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

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Memories and how we handle them

Christmas does seem to be the time to focus one’s memories as I was saying in a pre-Christmas post. But how we decide to handle them is the important as they race through vsour minds. We cannot stop them coming in. A smell, a look, a place we’ve been to and enjoyed, and even that card that does not arrive all can release painful memories. And it does seem as we get old there are more memories that evoke sadness due to either death or that person just no longer being in our lives. So what do we do with all that?

We have a choice on how we handle them. Yes we do. We do not need to let that first initial, what can be gut-wrenching lose take over our day. We can let it go that way and that is our choice. It will be important to acknowledge that pain and loss but we do not have to dwell there. We can choose to remember the good times we had with that person, can choose to enjoy the memory. But we can also choose to let it totally envelope us to the point where we do not see what is good around us.

After what I’ve gone through over the last few years I would not say with certainty that “the dead are gone” even though in the flesh they are. They still haunt us. But also the tumblr_lt6x1rkwun1qf70r5o1_500living are very much with us. If we get too far down the sadness of those who have gone – whether died or just no longer part of our lives as they use to be – they we can so miss those who are with us now. I know of someone over  Christmas who was in a place that evoked memories of those past and also those who were really ill. She was with a new partner but could have stayed with those sad memories but she didn’t stay there. She remember with sadness and with fondness, prayed a bit, but then also went back to enjoying her time with her new partner.

Many loses are really hard to get over, especially ones that are untimely and too early – although I do know of someone who said his mother died at 99 and that was a year too soon for him. It could just be that every death or loss always comes too soon. Although violent young deaths do cause so much pain – but that is not to say that we must stay in that place where our grief overwhelms the joy that we have.

There is a verse in the Bible that says “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” During 2012 I joyofthelordfound it hard to find how to deal with it. I felt it was saying that I should not acknowledge what had happened but now I think that is wrong. I think it means that if we can look at where we are, the good things we still have around us, can remember with poignant joy those who have gone, then we have the strength to keep going, keep loving, keep being there for those who we love who are still with us,

This year I think I made it through, and enjoyed Christmas, not just because both my children, who are in their twenties, were with me, but because I decided to not let the sadness of the memories overwhelm me but to see what was good around me, to remember those I’ve lost with that poignant joy and to wait on what is to come.

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.

Discipleship is a Two-Way Thing

discipling-dever-headerJust recently I have been asked by a lovely young woman if I will be her “older Christian friend”. I was very touched and said “yes” and then didn’t think much more about it. God gave me a nudge and convicted me that I need to be seeing her regularly to do some proper discipleship stuff. So I prayed and I pondered and set a regular day and time that works for both of us. I felt God saying that instead of it just being random stuff we should do some Bible study and let the life stuff come from there. So last week we chatted about stuff. I suggested reading a certain book of the Bible but she suggested Romans. Oh my, thought I, I don’t like Romans, but I let it go and thought I’d go with it.

Well!!! I have now read the first 3 chapters, which was what we said we’d read this week, image21and it has been amazing. I have found something in those first 3 chapters I never saw before but it has totally deepened how I see God. it has been amazing. Now if I’d been bossy and decided I was the “older” one and so knew so much more where to start and how to do this I would have missed out on so much. Because I acquiesced I have grown in my relationship with God – just in less than a week! Blessed for acquiescing? Maybe 🙂

Too often in my own Christian walk when I have had people want to walk with me there has been a rub because they have wanted to “teach” me things and I have felt they haven’t heard from me. This has not always been the case but for me, the relationships I’ve learned the most from are the ones that I don’t realise the people were discipling or teaching me things. Perhaps I’m just a bit perverse, or some might say proud, but I do need to feel that I am on an equal place with people which is probably why I act the way I do with the younger people who get placed on my path.

discipling-620x272When I use to facilitate youth groups, if they were small enough, I would let them have as much autonomy as possible. At one group we ran it like the adult group where the teenagers would bring along food to share. To begin with parents would make the food or buy or be surprised that I didn’t make it all but the teenagers felt like it was their group because they shared the food they had made. It is where I have struggle with larger groups where the leaders have felt they should give to the teens and actually the teens have felt they should be given to.

For me this whole discipling/teaching thing goes both ways in all I do. In my writing workshops I learn as much as I teach. I have gathered some liked minded creative people around me to put on a Christmas play. Now I am more than capable to write it all but walking together.jpgactually I have got each actor writing their own piece from their character’s point of view. And again I am learning so much.

There is so much blessing in allowing others to teach you as you teach them 🙂

Pagan Christmas!!!

170px-rockefeller_center_christmas_tree_croppedOh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”

On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging thhanging-of-the-greens-picturee greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …

green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across romempmapbecause of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂

Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how mu200000-copy2ch deeper
this new Christianity was.

Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?

So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….

In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.

5465489_origInteresting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂

Historian and Researcher

So back to the mini-series of Who I am and what I do.

6912b-historian
though I do not have a beard!!

So I’ve done the “biggies” on my business card – writer, airbnb host –  and also the easy to define one, Dog walker, and now it moves down to the ones that are harder to define. What do I mean by a “Historian and Researcher”. Well it was made clear to me the other day when I had some round from the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to talk to me about doing workshops up there. For one we talked history and threw ideas back and forth but then once he had gone I googled what we’d been talking about, sent emails to friends to ask for information, and then went to the library to gather books. I printed stuff off, made notes all over it and then pondered. Yes that’s what I do after I’ve gathered lots of information – I ponder it all. But also I googled the man I’d met to see more about him.

But I realise that actually I only do this when it comes to historical things. When it comesgwrych-1161 down to other things I go by “feel”. So if someone asks to meet me I first of all go by gut instinct and only after I’ve met them and want to go further with what they have said, and actually only if I feel like I have connected, do I research the subject and then the person. I discovered that, for me, to try to research something beforehand leaves me jaded and uninterested. Something has to have piqued my interest first.

Also with things like History and even Bible study, I do need to see many different sides. So with history I love historical fiction and find that is an easy way to learn things. Often I would like to do it with my laptop by my side so I can google things as I do to check out whether the author is stick to the facts. But a lot of historical fiction is interpretation – in fact so is a lot of historical fact where flesh has to be put on the bare bones of an article – so  it is good to read many different authors stories about the same period in history, covering often the same characters. Some people will have a passion for a certain king, some will have a hatred for the same person. With Bible study what is written is interpreted differently  as I did say before in “It says clearly in the Bible” that it does not say it quite so clearly as one would like. There are few words and what one thinks it says is interpretation, which is why we should hear from many different people; some we will love and agree with, some we wont. A bit like the historical fiction writers. And we will gravitate to an interpretation we like but … I digress!

keep-calm-and-read-everything-9I should have known I was a researcher years ago. When I first became a Christian I read every book I could lay my hands on in regard to what I was now believing and read my Bible 2-3 times a year (not boasting, just showing what sort of researcher I am!)  for the first few years, wanted to go on every course and conference, just wanted to know. When I had my children I bought nearly every child rearing book I could and then borrow from the library. And the same as they grew  older. I think I’ve got lazier but maybe not.

So don’t just tell me something – give me the references and then a bit for me to run with.

And also if anyone out there knows anything about the Picturesque Movement and some suggested books I could be reading I would be very grateful 🙂

How we view things …

I have realised it has been over two weeks since I last wrote. There has been a lot happening in my life so not much time to find head space to write. My days have been full of family visiting, my daughter’s graduation and then her visiting, as well as spending time getting ready for the open day at the community centre where I will be running some writing course in September.

walking_in_the_water___by_dodephineIt was strange but I felt really flat after the open day and had to ponder why. Some of it was because I had been really busy and was tired and needed some introvert time. With running a hospitality/Airbnb/room rentals house it can be hard to find that time. I need to learn to seize the moment rather than expect long days for just me.

Some was because it would have been my sister’s 53rd birthday yesterday. It’s odd but I miss her more and more as time goes past. There is that old adage that “time heals” but for me it seems to hurt more at certain times. And it got me thinking about anniversaries. There are so many and then can converge on each other and we have to choose how we look at them. We could focus on what isn’t, what has gone 122378_story__movingonbut then miss out on the good. As you should know I do not want to bury my grief but I do know the anniversaries of deaths, birthdays of those gone too soon, things that didn’t happen, coincide with good things – graduations, moving house, birthdays and weddings of the living – so much. Which way will I look?

This is some of what I journaled this morning:

As I look through the window at
the trees billowing
the raindrops
the small clouds drifting in front of the bank of trees on the hill
I marvel
Marvel at the blessings
It would be so easy to remain
in this well of sadness
to count the losses
court the pain and
let them rule.
I want to list them to let the world see
how much I have to grieve
And yet …
I look out of my rain splattered window and know
that I am blessed.
Like that small cloud emboldened on the darkened landscape
I can drift
I can choose which way I look.
At the dark backdrop or
out to sea.
I can look up or can look down
I can choose, for now,
to take myself away
Like that small cloud I can enjoy the view
I can choose to marvel at my God
Today I choose to look and see
that I am blessed.
Today I choose LIFE!

Maybe not the greatest of poems but it says what we can choose. And so yes I do feel sad waiting-for-godand needing space but also know that I am blessed.

I have a follow on to this about being open. Both the thing about perspectives and about living in the light seem to be reoccurring themes for me at the moment.