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
Day of the Dead grief loss

Day of the dead

Conwy Beach in October 2021 with the sun trying to break through the clouds and rise. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Conwy Beach – October 2021 – 7.35am – taken by myself

I had been planning this blog post in my head for a few days as I am learning how I need a special day when I can honour and remember those who have gone before me. Then Sunday on Facebook was a post from a friend that appeared to be saying that a mutual friend, someone who had supported myself and my husband through a time of grief, had died. Then Monday there was an email from another friend to confirm that this lovely man had had two or three heart attacks on Saturday and had not recovered. It is a reminder that death comes suddenly to anyone and seems poignant that Nigel is the first person I will mention in this post and the most recent to leave this world. He was an amazingly pastoral person. I can still picture him keeping a straight, kind face even as our puppy drank his cup of tea whilst he was praying for us, or crawled on the back of the couch behind him and rolled downwards into his neck. Those are my big memories of Nigel. And even as I pray for his family – wife, children and grandchildren – I can still smile at that memory from nine and a half years ago.

My first death that really affected me was also my first suicide. He was my boss and we went to the funeral as an office group. No one knew why he had taken his own life so we sat with pints on the table and talked of the good things about him, of which there were many. Pat taught me that people are more complicated than the novels I was reading.

My youngest death was a lad whose parents had asked my boyfriend and I, both of us in our 20s, to be the “responsible adults” at Simon’s 18th birthday party. We were very honoured. The next time we saw his parents was 10 days later at Simon’s funeral. At 18 and one day Simon had gone off on his brand new motorbike with a friend and been impaled on a lamp post. He left me with a memory of seizing every moment because of never knowing what is round the corner.

Around this similar time my grandmother died. But I had lost her around twenty years ago when she had endured a major stroke and never really spoken again. With her I learned that grief is complicated and can arise many years after the loss.

My sister’s death was more complicated but that was the relationship her and I had; complicated. But for fifty years of my life she stopped me from being an only child. I miss having a sister though I am not sure I miss her per se. Again a lesson in how complicated relationships are.

I miss my friend, Felicity. Tthe more I delve into my own writing around Welsh Medieval history the more I wish she was still here to read what I was writing. It was with her that I explore historical novels and authors that we both adored.

Our friend, Jon, took his own life just after my sister died. Even though I still have time being cross with him for his decisions I can still laugh at silly dinner party conversations we would share which would drive the rest of those at the table into frustration. One that comes to mind today is of us in fits of giggle talking of how those who built Stonehenge managed to get the stones from Wales by strapping sheep together into fluffy rafts and placing the stones on them to drift across the Bristol Channel.

I cannot end this list of names without mentioning my father-in-law. Another one who chose to take his own life but even still I will remember him as the man who welcomed me into his family, when I started dating his son, knowing that because of my age and that I already had two teenagers I would not be blessing his son with children that would carry on the family name, and of how he publicly called my two teens his grandchildren.

I am not going to list all those that I have lost because there are many and I do not want to forget any. Friends, family, colleagues, and more besides who left this world in many different ways – suicides, heart attack, cancer, accident, old age, and other ways. These today are just a snapshot of my life as well as theirs.

Each person that I have know, those mentioned by name and those not, have affected my life in many different ways, and still do even today. I’ve learned so much from those I’ve known, about life, about myself and more. Even though I grieve for the fact that they have died before me I am grateful that they were in my life for however long or short the relationship, however deep or trivial.

So I will continue to allow people close to me even if it means there could be pain in ending because life and people are too rich to not walk with for however long. This is my post to honour them

Categories
Easter Godspace grief poem

The First Easter Sunday

Also posted on https://godspacelight.com/2021/04/04/the-first-easter-sunday/

Bleak mountain side as the sun rises

Pondering the first Easter Saturday, I wonder what those first disciples must have felt. All their hope was gone, brutally murdered and now hidden in a tomb to rot. For following Jesus they were now rejected by the synagogue leaders and also being watched carefully by the Roman authorities. We know the end of the story we so often forget what that first Saturday after Jesus was crucified was truly like. 

I wrote this poem not only pondering Easter Saturday but also as I was dealing with the grief over the untimely deaths of friends and family I had been praying for God to heal; emotionally, physically and mentally. Pondering Easter Saturday is a good time to think about those prayers we pray that don’t appear to get answered. 

The First Easter Saturday

How? What had happened? 

What is wrong with the world? 

Why is it continuing? 

God why can you not make it stop? 

Just give us time to grieve. 

This is too much. 

There was so much promise. 

So much expectation. 

And now he’s dead. 

All hope of promise is gone. 

It’s over. 

All that we gave our lives for. 

All that we gave up. 

Gone! Over! 

It is finished. 

And who cares? 

Us few that’s who. 

The Passover continues

The people celebrate

They are free at last. 

How? Why? Who could have let this happen?

God how could you have let this happen?

You should have stopped it.

He claimed to be your son.

We believed him.

We are walking dead now. 

They will come to get us soon.

Gone! Over!

It is finished!

So much of our own stories we are in that middle place between God promising and it coming to pass. Even before the pandemic hit most of us had experienced friends and family dying too soon and too painfully. Or of things we hoped would happen not working out as we had desired, or not working out at all. . 

How do we feel when we are grieving, when we are scared and yet other people are celebrating? The Passover was about being free from oppression but the followers of Jesus were under the weight of grief. And grief is a heavy cloak to wear. 

I believe God allowed Easter Saturday to remind us all that we need space to think, to grieve, to wonder. I believe, too, that the church calendar has stolen something from us. When you read what Jesus says it is that he’ll be in the earth three days and nights, not the two nights and one day that our church calendars allow.

Easter is a time for healing, as has been the focus for Godspace. My prayer for us all is that we take some Easter Saturday time and grieve for what we have lost and cope with our uncertainty about the future. I believe taking time out to acknowledge our grief before we move forward is one of the keys to healing and not just brushing things under the carpet. Let’s use Easter Saturday for, what I believe, God intended it.

Poem first published on 31st March 2018 on Aspirational Adventures.

Categories
bitter/sweet grief hope joy life loss

Beware the Ides of March

Sunset on the M56 on a journey back from our holiday in Northumbria Sept 2020

Misquote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar but seemed appropriate for this post.

March is a weird month for me because over the years lots of stuff has happened in it. To name but a few – it is the anniversary of not just physical deaths of friends and family but also of the loss of dreams, of anniversaries of heartbreak and relationship ends for both my children, which if you’re a parent you will know this hurts your heart too. But it is also the anniversary of when I got my cute little dog, when I met with God in an amazing, never to be dismissed encounter, when my son was born. So the month of March is a bitter sweet month. But then isn’t that life.

Life isn’t all good or all bad. Even in this pandemic I would say each person would be hard pressed to not be able to find a good time, even if it is just something small, but our newspaper headlines would like us not to see things that way. And I’m not saying things haven’t been tough. For me just entering March each year is tough and it was also why I went into panic mode last March rushed to “rescue” my daughter and bring her back to live in my house, was scared that we would run out of food. It wasn’t just the pandemic but the memories heaped upon it. This year I am calmer because I’ve recognised this is what my body does so I do almost remind it to “beware the ides of March”. Then I can work with my panics and my negative feelings and keep my body, mind and emotions not so much in check, because hiding one’s feelings is dangerous to both your physical and mental health. But I make sure I don’t get caught up in flight, fight or freeze and acknowledge the past in all its hues.

I’m not saying it is wrong to remember these events. It is good to have some time set aside to remember those people and dreams that have gone, but I do believe one should also remember the good in them too. I know sometimes that can be hard when the death has been from a long drawn out illness or mental health issue, or if the relationship or dream ended painfully. That does make it hard. But there is a gap for light in everything no matter how horrendous.

I read a few books last year and this about refugees and people in war torn countries. These books aren’t gloomy. They are honest about the hardness of the situation but they also see the light and joy in things. These are not books I come away depressed from but come away having learned something of another culture, another way of life, that I would not encounter in my daily life. The things I read are much harder than what I’ve been through. No matter what are papers say we are blessed to live in the UK. And yes there are things here that need to change, justices that need to be sorted, I’m not saying that. Same as I’m not saying that one shouldn’t grieve for those we’ve lost. What I am saying is that we need to see the blessings in the sadness, see the joy in the sorrow, see the light in the darkness.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan

Which way do you want to look?

Categories
accepting Brexit grief privilege rights Women's hour

Privilege or Right?

I was listening to some comments on Women’s Hour on Radio 4 yesterday about Brexit. What I noticed was that people seemed to see being about to go to and fro in Europe as a right. EG – it is my right that my elderly parents should be able to live in Greece and thenwomens hour be able to fly back to UK for treatment as and when they like; it is my right that I can live in France when I want to retire and still get my pension from UK and be able to vote even though I have not been in the country for 17 years; it is my right that as a European I should be able to live in England for as long as I like and not have to worry about visas, etc; and so it seemed to go on.

I think we often get confused and for get that things are for a period of time. Have you ever tried getting in to the USA? A very different story. But people don’t see it as a right to be able to come and go into the USA as they please, even though it until two hundred or so years ago it was part of Britain. It is seen as a privilege to be able to live and work there, as it is in many other countries.

I am not saying whether I am a leave or remain person but what I am saying is that for the last forty years or so I have had the privilege of coming and going into Europe to live, work, holiday as I have wanted with no hassle. Once in Europe, for a long time now, the currency has been the same so I will not starve if I cross borders after the banks have closed. [Yes one time I nearly starved in Belgium because we got stuck there, between France and Holland on a weekend!!] I see this as aDSCF1039.JPG privilege.

I wonder if we saw the last few years of being part of Europe as a privilege for a season whether we could enter the debate with a different heart? If I see something as my right I get upset if it is taken away. If I see something as a privilege to enjoy for a period of time then even if I am sad when it goes I have not held it so tightly.

On reading Dan Held Evan’s quote after his wife Rachel died suddenly at 37 it read as if, even though his grieve was huge, he still held his time with her as a privilege he had enjoy and as a right that should never be taken from him. There is a lovely man in our church who was married to his wife for just over 59 years before she died of cancer who, even though his grief is open and he often cried in church, says he still looks at the time they had together as a privilege to cherish.

I believe we cherish privileges but cling to rights.

Categories
accepting grief kindness resolutions uncertain

Change in Friendship

dscn0828I realised yesterday that I am grieving the loss of a friend. Not one who had died but one that was moving away. Since I moved to this town this person has been key in who I am and what I do here in my church life. She has spurred me on, stood by me when I’ve stepped out, filled in the gaps when they’ve needed filling. She isn’t the only but she has been one of the strong pillars that have given me the encouragement I have needed to step out. She is now doing, what I have done many times before, and is moving to another town.

I must be totally honest and say I am grieving. It isn’t the same as when someone has died, but it is a profound sadness. Things will not be the same. And if I am honest, I am not sure if I am brave enough to step out and do things without her. There is a team and it hasn’t just been me and her. Each of us has our role and our part but the part she filled will not be filled by anyone else. At least not in the team that is there. Things will shift. DSCN0826 (1)Things will change.

When I gave up a voluntary position recently I was sad and grouchy, similar to this. A wise friend told me to remember that, even though I chose to give up the role, I was grieving its loss. So even though I know that this friend is doing the right thing by moving I will still mourn her not being here any more.

One of my new year resolutions was to be kind to myself. I need to keep revisiting this. In fact I need to keep revisiting a lot of my resolutions – like the no meat, no dairy, no alcohol. All of which I have “failed” but I will keep going back to giving them another go but maybe not with that whole vigor of “a whole month of …” With each of the giving ups I have to keep revisiting and trying for just today. The same goes with the whole thing of being kind to myself. I need to remember that I am grieving and that I did struggle with the party for my friend last night because I didn’t want to be there.

sunset hands love woman
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

So I will be kind and admit I’m grieving for the loss and change. Don’t tell me she is only an email away. It still means she won’t be at the next prayer day/in the next discussion for the next play/etc. The friendship will have change. And I will have to go through my stages of grief. And if at times it means I’m grumpy and out of sorts then I must be kind to me and let it be

 

Categories
accepting being me belief Bible christmas deciding faith God Grace grief joy life memories sad

Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.