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

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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.

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Do We Want To Grow Through This?

flutureI did not intend to blog for a while. My mother has been visiting and then today my mother-in-law comes. I have a story that is in the editing process that I need to get to a place of understanding so I can leave it for the weekend but then this post from Richard Rohr came up. I am going to paste it all at the end of this but I felt it was rather apt for the state of UK at the moment. I was going to just share in on my facebook feed but then realised I was adding a whole post to it as I went.

Here is a quote I was going to pull out of it to share as an intro:

Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter.

No matter what happens with all this the UK is in a place of change. I even heard last night of a couple who had been dating for over 5 years have ended their relationship because they have realised how opposed their political views are. I have also heard of families that 082cannot now sit together to eat together. And these are people who were close not estranged families. Someone said before the referendum that the spiritual atmosphere felt like a civil war was coming. Now I’m not sure how much I understand of that but what I see is very similar to what I have read about. Being a historian I also know that The Civil War of Roundheads and Cavaliers was not the only one. Ever since the Norman invasion there have been wars across our land where families have been divided on which side they would support; French or Norman, French or English, Woman as leader or Man as leader, Protestant or Catholic, York and Lancaster, and many more. This division is part of who we are as a nation and we haven’t come out of it very well.

transformation-in-text-webpage-711x200-jpgSo will we in this time of Change find a new meaning in our lives or will we close down, turn bitter and get into name calling. Each person had their reasons for voting the way they did. I know someone who voted Remain because of the emphasis on the economy and heard of another who voted Leave because she felt that the Remain campaign just went on about money and didn’t seem to care about people. There have been Christians on both sides saying this is God’s will and voting from their interpretation of scripture. And on it goes.

… transformation …  more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart–chaos–invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Otherwise, most of us would never go to new places. Whatever it is, it does not feel good … You will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes.

The world is transforming from what we know to what we don’t know. It is painful. There can be no argument about that. To deny the grief would be wrong. But are we willing to listen deeper? Not just to what we want but to what might be going on at another level? On one very open level now we are hearing about open racism. I cannot believe that this is young-businessman-standing-with-back-opening-doorbecause people have suddenly become racist. No I think it was under the surface all along but no one wanted to listen. I am not old enough to remember Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech when he spoke about how bring in a lot of migrants would cause problems in our land. He was shut down and called racist. But there are people in the UK who are fearful of those they don’t know, fearful of things they don’t understand. I think just to say “racism is wrong” is missing something. I believe we need to listen at a deeper level and try to hear the why’s.

Someone else, a Leave voter, was saying that she had been accused of being provincial by someone who lived in London. She felt that it was those who lived in London who wanted to Remain because of what they would get out of it. Now we get the city/country divide. It is not just a North/South, Rich/Poor divide but also a City/Country divide.

I do wonder if we are willing to listen deeper if we will hear more of these division. Are we then willing to support and help through this or do we just want to close these voices downtumblr_ne6or13mvb1tm1y5io1_500 and go back to pretending they don’t exist? Are we willing to be patient? Are we willing to let go of being in control? Are we willing to trust that God knew about this before the beginning of time and that He has a plan?

 

Here’s the whole of Richard Rohr’s message if you want to read it:

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Two red and black insects protecting an egg sack.
Transformation:
Week 1
Change as a Catalyst for Transformation
Thursday, June 30, 2016
The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart–chaos–invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Otherwise, most of us would never go to new places. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, darkness, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One. Whatever it is, it does not feel good and it does not feel like God. You will do anything to keep the old thing from falling apart. This is when you need patience, guidance, and the freedom to let go instead of tightening your controls and certitudes. Perhaps Jesus is describing this phenomenon when he says, “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14). Not accidentally, he mentions this narrow road right after teaching the Golden Rule. Jesus knows how much letting go it takes to “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (7:12).
Transformation usually includes a disconcerting reorientation. Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of your inner life, what we call your “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; but spiritual transformation must become an actual process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians.
In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep yeses that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out. Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. But we are a culture of progress and efficiency, impatient with gradual growth. God’s way of restoring things interiorly is much more patient–and finally more effective. God lets Jonah run in the wrong direction, but finds a long, painful, circuitous path to get him back where he needs to be–and almost entirely in spite of himself! Looking in this rear-view mirror fills you with gratitude for God’s work in your life.
Gateway to Silence
Teach me how to see.

In Or Out – that is the question

eu-you-decide-logoSo tomorrow Britain goes to the polls to decide whether it wants to stay in the European Union or leave. By Friday lunchtime – less than 48 hours away – we will know. I am not going to say what I’m voting but I know that I too have been sway by who is voting for what and how it will affect me personally. If we are honest who isn’t?

A comedian said something along the lines of “why should we be having to vote over this? Surely we vote in our politicians – and yes ok sometimes we don’t get who we voted for – but these are people who dedicate their lives to trying to sort out what is best for our country and we have to trust them with that. This voting is saying we want a say in it but we are not willing or able to commit ourselves full time to what is best for all.”

Ok so I’m not sure if I agree with all he says but I do know that I haven’t given much time

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A printing company making money from both sides

to really really looking into what will benefit this country as a whole. I have looked at what works for me, for mine and for those I know about. I do not know what will be the best outcome for banks, for farmers, for those in inner cities, for Brits living in Europe. And yes I do get sway by what my friends say on line or to my face, and to which personalities are on which side. People will decide from what they read in their favourite newspaper and all media has a bias of one way or another. It has been said that the BBC has not been impartial in it’s broadcasting but it is in crisis with budgets being cut and is going to be looking to what form of broadcasting works best and helps them to stay in business as will all other media outlets.

If I was a politician I would be dedicating my time to trying to work out what is best for my country and those in my constituency. I am hoping the politicians that are speaking out have done the same – which then makes it all very confusing as to what is right and not. jo-cox-tributes-10But also, as was seen with Jo Cox, there is a possibility that one can be killed or as many other politicians, stalked and sent hate mail not just to them but to their families. I know that would sway how I spoke out.

To me what all this has made me see is that there is a lot of fear on every side and when there is fear there is fighting. Someone else said to me it is like the country is in civil war mode and I would agree. It has become a subject one cannot discuss politely as both sides are heated and it has divided families.

My hope/prayer for this polling day is that peace will arise whatever the outcome. That Britain will be a country that can welcome the widow, orphan and outcast, and love its buddhaquotes3neighbour and be reconciled with itself. There has been talk of a third world war if …. but I just hope that we can all let peace reign no matter what happens tomorrow.

I Know The Plans I Have For You ….

I started this on 14th June and have only just posted due to being on a writing retreat and having to leave my room to get to the internet 🙂

queens-80th-the-queen-and-prince-philipfillheight_186_width_160In the service at St Paul’s for the Queen on Friday 10th June as part of her birthday celebrations they used the Bible verses, “I know the plans I have for you” from Jeremiah and “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139. From what I can remember of it four days later and after doing lots of other things, Justin Welby was saying that the Queen, like all of us, was fearfully and wonderfully made, but also that God knew the plans He already had for her even when she didn’t. She never knew she would be Queen at such a young age or for so long, but God did. I am thinking that actually when she was born her father didn’t even know he was going to be king. I am sure Edward VIII abdicated after Elizabeth was born. But Welby seemed to be saying that even though no one knew this was going to happen God knew and He had prepared the Queen and had her ready for the task of reigning for over sixty years. But the Archbishop was also saying that God knows this for all of us.

How often in Church do we really hear that? That God knows the plans He has for us? We 579800_349221105167506_3204321_noften hear that He knows the plans He has for us but then we have go find them. There have been millions of books written and sermons taught of how we need to go find out our purpose and then live it out. But here, in this interpretation, it appears that God knows the plans He has for us and He will bring them to pass. Wow! How much easier! And how much more putting our lives into God’s hands than into our own.

As anyone who has been reading this regularly will know this time last year we did not know we would be living in north Wales. In fact we had never heard of the town of Abergele before October when we went to look at our house there. And then when we were in the process of moving up here we thought I would be going out to work but now I am a home person; walking the dog, writing and cleaning. I think God knew all the time what was going to happen and was just waiting for us to catch up.

I do think often one can spend too much time angsting about what God wants for each of us, all that trying to figure out what His plans are, and then missing out completely because of fear of getting it wrong and so not moving at all. I often wonder if there are those who don’t do the searching for the plans God has for them, whether Christian or not, who actually are doing more of God’s plans for their lives than those who are searching for them. Its not that it’s passivity but more an acceptance to go with what is happening – a bit like the Queen had to do. She didn’t get a choice in whether she did or didn’t I don’t suppose. Ok yes she could have stepped down like her uncle did but she didn’t. She went with what fate/God had laid before her.

trusting-like-a-childI often think of when my children were little. I am not one of those parents who dictates what their children do, please do not see me as that. But there were times when I chose what they did, whether classes they went to, clubs they joined, holidays we went on, even the whole home schooling thing, which actually did shape their lives. So I have to trust God like my kids, when they were small, trusted me, and just be willing to go where He leads, not angsting, not searching, but relaxing into His presence.

Do we know what is going to happen next? No! What should we do if we don’t ever know and are just waiting on God to bring to fruition His plans? Are we meant to sit idly waiting? No I don’t think that at all. We have ourselves and our hearts to prepare.

So I think we should just get on and live our lives working on the principles that God lays da790ffa4ac5296baa1ab7aba6b98404out – to love Him with all we have, to love our neighbour as ourselves and then also to seek His kingdom. Yup that’s my added on for this year. I have been exploring the first two for a while but I have a feeling there is something in the “Seek first the Kingdom of God” that could be a key to loving Him and loving ourselves and each other. And then once we are in the process of doing that then He can just get on with the business of revealing the plans He has for us to do. Sometimes for me I think that is just having a chat to the old people I meet on my walks with the dog, or the emails I find time to send, or even being nice to my husband when he gets home from work because I am not stressed with things. Maybe, just maybe these are the plans God has for me for this season of my life!

I think I might explore what “fearfully and wonderfully made” might mean in my next post 🙂

I Know The Plans I Have For You …

KevinIn Sunday’s Abbey of the Arts email there is a look at Kevin, a Celtic saint, who lived in Glendalough and was said to have put his arms out the windows of his cell to pray and whilst he had his arms outstretched a bird nested in his upraised hand and he stayed still till the chicks had left the nest. A crazy story but what I like about it this idea, that Christine runs with of plans and how our plans can change. I am sure Kevin’s plans were not to spend three months with his arms outstretched but he did.

In the email Christine says “How many times in our lives do we reach out our hands for a particular purpose, and something else arrives?”

And then goes on to encourage us reading to think of how we react to the unexpected when it arrives.

For me this is encouraging. I don’t think we came here with a plan but there was rough idea. What has happened is different. I think for me, with some of the things I felt I was getting when journalling about the coming year was about getting a calling to this town and getting involved with local church, etc, having some kind of therapeutic writing ministry, and working in local schools a couple of days a week. This has not been the case.

Mind you Sunday for me at church was a bit like that. Ian had gone off with his younger

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Me second from the left

sister climbing in Snowdonia and I decided to visit the local Anglican church. We had been three or four times before so it wasn’t something new. I had seen a spiritual director on Thursday and one of his suggestions had been to just go to a church building and sit in the back. This was my plan. Dog was walked, husband was out for the day, I would just go and sit for an hour and let the service wash over me. That did not happen. Apparently, even though this church has no young families it still does a family style service on the fifth Sunday of the month. It was all low key but the vicar’s plan was that a few people in the congregation would be dressed up to be paraded down the red carpet as an example of honouring and encouraging people. Well some how I got pick in my corner of the church and was dressed up and walked to the front of the church with four other people, all of us giggling away. Not what I had planned but part of His plan?

It seemed to say to me that we have to be willing to put out our hands, to turn up, and just wait. We had expectations about being here but they are very different from what we expected. The Airbnb is going great but we keep getting an overspill of people who come to this area to work who want accommodation. So a room that we had not expected to use because it still has some stuff that needs to make it to the loft, is being used already. My time of going out to work hasn’t happened because I do need to be home to clean, to do the admin, to be here to welcome people when they arrive.

 

540x293_20141228_d7cd1636aea23361de15710d6933b6f3_jpgIt is about being willing to stretch out, to just be and then let God. It is trusting that He does know that plans He has for us but it isn’t like I feel we hear in many churches. I have often heard in sermons that God has plans for us and we need to go and find them and make sure we do them. It is back to us making sure we “get it right”. But now I am hearing through this story of Kevin and Christine’s thoughts on it that we just need to stretch out, to be willing and ready, and just let God sort those plans out.

So no it was not my plan to go to church and be all dressed up, but I do think it was God’s. I just showed up and said Yes when I was volunteered. The same is true for us with the Airbnb and our home. We put our house out there and then we wait for God to sort out who it is He wants staying here.

So much simpler!

Blasphemy

eleanor-of-aquitaine-hI have been reading lots of historic novels set in early Norman/Plantagenet times. This was a time when everyone believed God was sovereign and much of what went on was whether it was “God’s will” or not. But all the way through the characters will say things like “Christ’s teeth”, “Holy Mother of God” and other phrases that invoke God or Jesus in a way that would not be acceptable to many Christians now. In fact only the other day someone was saying to me that you could tell whether someone was really following God as to whether they “used God’s name in vain” was the phrase used.

Now I am not advocating the use of “Oh my God” etc in speech but I was wondering when we talk of blaspheming what is really meant. Again it seems to be a word that has changed meaning, or rather developed a meaning different from it’s dictionary definition.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for (a) God(s), to religious or holy persons or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy as a religious crime.

So one could say using God’s name as an expletive is showing contempt or lack of blasphemyreverence but were those Medieval characters doing that? I don’t think they were. In fact the Blasphemy Act of 1650 was only brought in to be used to persecute Catholics during the time of William of Orange and in fact for most of its time was only used to “keep Catholics in their place”. It had nothing to do with saying “Oh God” when either upset or happy about something. In fact this morning I was chatting with a fellow dog walker and he was using “Oh God” as a form of emphasising what he was saying. He wasn’t being disrespectful or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. He just wanted to make a point stronger.

Previous to the act of 1650 there were other acts but each of them appear to be used to keep some other group in their place and to be able to punish them under the law whether they were Jews or other forms of Christians that the dominant Christian group didn’t like. So it appears to me that the Blasphemy laws were not kind things, not really loving, and I still think God is love.

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which is what it appears from the reasons the laws were put in place. 

So do I agree with the others saying God’s name to make a point? I don’t think I do. But then I also don’t agree with people swearing to make a point. Do I think people are being disrespectful when they use God’s name to make a point? No I don’t. I think it is a way of speech that has been about for hundreds of years. Do I like it? No I don’t. But the question I keep asking myself is why do I not like it? And I keep coming back to the fact that the Christian culture I have been part of for nearly 25 years told me it was wrong and so it has become part of what I think. Do I sometimes use God’s name in a way that isn’t evangelising or praying? Yes I do especially when I get angry. Why? Because sometimes there aren’t enough expressive words to deal with it. So like the Medieval people I have been reading about sometimes I do need to make a point deeper and sometimes that is all there is. Also the other day when there was the most amazing sunset I did also use God’s name to express myself.

And in following on from the Stephen Fry quote I do wonder sometimes if, as with the laws in put in place over the years whether it was from fear rather than having to defend God. I

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giving people what they don’t deserve because He’s God. Can we do that too?

do hope God is big enough to deal with any number of people who use His name not in the way He would prefer. I do also wonder how often He takes it literally and as it says in the Bible, both in Old and New Testament, that those who call on His name He will hear and answer.

In my opinion blasphemy is about disrespecting other people’s belief systems whether Christian of any flavour, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, pagan or whatever. And as I finish I wonder, with things hotting up about this EU voting whether we could all deal with it in a way that does not disrespect other people’s belief systems?

In Different Light

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It’s the tall post behind the cafe that I registered for the first time yesterday

I think this part of my journey is about perspectives and today I have been thinking about different lights. The joy of living by the seaside, especially in Britain, is that the sky is always changing and the light is different every day. Yesterday I was walking, a walk I do most mornings, and saw a tall structure that I am sure I had never seen before. On closer inspection it had been there for a while. It was a tall street light!

When I look out to see some days I will see the wind turbines, other days not; some days a few of them, other days lots of them. Yesterday there was an amazing bank of cloud just behind them so that it looked like they were at the bottom of a cliff. The other day the cloud was around their bases so all that could be seen was the blades. The light on my walk

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where the rain goes

and on my view has very little to do with what the weather is. Where we live often the clouds pass over us to rain on Snowdonia National Park. We are in what is called a “rain shadow” which seems a silly name. I think it should be a “rain’s bypass” 🙂

But the more I thought of light the more I could see that it is to do with what is being revealed, that different place of standing, that different perspective. And I can choose whether I notice or don’t. I can get caught in my own thoughts and miss what the light is doing for today. I have to choose to look, to observe, to remember, and then actually to let it go. No day is better or worse than the other. Each day has its own light – a lot or a little. I have to choose to enjoy the lack of light when the storm clouds are gathering, as much as I enjoy the bright light wishing I had got around to buying those sunglasses.

Glowing personVelveteen Rabbi talked of our light in “Letting Your Light Shine” in which she expounds how before Adam and Eve ate the apple they were just light and that God had to cloth them with skin after they had sinned to conceal their light. As I read it in the context of the journey I am on and with other things I am exploring within in my understanding of God, we can now almost choose how much light we reveal and also how much light we see in others. There are days when I am walking with God and I know that people see His light, or rather my true God-image light, shining through, whereas there are other days when my light is well and truly hidden. I suppose that goes back to the sermon I heard on Sunday about getting rid of habits and hurts so that we reflect God. And actually I think that is what we should be going – reflecting God – rather than trying to “be good Christians”. It’s up to Him not me. I just need to make the space and let the light shine.

But also I can choose how I view the light in others. I can choose how I want to view them.4355a8803ddad25cf59dedb89c2f1a10 And people will give out a little light or a lot but I can miss both if I am not really looking. As with the different skies each day on my walk, that I can choose whether I engage with or not, I can do the same with people. I can choose to engage with them and maybe then, like the the tall street light, see  something in them that I had not seen before even though I had known them a long time.

And often that means we need to let go of past hurts from that person – or who that person reminds us of 🙂