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.

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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.

Good Morning 2017

… and what do you have in store for us this year?

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Ok so not the view out of my study window but its a nice picture 🙂 

As I look out my study window things don’t look much different to yesterday. All us early risers are still up and doing our thing, cars are moving, the sky is still dark at 7.15. I expect there will be a littering of fireworks shells and empty bottles around and about. My family and I will be on very different time scales as when I got up to go to the bathroom at 2.30am lights were still on downstairs. By then I’d been asleep for at least 3 hours.

Yesterday I did spend some time wrapping 2016 up and tying it with a ribbon to know that some of it will ooze out into this coming year. There is no clear cut. We’ve got Airbnb bookings already for this year. I’m waiting on replies for workshops. There will be hurts and joys from years gone by that will move into this new year. A new year isn’t like a new baby where the canvass is blank and ready to write on – although new calendars and diaries give us that impression. It is just the turning of a page.

It can be good to think of resolutions on how we will live our year, but then it is also good to do that every day, week, month. Around the start of each month I take a blank calendar new-year-resolution-images-2017page, put all my set things on it and then take my list of things I’d like to do and find out how I can fit them in; things like an artist’s date to write somewhere different, some study time, catch up with people time. And I also reassess if I stuck to my writing goals on the month before. I cannot say that I will leave it all until the end of the year to do this or it may never happen. But also I do not condemn myself if I do not do as I would have like – whether new year resolutions or my plan for the coming week.

Going back to my question for 2017 – what does it have in store for us? No one knows. We watched Charlie Booker’s Wipe 2016 the other evening which started with him saying “good riddance to 2015. That wasn’t a great year. Let’s hope 2016 is better” and then he goes on to say that in fact 2016 seems a lot worse – esp for us here in the West. 2017 could be even worse for the world in general, or it could be better, or it could be a mix of both.

I had an odd comment to my Facebook Happy New Year message. Someone said “Hope 2017 is better than the last 5 years have been for you.” I’m not sure if they meant it for me or for someone else because in reality the last 5 years have had some really tough and really horrid times in them but they have also had some really great times in them. I could series-cropchoose to focus on the awful or to focus on the awesome or actually look at them as a whole and say “we made it through” which often is my response. In fact for me there have been many years in my life time that have been horrendous with smaller smatterings of awesome than we’ve had in the last 5, but I’m hear and I’m still standing and I’ll looking forward to what is to come.

Some of my favourite things for this coming year are:

This from Sally McClung who’s husband Floyd has been very sick for a very long time. She posted this on 30th December –

“I remembered a definition of peace that I heard Floyd give in one of his sermons. Peace does not mean the absence of trouble, but the presence of what is good – God is good! We can rest in His goodness even in the midst of trouble, of storms.
Various forms of peace are mentioned 429 times in the Bible, so the Lord certainly understood that “peace” would be an issue, a need in our lives. Our actions, our attitudes may influence peace, but true peace comes only from God.
“Great peace have those who love your law.” Psalm 119:165
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7
“The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, and peace.” Galatians 5:22
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27″

And this old faithful poem

The Gate Of The Year

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”fenland20gate20linocut2018cm20x2029cm
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

So I’ll still make my resolutions and put in some plans but will hold them lightly. I will look for that good that leads to peace of mind in all that goes on rather than expecting things not to be troubled. I will put my hand in God’s and let Him lead me into the darkness of this coming year. And if by the end of 2017 I trust God more and can see beauty and goodness in more things, situations and people then I think I will have made it.86216-find-peace-in-your-heart

So I pray peace in hearts for 2017

Christmas is a good time to think about Words for Well-Being

Christmas is an odd time of the year. It seems to focus so many feelings, and seems to encourage the time to put on those tinted glasses. Not just the rose-coloured ones where montage-1024x812we may view our childhood Christmases or the darkened ones where we may remember things with despair.

For me I think of those people I haven’t received a card from – the sister of my step-father who was always the first card to arrive but she is now dead, the friend of my mum’s who was often the second card to arrive who has had a fall and has been on life support in hospital and at the moment cannot move or speak, the friends who have moved and we’ve lost touch, the family of ex-husbands who no longer keep in touch – and one often wonders if they have died, the always late and badly written card from my sister which of course will  not come now – and never one from her husband who is now remarried or her 25 year old son who is a typical 25 year old boy when it comes to keeping touch. It can bring me down and make me wish I had know when it was going to be those last Christmasses. Would I have done anything different in December 2011 when we’d gathered with my sister’s family? I’m not sure I would have. Would I have phoned my step-father’s sister more often if I’d know when she’d not be with us? Would Christmas 2012 have been any different knowing that by Christmas 2013 by father-in-law would not be with us? To be totally honest I don’t think it would have been.

I had an email from a older friend of mine who says she finds it hard visiting as she sees glass-be-gratefulthe deterioration in many of her friends and wonders if it will be their last Christmases together. So she does make a difference; she makes sure she turns out over the Christmas holidays to see them, puts it in her diary to visit more often, and most importantly is grateful that she is still fit and well and able to get about and prays that it will continue.

So how will writing help? Well instead of bottling up those feelings write. Write to those people who aren’t with you any more – whether dead or alive. Tell them what you think of them and how you are feeling with them not being around. Tell them how much you’ve done in the last year. Read it out to them as thought they are sitting with you. Who knows they might even be listening? Write down all the good things you remember and don’t worry if the rose-tinted glasses are on. Enjoy the good memories. Again read it out loud. Say thank you to whatever you believe maybe listen – God, the dog, the chair, Mother Earth, etc. Write down a list of things you are grateful for this year – even if it is that you can write things down. When you think of the impossible write it down too and again speak it out. There’s nothing journal-writing-2-300x225wrong in hoping for what might not happen but don’t let it make you overwhelmed by what will not be. Write what your perfect Christmas would be then even look at what things you can do to make that happen. Remember that you cannot make everyone cheerful but you can make sure you don’t let their grumps get you down. And if they do take yourself off and write about it.

Make this Christmas a time when you compose some cool poems that talk of the joy and sadness of your Christmas – past, present and future. Use that notebook that some well-meaning person got you years ago that you’ve never thrown away and just write and see how that will change things for you. 3ab6538e0c445f0b29935d3a718972c3

As we were reminded in our Advent reading this morning Jesus didn’t come down to change things but to walk with us in them.

Encourage Each Other To Be Rebellious

This is another thought that arose in my head from the Lapidus conference on Saturday 10th December. It came about when we were asked to give words about what Lapidus was all about but again I felt, like Ubuntu, that is related as much to Christianity as it did to therapeutic writing for well-being.

not_of_this_world__by_kevron2001-d77ytspJesus said we were meant to be “in the world but not of the world” which sort of, to me, means that we are to be rebellious to the things that the world can take for granted – like putting self first, wanting for us, fear, anxiety, etc. I am not going to put down Christians who worry or are anxious because I know way too many who really are amazing followers of Jesus but who do worry, suffer from anxiety and from depression, have to deal with fear on a regular basis. But I also see these many of these people fighting it all the way. They don’t lie down to the fact that they suffer with these things but they work toward it not happening. I also see this in people who are not followers of God too, who will not let these things overwhelm them even if they are bed-bound, taking tablets, struggling. They are rebelling all the way against these things.

We all need to be rebelling against injustices, fears, greed, the negative things that stop 5c021dcf4ca432874eab2b4b8db7efd5others and ourselves from reaching our potential. I suppose it is why I want to encourage others with using words for well-being. I want to show how this can be a tool to help rebel against the world.

I feel like there is a bit of a rebelling against the system going on with the way people are voting at the moment; with this lean to the far right. How should we respond to this rebellion? Not by ignoring it. Not by being fearful of it. Not by being rude to those who vote this way or think this way. To rebel against this we need to be moving in the opposite spirit. We need to be modelling love, acceptance, justice, peace.

So I go back to my first point – as Christians we should be encouraging each other to be rebellious. Too often we don’t. Too often we hide in our churches – whether big or small, loud or quiet – and keep going with the same old same old. I know I am guilty of this. I 6218447need to encourage my fellow Christians, with the tools I have – which is my writing – to think about how they look at others, to be welcoming, to not fear, to be supportive, to be counter-cultural. Sometimes I think there are more people who do not attend church and are not followers of God who are more counter-cultural than Christians. Many are out there feeding people not just over Christmas by all year, are working on ways to support others, to share news openly of the good as well as the bad that goes on, who have time to stop and chat to the old, the lonely, the smelly and the sick.

So I will do my bit over this season. I am hoping that the words we are using in the play I have instigated to be performed at our local church will make people think about how they really view Christmas. It is the bit I can do. And I do hope that I can encourage people to rebel a bit and change the world one little piece at a time with the talents they have. We can’t all invite homeless people to our houses, not just cos not everyone has the space, but some of us just aren’t able to do it because we aren’t made that way. But another way of rebelling, I think, is to not feel condemned that I’m not doing that but to make sure I use the talents I have, the time I have, the situation I am in, to rebel just a bit from the culture I am in.

Treasure In Heaven

So I was going to write something Christmassy or even expand on some great things that treasure-in-heaven-300x225were said at the Lapidus Conference last Saturday, but I’m doing this instead.

giving-receiving-sunsetToday I went to see my spiritual director. I’ve been seeing him since about April this year, since we moved up here. It has been a great journey and he is awesome and I’m not 100% sure why everyone doesn’t have one. I think I might be spiritually directing the young swoman I see regularly but just calling it by a different name and without the training 🙂

So we chat about all sorts and I have an unloads about life, the universe and everything. It isn’t just how my “spiritual” life is going. My spiritual life is the whole of who I am and what I do. So anyway there we are chatting away about the Anglican prayer for forgiveness that I must say I quite like because it is short and sharp with not much time to try to list what I’ve done and then there is a prayer to say that God has forgiven me.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

For me it draws a line under the week and I can start the new week forgiven. We talked line-in-sandsome more about how everything we do is ministry and the good things are gathering treasure for us in heaven.

Now here is the cool part – the good things we do whether we do them “unto the Lord” or just by having a chat to the people dog walking, smiling at the supermarket checkout, being normal and going about life in a kind and supportive manner – this adds up treasure for us in heaven. AND God remembers that. But when we do bad things God doesn’t take things out of our pile. The pile of treasure stays. But with the bad things we do, think say, or even the good things we forget to do because we are busy just getting on with life, God not just forgives but forgets. So when I say “Sorry I’ve done/not done that again” God says He doesn’t remember.

grace_wordleI feel like I’ve suddenly got this revelation about what Paul says about Grace. Grace isn’t getting what you don’t deserve, which I had been taught and always found hard because I think the stuff we had to go through in 2012/3 was not stuff we deserved but it definitely wasn’t Grace. It was God’s grace and mercy that got us through but we definitely didn’t deserve it. But what I really do not deserve is for my good things to be remembered and stored up as treasure and my bad things to be forgiven and forgotten. God doesn’t take a good thing out of the pot every time I do a bad thing. That is so cool. But also that does not make me want to do more wrong things so I get forgiven more, but actually gives me the confidence to keep piling up the treasures.

So even though I know I’ll get forgiven I don’t want to do more things that I’d be forgivenrandy-alcorn-quote-treasures-in-heaven for but actually want to do more things that will build up treasure in heaven. That is my Christmas message for me 🙂

 

Are You Willing To Be Filled?

Well there were repercussions from the Airbnb guests that I mentioned in my last post. They wrote a very damming review about their stay. Needless to say it really upset me. I think I was still feeling vulnerable from their time with us anyway. What upset me most about the review was that most of what they said was not true. Anyway I got on to the community20profile20website20imageAirbnb community forum. Well what an amazing bunch of people. No one made me feel daft for having let them stay and everyone who responded to my post was helpful. Airbnb said that unfortunately they could not take the review down because it didn’t quite break their guidelines. But with the help of the online community from around the world I was able to put up a succinct response to the review which actually, so the community said, took the sting out of the review and gave me the higher ground. And also helped others to see that here was someone just ranting. But it took me a while to potter through all this and come out feeling ok.

Being a well-being writer I of course did my own journaling and explored my thoughts and feelings about what had happened via writing. I realised that I got upset because it was not pen-282604_1280true and I did not like someone saying things that were untrue. As always timing is amazing and I was meeting with my spiritual director and so I told him all this. His response was that we all feel like that, which I sort of know to be true, and that it was ok.

On Monday I was facilitating a writing for well-being group and it came up about the glass half full/glass half empty explanation for pessimist and optimist, when someone said that in an Eastern philosophy (sorry I forget where) they talk about emptying yourself so that you can be filled. So with that thought an optimist would be someone who was happy to be a glass totally empty. But then I thought Jesus talks of us being like streams of living water and of how we need to be constantly emptying ourselves so He can fill us. Very similar philosophy. I can hold on to my half full glass-half-empty-or-half-full-awesomistsglass and oscillate, as most of us do, between feeling like glass is half empty or half full. Or I can go to that total place of letting go where I am happy to give away everything in my glass and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill it.

As I’ve had time to chew this over I have realised that I had to look at the guests from the weekend as ones who did drain me and leave me empty but that then I had a choice what I filled up with. I could have filled up with fear and not ever hosted anyone again unless they were people we knew. I could have filled up with anger and responded from that place both on the response to the review and in a message to the man himself. I could have filled up with hopelessness and just sat and cried. Instead I chose to fill up with forgiveness for the man for being so defensive and so angry, with hope that actually the world is full of some really lovely people who I want to met and I will carry on host and a joy about the world.

Mind you this does not come about by being on my own. The Airbnb Community Forum community-1helped as did various open and honest posts on Facebook from my daughter, from a friend whose total openness about his struggle with his sexuality was amazing, but not just that but the love with which his friends responded. As well as friends I have who are willing to let me be myself and my spiritual director, and my time being able to walk with my dog and think and ponder with God. And also we have just had two Airbnb guests who’ve stayed who have been totally lovely and have reminded me why we do this. So it is by community that we survive and can choose.

So I have to sometimes empty myself and let those who support me, whether I know they are or not, fill me with hope and wisdom and peace. And I do often think when this happens that the Kingdom of God is bigger than just those who profess to be Christians 🙂