Why I’m still a Christian

I’ve written around this theme before but can’t find the posts to tag them. I am writing this now because I have been given an journaling exercise that is post-heroic. And I’m doing it without pictures for a change

I “became a Christian”, as the phrase was then, because I met something that amazed and astonished me. Yes I was lonely. I had just had my son and was living with someone who wasn’t his father in a house with other people. It was not a safe time. But something inside me was urging me to change. Some well-meaning Christians came along and knocked on my door. I went to their coffee morning and then I went to their church. I experienced an amazing spiritual encounter where I know that I met with the God who made the universe who told me He loved me and felt like I was being covered in a viscose glittery substance. I have since been told that was a Holy Spirit encounter. To me, at that time, it was like meeting the entity that made me, made my world, looked deep into who I was and how I was living and said “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”
Since that time I read the Bible loads, studied Christian doctrine, theology, right ways to be a Christian, been on mission, led prayer journeys and set up prayer groups, done all that stuff and in doing it totally agreed with the U2 song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I’ve blogged on this and pondered this. I’ve tried to tame the mystery even though I know in my head “he is not a tame lion.”
I have reached a point in my Christian life where I am no longer wanting to be heroic, no longer wanting to tame the lion, understand the mystery. I have seen God let me down by letting people I know and love die with horrendous timing so that anniversaries of untimely deaths come at a time when we are trying to celebrate birthdays. I have seen God not come through on some dream that I believed He had promised me we would fulfil together. I have been angry and hurt and let down when it felt as if the mystery of God had turned out to be hollow.
Today I turn a corner. No that’s way too dramatic. Today I have decided to let the mystery out of the box and fly. I may never experience the viscous covering again, may never have a request answered as I like, but I know I have reached a point where I want to just hang out with the mystery, where I just want to be with whatever it is that I have tried to box as God.
So I’m still a Christian because I have decided that just as I don’t need all the answers neither does God need to tell them all to me; just as I don’t need to get it right all the time neither does God have to do what I think is right. I might even stop doing but learn to start practising and start just being. Not in that cheesy “oh I’m a human being not a human doing” but in that way that says it’s ok to just be me and for God to just be God, and for other people to just be who they are.
So I am still a Christian because there are no answers, no right ways, no clear paths but I do know that even through those dark paths the mystery that I call God is more than happy to walk with me and all my whinging and moaning and He still says “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”

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Meaning of Life?

I am working my way through a wonderful journaling course by Jan Fortune. I have also just started reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. (A big thank you to Josh Luke Smith for divine conspiracysharing this book on his Instagram ages ago) This quote from Jan’s course jumped out at me because it fits in so much with what I am reading at the moment that Willard is saying the problem with Christianity is. (Note I am only on page 77 at the moment 🙂  )

Joseph Campbell says:

People say that what we’re all seeking a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

I think way too often, as Christians, when people ask us about Jesus, we talk to them about the Meaning of Life, being freed from sin, going to live in heaven. So very, very rarely do we talk about being truly alive – or as Jesus put it “having life in abundance”.

I fully believe that Jesus comes to give us life here on earth in abundance, that his plan for us is that our physical life resonates with our inner most being. But I also believe that, way too often, Christians have made it a serious of dos and don’ts and what one should believe and what one has to do.

I tried this month to do the whole abstaining thing; veganuary. So I gave up dairy, meat013.JPG and even alcohol. It lasted five days before I decided that I needed to finish the elderflower presse off with the gin liquor my daughter had given me. It was a week before I decided to use the cheese that was in the fridge for a meal, to use up the mushrooms that were lurking in the vegetable rack with the turkey that was sitting in the bottom of the freezer. Why couldn’t I do it? Because I was doing it as an “ought” rather than it being something my innermost being wanted to do. And the funny thing is that we generally only eat meat once or twice a week, drink wine only on a weekend, and only have spirits on special occasions! It was in the telling myself I couldn’t that I wanted to. When it is just a part of my life – I suppose part of my innermost being – then it is easy.

The interesting thing is when I feel the rapture of being fully alive then I want to love my neighbour, don’t want to do things that would hurt me or others, want to give something back to the world. Interestingly too when I am in church doing something I love to do – lead intercession, do some play with a deep meaning – I buzz and feel like turning up that morning was worthwhile. Not because there was meaning to it – even though there was – but because it made me feel fully alive.

Willard has suggested being immersed in the Psalms to feel fully alive. I remember when my kids were little we used to read a chapter of Proverbs and a Psalm every day and then something else. Today I read the first four Psalms and yes I did feel better. It didn’t tell me what would give me a meaning to life but showed me how I could equate my innermost being with what I believed and wanted to take onward and outward.

DSCF0397.JPGSo I think we need to stop telling people that Jesus lets us see a meaning to life, or even telling people they don’t know the meaning of life but help to show them the bits of Jesus life that help us all to find true connection with our innermost being and truly bring us alive. And to be honest I don’t want to hangout with a God that doesn’t do that for me

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.

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 🙂 

Where did April go???

Ok so I know April isn’t over yet but where did it go? This month was to be my quiet hello-april-images-1planning month – which actually I have successfully done – on the whole. I have workshops planned and ready to go. I have advertising sorted and sent out to whoever I can think of.  Actually as someone said to me it wasn’t so much a quiet month as an unstructured month where I had few time restraints – at least on the days I had at home.

Mind you I did fit in a friend’s hen do which because it was back where I use to live was a whole weekend away for me. Then said friend got married on 20th. It was a lovely wedding filled with much emotion – which will be saved either for another blog or to be kept in my private journalings.

Someone asked me about how to journal. I find that a hard question because I just write. I write as if no one else is going to read it and let my thoughts flood through. I had a great how-does-journaling-help-addiction-recovery-drugrehab-us_time of journalling over the hen weekend and came to some great realisations. Ok this might seem obvious to many but I have finally realised that

  1. I am  only one person
  2. I can only do so much
  3. if I want to do things well then I have to work out what is important to me what really grabs my heart
  4. I am not as young as I would like to think I am
  5. I have commitments that I cannot get out of – home, family, dog
  6. Airbnb will keep me busy but also free to explore

Ok so not rocket science but it still led me to saying No to things, or rather not so much no but actually stepping down from some things so I can put my whole energy  into a few things. I normally hold on to things so that I don’t hurt or upset people but then probably am not as committed as I should be. Whilst I journaled I looked at the things that gave me life and made me buzz. The things I’ve said I do not have the time to do are not bad things, are not things that I think are great and hope they come to fruition but they are things that I know I do not have the time for. Interestingly too as I journaled I saw that the things I was keeping all fitted together even though to begin with they looked separate. This would not have come about if I had just tried to think about it.

journaling-quoteMaybe it is because I’m a writer that I have to explore my thoughts via writing? I don’t know. All I know is that by the end of that weekend at the beginning of April I knew the things I had to put my energies in for the next year. Oh yes not the next month or so but the next year. This has been such a help in planning the workshops I am going to be doing, doing the advertising which I find tedious and also filling the rest of my month.

Interestingly too after committing to these handful of things that I felt were interconnected they then went and got even more interconnected with people from one set of workshops giving me openings to take the other project to another level.

Rather than repeat myself I am going to copy in bits from my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table newsletter which show what the plan for now is:

Three workshops for this new season, all of which I’m very excited about and am looking forward to starting.

  • Tuesday starting 9th May (not 6th June) for 7 weeks – Releasing the Legend Within at Llandudno Museum, Gloddaeth Street, Llandudno LL30 2DD from 1-3pm  A writing for well-being course looking at archetypes, journeys and being set free to be who one knows one is deep inside. £2 per person per session
  • Wednesday fortnighly starting 3rd May for 5 weeks – Write your life story at Gwesty Glyndwr, Marine Parade, Pensarn LL22 7PR from 11-12.30pm. £5 per person per session. Email to check dates. Always room for more and great tea, coffee and cakes at Gwesty Glyndwr.
  • Thursday starting 11th May (not 8th June) for 10 weeks – Creative Writing Group at Gwrych Castle, Abergele. Two chances to come and write in the Countess’s Writing Room – afternoon workshop from 1.30-3pm and twilight workshop from 6.30-8pm. Booking is essential as there is only enough room for 8 people in the writing room. This term I plan to be looking at questing and sagas. Cost £7.50 per person per session (£2.50 going to Gwrych Preservation Trust). Under 18’s welcome but must be accompanied by an adult.
The Project
I have been asked by Mark Baker of Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to get involved in a year long project called “Gwrych Castle and The Great War: People and Place” which will be looking at The Countess of Dundonald, others who lived and worked on the estate and lived in and around Abergele, and how live was just prior to the First World War, during and then just after. The First World War caused the greatest change for the landed gentry in history.

​It will be an amazing project with three phases –

  1. Researching the period, hopefully getting in touch the relatives of people who lived and worked in this area during this time, taking their oral histories, copying diaries, photographs, etc.
  2. Taking this material and holding a series of writing workshops to explore and unpack the material and turn it into plays, poems, short stories and maybe even a novel, with the help of various writers and writing groups in the area. Which will take us to
  3. Taking the plays and turning them into performance pieces which will be held in and around the castle grounds at the Midsummer Open weekend in June 2018.
Of course all this is subject to gaining funding. So even though the project itself will only run for 12 months I am already working hard to secure funding. A long and arduous task!

If anyone is interested in finding out more about this project and getting involved please email me on grwycheducation@gmail.com and I can give more information.

So in my journalling it transpired that I really did want to immerse myself in this but I had to then sort out what else I could do and what I would have to put on hold for a while.

Will try to do another post soon 🙂

 

Crones On The Move

 

croneelli
This link explains it a bit more    http://nordicwiccan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/crome-goddess.html

Ok so the title of this pieces comes from the stages of a woman’s life and once past menopause she can embrace being a Crone. Crone has bad connotations. She is seen as the wicked witch in fairy tales, as bad tempered and disappointed with life, as old and wrinkled. Well I am seeing myself and other friends as we move into this third stage of life finding our calling, being able to get on and do what we want. We have reach a point where our children are independant or becoming that way. They need us less and less. But also we are starting to be bold and to step out. The fear has gone. It’s like nothing can hold us back.

I know I will speak for myself because I can really only speak for me but with this whole Barefoot At The Kitchen Table stuff. I could not have done it 10 years ago. Why? Well not just because I was home schooling 2 children but because I would not have been brave on-radio-tudnoenough. Today I was on local radio – blogged here Radio Tudno – so I won’t repeat it. A couple of weeks ago I went to a local arts community centre to talk about what I do. I spoke clearly and competently. I was not fazed by anything. I know a few years ago, even though I would have tried to be confident I would have been talking too fast and messing up what I was going to say. I do  still talk fast. I’m a person who will always talk fast because I have a lot of words in my head that really only become sentences when they fall out of my mouth so I have to say them fast to give them chance to organise themselves 🙂 Tomorrow I’m off to talk about what I do with a local conference centre that’s opening in April. Again a few years ago I would not have been bold enough to do this.

But it’s not just me.  A home schooling friend of mine, who’s children are flying the nest, has been able to get more and more involved in her passion for no-dig gardening and will 14639684_10154567607907348_3596034031090625713_nbe publishing a book about it all soon. Another person who not only found her passion as her children moved on but, like myself, the doors seemed to open then. And there is another friend of a similar age who is now off on mission journeys into India, to the Calais Jungle and on the streets of the town where she lives. Again like myself and my gardening friend she’s up and ready for it but like us both she is starting to make connections with the right people, move in the right circles, be bold enough to step out.

I am sure there are more who are reaching this third stage, this crone stage, who may not be embracing the name crone but are embracing the fact that now they are releasing their children they can fly too. It is exciting to be chasing dreams. I’m pleased it’s not just me but that I have some travelling companions, even if they are doing it their different fields.

Perhaps that is why crones were seen as witches – 2fbac9f4daa5b5d2b645d6dc11e5f55ebecause now they can fly unhindered 🙂

Being Open

TMA396315So Sunday I was at the Open day for Gwrych Castle. The theme was Halloween, as it is at this time of the year. Something we can either accept, ignore or try to fight against. For me, as a Christian, I did get some flax about getting involved in something that was centred around Halloween. Did I think about that first of and pray hard? To be perfectly honest – No! I was so excited to be asked to go and do some story telling – something I love doing but haven’t had much opportunity to do ever. Yes I did read to my children when they were small and they loved it. I have read at times but not often enough. So for me the excitement of being asked over road anything deeper than that. :)

So I considered what I was hearing from those around me about whether it was right or wrong to be part of this event. I didn’t think hard about what I had written or the stories I was sharing but stuck very much to the remit I had been given. But as I thought and prayed I felt ok about what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was glorifying something evil.

So I turn up and discovered that there is a team of paranormal investigators there. I get 14639707_1230736286949284_1837436043889742664_nintroduced to them because Mark, who heads up the Gwrych Trust likes people to know each other. Also these guys were planning on taking my photo at some point during my story telling to see if I had a ghost presence around me. So I chatted to them and asked what it was all about. Well it is all very spiritual and it gave me the opportunity to chat about being a Christian and the spirituality of that. Hey there’s a lot I don’t understand and who’s to say that all these spiritual things are evil?

In fact from there we had a great chat about how people put us in boxes. When you say the word “paranormal investigator” you get all sorts of ideas. One of the guys was saying that what they do is nothing like what is seen on the TV and that most of what they find is peaceful and calming. He felt there was nothing to fear from it. He also really did not like Halloween and trick or treating feeling that it just frightened people and made a mockery of what they do. Well this gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about how Christians get put in boxes – ok sometimes they are deserved boxes but that’s a bit like the paranormal stuff that is viewed on TV – and was able to talk about Jesus, God making the world, there

Minolta DSC
Don’t put people in boxes cos they just don’t fit!!!

being things we don’t know about, etc. It was a great discussion, and one that we both hope to continue with on another occasion.

This would not have happened if I had decided that I was not to go to the Castle and do my story telling on Sunday. This would not have happened if I had gone wanting to denounce everything there as evil. I don’t think ever Christian should go and do this but I do think that we need to be more open and willing to learn, and not to be afraid. To be honest if God really is as big as I’m hoping He is then I had nothing to fear. I would not go and taunt evil because that would be silly but to go believing that I was where God was allowing me to be, and with a heart that wanted to be open and non-condemning, then I was going to be ok.

And actually sometimes it is going with want to condemn that actually can make the 14915177_1230736246949288_4630002375330645693_njudgemental Christian worse than the exploring spiritual person. And I’m just hoping God can do something with the words I was able to share.