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Books borders and belonging enough Grace kindness

Borders & Belonging

Front cover of the book “Borders & Belonging” by Pádraig Ó Tuama and Glenn Jordan. As read by Diane Woodrow

I have just read this amazing book – Borders & Belonging” by Pádraig Ó Tuama and Glenn Jordan. It is about the book of Ruth and how it relates to our times. Our times being Brexit and, because they are both Irish, about the border between northern and southern Ireland. But for me it meant so much more.

They talk about how the story of Ruth tells how the law was changed through the actions of Ruth, which to me means God is saying that these “rules” we read in the Bible are not set in stone. The book of Ruth is read by the Jewish people every Shavuot, which corresponds with the Christian festival of Pentecost. Shavuot celebrates the spring harvest and comes 50 days after Passover. Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit to all people. Each year Jewish people remember, as well as the blessing of the spring harvest – which all who are gardeners know is so important as it comes at the end of the “hunger gap”, the time when there are just boring root veg that has survived over the winter – also remember this young woman from a despised tribe coming to their town and being accepted into their lineage and changing what was written in the Torah, which said that a Moabite cannot enter the nation of Israel. Yet at the end of her story we read that Ruth’s descendant is King David.

I think this is why she is included in Jesus’ lineage at the start of the Gospel Matthew – to show that Jesus came to remind us all that the law is not static, and I also think one of the reasons the Holy Spirit came on Shavuot is to show that again the law is not a static thing; that to follow God is not all about rules to follow but about grace and kindness.

As it says towards the end of “Borders & Belonging” “kindness is not constrained by rules” and that the law and traditions changed so that “kindness and grace is extended.” But how often are the “rules of Christianity” so fixed that kindness and grace are excluded? How many times have those in the LGBTQ community being told they are wrong and need healing? Or the young heterosexual couple who cannot afford to get married are told that they are wrong for wanting to live together? How many people feel they have to “clean up their act” before they can follow God?

How often do we, as church, hold on to the laws and traditions of our community because we think that is the right thing to do? When Boaz met with a man in front of the village elders who had, according to the Law, a stronger claim on the land that belonged to Ruth’s late husband, this unnamed man was willing to let go of that because he was afraid that his children would be outcasts as they could have been looked at as half Moabite, the despised tribe. As Pádraig says he was “willing to be poorer in order to be purer”. How often we do that – follow the right way but miss out on a bigger blessing because we weren’t able to share kindness and grace?

Interestingly around reading this I was on a long car journey and listened to a series of podcasts from Orphan No More, a community of Christians based in Bath, which were loosely based around the question of “do I have enough?”

Unless we can believe that we have “enough” I believe we cannot walk in kindness and grace. Am I willing to believe I have enough? Are you willing to believe it? Are we willing, during this Eastertide season to learn to walk more like Jesus – in kindness and grace?

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 choice deciding heart Love self-care self-love

Self-Care

stones.jpgThere is a lot of talk about self-care at the moment and yes it is very important, but what struck me yesterday was how you actually need a level of confidence to be able to care for yourself. I was made aware of this because when I mentioned that I was going to start kick-boxing the response I had hoped for, and needed for my confidence, was “well gone. Good on you” but the response I did get was “what do you want to do that for? It’s violent and dangerous.” Now if I had got that response a couple of years ago I would have not gone to my classes because my confidence would have been knocked, but I am still going to go because my confidence isn’t that fragile now. I am able to step out and do things without the need of full approval. The comments, once I was able to challenge that person, were all valid and made sense but they were not encouraging.

I think often we see people who are abused, in a bad place, addicts etc and think “why bigger-heartcan’t they get out of there?” “Why don’t they care for themselves?” But they can’t. They need someone to say encouraging things to them. I have a friend who works in a women’s support group and one of the things she says they try to do is to make the atmosphere as loving and accepting of the women as they are as possible. This is something we should do for all people – accept them as they are not as they should be. Even if we think as they should be would be a much better place. We need to give people encouragement so they can have the self-confidence to look after themselves.

I come back to the verse “love your neighbour as yourself” which doesn’t mean, I don’t What-is-Self-Carethink, giving and giving to someone else. But, I think, it means saying “if I’m an ok person then my neighbour is an ok person, if I can be kind and have self-care for me then I can be kind and care for my neighbour.” Or to look at another often misunderstood Bible verse about turning the other cheek. That again wasn’t about being abused and downtrodden but was about saying “the law says it is ok to slap my right cheek but I give you my other cheek which by law you are not allowed to slap. Will you do that too?” It is about being strong enough to stand up to justice not to lay down and be beaten. It is about self-care not humiliation. It is about self-care and humility rather than putting yourself last and being humiliated.

How have I got to this place? Slowly and with the help of others who didn’t even know. My work at Gwrych has been a great help even though at times it has been a struggle; a struggle with putting in clear boundaries, which of course only come with confidence and self-care; a struggle learning to say what I think about things but in a gentle way not aggressively, which I often stay quiet rather than say anything due to lack of training in how to gentle speak my mind; of learning to balance my time and not do everything. I put on, almost single handedly, an amazing production for WWI working with the local schools. I made mistakes doing it but didn’t feel down heartened by my mistakes. Doing that exhausted me but also energised me. I am running great writing workshops. Not a lot of people come but those who do are faithful and keep coming and I get amazing comments and compliments. Starting to take care of myself help. That started small by getting Kinspa membership and going for a swim and a relax in the hydro-pool regularly, which has led to going horse riding which has led to the kick-boxing.

For me some of it has helped that I am impulsive and do jump in, but when I am not feeling confident I also jump out quickly. As I said a negative word, like I got yesterday, would have caused me to cancel, but now I can keep going and doing what I want notself-love what other people approve of.

Coming back to the topic though of getting self-care – I would say when we see someone who needs self-care instead of expecting them to just do it we need to let them know that we think they are worthy of that self-care. Our role, as we come slowly able to lift our heads up from the gutter and look at the stars, is to help others know they are worthy.

(Interesting note – as I was getting images for this so much was about getting self-care so you could be better at …. whatever …. rather than just saying that it is ok to care for yourself. I don’t want to be better, do more, etc. I want to just be a more contented me doing the things I like doing. That’s why I care for myself. But again it does seem like we are always having to project outward and be “better”. Thoughts for another blog?)