Really?

I started a blog post with this quote below, wrote for nearly half an hour then some how it all vanished. The fascinating bit was that it was all about asking God to give us tasks too hard for us to cope with so that we come back to Him! Hummm!! But now I will fill my post full of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes 🙂

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals. Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us and our hearts to the loveliness men hide from us because we do not try to understand them. Save us from ourselves and show us a vision of a world made new.”

So I will still post the quote and try to remember some of what I wrote. I don’t know about other bloggers but once I’ve written it is like its gone from my brain!

It was to do with being challenged about our move to Wales and being asked if either I was running away from the pain of the last 3+ years and then also I was “truly healed” to  be able to go,  and me feeling like I would never be truly healed but that that was ok. That I want to be up for leaning on God not on being totally healed.

We are not going to open this house to others so that they come and give us what we want to get healed. We want to open our home to others so that through our experiences and our scars we can show others that life isn’t hopeless. It’s not even to heal but to encourage, to give hope, vision and purpose. It’s about learning to live with the scars of life not to feel sorry for ourselves but to show we can keep going, can still not just dream dreams but make them happen, to show that there is life beyond.

To quote Richard Rohr:

The huge surprise of the Christian revelation is that the place of the wound is the place of the greatest gift. Our code phrase for this whole process is “cross and resurrection,” revealing that our very wounds can become sacred wounds, if we let them.

And this is the thing, we want to let our scars become sacred wounds that God can use to bring something to the rest of the world. Ok so maybe not the rest of the world but those people He will bring across our path. And not for us to heal them because the task is to big for us, and we have learned that, but for Him to do as He wills with each one of them.

So we take our scars, our far off goals, our restlessness and we let God have it all as we continue on this journey – not just to Wales but to all that He has for us. We are not healed, a long way from it, but we moved into a deeper relationship with God not based on what we do or what He does but on who we are and who He is.

Advertisements

Greenbelt Reflections 2015 – A Bright and Soggy Field

It’s always hard to do a reflection of Greenbelt. It is so eclectic and focuses more, for me, around my time volunteering in The Tank and catching up with friends. This year it has also been followed by my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday picnic and meeting my son’s new girlfriend; both of which came hot on the heels of a busy weekend so my thoughts become befuddled.

Highlights:

catching up with a long term friend, Kate,

yearly coffee with blogging friend, Paul,

listening to bands in my tent because my feet will no longer hold my weight – Polyphonic Spree, Unthanks, and others who’s names didn’t know

happy hours working in The Tank, both allocated hours and extra ones, and catching up with other Tank regulars

living in a Tangerine Fields tent for 3 nights and not having to worry about putting it up or taking it down

volunteer’s food vouchers and finding the best deals

Dr Chris Meredith of Winchester University making me/us think and question what we think we truly know about the Bible

hearing the truth about the atrocities that those fleeing war zones have to face when they arrive on British shores

portaloos with hand sanitizer and toilet paper

being without mobile signal and internet and the freedom and frustration that brings

challenges to my way of thinking that I want to hold on to and blog some more about

This is what I love about Greenbelt. It is a mishmash of deep and trivial, challenges and settling of things. A place to share 21068331525_c1a82dfd4e_mdreams and to hear of others dreams, to laugh with strangers and to have fun. This year my daughter didn’t come with me so that gave things a different perspective; like the fact that I had to decide for myself where I went and who I saw. This is my sixth Greenbelt, fifth volunteering, and second without my daughter. I do hope there are many more to come, with or without her. As things settle and I find time to breath, and to sleep – I am still really tired because of not quite having time to stop as yet – there will be more to write, more to think about. In fact in my unpacking I have found my Sunday morning service sheet with thoughts scribbled across it which may become blogs. Who knows?

Not Quite Empty Nest …

… Or is university good for parents?

I’ve got two children. My eldest went off working on outdoor activity camps and travelling about 4-5 years ago. We get confused as to when it happened because he just sort of applied and went. Apart from occasional coming back for a month or two, or to get some stuff out of storage, or very occasionally to borrow money, we really only see him when he comes for a holiday with us, a week at the most. He has left home. My youngest has gone to university which means she went with lots of preparation, a bit of a fanfare, a set date for going, a car full of stuff, keeps running out of money as her course is quite demanding and she struggles to find work that fits around it, and then she comes home for 4 months over the summer. She has not left home yet. But she is in her early twenties, two years older than when her brother left home.

So what I get though is that come mid Sept she flies off and we don’t really see her till Christmas. We get use to empty house, struggle a bit to begin with but use to it and like it after a while. Then she comes back for 2 weeks at Christmas. This is because her friends do the same. So all the time there is this ebb and flow of her not being part of our lives and then her being very much part of our lives. She’s also the child who likes to be downstairs not shut in her room. I think that’s why we never noticed her brother go, because he had been ensconced in his room for months beforehand only appearing to be fed.

But what this does, this ebb and flow, this empty nest but not quite, is that we, her and I, can forget that she is a young adult and can behave/get treated like a child.

We had an incident recently where I treated her like a child and actually she behaved like one. We were both out of order but it came about because we aren’t sure where the boundaries lie. I’m sure all us who’ve left home know that when we get back to our parent’s we behave like children again. I often laugh at my husband and the child-like voice he puts on when he’s on the phone to his mum. I’m sure I do similar. But most of us have our own homes. In fact the only time my son and I really fell out recently was when he was in between homes and not sure what he was going to do with his life. Thankfully it didn’t last long, but both of us reverted to teenage years; him as stroppy teenager, me as bossy parent.

So how do we deal with this? And it could be worse. I know of friend’s children who have come home after university to re-nest. Even though the parents complain I can see the old patterns emerging, and know that when those children finally fly the nest that the pangs of empty nest will not be any easier, even when there is that sigh of relief too.

So is this constant ebb and flow and lack of money good for anyone? Yes we may have a lot more people with more qualifications but at what cost? At the cost of maturity? At the cost of emotional strength? To think of Nelson commanding men at 15, William Pitt in parliament at a similar age, and other great leaders of over a hundred years ago, who were able to leave home and cleave to their destiny. I’m not saying my son is more sorted on his destiny than my daughter but I am saying that her coming and going, flying but not quite, causes emotional stress for both of us.

Homosexual Issues

Couldn’t find one with two women

I have been noticing something regarding issues that people have where it goes to court regarding homosexual issues; it is more often than not involving two men. At times there are issues with two lesbian women but that is often to do with the patriarchy of the child that one of them gave birth to. I wonder if as a society there are more issues with two men having a relationship together than two women. There are many pornographic films which involve two women having sex together targeted at a heterosexual audience, but if there are ones with two men then they are not targeted at a heterosexual audience.

A woman is waiting for a man to lead her

Queen Victoria was asked to sign a bill making homosexuality illegal she was more than happy to do this for male/male relationships but not for female/female relationships and has been cited as informing her minsters that they were being silly to even suggest that a woman would not want a man in her life. I wonder if society, deep down, still feels that way – seeing male/male relationships as wrong and unnatural but seeing female/female relationships as just a phase that they will grow out of. Homosexual men need to be sorted out, dealt with, kept away from society, but women are to be loved till they “get over it.” Mind you I know a lot of Christian thought that sees homosexuality as “unnatural” and have places where men can go to be “healed” of their unnatural tendencies. – NB I do not think like that and I cannot believe God thinks that way either.

Not so long ago in certain part sof US it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry

I am not saying that to even things up we need to see as many headlines about female/female relationships that rock the status quo but I do wonder if society is still in the place of thinking male/male relationships are abhorrent and female/female ones are just a phase. Mind you I do wonder if even in our so-called liberal society we still have ideas of what is normal and what isn’t – even down to the age difference between couples, the age they should marry, what is too much, too little, who should be older/younger, what sex they should be, how many partners they should have, etc. It is crazy.

Our society is lying to itself that it is liberal. Only when it can look at all loving relationships equally, I think, can we truly say we are liberal, but also only then can we say we truly know and love God. See I don’t think God is bothered what one’s sexual orientation is but is concerned about how loving and kind and supportive we are to each other – whether we agree with their way of life or not!

More than just OK

All day every day we run around exhausted trying to work out what’s good, what’s bad, what we like, what we don’t like, instead of just experiencing this world. I’ve been doing a Mindfulness course and I must admit till then I thought that Mindfulness was just about stopping to look at things, even then to put them in the good/bad, like/don’t like category, but I don’t think that’s the case. It is about judging. I talked about this in my post on Keeping Sunday Special in regard to how we judge people’s faithfulness but I think I’m taking it further.

Over the past few days I’ve been walking the dog and trying to look and listen to nature without judging, without deciding whether I like it or not, and then have been trying to take that on into my life. At the moment my daughter is home from university, which means for a lot of the time she’s in the living room – in my space – which actually I then find it hard to write, to even think creatively. So I can decide if I want to decide if I like her being there or not or just accept that’s where she is. To a point I do like the fact that, when she isn’t working or out with friends, that she likes to be in with me. Though in honesty it is because the internet connection is better on the couch. I also don’t like her being there because I find the continuous computer gaming annoying to listen to. Now I can either get upset and put it in

make sure you put things in the “right” box

“don’t like” box or even try to work myself up to liking it and so putting it in the “like” box, which it can fall out of, or I can decide that this is the way life is and if I’m not able to be creative for 3 months then that’s what it is. See actually I almost wrote “it won’t be the end of the world” as though that made things ok, and it needed to be in the “ok” box”. That’s the other place we use if we actually don’t like something but aren’t sure what to do with it we say its “ok” which like “nice” or “interesting” has a myriad of meanings. Often “OK” can mean that actually we don’t like it but we want others to think we are good people so we tell everyone that it’s ok. So with my daughter I have to say “that’s how it is” and then work my life around it. I can also tell her how I would like to have some space. Or as happened yesterday I said, calmly, that I would like her to help more in the kitchen and we made supper together. It was helpful. Yes it did go in the “like” box but actually things to. We will always have things we like and don’t like, and that’s ok but we still need to accept that those are our tastes and not right or wrong.

So I like some help in the kitchen and I do have my own way of doing things. This isn’t right or wrong but how I like things. I like the house to myself and everything quiet, but that’s me. it isn’t right or wrong, good or bad, but just me. And when it comes to being out in nature there isn’t a right and wrong, good or bad. There are just flowers, grasses, birds, trees, cars, people, colours and sounds. All just being there.

Now that I am accepting not just what I see in the countryside as “more than just ok” then I am bringing it into my home life, my friendship life, my working life, my creative life, my Christian life. In fact I would say this article says how we should live life more than anything I could write. Integration of the Negative. Jesus didn’t put things in good or bad, right or wrong, but he did suggest ways that made life work more fully for all. And this is where I like this practise, if I’ve got the Mindfulness thing right, is that even though it benefits us we are doing it for others. If I am accepting of everything then I am a calmer, less critical person to live with, probably less anxious too. Though even if I’m anxious or depressed I can just accept that that’s the way I am and it’s ok. Not to judge me either!

Oh I seem to be back to the “love your neighbour as yourself” 🙂 which was a reoccuring theme in my other Diane’s Daily Thoughts.

What is Rest?

What does rest look like? God talks of rest and in Isaiah 30:15 says  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it,” which makes one wonder why church is so busy all the time.

I’ve just been away for 4 days with Interweave, UK Reconciliation group, and there the theme God wanted to pull out was rest and hoI w it was only in rest that we could be able to know what God had planned for us. Rest is counter-cultural. Life is about being busy and doing things and getting on in life. Work is seen as something that you work more hours than contracted for and then have busy recreational life. We’re now at a time when more books than ever are published and there are more TV programmes to watch than ever but we are expected to be doing all the time.

I have been brought to an enforced time of rest but it is hard to stay here, and hard to tell people what I do, or don’t do. I talk of looking for work, when in fact I think God has been saying very clearly not to look for work. Resting is scary because it gives time for me to think, think about the last few years and how I feel about what has gone on. The first month of my resting time has been filled with grief, of what should have been. Interestingly that was something that kept coming out as people told their stories over the last few days. God seemed to have decided that instead of us doing something reconciliation stuff in UK He wanted us just to build relationship and become vulnerable with each other. So we told our stories. So much came out that things had not “turned out as they should have” and a lot of talk of “what should have been.” It was all done in a positive stance of it not being fair and not how it should be. It was like everyone was affirming each other that at times its ok to stamp one’s feet and say “its not fair” and you know what – God can cope with that. So much of what we are led to believe in church and in our culture is that one should just pick oneself up and keep going. Though we also pay more than ever for counsellors, therapists, therapeutic treatments, as well as recreational drugs. Maybe if we slowed things down and rested then we could save some money? Maybe if we were allowed to say “its not fair” “it shouldn’t have turned out that way” and then really grieve then maybe we could save some money. So these past few days myself and others were able to say that things didn’t work out as they should have and that we were grieving that and that was ok. From that place of honesty we could rest.

But it is also from that place of rest and honesty that one can re-evaluate one’s life. Things haven’t worked out as they should have so what was planned will not now happen and that’s ok. Interestingly whilst I was away my son, who’d just joined the army, found out that a couple of old rugby injuries meant that he is going to be medically discharged. This was not his plan. I haven’t spoken to him but I am sure he is saying “its not as it should have been.” He’s made some big life changes before he went in in preparation. He will be grieving. He will also have to be rethinking what he does. He needs to rest and re-evaluate where he is going and what he is going to do. And that’s ok. And it’s also ok for him to be angry that it didn’t work out. Same as its ok for me to be angry that people I loved committed suicide, died too soon, things I’d hoped for didn’t happen, for my friends to be angry at deaths that shouldn’t have happened, partners that shouldn’t have left, jobs that should have happened. I think rest is to acknowledge that, to be honest about life and relax into it.

There were some in our group who know how to find that rest even when their diaries are full. They have learned to dip into that rest and listen to what they should be doing, know where to put the “its not fair” stuff. But that didn’t mean they told others of us to just get over it. They affirmed in us that we needed to say and feel the way we did.

So what is rest? For me at the moment it is time walking my dog, hearing a friend’s life story and writing that and other things on the couch with dog and cat wrapped around me, studying for my Masters and catching up with friends. I am also starting 4 hours tutoring a week and we are renting our spare room out on Airbnb. This will bring in enough money to keep us going so we don’t have to worry about that. For my husband it is working 4 days a week, attending church meetings and going walking and climbing at times, but also finding time to drink wine or coffee, depending on time of day, with me and friends. We’re learning that it’s ok not to do. But I think one of the key things REST means is being open and honest about how one is feeling, being connected to one’s feelings and also connected to God.

How do we “do life”?

I’m a practical person and I get fed up when I hear a sermon or talk and there is no practical application, but then I realised I’d sent out a piece that talked of “doing life” and having the right attitude but didn’t really say how to. And ok one can say that actually we all need to work out our own path to finding a right attitude, but all these self-help books wouldn’t sell so well if it was just about us working it out in our own heads. So here’s my attempt at “how to do life?”

Life in all its fullness – John 10

As a Christian I do go back to the Bible and to what Jesus says about things. I believe as well as being the Son of God – wholly God and wholly human – Jesus was also a great teacher so I think it’s good to hear what he has to say on things. Jesus said “with me you can have life and life to its fullness.” This was doing life and life in all its completeness. I don’t think Jesus was saying there wouldn’t be any hassles, any deaths, cancers, loses to grieve over, hard times to walk thougth but I do think he that what he is saying is that we can have life in its fullness even in those hard time. But how do we tap into this?

Well Brian McLaren  in “We make the path by walking” says we need to look at the story behind the miracles Jesus did. In the story of where Jesus turns water

Paolo Veronese’s interpretation of The Wedding at Cana – hung in the Louvre, Paris

into wine (John 2) we get so caught up in the details of this story that we can miss what could be the underlying message. Jesus uses the jars that were for ceremonial washing and messes things up. McLaren says that Jesus is showing that it doesn’t matter if this are clean or unclean but that it is all about super-abundance and super-celebration. Here was too much wine for one small Galilean village to drink in a week let alone in a day! And also they could no longer ceremonially wash their crockery or hands. The need to be religious had gone and it was time to enjoy life. This didn’t mean they stopped farming, doing business deals (and a wedding was a place where many business deals were carried out), caring for children, elderly parents, those who were sick. The things of life would go on but the religiosity was gone. Again McLaren talks of a healing Jesus did on the Sabbath. And the sermon is always based on the fact that Jesus did his healing on the Sabbath. My daughter has always struggled with this saying that Jesus was being deliberately obtuse and surely that’s wrong. But actually what Jesus again was doing was saying let go of your anxiety and fear of getting it right, stop being paranoid and look at me.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones with the real Jane and Stephen Hawking

We watched “The Theory of Everything” and in that saw a man who could have so easily been pitied and achieved nothing, and I am sure people with lesser disabilities do give up but not just Stephen Hawking, but his wife Jane and many of their friends “did life”. In fact there are so many quotes for Hawking that I don’t know where to being. The film finishes with him saying “where there is life there is hope” and there is:

Look up at the stars and down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

Hawking doesn’t have much choice where he looks because of not being able to control his muscles but he does have a choice of how he views life. Often we can choose where we look but choose to look at our feet. As Oscar Wilde said:

We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars

To “do life” means we choose where we look and how we view the world. We can choose to look at the stars and be curious or we can choose to  look at our feet and our circumstances. We can choose whether we accept what we are told or be curious at what is going on. Hawking and especially his wife Jane, refused to accept what they were told and look at the difference he made to the world. My friend who started me on this quest regarding “doing life” refused to let cancer beat him. I have other friends who refuse to accept what the world says about how their story should be played out and are “doing life” in the craziest of ways.

I’m not sure how practical this has been but to be it is about having faith, being curious, getting rid of fear and paranoia and looking at the stars, at the what could be if only …  And then, I believe, not just going for it but helping, supporting, encouraging and loving each other to get there too.