Meaning of Life?

I am working my way through a wonderful journaling course by Jan Fortune. I have also just started reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. (A big thank you to Josh Luke Smith for divine conspiracysharing this book on his Instagram ages ago) This quote from Jan’s course jumped out at me because it fits in so much with what I am reading at the moment that Willard is saying the problem with Christianity is. (Note I am only on page 77 at the moment 🙂  )

Joseph Campbell says:

People say that what we’re all seeking a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

I think way too often, as Christians, when people ask us about Jesus, we talk to them about the Meaning of Life, being freed from sin, going to live in heaven. So very, very rarely do we talk about being truly alive – or as Jesus put it “having life in abundance”.

I fully believe that Jesus comes to give us life here on earth in abundance, that his plan for us is that our physical life resonates with our inner most being. But I also believe that, way too often, Christians have made it a serious of dos and don’ts and what one should believe and what one has to do.

I tried this month to do the whole abstaining thing; veganuary. So I gave up dairy, meat013.JPG and even alcohol. It lasted five days before I decided that I needed to finish the elderflower presse off with the gin liquor my daughter had given me. It was a week before I decided to use the cheese that was in the fridge for a meal, to use up the mushrooms that were lurking in the vegetable rack with the turkey that was sitting in the bottom of the freezer. Why couldn’t I do it? Because I was doing it as an “ought” rather than it being something my innermost being wanted to do. And the funny thing is that we generally only eat meat once or twice a week, drink wine only on a weekend, and only have spirits on special occasions! It was in the telling myself I couldn’t that I wanted to. When it is just a part of my life – I suppose part of my innermost being – then it is easy.

The interesting thing is when I feel the rapture of being fully alive then I want to love my neighbour, don’t want to do things that would hurt me or others, want to give something back to the world. Interestingly too when I am in church doing something I love to do – lead intercession, do some play with a deep meaning – I buzz and feel like turning up that morning was worthwhile. Not because there was meaning to it – even though there was – but because it made me feel fully alive.

Willard has suggested being immersed in the Psalms to feel fully alive. I remember when my kids were little we used to read a chapter of Proverbs and a Psalm every day and then something else. Today I read the first four Psalms and yes I did feel better. It didn’t tell me what would give me a meaning to life but showed me how I could equate my innermost being with what I believed and wanted to take onward and outward.

DSCF0397.JPGSo I think we need to stop telling people that Jesus lets us see a meaning to life, or even telling people they don’t know the meaning of life but help to show them the bits of Jesus life that help us all to find true connection with our innermost being and truly bring us alive. And to be honest I don’t want to hangout with a God that doesn’t do that for me

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Working Together

dscf0582Before Christmas I shared my thoughts on encouraging each other. This is an ongoing thing for all of us. I am a natural encourager but as another encourager friend said “who encourages the encouragers?” Well we encouragers do all have to learn that not everyone is an encourager. Some people have other skills and gifting which we all need. You notice here as an encourager I find it hard to list them 🙂

Anyway over that lovely time between Christmas and New year’s day, when my grown-up children had gone back to their respective homes and my husband had gone away for 3 days walking with friends, I sat down and did my review of the year, wrote up my lists of what to do, dreamed my dreams and came up with my plans. I also took down the decorations and got the place cleaned up and ready to face 2019. I started on the morepens qualifiable tasks to begin with – planning and advertising writing workshops, and cleaning. Yes those were the only ones on my list I got to. I have a great writing project in  my head that I need to plan out but I am struggling with it. I have reached a point where I know I am rubbish and it will not get off the ground!! See need of encouragement.

A girl I want to university with had posted on Instagram a devotional book she was reading. Her and I chatted about it a bit. I bought it. It is good. The bit that has encouraged me most of all is where it says to take 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, the famous “love verses” and substitute Jesus for Love or it. Well that has definitely encouraged me.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
4 Jesus is patient, love is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. 5 Jesus does not dishonor others,  Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I know not everyone who reads my blog is a Christian but I am and for me seeing that this whole Love passage is not some unobtainable goal but is how Jesus is to me has really encouraged me. In the version I have in study verse 7 says “always supports, always encourages, always hopes, always trusting.” For me to know that there is someone there who is always encouraging me, but not just always trusting me, always having hope in me is awesome.

But you know what, I’m not now rushing on with my plan for my writing project. I’m still stuck in the doldrums with it but, after reading and meditating on this, I am now being kinder to myself. I am leaning on other people to help me with finding my get up and go. I am reading things and looking up things that will help me to move to where I want to be. After reading this I am no longer beating myself up about not being able to.

I’m not sure if I put that in my last post but for me encouraging someone sometimes isn’t about getting them to move on but is about just staying with them and being there.

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Looking from Llanfairfechan nature reserve to Penrhyn Castle (taken by me 6th Jan 2019)

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.

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