Choose Life

Moses repeated the words God told him about the Jewish people’s having a choice life-spirit-feature-imgbetween life and death, blessing and curses. The apostle Paul said Jesus came to take the sting of death away. This poem on Velveteen Rabbi’s blog post this morning, says it all for me about how too often we choose death. For me not only are the gunmen responsible for deaths, the terrorists responsible for deaths but we all are. We are in a world that allows guns – ok so in the UK and Europe we don’t have the same gun laws and the US but we still have guns; young men in inner cities with guns because of fear and need for power, farmers with guns to shoot rabbit, vermin, etc, Policeman carrying guns because there are gun crimes. We live in a landscape that gives rise to fear and hate, for the need to control, for the need to be seen. Too often we choose death not live, we choose to put the other down rather than raise them up. We choose to fear rather than trust, to see the bad rather than the good.

Each time we fear or need power, don’t trust and don’t accept, we are choosing death empower1over life. Yes we need to stop gun crime. Yes we need to stop stabbings. But we also need to stop fear and disempowering others. If we gave people a voice, some place to speak, gave them power without the gun, maybe that would help them choose life over death.

 

Here’s Rachel’s poem

Prayer-after

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.

 

Claimed your own free will – Eve’s “defiance” in Eden claimed human agency for all her successors (Genesis 3:6-7).

Knowing … bloom – An allusion to the Tree of Knowledge and humanity’s “opening” into the knowledge of love and loss.

You must become – God describes God’s self to Moses as אהיה אשר אהיה / Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming” (Exodus 3:14). We who are made in the divine image are also called to perennially become.

Clothed your shimmering light in skins – Because the Hebrew words for “skin” (עור) and “light” (אור) both are pronounced or, Zohar teaches that Eden’s first humans were beings of light, before God made us garments of skins. Even so, our skins cover our light, which we still can see if we look carefully.

Your second son’s blood… returning earth to earth. Humanity’s first murder – Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4) – spilled Abel’s blood (דם / dam) to the earth (אדמה / adamah).

Wander – Cain, after murdering his brother, was condemned to wander the land without peace (Genesis 4:14).

Setting in motion also – From Cain comes not only the first murder but also the rhetorical question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8) – that continues to reverberate through the generations, and also the first “Why?” (Genesis 4:6), which teaches all future generations the possibility of teshuvah / return and repair (Radak Gen. 4:6).

Whirlwind – An allusion to the סערה (storm) from which God answered Job (Job 38:1). The storm’s circular shape resembles both a roulette wheel and a gun’s rotating cylinder that conveys bullets.

Choose life – “Choose life, if you and your progeny would live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Aimlessly – The indiscriminate shooter, the nation’s inertia.

My love, My strength… – Seven emanations of the divine, corresponding to the seven lower sefirot of Kabbalistic tradition: chesed (love), gevurah (strength / boundaries), tiferet (balance), netzach (endurance / momentum), hod (beauty / gratitude), yesod (foundation / generativity), malchut (indwelling).

Roulette wheels stop spinning red – For the gaming tables of Las Vegas and the ultimate gamble: walking the streets safe and unafraid.

14 stanzas – 14 for יד, the yad (hand) of God: we now are the hand that must act.

332 words – 332 for לבש, lavash (clothed) in divine skins that cover our light.

 

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus

(cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi and to R’ David’s website; feel free to reprint, with attribution.)

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What Makes Something A Success?

I was pondering this as I started to write an update for my Barefoot At The Kitchen Table bare-female-feet-under-vintage-table-white-retro-tired-businesswoman-woman-girl-leg-cramps-relaxing-no-high-heels-50400483mailing list. I started with “There have been four fantastic workshops over this past week …” and go on to talk about the new well-being one I’m doing at Llandudno Museum, the restart of the Memoirs one after it’s Easter break and the two that I am now doing at Gwrych Castle. But it got me thinking “what makes something a success?” and Why am I saying these workshops have been fantastic?

Well to me they have been and it’s not me putting in lots of hype to get people to come. I have not had great numbers – 4 each week at Llandudno, 4 at the Memoirs one, 4 at the afternoon Gwrych one and then 2 at the twilight one. Looking like my number might be four 🙂 Perhaps I need one of my friends who are into meanings of numbers to look into that 🙂 For me doing the workshops is not about numbers but about connections, growth, encouraging people. For me I was encouraged at the afternoon one at Gwrych when I had one lady come back from last time – but also do have another lady who will be growthjoining us next week from the previous set of workshops. At the Memoirs one the group are sharing details about their lives to each other and one came in with a brochure for another relating to something they spoke about a fortnight previous. Networks and friendships are being made.

Every time I do a group I learn more about myself, about how I do when people challenge my way of doing things, of working with people, doing group work, and setting out and planning the workshops. I still love learning about myself, witnessing the changes that have gone on, seeing that I am reacting differently. And I learn about other people – some things I read wrong, some right – it is all part of the journey.

I always have to go back to my reason behind why I set out to do writing workshops, and the diversity of the writing workshops, in the first place.  My reason all has been – and has been in a lot of what I do in my life – to see others reach their potential. I’m not doing it in that self-sacrificing, being walked over sort of way, but in a way that I hope I reach my potential too. I love the writing I hear and see. I love being able to see someone grow in confidence as they write. I would love to see some get published, others reach a place of freedom, others understand their self-worth. Reaching potential is not a one size fits all. Which again comes back to “what makes something a success?” For me that would be for each to reach their potential and grow beyond that.

5f45fb1a470e54136e9c26f4c0e70010So many of us have had to find our own roots and wings due to circumstances beyond our control, and often beyond our parent’s control. As I find my roots settling down deeper into the soil of North Wales, and especially this lovely little town, I feel my wings getting stronger. I am learning that to truly fly you do not have to travel the world but can stay in a small area but be truly free. But that is for a different blog 🙂 

Boundaries begin at home

I am feeling that what I am doing with a lot of what I do is restoring boundaries – in people’s lives with the creative writing; with the volunteering at the castle; hopefully

boundaries-quote-no
From  https://greendoorrelaxation.net/2015/06/13/setting-boundaries/

with stuff I am going to be involved in with Abergele. But yesterday I learned too that I need to restore the boundaries in my own life. Boundaries must begin at home. And with this it was literally at home!

As you know we rent two rooms on the top floor of our house via Airbnb, work of mouth and I also have a contact in the local hospital where we have had a series of doctors and nurses come through. Often with the doctors I struggle but yesterday I realised it was me not them. Ok so it is them to a point but I let them be. This is my home and I have a style of how I want to run it and I have not been clear in that. This came to me yesterday when a Pakistani lady doctor came to book the room. She had very definite ideas of what she wanted and was very firm in letting me know. I found myself feeling uncomfortable about this but bending to what she wanted because she was the ‘customer’! Hum where did that come from?

When she had gone I chewed over my feelings about what she had said she wanted and realised that, if she came for the 6 weeks she wanted to stay for, that I would be spending most of that time cross. Well that’s silly! But I realised too that I had been doing this with

boundaries-brene-brown-quote
From  https://greendoorrelaxation.net/2015/06/13/setting-boundaries/

some of our other guests; giving in to what they wanted, not standing up and say ‘not in my house’, allowing them to set the pace. We have a lady staying this week on holiday who was here on holiday last year and as I was going through things for her she said “you’re very laid back about things and very welcoming because of it” which is lovely and how I want my home to be. But with some of people, especially the doctors, I have been more than laid back. I have been a push over. I have let them set the pace and have been cross about it.

Being laid back doesn’t mean I don’t have boundaries. I have very clear boundaries but realised I am often afraid to show them because I want people to like me. It was very hard last night to send a text to this latest doctor to say that I didn’t think it would work out between us for 6 weeks. I was so nervous sending it, but I did. She gave a short reply which was not rude at all. I did a review for a place we stayed that actually I didn’t like and felt it was overpriced but I felt so bad leaving it. What if she doesn’t like me? The point is neither of these women liked or disliked me. They were just people passing through.

As with doing work on restoring the boundaries at the castle where people do not like it because it means places they have always walked are now blocked so it will happen with me that there will be people who don’t like it because I have changed. But as with the castle being restored to it’s former glory so I will be restored to my true self.

But also in being able to set my boundaries clearly without fear so I can encourage gandalfothers to set their boundaries without fear. I will not be doing workshops, volunteering, renting rooms in my house, in a manipulative way to get my own needs met but will be able to do it in a way that encourages, restores and elevates others – even if sometimes that will mean saying “you shall not pass“!

The Wall #MuslimBan

At church yesterday our vicar asked “What side of the wall would Jesus have been on?” You 31447faccd0d731d92860fe22a947c6dknow what I think? I think he would have been on both sides. Yes both sides. Both sides are hurting and in pain – ok the refugees and those with green cards, etc stuck in airports have a noticeable need but the side behind the wall also have a need.

Those who want the wall built, want Muslims ban, are scared. Not just slightly scared but terrified. They have believed the media hype that all Muslims are terrorists and that we need to beware of them. I’m not sure what they America equivalent of the Daily Mail is but these people are Daily Mail readers. Mind you I often think the Guardian readers only see one side too.

I found it interesting too that there has been this big fuss here in the UK about the wall to stop Mexicans coming into the US and Trumps Muslim ban, but not so much has stayed in18666794_303 the news about the fences and walls being built across Europe to stop the refugees entering the UK. Yes this includes those fences that have now been torn down in Calais.

There was a post on Facebook that said “If you’re a Christian and you support #MuslimBan, you might be a lot of things but you’re not a frigging Christian”. I can see the sentiment behind this but I don’t think it’s true. I think there are Christians who are scared of Muslims, scared of dying, and not fully putting their faith in God. For some it comes out noticeably in saying they support #MuslimBan but for others it comes out in different ways; not believing this they do can be forgiven, not forgiving others, not giving to the poor, gossiping, keeping boundaries in their hearts that keep others out, not doing things that God asks of them. I go on. Yes supporting it shows an uncaring side, a side that is misguided but also a heart that is scared of things, lives in fear. You know I think Jesus would be with these people wanting to change their hearts and wanting them to let go of their fear and to trust him and to love others.

Recently I attended a course about the connection between Judaism and Christianity led by some lovely Christian people. It did reach a point where I could not go any more because they were talking of how the Jews reclaimed Palestine/Israel and I said that I felt we also ought to look at the awful things the Jews had done against the Palestinians. Well I was told that it was prophesied in the Bible so this made it ok, that actually these people (the wave of refugees that I had said were like the Jews prior to WWII) only wanted to come over here to kill us all, and that the Jews ways of dealing with the Arabs were ok because “the end justified the means”!!!. These were not bad unloving Christians but they had got caught up in a side of things that said that if one does not honour the Jews one will not be blessed. And they wanted to be blessed. So I am sure they would be very pro the #MuslimBan but also very caring and loving towards homeless people, people with needs, Jewish people. But they live in a mix of fear of Arabs/Muslims and a desire to claim major mountain-298999_1280-crop-fear-quote-1024x398blessings from God.

I didn’t want to do the comparison between now and Nazi Germany but I’m going to. Back in the 1930’s there were some good Christians who went along with what Hitler was saying about the reasons why Germany was failing. They supported him to begin with. And even, to save their own skins, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. Not every person who let things happen in Nazi Germany was a bad person. Many were scared and wanting to look after themselves.

So what side would Jesus be on? Again I believe he would be on both sides, wanting to give the refugees the peace and freedom they deserve, but also wanting those who think they should be banned/walls built peace and freedom in their hearts so they can also have the freedom they deserve. When one is fearful or angry or prejudice there is no freedom to truly live. One is always wanting to look after oneself, keep an eye out for those who might take away the blessing/the job/the destiny. freedom

In the next few days I’m doing to look and blog on words from one of Josh Luke Smith’s songs – “Come as you are not as you should be” – because I think it says an awful lot about how we need to think and pray for the who are being oppressed, for the bigots who are doing the oppression and for ourselves and how we should be reacting; how we should be living in peace and in true freedom

Worth The Drive

So last night was our wedding anniversary and we drove for one hour fifty minutes one way and one hour thirty minutes the other to go to a small coffee shop in Manchester -going via Chester to pick up a friend to share this time with. Why did we do it? To see the img_20170127_205453428most amazing group of young musicians that we know – Orphan No More.

What makes them special and worth a trip like this on our anniversary? We met Josh and Kara, the founders of this gathering of musicians not so  many years ago when this was just starting and we believed in what they were doing so have been supporting them since. So we know them that’s one reason – Relationship. The key to so much.

Why  go via Chester adding half an hour at least each way to our trip? To pick up a friend that I went to university with who moved back to her home in Chester only weeks before we moved up here to North Wales. She came with us when we saw these musicians perform a couple of years ago when we all lived near Bath and I knew she’d enjoyed them as much as we had. Again – Relationship.

Talking of driving a long way for Relationship, my facebook memories tells me that this time two years ago we did a similar long journey to see my daughter in a play when she was at university. Relationship! And that was the reason we went all the way to Iceland for a wedding in September, and actually went to Oregon, USA nearly 10 years ago for another wedding. Relationship! I think there could be a whole blog just listing the miles we have driven or flown for Relationship!

Last night was not just about Relationship bur also about talent. The set was only about an hour and a half long but was so gifted. We saw Sophia do the hardest bit of being the opening act. She has the most amazing voice and sings about her life from her heart. She did really well to pull the crowd in and get people listening. Definitely a lady to watch. She was then followed by Tom Bishop, a spoken word poet and his alter ego Bish, a rap musician, who made us sit up and think as he rapped and spoke about Palestine, refugees and also our love for our homes. Amazing man and made us all think. (Unfortunately can’t find links for him so you can check him out. Will edit when I do) And of course headlining was the main man – Josh Luke Smith and his band. I must say I am always so amazed when I see talented singers like Kara Ann Marie and Rachel Jane will to be backing singers when they are amazing in their own right. As always his song “Carry Me” left me in bits. A song about a young person hurting their mother which hits me on many levels being both a mother and a daughter.

It was an evening that touched my heart in many ways. It was church in a different form. There was preaching as Tom told us to think about migrants, as Sophia got us thinking about relationships, as Josh reminded us who we were are and how we should be. For me I could feel God speaking and moving through it all. Yes we heard the words of God in a way that was fresh, real and deep. We didn’t get told how to behave but got challenged on how to think. There is so much more I want to write and probably will as I start to unpack what I heard and saw last night.

But for me this morning the thing I woke with was the importance of relationships and why I am who I am, why Ian and I are who we are, which actually has been echoed in the likes, comments and reactions to yesterday’s post. Relationships are hard but often worth driving to encourage.

10th Wedding Anniversary

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. Well it’s not just my anniversary. It’s mine and my 1000-images-about-10th-best-10th-wedding-anniversaryhusband’s. Couldn’t have done it without him – both the getting married and the staying married. I feel like we’ve achieved quite a milestone. And you  know what – we still like each other.

I wondered about doing one of those posts that you see on facebook where one partner gushes about how much they love the other one but much as I do love Ian I also like him. I think it is possible to love someone/something but not quite like it, but Ian and I like to hangout together. Oh yes I love time on my own too but that’s because I’m an introvert and need that recovery time. So yes I do love it when he goes off for his long hikes, or goes away hiking or whatevering for a weekend or even a week, but I get all excited when it comes close to the time of him returning. I make sure I’m ready for him and in the middle of doing something else. I like to see him. Ok yes I get sometimes a bit fed up of the every evening hearing about work thing but sometimes that’s good and its is good to be part of his life that I can’t go to. The same with the outdoor stuff. If I go he can’t walk as far or do as much but it is good to hear what he’s done when he gets back.

Ian and I met and were friends before we were dating and we did have a month or so of trying to decide whether we would start dating. During that time a friend asked me what I 3aecf1348580506df98b8dab8523a84awas most afraid of during this process and I said that whatever we decided I did not want to lose Ian’s friendship. And I can say 11 years after we started dating and 10 years to the day that we got married I do still have that friendship. And I am pleased about it.

Oh my we have weathered some storms over this time that have tried and tested us – the whole untimely deaths of too many people, the change from living with teenagers to them having left home and the interesting things that brings up, changes of jobs for us both, for me ceasing home schooling and doing my degree, and now of course the big house move that is now nearly a sailingintothestormyear old! So many changes, many storms and yet we still want to hang out.

Ian is in the top three amazing things in my life. The other two are my two children who have grown into the most amazing crazy adults that I also still like to be with. All three of them can drive me crazy but all three of them I would fight to the death to keep safe. They sit as join equal in my world.

Ian and I don’t have the same friendship that we had 11 years ago but we have a close and

mountain-man
My man 🙂

loving one and I am pleased I said Yes 🙂

Christmas is a good time to think about Words for Well-Being

Christmas is an odd time of the year. It seems to focus so many feelings, and seems to encourage the time to put on those tinted glasses. Not just the rose-coloured ones where montage-1024x812we may view our childhood Christmases or the darkened ones where we may remember things with despair.

For me I think of those people I haven’t received a card from – the sister of my step-father who was always the first card to arrive but she is now dead, the friend of my mum’s who was often the second card to arrive who has had a fall and has been on life support in hospital and at the moment cannot move or speak, the friends who have moved and we’ve lost touch, the family of ex-husbands who no longer keep in touch – and one often wonders if they have died, the always late and badly written card from my sister which of course will  not come now – and never one from her husband who is now remarried or her 25 year old son who is a typical 25 year old boy when it comes to keeping touch. It can bring me down and make me wish I had know when it was going to be those last Christmasses. Would I have done anything different in December 2011 when we’d gathered with my sister’s family? I’m not sure I would have. Would I have phoned my step-father’s sister more often if I’d know when she’d not be with us? Would Christmas 2012 have been any different knowing that by Christmas 2013 by father-in-law would not be with us? To be totally honest I don’t think it would have been.

I had an email from a older friend of mine who says she finds it hard visiting as she sees glass-be-gratefulthe deterioration in many of her friends and wonders if it will be their last Christmases together. So she does make a difference; she makes sure she turns out over the Christmas holidays to see them, puts it in her diary to visit more often, and most importantly is grateful that she is still fit and well and able to get about and prays that it will continue.

So how will writing help? Well instead of bottling up those feelings write. Write to those people who aren’t with you any more – whether dead or alive. Tell them what you think of them and how you are feeling with them not being around. Tell them how much you’ve done in the last year. Read it out to them as thought they are sitting with you. Who knows they might even be listening? Write down all the good things you remember and don’t worry if the rose-tinted glasses are on. Enjoy the good memories. Again read it out loud. Say thank you to whatever you believe maybe listen – God, the dog, the chair, Mother Earth, etc. Write down a list of things you are grateful for this year – even if it is that you can write things down. When you think of the impossible write it down too and again speak it out. There’s nothing journal-writing-2-300x225wrong in hoping for what might not happen but don’t let it make you overwhelmed by what will not be. Write what your perfect Christmas would be then even look at what things you can do to make that happen. Remember that you cannot make everyone cheerful but you can make sure you don’t let their grumps get you down. And if they do take yourself off and write about it.

Make this Christmas a time when you compose some cool poems that talk of the joy and sadness of your Christmas – past, present and future. Use that notebook that some well-meaning person got you years ago that you’ve never thrown away and just write and see how that will change things for you. 3ab6538e0c445f0b29935d3a718972c3

As we were reminded in our Advent reading this morning Jesus didn’t come down to change things but to walk with us in them.