The Three Kings

Yesterday I was involved in two Epiphany services and it got me thinking about those “Wise men” who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.

sp2There are 12 verses in the second chapter of in the gospel of Matthew that talk about what happened with them but all we are told about them is “Magi from the east came“, they go to visit King Herod because they know that this is where a king should be found, get told by his advisers that a prophecy says the ‘King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem’, they go and visit Jesus and then don’t go back to see Herod. From these 250-300 words, depending on translation, the Christian faith has made up a whole mythology about these “Magi” that is now believed.

Because they brought three gifts then it has been decided that there were only three of them. Because we want them to be kind and humble people we talk of what it cost them to travel from wherever to see this babe. All through I feel we have dumbed them down, turned them into something tame and weak. So these are my thoughts on the Magi.

So they must either have been astronomers or astrologers or both or employed people who looked at and read what was written in the stars. That is almost a given. But why did stars-constellationsthey go to visit a new born king? I think it was because the stars foretold how great this King was. Why go and visit a great king? To get great gifts from him. I believe these Magi had money, either of their own or were in a position to tax the people around where they lived. I think they came in a huge caravan of camels and servants and tents and gifts. Why do I think this? Because everything I’ve read about King Herod is that he was a despot and would not have let in three lowly travellers even if they did say they were off to worship the new king. I believe, from all I have read about Herod, that he would have either dismissed them or had them killed. But he welcomes them in. They must have been an impressive sight and he must have known he couldn’t silence them. I believe they came with gifts, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh that are mention, but much more. I believe the Bible only mentions those three gifts because they are the significant ones. I do believe that the Bible misses many details out. Why say that they gave other things when Matthew wanted to make a point to his readers of who Jesus is?

But you  know I think the most amazing thing that happens is when the Magi meet with Jesus. So picture a huge caravan of camels, of opulence, of power, coming to the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are staying. Here I believe it was the same house that Jesus was born in (as in he was born in the place where the animals lived) and that many of the wider family had no left after the census and Joseph was waiting for Mary to be strong enough so they could leave. Maybe even God had told him to stay and we just aren’t told that by any of the gospel writers.

So here they are in this little town when this cavalcade comes through. The town is in up roar. The Magi reach the house. They go in. There they see a normal couple. Remember Joseph was a tradesman and so wouldn’t be poor but wouldn’t be rich. Normal. But something happens to these wealthy, powerful men when they see Jesus.

Matthew says “ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

What happened to make them bow down and worship this woman and child? What did they see? What happened? Something in meeting with Jesus caused them to change.

Now I’m sure Herod offered them something to come back and tell him when they had found the child but they don’t. They set off. I’m thinking they went quite quickly because Herod doesn’t chase after them but goes off to kill those poor toddlers in Bethlehem.

I just feel that on this day after Epiphany Sunday it would be good to just ponder what happened when the Magi saw Jesus that caused a change in them. And also how often we have preconceived ideas of what “King Jesus” is like but if we truly looked at Him then we would give him the gifts we had intended for another.


Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.


It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

Paths to Follow

Yesterday the dog and I went for a walk up along Conwy Mountain. It’s a walk we’ve conwy_mountain_walkdone before so I was walking without really thinking. There were times when I came to places where the path wasn’t clear and I had to guess where we were going and then we’d come across the path again. It reminded me of a time when my kids and I were walking in a Country park in Scotland and again we’d walk, lose sight of the path and then find something that showed we were going the right way – a green arrow, a bench, etc.

On Tuesday I went to see “Legally Blonde The Musical” and in that she has a set path that broadway-blonde_1she is going on – to marry Warner for love – but he decides he wants someone more “serious” and so Elle decides to become more serious. From this she finishes up graduating as a lawyer and winning a case based on her bimbo knowledge, but also her skill with reading people. Originally she didn’t know her path would take her to being some great lawyer, she just wanted to find a way to marry the man of her dreams, who she doesn’t in the end either.

So often we think we are on a path that leads us in a totally different direction, or not sure if we are on a path at all, but what we need to do is keep walking.

I was thinking of all the other houses we looked at before we bought this one. We had a path “to move up to the mountains and the sea and run a hospitality house”. We are now footprintsIliving in a town we’d only heard of 2 years ago, I’m involved in a project with a castle I knew nothing about 2 years ago, and we have friends and guests and neighbours we didn’t know of till we met them. If we had bought another house then our lives, our friends, what we do, would be totally different.

footprintsSometimes we don’t know the path, sometimes we do, but we do need to be bold and fearless and walk that path.

My son has joined the army this week. We have actually been unfair to him by asking him where he expects to go with his “army career”, and then at times worrying about what he’ll do after. My goodness he has only just joined and he doesn’t know what comes next. He can see the steps for the first 3 months. He can see some of the things he hopes to achieve but until he gets to A he won’t know what B is. That is the same for all of us. We had to buy this house in this town before we could start exploring what our lives would be.

What path will we be on in 10 years time? Who knows, but I know I will keep walking it whether I can see it clearly or not know that it is there in front of me.just-because-your-path-is-different-doesnt-mean-you-are-lost


Choose Life

Moses repeated the words God told him about the Jewish people’s having a choice life-spirit-feature-imgbetween life and death, blessing and curses. The apostle Paul said Jesus came to take the sting of death away. This poem on Velveteen Rabbi’s blog post this morning, says it all for me about how too often we choose death. For me not only are the gunmen responsible for deaths, the terrorists responsible for deaths but we all are. We are in a world that allows guns – ok so in the UK and Europe we don’t have the same gun laws and the US but we still have guns; young men in inner cities with guns because of fear and need for power, farmers with guns to shoot rabbit, vermin, etc, Policeman carrying guns because there are gun crimes. We live in a landscape that gives rise to fear and hate, for the need to control, for the need to be seen. Too often we choose death not live, we choose to put the other down rather than raise them up. We choose to fear rather than trust, to see the bad rather than the good.

Each time we fear or need power, don’t trust and don’t accept, we are choosing death empower1over life. Yes we need to stop gun crime. Yes we need to stop stabbings. But we also need to stop fear and disempowering others. If we gave people a voice, some place to speak, gave them power without the gun, maybe that would help them choose life over death.


Here’s Rachel’s poem


I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.


Claimed your own free will – Eve’s “defiance” in Eden claimed human agency for all her successors (Genesis 3:6-7).

Knowing … bloom – An allusion to the Tree of Knowledge and humanity’s “opening” into the knowledge of love and loss.

You must become – God describes God’s self to Moses as אהיה אשר אהיה / Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming” (Exodus 3:14). We who are made in the divine image are also called to perennially become.

Clothed your shimmering light in skins – Because the Hebrew words for “skin” (עור) and “light” (אור) both are pronounced or, Zohar teaches that Eden’s first humans were beings of light, before God made us garments of skins. Even so, our skins cover our light, which we still can see if we look carefully.

Your second son’s blood… returning earth to earth. Humanity’s first murder – Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4) – spilled Abel’s blood (דם / dam) to the earth (אדמה / adamah).

Wander – Cain, after murdering his brother, was condemned to wander the land without peace (Genesis 4:14).

Setting in motion also – From Cain comes not only the first murder but also the rhetorical question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8) – that continues to reverberate through the generations, and also the first “Why?” (Genesis 4:6), which teaches all future generations the possibility of teshuvah / return and repair (Radak Gen. 4:6).

Whirlwind – An allusion to the סערה (storm) from which God answered Job (Job 38:1). The storm’s circular shape resembles both a roulette wheel and a gun’s rotating cylinder that conveys bullets.

Choose life – “Choose life, if you and your progeny would live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Aimlessly – The indiscriminate shooter, the nation’s inertia.

My love, My strength… – Seven emanations of the divine, corresponding to the seven lower sefirot of Kabbalistic tradition: chesed (love), gevurah (strength / boundaries), tiferet (balance), netzach (endurance / momentum), hod (beauty / gratitude), yesod (foundation / generativity), malchut (indwelling).

Roulette wheels stop spinning red – For the gaming tables of Las Vegas and the ultimate gamble: walking the streets safe and unafraid.

14 stanzas – 14 for יד, the yad (hand) of God: we now are the hand that must act.

332 words – 332 for לבש, lavash (clothed) in divine skins that cover our light.


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus

(cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi and to R’ David’s website; feel free to reprint, with attribution.)


Nuclear End!

We were chatting yesterday about North Korea and nuclear war. I didn’t mean to sound explosion nuclear bomb in oceanflippant but my comment was “what I can I do about it?”

Back in the last 1950s CND was founded, people went on protest marches and worried about whether they should have children or not because the world would end soon. In the 1980s I was part of CND, protested at Greenham Common, did awareness campaigns in my local town, and worried that the would would end soon. I’m not sure if there are protests going on now. I know there are a few petitions going about, but the news is still telling us to worry that the world will end – possible soon. My comment is “what should I do about it?”

Well I went off and had a think and I know what I’m going to do. It sounds selfish and uncaring but it isn’t. I am not going to get involved in politics now. Not because I’m too old but because I know I’m not focused enough. I also don’t think its my “calling.” What


I’m going to do is be the best ME that I can be. I shall be kind and supportive to my guest that stay here, to the people I meet dog walking, to the people I come across in my workshops and in my work at the castle. I shall be there for my children and my husband. I’ll walk my dog, enjoy life – not in a “who cares” sort of way but in a “hey there are so many good things in this world why don’t you take a look at them too!

I did jokingly say yesterday that I’d like to give Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump andc1cdcc8c42465974df47f2172d73b96c-cool-quotes-awesome-quotes others that seem so insecure and yet have bits of the world they’ve been given dominion over a big hug, a kind word and let them know that they don’t need to stress so much. Again sounds trite but I do wonder if instead of running people down we lifted them up then the world would be a kinder place. So I can’t touch world leaders but I can touch those who I’ve been given the privilege to be in touch.

And my challenge is – why don’t we all go do the same thing – without fear or expecting anything back – and see what happens


What is hidden shall be revealed

So follow on from the flooding/waiting for the water board blog. Turns out that all outside drains were fine and water board don’t touch inside drains. So our friends turn up late afternoon in that gap I had between workshops. First thing Mark does is pull out dishwasher and washing machine and starts looking for drain. Husband has suggested I blocked-sewermessage Chris, the previous owner and ask if he can tell us where drain is. Chris appears as Mark has located drain. Both of them are down the drain. Husband is on his way home and I have to go to run workshop. So leave ex-owner and friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year under my sink pushing broom handles down drain. Turns out there were huge lumps of fat and gunk and all sorts in there which all 3 men spent time pulling out until all was clear. When the girl on the water board switchboard phoned the following day to see how things were, because they do follow up calls even if they haven’t done anything, she said it was the loveliest story she’d heard and was glad she’d phoned to find out about how things were. Lovely story of cooperation. Good from bad 🙂

What we presume had happened was that the drains in the street had all flooded. The volume of water was so hard that things were going no where and there had been drains that had been pumped out. What it had done was to push 40-50+ years of gunk and yuck back up any pipe it could find so it could keep moving. This meant that it came up ours and so blocked things up. We have now cleaned it out so it probably won’t happen now for another fair few years. But it got me thinking about gunk we have lurking about and about the line from a song by the Clash “One day a real rain is going to come and wash all maxresdefaultthe scum off the street“. But the question is where does that scum go? Well from our street it went up our drain.

It is like our lives – we can bury the rubbish that has gone on, keep working, buying, doing, hiding what has happened but one day it will burst out and block something. One often hears of someone who loses their temper aggressively after being mild mannered for as long as everyone can remember, maybe even going as far as killing someone, and many people say “where did that come from?” “What make them act that way?” It is possible that it came from years of washing away the scum down the drain and hiding it there and then one day it bubbles up and destroys things. Something can set it off that no one saw coming, even the person concerned.

Like my drain we need to be careful what we put in it/in ourselves, but also we need to make sure we don’t just flush things out where they can lurk about but we clean it out properly.

Jesus said about how what was hidden would come into the light (Matthew 10:26). I believe this was Jesus’ advise for living a healthy life. That we should not keep feelings hidden but should hold them in the light; be open and honest and not afraid of what we think and feel, or of what life has thrown at us.  In 20656d9783f38df2d750485fad3f8ae1-light-of-the-world-church-ideas2012 I wrote in the front of my diary on 1st January “let this be the year when things come into the light” and have blogged on it (though cannot now find the blog!). It was the year my sister’s and two friend’s mental health problems came “into the light” and we had to deal with their deaths. Bringing things into the light is dangerous especially when we live in a society that doesn’t like people to be open and honest. Chatting with one of our guests the other day we reach the conclusion that one of the most important life skills schools and parents could be teaching their children is how to be honest about what they think and feel and how to express that clearly and calmly. Usually by the time one gets to the point of needing to talk the “calm” has moved on to anger and frustration. But even to be able to say  “I am angry and frustrated” should be able to be done in a calm manner.

But as I am always realising I cannot start with “you” or “them” I have to start with me. So how am I going to deal with all the scum that has built up in my life? Watch this space!


Why when the day is already full …

… does something come along to make it even more full? Today is one of those action packed days when I should have said No to some things that I said Yes to. As I led in the bed this morning listening to the rain patter down I went through my to-do list and to_do_listorganised how I would fit everything in – including my coffee time. I went downstairs at 6am to get a cup of tea to take back to my room to journal a bit and found the kitchen floor flooded. So mopped the floor and wondered how the rain had got in over our very high back door step. An hour later came back downstairs and put on a load of washing. When rinsing dishes after breakfast I had to get out the sink plunger to try to unblock the sink muttering to myself as I wondered what I had allowed to go in the sink that should have gone in the food waste. Then the washing machine made a strange gurgle and unloaded its water all across the kitchen floor! Hurriedly turned off the washing machine and shouted to husband.

Long and short due to the storms that raged for two and a half hours yesterday afternoon and flooded our local supermarket, post office, main streets and park, and then came back for another go last night, dirt and soil and whatever has been washed flash-flooding-at-abergeleinto the drains and blocked them up. In fact yesterday out my study window I watched the small residential street opposite fill with water and then have to be pumped clear by the local water board.

The waterboard have been phoned and will be here within 2-4 hours which means I am now stuck at home. I cannot leave till they arrive. They may come early too if the job they are on is quicker than they hoped. So I cannot go and pay for my car which had a new exhaust fitted yesterday but I couldn’t pay for because the phone/internet lines for the card machine weren’t working. I’ve had to phone to say I might not be able to make it in time to conduct a guided tour around the castle grounds where I volunteer today in case the water board come late. My life has gone from super busy to waiting. I can’t even clean the floors because the workmen might have to walk through the house. I can’t clean bathrooms because I can’t run any water down the sink. In fact I can’t even flush the toilet. Just as well I’m home alone.

There’s a great parable Jesus tells of the rich man who builds barns to store all his grain in but then dies the following day which is used to tell us not to put too much hope in our plans. I’m sure that doesn’t mean don’t plan because I think Jesus had the ultimate plan


that Him and God had sorted before the beginning of time. But I think it means don’t get stressed about what you’re going to do, or even don’t rest on what you’ve already got sorted.

Richard Rohr’s “gateway to silence” words this week are “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding” and I think that is so true for today for me but also for every day for me. Yes I do need to have a bit of a plan because we do have guests arriving and leaving, friends coming to stay, food to think about, but I am not to put my trust in those plans because they might change. Friends might cancel. Drains might flood. But I am to trust in the Lord though all and everything.