Deuteronomy 30!

As I ponder my life today there is a long list of things that I am happy and grateful for – from sunshine and a washing machine to friends and family. Each of these can be countermanded by a negative – too much washing, friends sick and struggling, uncertainty about seeing family. It was then that these verses struck me. God goes on a life-and-deathlot, it seems, in the Old Testament about whether to choose death or life, blessing or curse and I must admit I never quite got it. I was a bit like “why would you choose death or curse? Surely everyone chooses life and blessing!” But I know a lot of people who will look to the negative – the family visit and list all that could go wrong, the day out in the sunshine waiting for the rain, etc. I never realised until today when I was doing my “mindfulness” stuff of looking at the good things in my life – my blessings – that it is about attitude as much as what we do. So today I’m not going to steal anything, murder anyone, covert anything, hopefully not use God’s name in vain, etc, but I could very easily slip into the negative thinking.

Example – I’m off to the circus tonight. All very exciting. It’s an interactive one with pancakes. But I have to catch the train to meet up with my husband so we can go now or never circus.jpgtogether. I could very easily be dreading catching the train, worrying that he’ll be late, being nervous as to what they are going to be doing with pancakes, anxious about going and doing something I’ve not done before. I have a choice. Do I want life and so be looking forward to it and seeing it all as a blessing, or do I choose negativity and death and spend my whole day under a curse?

Relationships – now we all struggle with relationships whether family, spouse, friends, workmates, people we see in passing (though these seem to be easier to deal with 🙂 ) . Each of us can choose who we view those relationships. If we are always putting someone down then that relationship becomes a curse and in the end we often have to kill it off, but if we are always saying and thinking good of someone, even if they can be a bit of a pain, then that relationship is a blessing and we want it to live.

So today I list all the things I have to look forward to – all the blessings in my life. I will not do that in a Pollyanna sort of way and believe they don’t all come with difficulties. I pollyannawill be real and honest about them – like the catching the train tonight. If I don’t catch it I won’t get there. I will have to eat and walk the dog beforehand and I do find having set times to do things in my life isn’t what my personality enjoys. So I know it will be hard but I can choose to look at the things I don’t like or I can choose to focus on the good.

We’re off to my son’s new regiment’s family day on Saturday. Again this is a mix of good and bad and I can choose how I focus on it. It is a long way to go; he will be stressed; it will be busy; we don’t know what’s happening. But I will get to see my son and his fiancée and I haven’t seen either of them since Easter; because it where he is stationed is an hour from where we used to live we can catch up with friends; and we get to bring my daughter home with us for her birthday. Which will I focus on? Which will give me life and which death?

So those verses in Deuteronomy 30 and other places are not about physical death but life.jpgabout that thing inside of you, that part of you that is alive. Your soul? Your spirit? I’m not sure what it is called but it is that part of each of us that either draws or repels others. Today I chose life.

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Taking Thoughts Captive

aid3019-v4-728px-Spear-a-Fish-Step-1-Version-2I have heard so many preaches about “taking every thought captive” and think from one I gained an image of spearing the thoughts like they were fish and casting them away. But I think that is not the point. I don’t think that is what Paul meant when he said

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5

My thoughts are not wrong and do not need to be killed. Yes they do need to be captured and shown in the light of Christ, in the love of God. They need to be acknowledged and accepted as my thoughts.

In an Abbey of The Arts online mediation course she talks about focusing on your thoughts, feelings and emotions:

… allowing some time to move your focus and attention to your body. Allow some time to breathe and connect with what you are experiencing. Notice both physical pain as well as emotions. Bring your full awareness to whatever the experience is, without trying to change it. Notice how you experience this in your body. If you feel sad, how is that manifested in your body? Don’t try to change anything. Just stay present.

So I am capturing all my thoughts but not like the spearing fisherman to then discard them but to accept that these are my thoughts. I think making our thoughts “obedient to Christ” means that we learn to accept who we are, what we think and then give it to God. Not to fix, not to change, but to accept.

Here is an excerpt from a fictional piece I wrote around that:

She took a breath and tried to relax. Then all the thoughts and worries and things to do came rushing to the surface of her mind. She held their joys, their fears, their richness and their frustrations. Then she let them go. They rushed onward to the surface of her mind. Each task, each important concern, each trivial chore, believing it should take priority of her time. She let them go. This was the thrum of her existence. This was the pulsating of her life. She smiled. Instead of fighting it she must learn to relax into it and be lifted up on the current of her life.

Being a follower of Christ, I believe, isn’t all about “getting it right” so that God loves us, but is about believing that we are really alright people just as we are accepted and loved by God. And really it is about time we got on a loved and accepted ourselves as He does.

On Thursday I was having some healing prayer and God called me His little princess and showed me a picture of me sat on a rug with Him behind me. He had me between his legs pulled back close to His chest. As anyone, child with parent or with a lover, has sat huglike that, this is where you can feel someone’s heartbeat. I haven’t done anything momentously good. In fact I’d gone for the prayer because I was feeling seriously grouchy with a lot of things and God didn’t tell me to take capture all those thoughts and get rid of them and start doing things right. No! He showed me that He just wanted to be close to me and to hug me just as I was.

So taking those thoughts captive – I truly believe means accepting when we’re down as well as up, when we’re depressed as well as joyful, when we’re anxious as well as calm, when we’re angry as well as understanding, when we’re fed up of the world as well as when we’re content with the world. It is about accepting not rejecting who we are and how we feel. So I’m not going to throw away those thoughts because also some of my so-called “negative” thoughts are actually a great help to me in understand how I am, why I am and what I’m meant to be doing next.

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!

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

Why when the day is already full …

… does something come along to make it even more full? Today is one of those action packed days when I should have said No to some things that I said Yes to. As I led in the bed this morning listening to the rain patter down I went through my to-do list and to_do_listorganised how I would fit everything in – including my coffee time. I went downstairs at 6am to get a cup of tea to take back to my room to journal a bit and found the kitchen floor flooded. So mopped the floor and wondered how the rain had got in over our very high back door step. An hour later came back downstairs and put on a load of washing. When rinsing dishes after breakfast I had to get out the sink plunger to try to unblock the sink muttering to myself as I wondered what I had allowed to go in the sink that should have gone in the food waste. Then the washing machine made a strange gurgle and unloaded its water all across the kitchen floor! Hurriedly turned off the washing machine and shouted to husband.

Long and short due to the storms that raged for two and a half hours yesterday afternoon and flooded our local supermarket, post office, main streets and park, and then came back for another go last night, dirt and soil and whatever has been washed flash-flooding-at-abergeleinto the drains and blocked them up. In fact yesterday out my study window I watched the small residential street opposite fill with water and then have to be pumped clear by the local water board.

The waterboard have been phoned and will be here within 2-4 hours which means I am now stuck at home. I cannot leave till they arrive. They may come early too if the job they are on is quicker than they hoped. So I cannot go and pay for my car which had a new exhaust fitted yesterday but I couldn’t pay for because the phone/internet lines for the card machine weren’t working. I’ve had to phone to say I might not be able to make it in time to conduct a guided tour around the castle grounds where I volunteer today in case the water board come late. My life has gone from super busy to waiting. I can’t even clean the floors because the workmen might have to walk through the house. I can’t clean bathrooms because I can’t run any water down the sink. In fact I can’t even flush the toilet. Just as well I’m home alone.

There’s a great parable Jesus tells of the rich man who builds barns to store all his grain in but then dies the following day which is used to tell us not to put too much hope in our plans. I’m sure that doesn’t mean don’t plan because I think Jesus had the ultimate plan

parables2bof2bjesus2bparable2bof2bthe2brich2bfool2bdrawing2bby2bt2bbertram2bpoole
http://christianartnow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-rich-fool-parable-painting-by.html 

that Him and God had sorted before the beginning of time. But I think it means don’t get stressed about what you’re going to do, or even don’t rest on what you’ve already got sorted.

Richard Rohr’s “gateway to silence” words this week are “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding” and I think that is so true for today for me but also for every day for me. Yes I do need to have a bit of a plan because we do have guests arriving and leaving, friends coming to stay, food to think about, but I am not to put my trust in those plans because they might change. Friends might cancel. Drains might flood. But I am to trust in the Lord though all and everything.

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.

Daffodils

xdaffodil2-pagespeed-ic-gijrwg9c4tFor a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.

But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. mother henShe is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.

expectation_vs_realityI’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.

So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.