Not as it should be

I was woken by rain hammering down on the skylight in the roof. I look at the window and see the rain pouring down. Things are not as they should be for Easter Saturday. I know as Brits we will laugh, shake our heads and say “typical British Bank holiday”. But rainactually we know they aren’t all like that but also we know this isn’t how they should be. Thanks to good old Facebook memories I was reminded of a picture I took from my window this time last year of the tree outside my window starting to blossom. This year it is still bare branches. Spring really is later this year.

But I wondered what the first disciples thought the day after Jesus died. Things definitely were not as they should have been. Things weren’t right. This isn’t why they had followed Jesus. They had expected more. There might even have been some who remembered his teachings about dying and rising again. But he was dead and had not risen again.

How often do we wait for something to happen and it always takes too long? Even if we know that date of a birthday, wedding, celebration it always takes too long to come easter-saturday-crossabout. Imagine not knowing the date? But also imagine not knowing for sure what would happen?

So this Easter Saturday, as things are not being as they should be, I am going to ponder the disciples and share this piece I wrote a while ago

How? What had happened?

What is wrong with the world?

Why is it continuing?

God why can you not make it stop?

Just give us time to grieve.

This is too much.

There was so much promise.

So much expectation.

And now he’s dead.

All hope of promise is gone.

It’s over.

All that we gave our lives for.

All that we gave up.

Gone! Over!

It is finished.

And who cares?

Us few that’s who.

The Passover continues

The people celebrate

They are free at last.

How? Why? Who could have let this happen?

God how could you have let this happen?

You should have stopped it.

He claimed to be your son.

We believed him.

We are walking dead now.

They will come to get us soon.

Gone! Over!

It is finished!

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The Three Kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Solstice

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

On THIS Rock I Will Build My Church

deganwy-north-beach-2I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval

snaefellsnes_hiticeland_1140
I love this one standing alone

for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.

I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.

tumblr_mhhsu9ys701qawir9o1_500What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.

Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.

faith-hope-love
This says it all so well

Give your pain to Jesus

I have just finished reading a really good trilogy, who’s only fault was that each book was 7b2da202b0-281b-4eec-8c63-eb09297dfab97dimg4008-900 pages long. So for the last month I suppose I have been hanging out with these characters and so I am missing them today. The trilogy is The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. Well worth giving a month to.

There are many bits where the books really spoke to me. One part is where one of the ships talks about attempting to take his own life. (The ships are made of a wood that makes them alive, able to talk, think, have minds of their own, and have memories of those who have lived and died on them – can’t say much more or it would spoil the books). Anyway the woman talking to him says “how could you hate yourself and the world so much to want to take your life?” And he replies that all he wanted to do was to take the pain away. That really helped me to understand why those we loved took their own lives. It was because the pain was too much. There was nothing we could have done to stop that.

But then later in the book one of the main characters is dealing with the pain of having been raped and it is stopping her from giving herself fully to the man she is meant to be with. Her ship says to her “give me the pain. I will not take the memories of what happened but I will take your pain.” She does wrestle with him about this but eventually gives her pain to him, is able to tell her man about the rape and her heart is more open and able to cope.

I believe this is what Jesus asks of us and what I believe I have done without realising it,

Jesus Christ crown of thorns and nail
From https://www.rhapsodybible.org/the-humanity-of-jesus/

to give the pain of what we have walked through to him. It won’t make those memories go. It won’t make us wary in similar situations. It won’t even “cure” our mental health problems. But it will make us be able to look clearly at what we have gone through and say “this is what happened to me.” I think we are often afraid to give that pain to Jesus because we are afraid that he will take our memories and that what happened to us will not be validated. That if we continue to hold the pain of what we have endured – be it rape, abandonment, seeing someone we love taken from us, and many many more things that escape me at this hour of the morning – then we will keep knowing how awful it was. That if we let go of the pain we may forget a loved one who has gone, forget a incident that actually has made us wiser now, will forget all that we have been through. This is NOT true. Jesus does not want to take our memories. In fact earlier in the story it is revealed that the ship did try to take the memories of one of the main characters but this then stopped him from being able to fully give himself to others. He was holding something back and often that was because he did not want to look at the memory because he was holding both the memory and the pain, and the pain totally overrode everything else – including his judgement of situations.

Giving our pain to Jesus is an on-going thing. Often when we remember things the pain will flair up again so we need to give it again. Very often it is not a once and forever thing. If we have lost someone dear to us through an untimely death there will be many times when the memories of them come with searing pain and that is when we pass on that pain.

Jesus died on the cross to take our pain as much as he did anything else. By taking away cl_after_easter_964813935that pain it gives us resurrection. According to the Anglican and Catholic church calendars we are in that period between Easter and Pentecost and it is a time to reflect on resurrection. I was at a wedding of my dear friend who’s first husband committed suicide and during her talk the vicar said that this was my friend and her new husband’s resurrection time and that it was significant that they were marrying just after Easter. It’s true. She can now give her pain to Jesus, keep her memories of her first husband, but open up into the new life she has said yes to. And yes I weep through writing this because I have my own pain with it too. I can only give my own pain to Jesus again and again. I will still have the memories not only of the times when he was alive and the crazy things we all did together but also the memories of the fateful day and the aftermath of it. But they can be viewed as memories and a constant giving to Jesus of the pain.

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) is not some fully leaping around

joy-post-hein
From http://www.sharefaith.com/blog/2015/04/live-joy-lord/

being happy stuff but a joy that settles deep, pervades one’s whole being and, I believe, comes from knowing that you can give your pain to Jesus, walk free from it, and yet still know what happened. It is a full and rich joy of living free from pain but of a life filled with memories which in turn guide and strengthen your future.

Five Wise, Five Foolish

virginsMatthew 25 tells a parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. In the tale all ten of them are waiting for the bridegroom to turn up. It seems that this bridegroom doesn’t come at the time expected. In fact he is very late. Five of them had come without anything extra just in case and others had come with more oil just in case. When he did finally arrive the ones who had only got enough oil had run out but the others had enough left, though were reluctant to share. What struck me today was that all ten had come prepared but some were more prepared than others.
I am just starting a new project with my church and have been pondering it and how it will fit in with the other things that I do and want to do. How often do I take just enough because I am hoping it will be over quickly, or that I can get someone else to carry it for a while?
Last weekend I had a fun trip up to London to catch up with an old friend, see Moominland hero1600x630-22069-3520moomins20new20website20image-0120-1and see my daughter. Even though it was great fun it was still a very long day. Then on the Sunday I went to help out on Gwrych Castle open day, which again was enormous fun but tiring. Then in the week I had a meeting, a workshop every evening and every day, and a couple of other things going on. A very full diary. This weekend thankfully it has been calm and quiet, and last night husband was away and I had no guests staying. I am almost recovering. When I was in my 20s and 30s I could have breezed through this, but now it has taken a whole week to recover and I still feel a bit exhausted. I had enough but nothing left over.
I often wonder if not just church but the world helps us with this. Youth and the energy of youth is worshipped almost and the wisdom of the grey hairs not so much. But where are the teachings about slowing down, about knowing when your oil is running out. In fact in 1churches I’ve been to there has been much preached on making sure you always have that extra oil. Yes I totally understand that, but I need to know what I now need to cut out so that I have oil left over.
I do think this is as much about knowing your limitation as about making sure you have something in reserve. I wonder what the reasoning was with the five virgins who didn’t bring spare oil to wait? Maybe they’d given it to someone who didn’t have any? Had helped out a neighbour? Been somewhere else beforehand whilst the “wise” had been sitting and waiting? Maybe the “wise” had just come straight from the oil seller and so were able to carry some spare? Maybe the “foolish” had back problems? Didn’t have spare money?
I often push myself harder than I should because of concerns about money, about a job needing to be done, about helping and supporting other people, lots of other reasons. Take last weekend – why was I so busy? Because I wanted to see my friend and Moominland, and then was asked to help at a place I have fallen in love with and want to support. The things I do I do because they are things I love, ways I want to help and support others, things I get999071c3ea3bc8573eefb97f5ea3aa29 asked to do. All valid reasons.
So are we too harsh on the “foolish” virgins? Maybe we need to all be aware that too often we get swept into the role of helping, supporting, being there for others and just get too busy. Perhaps we need to pray more and do less?

Footprints in the sand

Now I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but it seems relevant again  – at least for me for now.

bd8142d355ec494c723ae48d3e39be40Most Christians, and many who aren’t, will know the story of the Footprints in the sand; where there are two sets for a while then only one and the person says “where were you Lord when I was struggling?” and God says “I was carrying you.” And it is to encourage Christians to realise that when they cannot go on God carries them. A great metaphor! But why footprints in the sand?

As you know we now live by the sea and most days the dog and I go to the beach for a walk. Sometimes we get sand to walk on, other times we have to walk on the grass and stones above the high tide level. I have noticed, after being here for a year, that the revealed sand is constantly changing. There are streams and rivulets that go across the sand. Last summer I knew where each of them were but now they have moved. Some are deeper, some going a different way, some gone. Even today there was a change between a place I could cross which the sand has now moved around on and it isn’t there.

Which is where I get back to the “Footprints in the sand” piece. Yes I do think there is footprints-in-the-sand-wallpaper-4something there about how God does carry us but I also think that it is in the sand because footprints in the sand get washed away twice a day and as fallible human beings we quickly forget what God has done for us. Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about trusting God and about struggling with trusting God and yet I still want to walk in my own strength through things. So we have  only been living here a year – exactly today we got the keys 🙂 – and I now run a successful room rental via both Airbnb and word of mouth, and am running workshops in various amazing places. Yet I struggle to trust that God will provide – work, participants for workshops, money, people to stay in our home. Because of workshops and also with room rental bookings not all coming via Airbnb there can be times when people cancel due to change of circumstance or ill health. I have noticed that these things happen when I  have projected how much money I should be earning that particular week/month and have started spending it in my head. It is like God then says “excuse me, but you’re trusting in yourself and not in me” and I have to have a rethink. I want to be self-sufficient but God is saying I have to be God-sufficient. It happens again and again because I am so bad at learning my lessons. But I’m getting there 🙂

8504328-animal-footprints-in-the-sand-copy-space-stock-photo-dogSo I think the reason that the it is “Footprints in the Sand” is, one because we forget when we cannot see the evidence, but also because we need to walk in trust with God all day every day so that we can make those new footprints with Him every single day – like I do on the beach with my dog each day 🙂