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
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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 🙂

The Wall #MuslimBan

At church yesterday our vicar asked “What side of the wall would Jesus have been on?” You 31447faccd0d731d92860fe22a947c6dknow what I think? I think he would have been on both sides. Yes both sides. Both sides are hurting and in pain – ok the refugees and those with green cards, etc stuck in airports have a noticeable need but the side behind the wall also have a need.

Those who want the wall built, want Muslims ban, are scared. Not just slightly scared but terrified. They have believed the media hype that all Muslims are terrorists and that we need to beware of them. I’m not sure what they America equivalent of the Daily Mail is but these people are Daily Mail readers. Mind you I often think the Guardian readers only see one side too.

I found it interesting too that there has been this big fuss here in the UK about the wall to stop Mexicans coming into the US and Trumps Muslim ban, but not so much has stayed in18666794_303 the news about the fences and walls being built across Europe to stop the refugees entering the UK. Yes this includes those fences that have now been torn down in Calais.

There was a post on Facebook that said “If you’re a Christian and you support #MuslimBan, you might be a lot of things but you’re not a frigging Christian”. I can see the sentiment behind this but I don’t think it’s true. I think there are Christians who are scared of Muslims, scared of dying, and not fully putting their faith in God. For some it comes out noticeably in saying they support #MuslimBan but for others it comes out in different ways; not believing this they do can be forgiven, not forgiving others, not giving to the poor, gossiping, keeping boundaries in their hearts that keep others out, not doing things that God asks of them. I go on. Yes supporting it shows an uncaring side, a side that is misguided but also a heart that is scared of things, lives in fear. You know I think Jesus would be with these people wanting to change their hearts and wanting them to let go of their fear and to trust him and to love others.

Recently I attended a course about the connection between Judaism and Christianity led by some lovely Christian people. It did reach a point where I could not go any more because they were talking of how the Jews reclaimed Palestine/Israel and I said that I felt we also ought to look at the awful things the Jews had done against the Palestinians. Well I was told that it was prophesied in the Bible so this made it ok, that actually these people (the wave of refugees that I had said were like the Jews prior to WWII) only wanted to come over here to kill us all, and that the Jews ways of dealing with the Arabs were ok because “the end justified the means”!!!. These were not bad unloving Christians but they had got caught up in a side of things that said that if one does not honour the Jews one will not be blessed. And they wanted to be blessed. So I am sure they would be very pro the #MuslimBan but also very caring and loving towards homeless people, people with needs, Jewish people. But they live in a mix of fear of Arabs/Muslims and a desire to claim major mountain-298999_1280-crop-fear-quote-1024x398blessings from God.

I didn’t want to do the comparison between now and Nazi Germany but I’m going to. Back in the 1930’s there were some good Christians who went along with what Hitler was saying about the reasons why Germany was failing. They supported him to begin with. And even, to save their own skins, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. Not every person who let things happen in Nazi Germany was a bad person. Many were scared and wanting to look after themselves.

So what side would Jesus be on? Again I believe he would be on both sides, wanting to give the refugees the peace and freedom they deserve, but also wanting those who think they should be banned/walls built peace and freedom in their hearts so they can also have the freedom they deserve. When one is fearful or angry or prejudice there is no freedom to truly live. One is always wanting to look after oneself, keep an eye out for those who might take away the blessing/the job/the destiny. freedom

In the next few days I’m doing to look and blog on words from one of Josh Luke Smith’s songs – “Come as you are not as you should be” – because I think it says an awful lot about how we need to think and pray for the who are being oppressed, for the bigots who are doing the oppression and for ourselves and how we should be reacting; how we should be living in peace and in true freedom

Predictions for 2017

happy2bnew2byear2b20172bposterOk so I’m a bit late. All the papers, etc had their predictions within the first year of the year. But I’ve been pondering and reading them and have been amazed at how, when they were so inaccurate for 2016 why they are now rolling them out again for 2017!

Most seem to be doom and gloom and that we need to be fearful and worry. Some of this might come to pass but some of it might not. Donald Trump may end the world as we know it but he might not. Brexit may be another end of the world as we know it but it might not. Things may get better or they may get worse. We could be overrun with refugees and as someone told me we could all die because “all the refugees are coming here to kill us.” I am thinking that one might be a bit over the top, but it is what this person believes.

I tell you what I do know will happen this year: there will be countries that in the West we unknown-futureeither do not know or do not take that much interest in that will be at war and atrocities will be committed in them but our newspapers will ignore them; the cost of some things will increase; people we know and love will die – whether friends and family or celebrities; people will marry; children will be born; some will move house and some will stay put; etc, etc. I could go on but won’t. I hope you get what I am saying. There are a lot of things that will happen but we don’t actually know what.

And in all this we have a choice – do we live in fear that things might happen? Do we ignore it all? Do we try and do our bit? Do we believe we can change something? Do we live in peace with the world? And again there are many things here that I have left out. It is our choice what we do and how we think. We can choose to live, as the person who fears all the refugees does make her act in a certain way. We can choose to ignore there are any people in need and that will cause us to act in a certain way.

How will I choose to live? How will you choose to live? As a friend and I were saying soulspark_year_in_the_making_ilo_inspired_edited-1yesterday we need to set little goals and then not beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them. For me my goals revolve around writing and people. For others it will be other things. I know people who are fired up about politics and that is great and I want to encourage them. I have people due to circumstances who are fired up about disabled – both physically and mentally – people and are doing something about it, big and small.

I believe we need to get up each morning and see it as a blank page that we can enjoy whatever our circumstance. And actually I met with a friend yesterday who has cancer and does not know how long she might live and yet it was the most joyful lunch I have had in ages. Every thing was fun and enjoyable. Yes we did talk about tough things too so we didn’t ignore what was happening to her but she has chosen to be alive for however long she has left. Not Pollyanna-positive, but real, open and honest but living every moment. I have also spoken with other people who are fit and healthy and ok financially and who live with worry and fear.

It is a choice how we look at this year and how we live it out which is not based on circumstances.

Arise, shine; for your light has come

Today I’m doing a reading in church. Just a regular reading. No performing. Nothing special. I’m now on the reading rota at the church we’ve been going to almost since we arrived here. I like the place, I like the people and I like reading. So of course being me I won’t just say it I’ll put inflections into it and make it lively. Not performing but just being me.

arise-and-shine-for-your-light-has-comeAnd this is why I think this passage, esp the first line is so amazing and I think will be my word for the year. Along with a few others I’m gathering but … what a great start to the year, to sit in church and hear that it is time to Arise and shine. Wow! Especially on this dreary day when the town is shrouded in mist here is God saying “Arise and shine” Wow!

So what does that mean? Well I think it has to come with the second phrase too. “Arise and shine for your light has come.” How can I arise and shine? Because my light has come. How has my light come? Well Isaiah 60 says “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” What does that mean? Well I think it could mean that actually you have realised who you are and have let the Lord – or wherever you get your strength from – rise upon you.

Without trying to be blasphemous I think you could substitute “Lord” for confidence, for isaiah-angel-smallstrength, hope, reassurance. Almost anything. I really don’t think that one can let the Lord rise upon and around you unless you have confidence in yourself. I know of a friend who went through an awful tragedy but I can hear her sobbing “Just one touch of the King changes everything” but she had to let herself be touched for Him to be able to change everything.

If we can be willing to believe that, even though it is dark and misty outside, even though 2017 is looking like being a worrying year, we are able to arise and shine and let your light shine then we can be part of changing things. We can let our assurance, confidence, strength, hope rise and so shine light into this year.

The passage goes on to say about how the world is in darkness but that people will come to the light. We are not be inert but by worrying, being anxious, being fearful we hold the darkness in place but if we go with confidence knowing that we can do our bit to bring light to our sphere of influence then those in need will be drawn to us.

hpim0765It always takes me a while to get into the fact that its a new year. Others around me come with resolutions that they can present at midnight on 2016/17 but I need a run up to it and some thinking time. So for me though I will put aside worry and also put aside false hope and I will arise. I will shine. I will let my light shine in my spheres of influence. This is my resolution for 2017.