Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

Ubuntu- I am because we are

hsunbuntulogo2A Lapidus friend of mine is doing workshops based around the Ubuntu philosophy and I must say I heard it and then let it go until last Saturday when she said it again at the Lapidus conference. Her definition of Ubuntu is “I am because we are” but in a longer definition …

Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarised as follows:

‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”

To me this sums up what Christianity should be all about and what Richard Rohr has been talking about over various weeks; of coming to a place of maturity where we know we are connected with everyone else. This is where we get to the place where we can weep withabout-us those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, etc. It is not about being super empathetic, or about being able to put are own moods and feelings behind us, but it about knowing – yes knowing not just thinking or hoping or wanting to be – that I am only because everyone else is, that I am a person through other people.

In reality even though I have somethings that are unique to me I am a combination of parental genes, of experiences that have happened to me which always include people. I am a mix of nature and nurture but all come from a collective of other people.

I feel that in some forms of Christianity we shun this. Too often it is us and them: those who are in/said the prayer/made a commitment and those who are out and who don’t believe in Jesus/God etc. Too often I have seen in Christianity that Christians are told to reach out to them and not to imagine that the unbeliever doesn’t have anything to offer. I have learned so much about life, me, God from people who don’t have a believe in God.

hqdefaultIn the Anglican service at communion we say “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” and in fact are accepting the concept of “I am because we are” without acknowledging it. In fact there are many different denominations who would not want to think they are part of the Anglican community. I have lived in towns that have a Churches Together group where certain denominations won’t be part of it because certain others are. Together but on their own terms.

I think that we need to embrace this concept of Ubuntu and realise that we are because of others. Not like the Borg from Star Trek where we are all assimilated into the same thing – and like I have heard is being though of to get rid of racial hatred. Yes it has been said that if we distil our cultures and all live in mixed areas that would get rid of racial hatred. I live in North Wales and as I have talked with people about their culture I have noticed that the more they are able to express who they are and their culture so they are more content to accept other people.

In fact I think this is the true concept of Ubuntu for me. I can be truly me if I let you belove_thy_neighbor-billboard truly you. And as I have reached this point in this post I have realised I have come back to a concept I was exploring a while a go – “Love your neighbour as yourself” – and the whole idea that I cannot love my neighbour unless I love myself, and I cannot let others be truly who they are unless I am truly who I am. But also I have to realise that I am connected to them whether I know them or not and that they have an influence on me as I have a influence on them. 63d44a275fedf76396168096d88b930a

Discipleship is a Two-Way Thing

discipling-dever-headerJust recently I have been asked by a lovely young woman if I will be her “older Christian friend”. I was very touched and said “yes” and then didn’t think much more about it. God gave me a nudge and convicted me that I need to be seeing her regularly to do some proper discipleship stuff. So I prayed and I pondered and set a regular day and time that works for both of us. I felt God saying that instead of it just being random stuff we should do some Bible study and let the life stuff come from there. So last week we chatted about stuff. I suggested reading a certain book of the Bible but she suggested Romans. Oh my, thought I, I don’t like Romans, but I let it go and thought I’d go with it.

Well!!! I have now read the first 3 chapters, which was what we said we’d read this week, image21and it has been amazing. I have found something in those first 3 chapters I never saw before but it has totally deepened how I see God. it has been amazing. Now if I’d been bossy and decided I was the “older” one and so knew so much more where to start and how to do this I would have missed out on so much. Because I acquiesced I have grown in my relationship with God – just in less than a week! Blessed for acquiescing? Maybe 🙂

Too often in my own Christian walk when I have had people want to walk with me there has been a rub because they have wanted to “teach” me things and I have felt they haven’t heard from me. This has not always been the case but for me, the relationships I’ve learned the most from are the ones that I don’t realise the people were discipling or teaching me things. Perhaps I’m just a bit perverse, or some might say proud, but I do need to feel that I am on an equal place with people which is probably why I act the way I do with the younger people who get placed on my path.

discipling-620x272When I use to facilitate youth groups, if they were small enough, I would let them have as much autonomy as possible. At one group we ran it like the adult group where the teenagers would bring along food to share. To begin with parents would make the food or buy or be surprised that I didn’t make it all but the teenagers felt like it was their group because they shared the food they had made. It is where I have struggle with larger groups where the leaders have felt they should give to the teens and actually the teens have felt they should be given to.

For me this whole discipling/teaching thing goes both ways in all I do. In my writing workshops I learn as much as I teach. I have gathered some liked minded creative people around me to put on a Christmas play. Now I am more than capable to write it all but walking together.jpgactually I have got each actor writing their own piece from their character’s point of view. And again I am learning so much.

There is so much blessing in allowing others to teach you as you teach them 🙂

God Is So Clever

I’ve blogged before on why I believe in God and what makes me follow Him but I just love it when He does something really clever!

We have started going to a Kesher course. Kesher means something to do with the way Christianity and Judaism is joined together. In honesty I went because I like the woman who is running the course and wanted to support her. And at the time when she set it up we didn’t know many people and so wanted to connect with others. Anyway I am so glad we did. We have only been twice but I am stuck on one thing that we learned this week.

shutterstock_232986844So when Jesus gets crucified the Bible says that Pilate put up a plaque above Jesus on the cross that said “King of the Jews” and the Jewish leaders who wanted him crucified for this very reason got really angry with Pilate and wanted him to take it down. I’d always thought all that was odd. The reason the Jewish leaders had bullied Pilate into crucifying Jesus was because he had declared himself as king, so they said and “they had no other king than Caesar” is what they said. So why get mad about what was there? But also why did Pilate have that plaque put up anyway?

Well it turns out that every person who was crucified had a plaque with their name and what their crime was at the top of their cross. We do often forget that crucifixion wasn’t a heads_on_spikesspecial punishment in Roman times but was something they did quite a bit and then they would leave the crucified person there for ages as an example. A bit like we use to do over here and leave the condemned man hanging on the gibbet at the crossroads or in a cage on the side of the city walls, or heads on poles from Tower Bridge. That sort of thing. As an example. And to be a good example it was good to remind people what the crimes were that could get you crucified.

So Pilate had this plaque which says “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” done because that was the rules that went with crucifixion. Well according to our teacher on Friday the way it would have been written the starting letters above Jesus’ head would have given an acrostic which would have said YWYH – which is the way the Jews would write God and it was unspoken. So here is the man they condemned with the word that Jews saw as too holy to speak in an acrostic above him as he was dying. Wow! Now I think that is so clever of God to get all that sorted.

I think He was still trying to make them see that Jesus was truly God but they still didn’t believe it. Instead these Jewish leaders defiled themselves and went before Pilate, the heathen Roman, on the eve of Passover, to demand he take the sign down. They were so angry that they would rather be unclean and not able to celebrate their most important highhorsefestival. Amazing!

But it also got me thinking of how often we get so stuck on our high horse – whether follower of Jesus or not – that we miss totally what God is trying to say and would rather miss out that accept.

Historian and Researcher

So back to the mini-series of Who I am and what I do.

6912b-historian
though I do not have a beard!!

So I’ve done the “biggies” on my business card – writer, airbnb host –  and also the easy to define one, Dog walker, and now it moves down to the ones that are harder to define. What do I mean by a “Historian and Researcher”. Well it was made clear to me the other day when I had some round from the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to talk to me about doing workshops up there. For one we talked history and threw ideas back and forth but then once he had gone I googled what we’d been talking about, sent emails to friends to ask for information, and then went to the library to gather books. I printed stuff off, made notes all over it and then pondered. Yes that’s what I do after I’ve gathered lots of information – I ponder it all. But also I googled the man I’d met to see more about him.

But I realise that actually I only do this when it comes to historical things. When it comesgwrych-1161 down to other things I go by “feel”. So if someone asks to meet me I first of all go by gut instinct and only after I’ve met them and want to go further with what they have said, and actually only if I feel like I have connected, do I research the subject and then the person. I discovered that, for me, to try to research something beforehand leaves me jaded and uninterested. Something has to have piqued my interest first.

Also with things like History and even Bible study, I do need to see many different sides. So with history I love historical fiction and find that is an easy way to learn things. Often I would like to do it with my laptop by my side so I can google things as I do to check out whether the author is stick to the facts. But a lot of historical fiction is interpretation – in fact so is a lot of historical fact where flesh has to be put on the bare bones of an article – so  it is good to read many different authors stories about the same period in history, covering often the same characters. Some people will have a passion for a certain king, some will have a hatred for the same person. With Bible study what is written is interpreted differently  as I did say before in “It says clearly in the Bible” that it does not say it quite so clearly as one would like. There are few words and what one thinks it says is interpretation, which is why we should hear from many different people; some we will love and agree with, some we wont. A bit like the historical fiction writers. And we will gravitate to an interpretation we like but … I digress!

keep-calm-and-read-everything-9I should have known I was a researcher years ago. When I first became a Christian I read every book I could lay my hands on in regard to what I was now believing and read my Bible 2-3 times a year (not boasting, just showing what sort of researcher I am!)  for the first few years, wanted to go on every course and conference, just wanted to know. When I had my children I bought nearly every child rearing book I could and then borrow from the library. And the same as they grew  older. I think I’ve got lazier but maybe not.

So don’t just tell me something – give me the references and then a bit for me to run with.

And also if anyone out there knows anything about the Picturesque Movement and some suggested books I could be reading I would be very grateful 🙂

It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

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

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

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

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

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