Winter Solstice

winter-solstice-scenery1366x76854654Today is the winter solstice. The day when the sun stands still for three days before days start to lengthen again.

Today I got a revelation as to why the early Christians picked December 25th as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is a random day I’d always thought. Or had heard stories of how the pagans had celebrated on 25th because the sun had decided to reappear rather than disappear completely. But then I remembered another time when it looked like The Son had disappeared completely.

Two thousand years on from the event, knowing that outcome, as we also know that the sun will move on and the days will start getting longer, we forget what it must have felt like. Imagine firstly being a pre-science person and each year wondering if the sun would really continue or whether it would decided that it had had enough and the days lunar-eclipse-icelandwere just going to keep getting darker until there was no more. [Though maybe that isn’t so hard to imagine as we see the news and read the newspapers. We appear to be in dark times that are getting darker. So maybe we can understand.] Now imagine how it must have felt when you realised that the days were slowly minute but minute getting longer. I’m sure they had devises to be able to show them this was happening because their fear must have been great. Don’t think with 21st Century eyes and minds but with ancient minds who were not sure.

Then think back to that event two thousand years ago at Passover. So many people had given up everything – livelihoods, reputations, status, money – to follow Jesus and he’d been crucified. They knew he was definitely dead. If they hadn’t seen it they would have heard about the soldier putting his spear in Jesus’ side and the blood and water flowing out. Here was someone who was definitely dead. The Son had stood still for three days. The Son had been put in a sealed tomb – not because he was anything special but because it stopped the stench of a decaying body from seeping out. He had been still for 3 days.

I also think we miss some of this because the organised church decided that people wouldn’t wait that long so they put the crucifixion to a Friday and Resurrection to a copy_of_tombofkingsjerusalemSunday. Often I’d miss the whole Easter story by seeing the detail in that and so deciding it wasn’t a true story. There are not 3 days between Friday and Sunday no matter how hard you try. But there are scholars who have said that in certain years there are more “sabbaths” due to Jewish tradition and that Jesus was crucified on a Wednesday. [I suggest googling this yourself before I lost the thread of what I’m saying 🙂 ]

So try to imagine you think this is the man who will light into the world, who you have given up everything for, but here he is not just one day, not just two days, but three days still. Dead. In a tomb. Imagine then how you would feel when he came to stand with you, when people you knew told you they had seen him. When people said The Son has risen.

 

It was like a big light going on. The whole idea of the sun staying still at the time we 1-3-1393234669celebrate Jesus birth fits hand in glove with the time we celebrate Jesus resurrection. God is so clever. And I also think as we do feel like we are entering a very dark time politically with Brexit, Trump, North Korea, wars and rumours of wars, refugees, more famines, and other atrocities we often don’t hear about we need to remember that it might look like The Son is standing still but the light is still with us and it will conquer the darkness.

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Results of a Vote

I’ve done my best not to read any blog posts that are appearing today. My facebook feed was crazy enough. In fact at one point Facebook crashed it was so busy.

donald-trump-and-hillary-clinton-with-us-election-state-mapSo what do I think? Well for someone to win the majority of the voting public must have voted for them, even if by a small majority. I know after Brexit there was a lot of talk of the percentage that didn’t vote and that if they had voted then there would be no Brexit. Um! How was one to know what they would have voted for? The same here. I don’t know how many Americans voted yesterday and one can claim that if the rest had voted the result would have been different but would it? I really do hope we don’t get into that because that’s silly.

So in both Brexit and the US elections what do I see people voting for? I see them voting against the “Global Village”. Not so long ago, as the internet took over the world there were a lot of people excitedly claiming that this was making the world smaller, people slide1_1_finding it easier to keep in touch, people knowing what the rest of the world is like, and also migration became easier. But it appears from these two times of voting that the majority of people who voted do not want that. They do not want to be multicultural. And actually when they see what the media is throwing at them why should they? If you live somewhere that has very few people of a different ethic mix to you but you watch the media and all you see is people of cultures and colours you do not know fighting and killing each other do you really want them living by you?

We seem to have got into a way, not just on the news coverage but in general of only showing death and horror. I love a good detective thriller but do have to be careful that this does not colour my view. Watch the TV series Shetland and you can see that this beautiful Scottish Isle is full of drug dealing and murder. Not a safe place to go. The TV show Hinterland, shows that Aberwysth in Wales is full of dour people who hate and kill each other. I could list loads and loads of programs that just drift into our homes now that show the world as a bad place. And then once we get on to the news well…

But actually across the world these wars, not just in the key places we see but across Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, etc etc there are people who are fighting, globalisationand killing, to stop integration of those of a different race, colour, religion, background. And in stopping that integration they are working on a basis of ethnic cleansing or assimilation.

I truly believe that what we have seen in the voting that went on yesterday in US and in June in the UK was a cry from the people to say that they do not want globalisation.

There has just been some major commemorations, which will come to ahead in 2 years time, a hundred years of World War I. In the human psyche a hundred years is not a long time. Yes there have been times of prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation. But a hundred years ago the world was a divide place. People did not move around like they did. I remember less than thirty years ago travelling Europe and being seen as a bit of a hippy for doing it. Someone I worked with had just been on a package holiday to Spain. Thirty years ago were the times of going to Spain and being able to play bingo and drink Watney’s Red barrel beer – warm and flat, and the only wine we drank was Liebfraumilch, spaghetti bologniase was seen as foreign food. Ok so most towns did have a Chinese takeaway or curry house  but that was for drinking after the pub or on special occasions. All this is not very long ago but with the arrival of the internet, cheap plane travel, the EU, borders changing, a lot of people being more tolerant and wanting to help those in war-torn places, so things have changed and have changed fast. I do think these votes are a cry against this change.

tutwiler-kingdom-of-god-july-2016But my hope and prayer is that this vote is accepted, that people are kind about it and that
Christians are willing to pray “Your Kingdom Come” rather than telling God what should be done. I believe God uses all things to good and He will use this. It was no surprise to Him.

Life Moving Fast ….

4221396001_5030726696001_5030697883001-vsWe seem to be in a time of great political change in our country. For the first time ever we have an uncontested leader of our country. Is this right? Who can say. But it is a first, at least since the time of voting democracy. Watching satire programs in fascinating because by the time they are screen, having been recorded 24 hours earlier they are no longer news but old news. Things have moved so fast. All program makers know that there can often be items that are changing, like with an election coming up or a big football match – like the Wales/Portugal semi-final. Oh and as an aside – I thought it was great that the team that beat Wales went on to win Euro2016. Wales was beaten by the best not the second best 🙂 Anyway that is an aside.

Talking of that who would accept a team as champions if they had not had to beat anyone to win? No one! But we now have a leader of this country who is leading because her rival shot herself in the foot, so to speak. I find this hard to know how things will go when speed_of_lightsomeone is uncontested like this. But again it is saying something about the speed things are moving – within 3 weeks the UK is a very different place.

On a personal note things have started to move here. I came back from a lovely relaxing 10 days visiting friends back where we use to live and enjoying 3 days of a writing retreat but since arriving back things have not stopped. I came back to a full calendar of Airbnb, my mum and her husband staying followed by my mother-in-law staying, in a gap I went for coffee with a friend up here and in a chance conversation to someone who runs a local community centre am now in the process of building publicity to start not just one but 4 writing courses at the local centre, and also have my daughter’s graduation and a full summer. Things are moving fast here.

As I was dog walking this morning I wondered if maybe the world, or at least the UK, is moving quicker. I know time is a relative concept but within the scope of how our country is run has changed dramatically. But also within my own life too. It is a dramatic change. Yes I had put it out there – not prayed as such but mentioned in a post on a writing facebook page that one of my adventures I would like to do would be to run creative writing

canolfan-dewi-sant-centre
Canolfan Dewi Sant, Pensarn – the location of my writing courses

classes. I did not expect that to happen. I was thinking I could start putting feelers out come September but not start in September. But now the publicity is out there. I’m getting my public liability insurance and will start really selling it in 10 days time at the community centre’s open day. I am a person who doesn’t mind change which is probably just as well. Even within the thoughts on the change of direction of the UK and the whole political situation I do find it fascinating and something I can roll with. With myself and these writing groups I find it a challenge because there are things I need to do – like posters, go chat to people, get publicity out there, put a reasonable facebook page together. All of which I find challenging. Also there is that concept that sitting in my room on my laptop all day isn’t really work – I think this myself at times but also I know others do too. It is hard to say “I’m writing/thinking all day” so I do get lost in the whole thing of emailing friends, reading stuff, buying things that I know we need but maybe not yet. The whole writing phenomena, whether building up a facebook page, a website, or even writing my target of 1000 words for my novel, do seem to slide. And of course there is still the house cleaning to fit in.

Another fast moving things too is that a young girl – 2 days younger than my daughter – has asked if I will support her with Bible study. She says she needs an older Christian 6e4314dd3eb384859b9d1bdaa2e6a591friend and thinks I’m it 🙂 That’s good news but again it is faster than I thought. She goes to the Bible study group we sometimes go to on a Thursday evening. We are still at the point of trying to work out what church we want to connect with and get involved with but here is a girl who wants me to do the discipling/bible study/mentoring bit already.

We have not been here 6 months yet and yet when we went to the local carnival on Saturday we saw 4 people that we knew to talk to!!! And I am moving into that stage of knowing more. I think for me within in all this I have to trust that God is God and He knew before the beginning of time that things would move and happen as they are. That Theresa May is the undisputed leader of not just the Conservative party but the Prime Minister of the UK is not a surprise to Him. Neither is the fact that I’m going to be running creative writing groups and doing some discipling earlier than I thought.So for me I have to trust in Him and believe and pray and wait and see. And also get on and do the things hqdefaultthat I can do, the things I’m meant to do. Trusting God isn’t an idle time but a time of listening doing what He is leading me into – which at this moment means posting this and getting on with some publicity stuff 🙂

The Day After …

tumblr_static_eli55hk87s8oos8gckg0sgowoWell I cannot believe what I am reading. I know that some of my friends voted to remain and some voted to leave but I cannot believe the vitriolic comments I am reading on various sites from both sides – vitriolic anger from the Remains and vitriolic glee from those who won. What is the matter with people!!! And also the level of sadness, verging on depression, from those who lost.

My thoughts  – we live in a democratic country. 76% of the population voted which brilliant. There was only 4% difference in the outcome which actually I do not think is a big enough difference to make such a monumental change on. David Cameron has resigned. I think that is terrible. We do seem to live in a culture that when people lose, or regarding celebrate-the-international-day-of-democracy-step-9football teams, the team loses, those in charge step down. David Cameron put forward this idea of a referendum on Europe surely a real leader should be willing to help whatever the outcome was. In my opinion, humble as it is, I feel that he should be willing to help and support the change that he ensued.

So the two things I am saddened by are that the man who led us into this referendum is not hanging around to help sort out the mess he has made; and the other that people are so angry that democracy did not go their way.

16227As some on the Northumberland Community facebook page said “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” And for all whether believer in the Lord or not we do all need to work out how we can sing and live in this strange new land rather than rant or sulk about it.

In Or Out – that is the question

eu-you-decide-logoSo tomorrow Britain goes to the polls to decide whether it wants to stay in the European Union or leave. By Friday lunchtime – less than 48 hours away – we will know. I am not going to say what I’m voting but I know that I too have been sway by who is voting for what and how it will affect me personally. If we are honest who isn’t?

A comedian said something along the lines of “why should we be having to vote over this? Surely we vote in our politicians – and yes ok sometimes we don’t get who we voted for – but these are people who dedicate their lives to trying to sort out what is best for our country and we have to trust them with that. This voting is saying we want a say in it but we are not willing or able to commit ourselves full time to what is best for all.”

Ok so I’m not sure if I agree with all he says but I do know that I haven’t given much time

high_1456225442brexit-uk-and-eu-flag
A printing company making money from both sides

to really really looking into what will benefit this country as a whole. I have looked at what works for me, for mine and for those I know about. I do not know what will be the best outcome for banks, for farmers, for those in inner cities, for Brits living in Europe. And yes I do get sway by what my friends say on line or to my face, and to which personalities are on which side. People will decide from what they read in their favourite newspaper and all media has a bias of one way or another. It has been said that the BBC has not been impartial in it’s broadcasting but it is in crisis with budgets being cut and is going to be looking to what form of broadcasting works best and helps them to stay in business as will all other media outlets.

If I was a politician I would be dedicating my time to trying to work out what is best for my country and those in my constituency. I am hoping the politicians that are speaking out have done the same – which then makes it all very confusing as to what is right and not. jo-cox-tributes-10But also, as was seen with Jo Cox, there is a possibility that one can be killed or as many other politicians, stalked and sent hate mail not just to them but to their families. I know that would sway how I spoke out.

To me what all this has made me see is that there is a lot of fear on every side and when there is fear there is fighting. Someone else said to me it is like the country is in civil war mode and I would agree. It has become a subject one cannot discuss politely as both sides are heated and it has divided families.

My hope/prayer for this polling day is that peace will arise whatever the outcome. That Britain will be a country that can welcome the widow, orphan and outcast, and love its buddhaquotes3neighbour and be reconciled with itself. There has been talk of a third world war if …. but I just hope that we can all let peace reign no matter what happens tomorrow.

Listening

Whilst away on a recent Interweave week one theme that kept reoccurring was “listening” and the whole theme of really listening properly. Or maybe it was just the word I caught hold of. It then jumped at me again when a friend told me about “listening prayer”, as in instead of praying for others after a quick intro from the person asking for prayer the people offering prayer spend time really listening to what the person wants. This can take up to an hour before the group will then pray and lots of questions are asked.

So do we listen? I mean really listen – to each other, to God, to ourselves, to what is going on. I have been interested to note during this moving process how often people latch on the the idea that we are moving to run a Bed and Breakfast establishment, when in fact we are talking about a hospitality house – which yes will have paying guests but it will be more than that. But it is like people just half listen and latch on to the words they understand.

Also what struck me was someone who said to me, after we’d listened to someone talking who didn’t ask about us, “but I used up head space planning what I was going to say.” How often when we are listening to others are we in fact planning what we are going to say next? Either about ourselves or sorting out something that hasn’t been said/doesn’t need sorting? Again I noticed talking to a friend who she had picked up certain things I’d said that she could then talk about but missed others – that in fact I would have liked to have talked about.

When we pray do we really  listen to God or do we just want to talk? To give our list of things we want Him to do? Or even just so we can say our piece? Surely prayer should be a time to listen because how can we do the will of God if we aren’t listening to what He has to say to us? Maybe this is why some prayers don’t get answered because actually God never said He we were to ask for that.

How many places do we get taught to listen? Really listen? And how often does it get modelled? As children we are expected to listen to parents, teachers, etc but these people then talk all over the children, so real listening isn’t modelled. When I did an Introduction to Counselling course one of the first things we were taught was to listen to what our clients were saying and then reflect back again. It slowed the whole process down, made both sides think a bit. The client had to think through what they were really saying. It stopped being just words.

Being listened to brings healing. One of the things with the Using Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes was to read back what you had written so that others could hear it. So healing comes through being listened to and that means listening to ourselves as well. So often we rush through our days not listening to ourselves. I am doing a course at the moment with The Gift of Writing and that involves slowing things down and listening to oneself.

Healing comes through speaking, writing, songs, poems, stories – the writing and reading of, the identifying with and journeying with. It is so great to real hear or read a piece of writing, a song, poem, someone speaking that resonates with where you are personally, that says “you are not alone in this”, to connect with someone else’s journey.

But also not being clearly heard brings a sense of alienation. Being told that someone “understands” when the person speaking wants to shout “no you don’t understand” cause that person, or nation, to close into itself to become prideful and alienated, to think that if someone doesn’t understand and is telling them what to do that they don’t really want to help, want to mould them into their own image.

I am not innocent of this. I catch snatches of what is said and decided that I know best in what they want, especially if I am tired or busy. My husband and I had to have a row to clear the air and really hear each other but that was because we were too busy and too much had been going on. As with the counselling where the conversation becomes slowed down so we must in our regular lives slow things down.

And maybe a radical thought – with nations that are warring, even ISIS we need to slow things down, stop jumping to conclusions and listen to what is being said. This is not to condone the atrocities but to try to understand, try to heal. I know this is different but I work with dysfunctional kids and they often get into fights, violent fights, but often it isn’t the person they are fighting with that they are angry with but a parent, a situation, themselves. We don’t have time or space in the day to listen to them so have to make judgements and so the hurt perpetuates, they withdraw and pride steps in.

Let’s slow things down please!

Dialogue

Two words that struck me in a lot of what I saw and heard at Greenbelt were “dialogue” and “boundaries” and the importance of both, not for one side or the other but for both. The this morning I read an article in The Week taken from The Guardian in which Natalie Nougayrede disagrees with Jeremy Corbyn’s “fondness for holding talks with such unsavoury groups as Hamas and Hezbollah” and says that it is a waste of time to talk with these groups “unless you have some sort of leverage” and that “talking means little unless it’s in pursuance of strategic goals …. or for one side to force a deal on the other.” Surely this is not dialogue at all but about coming from a position of power and only really letting someone else speak to make sure that they do as the person in power wants.

Now I do not know why Jeremy Corbyn has been on stage with known terrorists and what his strategy is for it. I have not been able to dialogue with him. Nor would I say that I understand the deeds of Hamas and Hezbollah or agree with their methods, but then I have not had a dialogue with them to ask them why they do what they do. Life is complicated. It is not black and white. If I say that I will only listen to people to force them to do what I want then really I am not listening to what they have to say at all as I have already decided the outcome.

We had an incident in the family recently where I had decided I knew best and so did what I thought was the right thing. A certain member of the family was not happy with it and expressed her feelings very clearly. Ok so that wasn’t right either. Once the emotions had died down we both sat down and dialogued about why we had said what we had said and reacted as we had. There was no winning or losing but a change of direction for both of us. As parent I could have come from my position of power, with my strategic goals and forced my daughter to do what I wanted and even manipulated the situation, but I would never have heard where she was coming from and why she felt so strongly.

In the media we seem to forget the atrocities committed by the West on the Middle East and other countries. Western Europe and America seem to forget the things they did and only look forward and only want to keep working toward the future in the way we think is best. Maybe if there was dialogue there would be a change to see why others think and feel the way they do and why they react as they do; to see that life is not as black and white as we would like it to be. I do not condone terrorism but then I also do not condone many of the things the West has done in the name of Empire or meddling that have gone on which do get forgotten.