Jesus is and how inclusive. It includes women; it includes accepting the miraculous; it includes deep grief too.

How often do we want to include grief in the wonder of Jesus being born? But it is a fact of life. I won’t expand on that because there have been some good posts in https://godspacelight.com/ that you can search for. But I think it is one of the amazing things that Matthew makes us aware of, if we look properly, that the miraculous and grief sit hand in hand. This is part of the inclusivity of things. It isn’t just to include men and women, people of various colours, nations, sexualities, and more but it is to include all the range of emotions from joy to grief. If we look properly we can see this as yet another miracle. God doesn’t get rid of certain emotions and life events but knows and understands and walks with us in them.

So as we enter 2022, for many after the last two years with trepidation and uncertainty, with anxiety and fear, let us remember that Jesus was born into this, that God understands this, that we are not walking in alone.

And I’ll end with a prayer one of the characters says towards the end of the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” which I saw on Jon Kuhrt’s blog the other day, which I think is worth holding on to as we enter this unknown year which will be filled with miracles and grief and all points in between.

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

Categories
acceptance Achievement Contentment

What Have I Achieved?

Picture of a broken wall and pebbled beach looking across water to a town and island. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Abergwyngren coastal path looking towards Beaumaris taken by myself – Aug 2021

I woke up feeling low this morning. Low and old. Bemoaning that I only had a handful of years left to live and what had achieved with it. So I sat on my yoga mat with my cat and pondered. Because I’m also following Christine Sine’s example of deep gratitude I did my best to move into that place.

Well to begin with I have two amazing children who are doing great in the world. I have published a book [and trying not to beat myself up over the fact that it is my only one so far. I will go back and read my last post if I get issues there]. I encourage lots of people with my writing groups, with the youthshedz project [more on that in another post]

But it is too easy to look back and think of all the things I haven’t done – not had a great career, not entered politics, not invented something that would change the world, not some recognised person in the media.

But what really is achievement? What does it really mean? As a Christian I have come to believe that it means knowing God deeper and myself as well so that I can love others.

Doing the work with the Youthshedz young people I realise like them that I am luck to be alive. At 25 I didn’t like myself but now, 35 years on I can say that I like myself. I trust myself, and I have noticed the more I trust myself the more I trust God and also other people.

There is a verse about “judging as you will be judged” [Matthew 7:1] and I think that when one is striving to “achieve” something noteworthy one is too often looking at others, judging what they are doing, rating them as better or worse than oneself – generally better than – rather than just getting on and doing the stuff.

So I may not change the world and neither may my children or the young people I encourage, but you know I think if I make my world a more contented place by being more contented myself – by creating that energy around me of acceptance and contentment – then I have achieved enough.

Like the harbour wall in this picture one day all will be gone and I will be forgotten and you know that is ok.

Categories
Lord's Prayer Trust God

All About Titles

maize field in the foreground, a row of conifer trees then rolling hills and onward to Snowdonia national park. Sky is cloudy with patches of sunshine. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Looking into Snowdonia. Taken by myself on 16th August 2021

So I will end this run of four thoughts on The Lord’s Prayer at the beginning “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name” I’d love to do a straw poll and find out how many of us cringe a bit when we feel we have to call God Father. I know my hand would go up. I’m not just thinking of my own father but of many other fathers I know who struggle along trying to do the best for their kids but carry so much of their own baggage that they don’t really know what “Father” actually means.

So I start my prayer by saying “To the all loving being who inhabits both the heavens and the earth, who made it all, and all that it is in it, whether the created acknowledge their maker or not. To the connected universe that holds all together and lets all move freely. To you I open my heart today because you are immense and amazing.”

Ok so it is a bit more long winded than the words we read in the Bible. But again I think that is because, for the gospel writers, it was obvious who they were connecting with, and obvious what they and others believed and expected.

In my journey with God I have come to see prayer more and more as not an asking thing but a connecting thing, and so I have to ask myself “what or who am I connecting with?” which is why I have the long opening. It is for me and not for God. God knows who God is. God doesn’t need telling, but I do need to realise the enormity and amazingness of God.

I think often our prayers are for ourselves. So we pray for those we love because it helps us cope with what they are going through. Yes I do know and believe that God answers prayer and intervenes. I also believe that God intervenes without our prayers too. I know prayer is important. But I think we often do it for our peace of mind too. And I believe that when we connect with God, the Maker of the Universe, through prayer or mediation or centering, or whatever we want to call it, then we connect with something higher, wider, deeper, more all knowing than we are.

To gain the real amazingness of prayer we need to also trust that we connect, that we are heard, that we are part of something, that we are co-creators of the outcome. Even if the prayers aren’t answered as we would like.

I like stories to confirm things so … I offered to pray for a lady in the park because her father had been taken ill. Her father died two weeks later. She told me that she knew I was praying because she felt such peace through it all. I didn’t give her peace. I didn’t stop her father dying. But what I did was connect her and her father and her family with The Amazing Power and Peace of God and let things flow as they were intended.

The outcome isn’t my call. My call is to prayer, connect with my Heavenly Savoir, and trust that things will go as the Universe believes to be the right way with peace.

I have to end by saying I think prayer is amazing and I need to remember to do it more often during the day as it changes me and my energy as much as it changes things I pray about.

Categories
forgiveness Lord's Prayer

Letting Go

Reeds round the edge of local Abergele pond blown flat by a storm. Photo taken by Diane Woodrow
Reeds blown over in a storm at my local park. They were all standing up right the following day. Very much a bruised reed he will not break. Photo taken by me July 2021

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.

Categories
enough Lord's Prayer

Enough

Trees fluttering and dancing in a light breeze last Sunday afternoon. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Dancing silver birch trees in my local park. Taken by me 8th August 2021

Enough! How often do we start our day believing we have had enough sleep and will have enough time to do all that we think we have to do during the day? Very rarely I would say.

Too often we wake thinking we haven’t had enough sleep – especially if we are menopausal women who have restless nights, or have babies that keep us awake half the night or more. We then look at our “to do” list and think we don’t have enough time.

For me this contentment with “enough” comes from Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” book, QEC coaching and also really praying the Lord’s Prayer after doing yoga most mornings.

The “give me today my daily bread”, for me, can only come from a place of “enough”. But that was not how I was taught this prayer. I was taught it from a place of “lack”. A place of begging God to “please give me my daily bread”. Believing that unless I really asked God properly I wouldn’t have enough to make his Kingdom purposes come!

I have now started praying “help me believe I have all that I need, my daily bread allowance, to do all that I am meant to do today” or “thank you that I have already got all that I need for all that I will be doing today” or “I start today grateful for the daily bread I have been given for my day.”

It is a knowing that I have already been supplied with “enough” for today; whether that is energy, time, patience with others, grace, food, etc. Even those I meet will be part of my “daily bread” for today; people who enrich me, that need me, that I need, that help me and I help. All are part of my daily bread. And I come from knowing that I have enough to give and to receive all through the day.

It also means that at the end of the day when I’m tired and don’t feel like doing the washing up and can’t read as many pages of my book as I would like that is ok. I’ve done my “enough” for today and it is ok to curl up and go to sleep. I can end my day feeling grateful for what I did and knowing it was all that I was meant to do for today.

Categories
change New Season

Preparing For This New Season

This post first appeared on GodspaceLight on 10th August 2021

Picture of  looking towards The Great Orme taken from Morfa Conwy by Diane Woodrow



Conwy Beach, July 2021. Taken by myself

Godspace there of Gearing Up For A New Season got me thinking about what that means to me.

At the moment none of us really knows what this New Season will look like. With global warming our seasons are all over the place. Over the last month here in North Wales we have gone from 17C to 32C and now it is 13C. The only type of weather we haven’t had over July is snow, but we’ve had blistering heat, pouring rain, hail, funnel winds, and gentle sunshine too.

At one time when schools restarted the pupils would have had time at the end of the last term to go check out their new classes or new schools and have met their teachers and even started making friends, and be prepared for their new season. But due to covid many were isolated before the end of term, or discouraged to be anywhere other than in their regular classrooms.

For me personally I can feel a new season starting. Since published The Little Yellow Boat I’m being called a professional writer, which has led to me being paid to become part of a long term youth project. I am also setting aside regular times to write, both in my beautiful study or out on walks. Yesterday I went to the place in the picture and wrote.

But still the question is – how do I prepare for this new season? How do I gear myself up for it? What will it look like? Or even should I be planning? Check out my blog “Intentionality written in pencil

So whereas once we would almost know what this new season would look like with Covid, with the extremes of weather, with new projects, with different working conditions, we cannot predict how things will be. Tom Sine does a good attempt to explore the themes of these changing time on his blog – NewChangemakers

As the saying goes “change is always with us” but it feels like as things start to open up, even with cases of Covid continuing to increase, there is nothing solid to hang on to. I am grateful for my faith but even with that, although the Bible says the Lord is the same today, tomorrow and yesterday, my relationship with God and how I see my faith have changed.

So what are the concrete things I can hold on to as I gear up for a new season? And what can I share with others?

For me the big one would be that God is God and is always there no matter what goes on, no matter how much I change, no matter what goes on in the world. And that God wants the best for me and so, if we work together I can grow more flexible, more trusting in God, more deeper in my beliefs of knowing God is watching my back. You know I was going to write stronger but I felt like flexible was the word. We talk a lot about growing stronger as though that is a good thing but I actually think that if I can get more and more flexible then I will be able to roll with the seasons, be blown by the winds of change but not fall. I think to be more flexible I need to have roots that go deep and I think for me as I gear up to this new season, whatever it is going to look like, I want to send my roots deep into my Saviour, Maker of the Universe, and just trust that what will come my way, however it comes, I will remain with my Saviour.