Writing Your Life Story

truth.jpgMy group asked me the other day about how to use real people in their memoir writing. I wish I had found this quote when I was looking for information to share with them.

Mark Twain said,

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

So obvious and so true, but how often it is hard for people to hear. I have been trying truth telling but often feel unheard.

Another suggestion I tell my group is that it is their truth and may not be someone else’s. Another quote:

Keep in mind that memories are subjective and tend to evolve over time.
[http://helensedwick.com/how-to-use-real-people-in-your-writing/ found 30th July 2018]

That is not to say that the truth changes but how you view the truth changes. There are facts that never change however. Things like “yesterday I went to see a waterfall with my in-laws.” That is truth. But then things like how busy it was, how warm/cold it was, whether it was a good time, bad time, etc become subjective. Even things like “your mum was really happy there” can be subjective. In reality she seemed happy to me but to other members of the family she could have looked sad, angry, distant, crazy, etc. Even thingswhat is truth like “Bob is an alcoholic” is not a truth unless Bob has told the family. So one could say “Bob appears to drink a lot and I am concerned that he is an alcoholic” or “Bob says he is an alcoholic”. Both statements are true because one is that I have seen Bob drink a lot and he has said he is an alcoholic. The concerned bit is my opinion. So with “your mum” I could say she seemed happy to me because that is my opinion.

So even though Mark Twain says tell the truth what is the truth is not as clear. Also as the second quote says our memories evolve over time. Emily Dickenson has a lovely poem:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant By Emily Dickinson
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

So facts are facts and are unchangeable but our personal truths of what happened to us to change and evolve depending on what story we tell. There are people who say that the truth of their story doesn’t change but I don’t think that is true 🙂 We are an evolving people and so how we remember things will change.

Another quote that came to me as I wrote this was

Jesus said “know the truth and the truth will set you free” John 8:32

Now I wonder with this if Jesus meant that as we grow and evolve our theology will change and alter. Hopefully grow. He was talking to Pharisees who had spent years looking at the scriptures and working out the truth of them. Jesus says it is those who are his disciples and who follow his teachings who will know the truth and be set free by it. For myself I find that understand that how I perceive a series of facts is not how truth_set_freesomeone else might perceive them then I do feel freer to know that what I understand is what I understand and not to have to spend time browbeating the other person to believe in things how I see them. So going back to “your mum was really happy there”. That is my truth. Another family member could say “mum was really upset there” and that is there truth. Maybe we need to ask mum and see what she thinks? But then maybe mum was happy at the waterfall but upset as she walked back. Maybe both things are true and each person saw her at a different time (Note this is made up to help with a point and not factual 🙂  )

It is not about having different morals as is feared by some with the post-modern conversation, but it can be that all truth is subjective to who I am, my experiences, where I am as I tell this tale.

So my hope is, with my memoir writing group, that they can be free to write their story in their words with their memories of the facts that happened in their lives, as each of us should be free to.

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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

What is hidden shall be revealed

So follow on from the flooding/waiting for the water board blog. Turns out that all outside drains were fine and water board don’t touch inside drains. So our friends turn up late afternoon in that gap I had between workshops. First thing Mark does is pull out dishwasher and washing machine and starts looking for drain. Husband has suggested I blocked-sewermessage Chris, the previous owner and ask if he can tell us where drain is. Chris appears as Mark has located drain. Both of them are down the drain. Husband is on his way home and I have to go to run workshop. So leave ex-owner and friend I haven’t seen in nearly a year under my sink pushing broom handles down drain. Turns out there were huge lumps of fat and gunk and all sorts in there which all 3 men spent time pulling out until all was clear. When the girl on the water board switchboard phoned the following day to see how things were, because they do follow up calls even if they haven’t done anything, she said it was the loveliest story she’d heard and was glad she’d phoned to find out about how things were. Lovely story of cooperation. Good from bad 🙂

What we presume had happened was that the drains in the street had all flooded. The volume of water was so hard that things were going no where and there had been drains that had been pumped out. What it had done was to push 40-50+ years of gunk and yuck back up any pipe it could find so it could keep moving. This meant that it came up ours and so blocked things up. We have now cleaned it out so it probably won’t happen now for another fair few years. But it got me thinking about gunk we have lurking about and about the line from a song by the Clash “One day a real rain is going to come and wash all maxresdefaultthe scum off the street“. But the question is where does that scum go? Well from our street it went up our drain.

It is like our lives – we can bury the rubbish that has gone on, keep working, buying, doing, hiding what has happened but one day it will burst out and block something. One often hears of someone who loses their temper aggressively after being mild mannered for as long as everyone can remember, maybe even going as far as killing someone, and many people say “where did that come from?” “What make them act that way?” It is possible that it came from years of washing away the scum down the drain and hiding it there and then one day it bubbles up and destroys things. Something can set it off that no one saw coming, even the person concerned.

Like my drain we need to be careful what we put in it/in ourselves, but also we need to make sure we don’t just flush things out where they can lurk about but we clean it out properly.

Jesus said about how what was hidden would come into the light (Matthew 10:26). I believe this was Jesus’ advise for living a healthy life. That we should not keep feelings hidden but should hold them in the light; be open and honest and not afraid of what we think and feel, or of what life has thrown at us.  In 20656d9783f38df2d750485fad3f8ae1-light-of-the-world-church-ideas2012 I wrote in the front of my diary on 1st January “let this be the year when things come into the light” and have blogged on it (though cannot now find the blog!). It was the year my sister’s and two friend’s mental health problems came “into the light” and we had to deal with their deaths. Bringing things into the light is dangerous especially when we live in a society that doesn’t like people to be open and honest. Chatting with one of our guests the other day we reach the conclusion that one of the most important life skills schools and parents could be teaching their children is how to be honest about what they think and feel and how to express that clearly and calmly. Usually by the time one gets to the point of needing to talk the “calm” has moved on to anger and frustration. But even to be able to say  “I am angry and frustrated” should be able to be done in a calm manner.

But as I am always realising I cannot start with “you” or “them” I have to start with me. So how am I going to deal with all the scum that has built up in my life? Watch this space!

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.

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

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.

It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

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

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

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

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

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