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Not Everyone Views The World As I Do

Photograph taken whilst on a walk with husband and mother-in-law taken by myself, Diane Woodrow
Lambs, Lady’s Walk, Montacute April 2022. Taken by myself

I was really surprised yesterday at the writing group I was running that the two ladies who were there had never picked wild garlic and so never cooked with it. I then told a dog walking friend this and she had also never picked and eaten wild garlic. Her and I are now off to do that later this week. But it got me thinking of how many things I take for granted and think everyone can do them.

But it also clouds ones view of things. I know I would not be great at helping people who struggle with money because I have always been great at budgeting and of making money stretch. I am not 100% sure how I do it but I just do. So for someone to say they just cannot budget would leave me confused. But also I cannot map read. No matter how many times my husband shows me how to do it, and he is patient, I just can’t seem to get my head round it. I still am amazed that the sea is at the top of the map here. We live of the North Wales coast so for many of you that will be obvious but to me – Nope!

Too often when we talk about things, whether it is how we budget, what we eat, or try to share our faith, we come from the place of what we know. So for instance faith-wise we know what we know about God – and that can be different for each person – but we talk about it from what we have experienced, how it manifests to us, and then get frustrated with others from that point. This with the ladies at my writing group has helped me to see this. They are both over 60 and to me everyone has picked garlic.

With the Christian youth group I’m privileged to co-run I have started to ask the young people questions based on the liturgies and phrases they use about God, about their faith, about the out-workings of it all. When you say “I believe in God the Father” what do you mean by that? Because I am a writer I get them to write it down. Also I think there is space to say things in writing that you might not say out loud.

So for me from these ladies and that they had made it past 60 having never picked or cooked with wild garlic I am hopefully learning that my experiences of the world are mine and have shaped how I do and see things but not everyone has experienced, done or see what I have or in the same way I have. So instead of presuming I will start asking and wondering and learning and finding out.

Perhaps if we all started listening, learning and asking questions rather than presuming and going our way then there would be less fear, less anxiety and less fighting and wars?

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Valentine’s Day


Free download on https://pixabay.com/photos/flamingo-valentine-heart-600205/

First published on Godspace on 12th February 2022

I always hated Valentine’s day as a teenager. There would be so much hype going round school as to who was going to get the most cards. Yet for me I got none. For me it was another day in my school life that I dreaded and wondered what was wrong with me with my flat chest, thick glasses, dental braces on my teeth, home-knitted jumper and second-hand clothes. All the pretty, popular girls woulbe showing off their pile of cards and loudly saying how many they had and looking with contempt at those of us who had not received any. When I was part of Family Ministries in YWAM Scotland one of the mums would get all three of her children Valentine’s gifts. I think her mother used to do that for her. That did not happen in our house. I wonder if it made her kids feel better or not.

There are various legends around who Valentine was. Though the one who might have brought him to fame would be that he allegedly performed illegal marriages for Christians who for whatever reason were forbidden to marry. But again it looks like the Catholic Church made his saint’s day special for commercial reasons. But as I have researched more things about St Valentine many sites say it could have been Christians reclaiming, or coming on the back of, depending on your stance, of a pagan fertility celebration. As with all things, even our own Welsh Valentine, St Dwynwen, there are many legends, stories and different ideas that surround the origins of these things, as well as our own viewpoint, hurts and expectations. So, as with so much we need to start where we are today not yesterday.

There was a lot of talk last year about things becoming the “new normal”, phrase I’ve noticed isn’t used quite so much but we are still in a new normal as we deal with life living with Covid-19 and all its variants. So it is with Valentine. Some will have family traditions they are comfortable with, others not so. Some will ignore it either due to their theology or to do with issues of their past. But if I have been really healed of my past, really am a new creation, really am living in my own new normal, then I need to have a look at this festival, this day which, whether I like it or not, will be acknowledge in shops, on TV, even on Google’s banner.

I’ve been working with a group of young people recently and one of things we’ve been looking at, amongst other things, is presumption – presuming we know what other people want and need because we have judged them from the outside. So for me this year, as I put aside my own hurts and expectation, and walking out in my new normal instead of selfishly trying to avoid this day or of presuming what my husband will want to do, I will ask. And as one looks at the ideas of love languages, one of the greatest gifts is to find out what those around you really want and not just walking out in your own love language think that you know best.

New normal, new Valentine’s Day, new expression of love – asking what others would prefer.

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It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

bible-promises-smallOh my! How often have I heard that? I have studied Reformation History too so as well as hearing it in churches since I “became a Christian” 24 years ago I have also read it. I did get in to a bit of a discussion about it at a group we meet with on a Thursday evening. What I wanted was a “where does it say this so clearly?” I know I have been totally guilty of it. I still go in repentance to God regarding a relationship I had with a young man who had started seeing a girl. He was a Christian, she was seeking, he wanted to date her, I firmly told him know and clearly showed him passages in the Bible that made this relationship wrong. What happened? He stopped attending the group that I was a leader of. He did start dating the girl. And I do not know what happened from then because he moved away. I now feel that what I said was naive and not properly thought through.

But yesterday it all came to me very clearly how dangerous this can be – using the Bible to clearly tell us things. I had the privilege of being able to pray with a girl who was running prayer-810x250away from being forced into an arranged marriage. As I have shown before I am very good at making presumptions so I had decided she was Muslim, etc. Oh No! She is a Christian. Her parents are Christians. In fact she said her father was a missionary. Her family are from Taiwan though she was brought up in Canada. For her parents the Bible clearly says that they are to choose a bride for their child. In fact she even saw this as correct and proper. What she was running away from was the fact that she did not want to get married to this man and so her family were trying to coerce her into the relationship. I am presuming they could clearly see that it was ok to coerce their daughter into marrying a man of their choosing. Maybe like many of the things I read in the times of the Reformation, they were doing it for what they saw as the right reasons. (And I googled “Christian arranged marriages” and there are a lot of sites out there who are very pro arranged marriage!!)

Often we try as modern “enlightened” Christians to distance ourselves from the Crusades, for the burnings of both Catholic and Protestants during the Reformation, of Christians having slaves, by saying that they did not believe properly or they weren’t proper Christians – whatever that might mean. But actually if one reads the writings of the time these people could quote the Bible and say that ‘the Bible clearly says …’

the-mystery-of-godWe need to beware when we say the Bible clearly says that in fact there are many things in there that it does not clearly say. Much of this is to do with us not have the original texts in front of us, and we never will. Some of it is because words change over time. And some of it, I think, is because God is a mystery, and wants to remain that way. I believe He is seeking relationship with us, which means we must converse with Him. Ok there are some people who have been married a long time who can say “my spouse would clearly say …” but even at times they can be taken by surprise!

Let the mystery of God reign within us and not keep wanting to have clear answers.

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Presumptions

Wow! Have I been learning about presumptions of late! As you know we are renting rooms via Airbnb which is a very open site which says encourages people to give a profile about themselves so both host and guest sort of know what they are letting themselves into. patentlawpic858Well when we had a Malaysian girl staying for a month and working at the local hospital I had decided she must be a nurse. No she was a trainee doctor and a fascinating person too. Just last week we had a French guy book in for him and his girlfriend so I just presumed they were both from France. No she was from Russia and he was studying in UK. Again a mistake made. Then our latest guest, I could not quite make out the name but for some reason had decided that we had a man staying. Imagine my surprise when I met this lovely woman.

I am never sure how I make these presumptions but I know we all do. We have boxes we put people in and for some reason that is how we view the world. I am sure some of it is because it makes life easier in the broad sense. But I also think this is where we can make so many mistakes. I have often had people say to me that I am nice for a Christian or that I don’t behave like a Christian. I remember once when living in Belfast and going to a lovely church that was really into reaching out to the people who lived in the more deprived part, which was actually where we lived, one of the ladies being supported saying that she couldn’t believe I was “church” as she said. Why? It was her presumptions. I couldn’t be a Christian, be “church”, if I lived where she lived, spoke like she did, let my kid play with hers maybe. But that was something that was holding her back, and many like her from getting to know God.

I also think in this run up to this EU referendum we have to down to personalities and that euthen gives rise to presumptions. If Boris supports Leave then it will look like “x” but if Patrick Stewart supports Remain then it will look like “y”. Why do we think that? Because our preconceived ideas cannot cope with certain people being in certain camps and then us joining with them.

How do we get beyond that? I think we need to be aware of it. So I need to be aware when I make a presumption about one of our guests that I have done that. I need to look at why I my first thought for a Malaysian girl coming here to work in a hospital was that she must be a nurse, that I couldn’t imagine a French person going out with anyone other than another French person, and that somehow the wording on things make me decide gender.

Just recently Airbnb has been pulled up because of prejudices from its hosts – which actually is a silly thing to pull the company up for. It is basically a forum to help people find cheaper accommodation not an employer. And also its host rating system is based on those who stay not on those who don’t. There are a few people I would have liked to have given 1 stars to who never got back to me, or who stayed with us but did not do reviews for us, but that is not how the system works. Ok so its not foolproof but the ratings do work ap22304414966_wide-555ee6d2536f14d3ced3468bd4730e9843676057-s400-c85for when people stay so … But the point is we do not know where the prejudices from these hosts who have refused come from. Perhaps when they see that someone is of a different colour, race, religion, sexual orientation they have some presumption of the character of that person. Should legislation force them to have these people in their homes? I don’t think so. We cannot change people’s hearts by forcing them. I know if I was forced to have someone in my home I did not feel comfortable with for whatever reason I would not behave well. I have had one or two that I have wondered about beforehand but have let them stay and all has been fine. But that was my choice not a law telling me I had to.

So how do we change people’s preconceived ideas? We can’t. As with everything we can only change our own. But then we can share with others in a kind way. We are part of a Bible study group that have their own presumptions about things. We cannot tell them they are wrong but we can say about those we know who are different colour, race, religion or sexual orientation to us, but also we have to accept these people as lovely people and not be prejudice against them. In fact I think this is one of the hardest things to deal with – not being prejudiced against people who have prejudices we disagree with. If we do not love the gun toting right wing fundamental then how can they ever change?

My presumptions could lead to prejudices which could lead to me not allowing people into mayaangelou101310my home, not let me speak to people in a supportive way, and I need to be aware of that. The only person I can really change is me but the only way I can do that is by being aware.