Categories
Celtic saints Heroes

No More Heroes Anymore?

Stature of a saintly figure in a bishops mitre surrounded by an iron fence set in a park. Photographed by Diane Woodrow May 2016
St Patrick in a park in Dublin – taken by myself May 2016

The title is pinch from The Stranglers’ song No More Heroes song from released in 1977, which also contains the line about Leon Trotsky which helps me to remember how he died. But that’s another story.

Last week Christine Sine in Godspace suggested doing some research around known Christian figures of the last century; for example Martin Luther King. What struck me as I pondered this was how different the tales are about modern day Christian heroes compared to the Celtic saints. Our known figures come with feet of clay and one is not afraid to mention their faults, whereas the Celtic saints were very much on the line of mythological figures who conquered all evils, including things that would lead mere mortals astray.

But I wonder have we gone to far with pointing out our leaders flaws. Yes it is good to have accountability but how often do we mention our leaders good points, the trials they struggle through, the enormous decisions they have to made every day, as well as being reminded that they are human.

The writers of the Celtic saints did not want their readers to know that these men and women were actually fallible human beings, but now our media only want to point out the fallibility of our leaders without reminding us of their good points too.

I do not think either swing of the pendulum is beneficial to the reader. With Celtic saints the reader or listener to the tales knew they could never aspire to be so amazingly godly so why try. And with our current leaders why would anyone want to be in their position when each flaw and mistake is headline news?

Perhaps we need to pendulum of judgement to swing slightly back the other way, so that yes we do see the flaws and mistakes our leaders make but we also see the struggles they do with trying to lead our world, our nation, our institutions.

For 45 years [which is suddenly a very long time since I was a quiet punk] I’ve been humming No More Heroes and through that time we have so few heroes remaining without being blown out the water. I wonder if this is what encourages to feel anxious, unable to commit, worried at who leaders us? Are they really as bad as the media has us believe? And were those Celtic saints as amazing as their publicists would have them believed to be?

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
Godspace World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day 19th November 2021

This post was first published on Godspace.com on 19th November 2021

Being grateful for having a toilet must be one of my passions because I wrote an article for Godspace last year on this–although for some reason I did not post it on my own blog! 

To be honest I do have a bit of a toilet obsession, having suffered with IBS for a time, until firstly I stopped gluten and dairy. I did that for a while and then got into QEC Counselling – which I do know I bang on about but it has changed my life. I do still worry about knowing where toilets are and if there are too many people in the house for the amount of toilets. Yes, it is a thought that passes through my mind. And I am sure I am not the only older person who feels that way!

I met up with some older ladies in the park dog walking the other day, and they were doing the thing old people can be guilty of – saying the younger generation don’t know they’re born lucky- and one of the things was about outside toilets. Both ladies remembered having to go out into their backyards to use the toilet and worrying about spiders and other creepy crawlies. Though both did admit they wouldn’t go back to those days; it is alright to reminisce and look through rose-tinted glasses, but we do all like our inside flushing toilets and do very much take them for granted. 

But imagine not having a toilet at all, or when you did go out to a shared outside toilet there was a chance of being bitten by poisonous spiders or snakes, or for the girls, the fear of being raped. And the cleanliness of these holes in the ground is not good at all. 

The statistics on the United Nations World Toilet Day 19th November website are sobering. 

  • Globally, at least 2 billion people use a drinking water source contaminated with feces.
  • Every day, over 700 children under five years old die from diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and poor hygiene.
  • 3.6 billion people live without access to safely managed sanitation [There are about 7.9 billion people in the world so that means nearly half of them do not have safe, clean water to drink or hygienic places to go to the toilet – I wonder how they feel about the whole “wash your hands for 20 seconds in hot water” mantra?]

But did you also know that for every dollar spent on hygienic sanitation and clean water $5 dollars gets saved in medical costs? Wow, so little can save so much. 

But it doesn’t only save on medical costs, it helps with productivity in the workplace. Imagine being a woman without proper sanitation during your period or when pregnant! But when money is spent on toilets in the home, in schools, in the workplace, these women are not only safer and healthier but also able to reach their full potential and truly fulfill their role in their society. They would no longer be marginalised, fearful and “unclean”. 

Sanitation is one of the basic human rights recognised by the UN which are not being met in far too many places. Perhaps as we move towards Advent and Christmas we should see how we can help promote human rights in countries that too often get ignored. One way is to sponsor a toilet via Toilet Twinning, and check out the UN website for ways to learn more. Be alert and aware as to how blessed we are in the West and how much we take for granted, and be willing to see what more you can do. 

You might feel like just a drop in the ocean but if all the drops in the ocean stopped being drops then the seas would vanish. If each of us is our little drop then we can change the world. 

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
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.

Categories
change Intentional trust

Intentionality Written In Pencil

Picture of stoney beach looking out to still clean sea taken by Diane Woodrow author of The Little Yellow Boat book
Llanddulas beach walk which I did when a writing group I run had been cancelled due to only one person showing up. Intentionality written in pencil!

I was reading Lisa’s blog on Musing From a Sacred Summer, of how she is being intentional with the things she does before leaving Seattle, but that so often we don’t know what is round the corner. If these past 18 months have taught us one thing it should be that we don’t know what’s coming. Every January we sit and plan, roughly, our year so that we’ve at least got some idea of what is going on. Even as February 2020 came into being and rumours were starting about this new virus we still went ahead and book a trip to see my son’s flat and a couple of other events later in the year. For us here in the UK March 23rd was “end of the world as we know it” day. Lockdown day!! The signs were there. It had been coming. But I don’t think anyone really believed it would be as it was.

So things will change but does that mean we don’t plan any more? I don’t think so. But it is how we plan that will help to keep us sane.

I am trying to make my whole day intentional. I am a writer and, as most writers know, unless you carve out time then you don’t get to write. In fact I think that is probably true for most self-employed creative people without deadlines. I don’t have a publisher waiting round the corner for me to produce my next book, next collection, but I do love to write. I have published a book. I would like to publish again. But there won’t be anything if I don’t intentionally set aside time to write. So I am putting aside time in my diary. I also live in a big house that needs cleaning regularly. It is easy to keep clean if I intentionally set aside time to do it. I have paid projects that I need to be doing too.

Some people write their plans in stone. Some people don’t write them at all and wonder why things don’t get done. But I am planning on writing my plans in pencil. Not because I don’t take them seriously but because things can change. Take for instance my cleaning routine. I had it all planned out and then heard from a friend that someone she knew was going to be homeless for a couple of days, so a quick change, replan and they’ve got rooms ready for them. Or this morning, I had a list of what I was going to write. One of which was to finish off a blog post to share on Godspace but as I was writing it I put in a reference to this blog, that I hadn’t written at the time so thought I’d best get it done!!!

As I’ve mentioned before I intentionally put an Artist’s Date in my diary, where I go for a walk and write. I was planning to do that today but in the end went yesterday because there was a space. I am so glad I did because today there is sideways rain crashing down. Even the dog only got a 15 min walk. Intentionality written in pencil.

Hopefully this will make me more flexible, more trusting in God and the Universe, more able to do what I have to do. So I put things in my diary, make my to-do list, and hold everything lightly, and trusting that what I get done for that day, be it writing, cleaning, working on a project, emailing, seeing friends, or all the other myriad of things I love to do, will be what I am meant to do for that day

Intentionality written in pencil!!!

Categories
angels greta thunberg joan of arc passionate prophetic

Joan of Arc

Stained glass window of Joan of Arc

First posted on https://godspacelight.com/2021/05/29/joan-of-arc-2/ on 29th May 2021

I wonder what we would have thought of Joan of Arc today even in some of the more crazy charismatic churches. She doesn’t fit the stereotype of prophetic leader. She didn’t have visions of Jesus but of Michael, the archangel, Catherine of the “death by flaming spinning wheel from which the firework known as the Catherine-wheel comes from”, and Margaret who was tortured and murdered because she would not renounce the vow to remain a virginal bride of Christ when a pagan king wanted to marry her. Would we have been more like one source and just say “she claimed to have heard voices in her head”?

I wonder if she had come forward today, a young girl of 16 or so, and said she heard voices of an angel and two martyred women and that she wanted to lead her country to victory, she would be taken to a psychiatric ward? Or, if one of our children said they heard voices, would we tell them to hush and maybe get them checked out for autism? Or, what about ourselves? What would you do, what would I do, if we were sure we could hear voices telling us to do something bold and brave? I wonder if we would just keep quiet and wait for our voices to be “confirmed”. 

As I pondered Joan of Arc, Greta Thunberg came in to my head, the teenager who has stepped up to the mark to try to lead the world to another place. I wonder if there were other young people who felt the same but whose parents, teachers, or churches, told them not to be so silly and the whole thing was too big for them. Greta, I believe, has only got as far as she has because her parents didn’t stop her. There is nothing to say what Joan of Arc’s parents thought but it was her relative who was bold enough to take her to a local garrison and from there she made it to the French court. 

Joan experienced lots of opposition but preserved because of her total belief that this was what God was telling her through his messengers; Michael, Catherine and Margaret. How often do we hear something, and hear it very clear, and yet when we hit opposition, or lack of support from others, we give up? This doesn’t mean that we should power on through because we think this is what we should do but sometimes, like both Joan and Greta, we need to listen to what we are hearing, listen with our hearts, and keep on keeping on even if it means we lose our reputation, our livelihoods, and in Joan’s case, our lives. 

I don’t think Joan cared what other people thought. I don’t think Greta cares much either. This isn’t to say I think either of these young women lack emotion at all. I think they both believe/believed that what they were doing is/was so right that they just can’t/could stop. 

From pondering Joan of Arc, and as a result of that Greta Thunberg, my hope is that when I hear a voice or voices telling me to go and do something I won’t hold back whatever opposition I face, or however much it might damage my reputation. But also when I hear of some young person talking about a dream, a vision, voices speaking to them, that will change the world I will be willing to encourage them rather than hinder them. 

Our world needs to change to stop it going back to the same pre-covid patterns where those who have stuff and status, fear of losing out to those who do not, and where those who do not have status are treated with disgrace and live in fear of having the little they have taken from them. We need to change and I believe we need younger people to help us with that – with more energy, more determination, more of an innocent belief that things can change. 

I would like to be like Joan of Arc’s relative, helping to get someone young person to where they believe they should be, helping and encouraging them to see the change they believe in. 

Categories
friends friendship Godspace The little yellow book

Jesus our Friend

Diane Woodrow's dog, Renly, sitting on a rock looking up lovingly
“Can I be your friend?”

These thoughts on Jesus our friend were prompted by Lilly Lewin’s Post from 5th May entitled “Cups of Connection and Joy“, from starting talking about connection the post flows into the John 15:14&15 were Jesus tells his followers they are friends not servants.

How often do we see those in church behaving like servants, running round doing stuff, keeping the whole show on the road, even busy doing the praying stuff – which looks so righteous – but in fact they are spending time in praying, whether at alone, online, in prayer rooms, not to hang out with a friend but to serve.

When I tried to share this I was reminded that the Bible talks of asking for things, of petitioning prayers, etc as if that meant that we had to do rather than hang out with our friend. It got me thinking about my friends and how I behave with them and what I expect from a friendship. I though about the words in The Little Yellow Boat book where she says “She realised she did not want to be rescued and taken home. She wanted help to continue her quest.” She then realises those boats she had dismissed, which become her friends, all have different things to offer and different ways to help her so she goes to them for different things.

My friends are all very different and I go to them for different things and expect different things from them. I have friends who I would go to for help to do things, friends that I would go to if I was trying to workout what to do next, friends that I would walk with, others I have never walked with but drank a lot of coffee with, others no coffee but lots of meals and wine. Some of my friends are Christians like me, and some even think about God in similar ways to me. Some are of other faiths and some none. Some challenge me and turn my thinking upside down. Some are a calming influence. When I met with them I am different depending who I’m with.

I found it interesting that there are many many Bible studies and Christian groups that look at God the Father but very few what look at Jesus as our Friend. I wonder if that is because there is distance between us being able to father/parent someone else and us being someone’s friend? With talking of Father God we can stand back a bit, forgive parents and welcome in God, or if parents repent for our misplaced parenting, but perhaps we keep our distance from looking at Jesus as friend because it would challenge us more. I also think being a friend is much harder to define than being a parent. As I’ve listed above I expect different things from different friends and give differently to my different friends.

Yet every day we can get up and be a friend, in whatever guise that is, but how often do we choose to do that?

Categories
GodspaceLight Love self-love shared blog

A Love Note by Ana Lisa de Jong

This was originally published on https://godspacelight.com/2021/05/06/a-love-note/ on Thursday 6th May. It fits in so well with my last post that I felt I had to share it with you too.

Do check out https://godspacelight.com/ to read other inspiring posts. And also check out Ana Lisa de Jong on https://livingtreepoetry.com/

A Love Note 2

poem and photos by Ana Lisa de Jong,

A Love Note

I want you to write yourself a love note.
A story of the spirit that lives in you,
rises up,
defies opposition.

I want you to write the inverse of everything
you’ve been told that hurts,
limits,
keeps you sold out to other’s opinions.

Who do you know,
even amongst those who love you,
who see you truly,
who do not see you through a lens imperfect.

You are everything to the one
who perceived you before you stood up,
this one calling, every day, your name,
that you might live unto yourself.

And know that when the darts come
out of the night,
you have a shield, and a counterpart
to every word that isn’t true.

That you have comfort,
when strength is in short supply,
encouragement when
to show up smiling takes every ounce of will.

I want you to write yourself a love note.
From the spirit who lives, breathes in you,
stands up to bless you,
declares against

all that would hurt, intentionally,
inadvertently,
that the words echoing,
might die out on the tongue,

dissolve before they reach the ear,
meet the light,
come undone.

A Love Note 1
Categories
Bible Books God The little yellow book trust World Book Day

World Book Day 2021

Front cover of the book the Little Yellow Boat by Diane Woodrow, illustrated by Danielle Chapman-Skaines
Available to purchase at all online outlets

I think an appropriate start to a post around World Book Day would be to give myself a big shout out!

A week ago today I published my first book. It is a children’s picture book which was accepted by the three publishers I sent it to leaving me to pick the contract I liked best. Read more about it on my growing website https://aspirationaladventure.com/little-yellow-boat/. Or follow its Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LittleYellowBoatBook This is my dream come true – both publishing the book and growing my own website.

World Book Day comes with lovely memories of my children eagerly awaiting the actually date to go and spend their £1 book day tokens. The tokens would arrive from our favourite home education support group a week or two early but my two would wait until it was actually World Book Day before spending them. They never bought the book that was the one especially put together for that specific World Book Day, which only cost £1. Instead they would add their own pocket money to the token and would spend ages in our favourite independent bookshop searching until they had found just the right book. It was delightful. And came only second to the delight of discovering that my daughter had taught herself to read when she was about three years old in the “book cave” I had designed for them.

Both my two are still avid book readers even though not as much as myself. I devour books. Last year I read over 100 different books which I posted on Instagram and I’m hoping to read as many this year. For me and for my children, and most readers I know, books are a way of not just escaping but of learning about new worlds, people one wouldn’t meant in regular life, or reading about how others think and feel which taps into how we think. For myself I come away from a book with greater wisdom about myself and others, whether historical figures or contemporary. Books give one connection to something bigger than just ordinary life, which I think has been so important in these lockdown time.

One of my exciting finds this year has been the Shelter Box Book Club [https://www.shelterbox.org/book-club/] which with a monthly subscription sends out a book from an author from a part of the world Shelter is working in. Through these books I am going all across the world learning about diverse cultures. To learn more about my reading over the past year check out https://aspirationaladventure.com/2021/01/13/2020-goals-100-books/

As I was pondering this and knowing I was going to be posting it on to the Godspace site I was thinking how I could tie in God. Well of course Jesus is “The Word” which is actually isn’t so very different to a book. I believe each reader reads a book differently. We all dive in with our own ideas, thoughts, life experiences and prejudices and read the story through that. As I pondered this I felt that this is what we all do with Jesus if we choose to dive into him. I do not believe we can get to know Jesus without bringing our own stuff with us. I believe that is why Jesus isn’t a static word but “the living word” because we all change who he is by what we pour into him from us, and he then changes who we are by what we take away. .

I also think this makes God even more amazing than ever. When I wrote my book I had an idea not just what it meant but how I hoped people would feel about it, and what they get from it. It is only a 34 page children’s picture book but I still want to sit with each person and tell them how it should be impacting their lives. Yet God released his Son, the living word, as well as the Bible, into the hands of people. People who were going to read and interpret it through their own lens. I know we sit with God and explore his word with him but I don’t believe he ever dictates to us what we should get from him.

I believe God trusts each of us to read his Son and his Bible through who we are, through our own lens, through are own life experiences. And I think that we need to trust others to read through their own life lens and listen to what each other learns. Maybe we need to read the Bible and share what we’ve learned as we would a book club that would make a difference to our growth as followers of Jesus? We should not listen to what others are learning so we can tell them where they are wrong but, as with the book club idea so that we can learn about them, learn from them – and maybe in the process learn about ourselves just as we do when reading a well written novel.