Knowing Where You Come

DAN-SNOW-A5-2019-DATES-LO-722x1024.jpgLast night I saw Dan Snow, The History Man, speak at a local theatre. One of the many things that he said that struck me (so be warned there could be many more blog posts to come) was that he knows people say, generally behind his back, that he is only doing what he does because of his family. He paused before saying “Yes I am.” He went on to say that because his parents both had a love of history, that his father was in television broadcasting, because they had money and could afford to go not just to historic places close to home but across the world, that yes that is why he is stood on this stage now. He is doing what he does because of where he comes from.

Here is a piece that dovetails with that –

Jan Fortune in Becoming Your Story Course says “So many people describe themselves as ‘self-made’. It’s an outlandish concept. We all emerge from someone, have childhoods and environments that affect us and exist within various networks, physical and emotional. I’m certain we can make huge changes in our lives, re-invent ourselves, change our values and goals, but the idea that we don’t need others along the path is arrogant as well as unrealistic. No one is self-made”

My thoughts are that if you hear something more than once and it resonates for you then it is for you.

I could weep that I did not have Dan Snow’s upbringing and opportunities. I could weep that I am not Jan Fortune. I could bemoan that I am not a whole host of people. As well as grumbling that I did/didn’t do x, y and z. But I am here sitting in my lovely study watching the snow falling, my little dog snoring between my legs because of my parents,

snow jan 19
My study window as I wrote this post

my life choices, the people I have met along the way, the friends I have met, the people who have spoken into my life for good or bad. All have led to why I am here now.

A lovely friend that I share my writing with said he was amazed that I could write about medieval battles when I haven’t experienced any. Actually that is not true. I have experienced them through what I have read, listened to, watched, visited. All are part of who I am. Yes I have changed my life, reinvented myself, changed my values and goals over the 50+ years of my life. But each and every one of them has been influenced by who I met, what had gone before, or experiences at the time.

Here are just two examples:

  1. I didn’t go travelling abroad because it just popped into my head one day. I went because someone suggested it, even though she didn’t come with me in the end. I went to the place I did in Greece because someone recommended it before I left. And from there the people I met influenced where I went from there.
  2. I didn’t “become a Christian” out of the blue. Lovely well-meaning people invited me to their church coffee morning. From there my life has been again to do with who I met, who suggested what, good and bad things that happened along the way.

So as Dan Snow stood there and said “yes I am here because of my family and I am grateful” I also say I am here in this place now doing what I am doing because of my family, my friends, the influences that have happened.

I am starting off on a new direction with my life – taking my writing seriously and actually telling people I am a writer. I am doing to spend 12 months being mentored to

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Husband and dog Saturday celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in the rain on Lleyn Peninsula

help this process along. But this has not come about in isolation. It has come about due to many influences and encouragements. Also because of a husband who is content for me to not to have a career but to be home bringing in a modest income via Airbnb and writing workshops, and using the rest of my time writing, writing and writing. I am grateful to him for that.

So I am here typing, looking out my window in North Wales at the snow with my little dog still snoring because of the life choice I made to marry just over 12 years ago. But actually that only came about because I choice to be living in the town I was, etc, etc, etc. So let us all choose to understand where we have come from and many people have made us who we are now.

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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

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)

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!

The Three Kings

Yesterday I was involved in two Epiphany services and it got me thinking about those “Wise men” who journeyed to see the baby Jesus.

sp2There are 12 verses in the second chapter of in the gospel of Matthew that talk about what happened with them but all we are told about them is “Magi from the east came“, they go to visit King Herod because they know that this is where a king should be found, get told by his advisers that a prophecy says the ‘King of the Jews will be born in Bethlehem’, they go and visit Jesus and then don’t go back to see Herod. From these 250-300 words, depending on translation, the Christian faith has made up a whole mythology about these “Magi” that is now believed.

Because they brought three gifts then it has been decided that there were only three of them. Because we want them to be kind and humble people we talk of what it cost them to travel from wherever to see this babe. All through I feel we have dumbed them down, turned them into something tame and weak. So these are my thoughts on the Magi.

So they must either have been astronomers or astrologers or both or employed people who looked at and read what was written in the stars. That is almost a given. But why did stars-constellationsthey go to visit a new born king? I think it was because the stars foretold how great this King was. Why go and visit a great king? To get great gifts from him. I believe these Magi had money, either of their own or were in a position to tax the people around where they lived. I think they came in a huge caravan of camels and servants and tents and gifts. Why do I think this? Because everything I’ve read about King Herod is that he was a despot and would not have let in three lowly travellers even if they did say they were off to worship the new king. I believe, from all I have read about Herod, that he would have either dismissed them or had them killed. But he welcomes them in. They must have been an impressive sight and he must have known he couldn’t silence them. I believe they came with gifts, not just the gold, frankincense and myrrh that are mention, but much more. I believe the Bible only mentions those three gifts because they are the significant ones. I do believe that the Bible misses many details out. Why say that they gave other things when Matthew wanted to make a point to his readers of who Jesus is?

But you  know I think the most amazing thing that happens is when the Magi meet with Jesus. So picture a huge caravan of camels, of opulence, of power, coming to the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus are staying. Here I believe it was the same house that Jesus was born in (as in he was born in the place where the animals lived) and that many of the wider family had no left after the census and Joseph was waiting for Mary to be strong enough so they could leave. Maybe even God had told him to stay and we just aren’t told that by any of the gospel writers.

So here they are in this little town when this cavalcade comes through. The town is in up roar. The Magi reach the house. They go in. There they see a normal couple. Remember Joseph was a tradesman and so wouldn’t be poor but wouldn’t be rich. Normal. But something happens to these wealthy, powerful men when they see Jesus.

Matthew says “ On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

What happened to make them bow down and worship this woman and child? What did they see? What happened? Something in meeting with Jesus caused them to change.

Now I’m sure Herod offered them something to come back and tell him when they had found the child but they don’t. They set off. I’m thinking they went quite quickly because Herod doesn’t chase after them but goes off to kill those poor toddlers in Bethlehem.

I just feel that on this day after Epiphany Sunday it would be good to just ponder what happened when the Magi saw Jesus that caused a change in them. And also how often we have preconceived ideas of what “King Jesus” is like but if we truly looked at Him then we would give him the gifts we had intended for another.

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!