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

Prayer-after

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.)

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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

kurt-vonnegut
http://www.republicofyoublog.com/quotes/the-world-is-a-beautiful-place/

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

parables2bof2bjesus2bparable2bof2bthe2brich2bfool2bdrawing2bby2bt2bbertram2bpoole
http://christianartnow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-rich-fool-parable-painting-by.html 

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.

“everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics”

I read this quote this morning in Richard Rohr’s daily meditations. It’s from Charles quote-everything-begins-in-mysticism-and-ends-in-politics-charles-peguy-70-49-53Péguy (1873–1914), who was a French poet and essayist. Also this morning in the Guardian online I read this from Julia Gillard, who was the first woman Prime Minster of Australia, “the rapid media cycle combined with social media had disrupted the rhythm of politics and the perception of politicians.”

What’s wrong with the world today?” we often hear cry. In fact I was at a meeting talking about doing things with young people and that it is getting harder and harder because their attention spans are becoming shorter – and of course social media took the blame. Is it to blame? Or is it more along the lines of the fact that we have come to accept it and not challenge it. I’m not saying switch it off but I am saying that we need to fit in the mysticism, the praying, the meditation, the thinking about things. We see top level tweet-research-lengthcouncil and government meetings tweeted about as soon as we happen. Donald Trump has bought into the whole social media/tweeting in such a way that he appears to just tweet away so he can keep “in touch” but so much of what he says is rubbish and not even spell checked. As yet our politicians over here have not bought in to it but will that only be a matter of time?

But each of us needs to change this too. We need to slow down and to think. We need to change our worlds but being more meditative before we act. There is a rise in meditation and mindfulness but that seems to me to be in a recreation box not in a “let’s ponder before we act” box. As the general public we need to stop wanting a quick answer to things. And yes public enquiries can take too long – as with Hillsborough – but also answers can be wanted too quickly.

We live in a world that wants answers and wants them now. Human beings have always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of everything but at one time that had to come verucaabout slowly, could not be broadcast the moment someone had had a pondering thought. A lot of what we hear and read is more of a thought than a decision. Decisions come with time, with thought, with tapping into something greater than. And yes I think whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Pagan, Agnostic, Atheist, or any of the other religions etc that I have missed out, all want to tap into something more than themselves, whether that is a God, gods, inner self, counsellors, friends, or anything else. But that takes time. It cannot be done in a moment, in 144 characters.

To be able to change this world we need to take time, need to as Kate Tempest said “look at the faces” and “see peace in the faces”. Peace and hope and knowing where to stand. The catchphrase/gateway to silence/meditation point with Richard Rohr this week is “Give me a lever and a place to stand” – based on how Archimedes believed that a lever put in the correct place on the correct fulcrum in space could move the world. For me 13948111896_7fc79a239dthis has set me off on thinking about where is the lever I’m meant to be standing on, where is the correct place for me to stand and what in my world am I changing. Being the person I am it is hard for me to stop and think and wonder about that. I do want to be rushing about doing but I know that I will not know where it is unless I spend time praying, pondering, journaling, talking to friends, reading, watching, thinking and then …

So to change this world, to see the peace in people’s faces, to really know what is going on and what people think about it we need to slow down, to move into meditation not as a place so we can sleep more but as a place where we can become more effective. We need to also stop expecting our leaders to give us answers now.

16137685007_6dd7e27e5f_zGive me a lever and a place to stand

What we going to do to wake up?

(Apologises if I’ve miss quoted lyrics or missed the point. These are my thoughts and how I heard this)

Last night I watch Kate Tempest at Glastonbury. In fact I watched her the night before p056s313too. I don’t do the “watching music” normally – in fact I don’t often listen to music. In the car maybe but not just to sit down and listen to. I have to be doing something else. But someone from one of the writing groups that I run suggested we watch her. I have not been able to get her out of my head since. Then, as things generally do, I met with a friend for coffee and she was talking about similar things to the things Kate was singing about. Last night when I watched I also took notes of the things that had stood out to me the night before. The title of this blog is one of the lines and it is the line that fits in most with what my friend and I were talking about – “what we going to do to wake up?

She starts with a knock out song about the present government and really does take down Theresa May using actual words that May has said. And this is where the media stops in their reporting but Kate Tempest does not stop there. She takes things onward. I think that is what made me listen twice. Yes it is great to hear someone speaking out against the mess our world is in but it is even more awesome to hear someone talk about what “WE” can do. Not them but us. I did a lot of journalling around that afterwards.

Her main song tells the story of 7 very different people being awake at 4.18 and I challenge anyone to listen to it and not see bits of themselves and bits of those they love in it but she challenges each of us to look for the “gods” out there; that each person is born to greatness – “Gods rise in the most unassuming and human way“. Each of us has the power to act. What I felt Kate was challenging each one of us to live out was; justice, kate_tempest_-_let_them_eat_chaosrecompense, humility and most importantly to realise that we are connected and to live with unconditional love for each other.

One bit that has stayed with me is when she says to realise that the oppressed and the oppressor are connected. I felt, and feel too that it is reflected in the medias response to her set, that we blame the government, blame “them” when in fact each of us holds others back, holds ourselves back, turns a blind eye to things, when in fact we need to realise that we do get what we either vote for or can’t be bothered to vote for.

I loved how she finished – that there is nothing new, nothing set in stone, we have it all in us and there is peace in face of people, but that things will not change until we all realise that they have to and are all willing to rise up and change things. We need to stop consuming and start looking to each other, encouraging each other, releasing each other, helping each other to dream our dreams.

What are we going to do wake up?” Before the US elections I read of a prophet (I’ve lost the piece so can’t quote fully) that I remember saying that Trump was in the running because we all needed a “trumpet call to wake up“, and that things were going to come into the light. I believe instead of reacting and fearing we need to ask what caused that boy to want to blow himself and lots of young girls as well after a concert in Manchester, aaeaaqaaaaaaaaesaaaajdc5yty5ytlmltfkyjmtngfjoc1imze4lwq4y2vlzjuyyzhmzgwhat caused those young men to drive a van into people they didn’t know and then go on a killing rampage, what causes the person in the town next to me to want to stab his wife, what causes builders to put cheap inflammable materials into a building and authority figures to turn a blind eye, what causes suicides, murders, the need to buy sweatshop made clothes, to drink, etc etc.

We all need to have that wake up call to find out what makes us happy to moan but do nothing. How much more needs to go on before we all take responsibility?

One of the things I journalled last night was “have I ever spoken to a potential terrorist, rapist, murderer? I don’t know. But maybe I have. Maybe something I have said has awoken a dream in them for something more than destruction. Or maybe because of things I do and say then those thoughts never cross their minds. It is time we all got out forgivenessfearlessness-unconditional-love-tmu702there, stopped blaming them and started seeing how we can LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. Perhaps we can only do that when we realise we are all connected, all loved and all have something to contribute?

What Makes Something A Success?

I was pondering this as I started to write an update for my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table bare-female-feet-under-vintage-table-white-retro-tired-businesswoman-woman-girl-leg-cramps-relaxing-no-high-heels-50400483mailing list. I started with “There have been four fantastic workshops over this past week …” and go on to talk about the new well-being one I’m doing at Llandudno Museum, the restart of the Memoirs one after it’s Easter break and the two that I am now doing at Gwrych Castle. But it got me thinking “what makes something a success?” and Why am I saying these workshops have been fantastic?

Well to me they have been and it’s not me putting in lots of hype to get people to come. I have not had great numbers – 4 each week at Llandudno, 4 at the Memoirs one, 4 at the afternoon Gwrych one and then 2 at the twilight one. Looking like my number might be four 🙂 Perhaps I need one of my friends who are into meanings of numbers to look into that 🙂 For me doing the workshops is not about numbers but about connections, growth, encouraging people. For me I was encouraged at the afternoon one at Gwrych when I had one lady come back from last time – but also do have another lady who will be growthjoining us next week from the previous set of workshops. At the Memoirs one the group are sharing details about their lives to each other and one came in with a brochure for another relating to something they spoke about a fortnight previous. Networks and friendships are being made.

Every time I do a group I learn more about myself, about how I do when people challenge my way of doing things, of working with people, doing group work, and setting out and planning the workshops. I still love learning about myself, witnessing the changes that have gone on, seeing that I am reacting differently. And I learn about other people – some things I read wrong, some right – it is all part of the journey.

I always have to go back to my reason behind why I set out to do writing workshops, and the diversity of the writing workshops, in the first place.  My reason all has been – and has been in a lot of what I do in my life – to see others reach their potential. I’m not doing it in that self-sacrificing, being walked over sort of way, but in a way that I hope I reach my potential too. I love the writing I hear and see. I love being able to see someone grow in confidence as they write. I would love to see some get published, others reach a place of freedom, others understand their self-worth. Reaching potential is not a one size fits all. Which again comes back to “what makes something a success?” For me that would be for each to reach their potential and grow beyond that.

5f45fb1a470e54136e9c26f4c0e70010So many of us have had to find our own roots and wings due to circumstances beyond our control, and often beyond our parent’s control. As I find my roots settling down deeper into the soil of North Wales, and especially this lovely little town, I feel my wings getting stronger. I am learning that to truly fly you do not have to travel the world but can stay in a small area but be truly free. But that is for a different blog 🙂