Encouragement

 

DSC_0441
My son putting up our Christmas tree. I was sat taking photos and encouraging ūüôā

I’ve been looking at encouragement a lot. I am a natural encourager so I do see places to encourage, places where people have encouraged others and also where it does not happen.

For the last two years, which means it has now become a tradition, the little drama group I coordinate¬† in at our church do a skit on something related to Christmas. The first year we did 4 disgruntled people at Christmas and how they had lost the meaning of the season – a frustrated housewife, a mad granny who was knitting Christmas, a selfish teenager and an overworked vicar. Last year we did a mother and daughter who had fallen out over something trivial and weren’t speaking and needed Jesus’s reconciliation. This year we are looking at Mary and how the angel and, her cousin. Elizabeth supported and encouraged her.

It has been an interesting development with the little group. I feel we have all gone, as people, from being slightly disgruntled with church and life in general,¬† to being reconciled with life, church, ourselves, etc. The way, I think,¬† it has happened is by encouraging each other. This group would not happen if our vicar didn’t expect something from us – which actually is encouraging in and of itself – but that we also all buoyed each other up and encouraged each other. Each of us has a different role and we all give the others the freedom to be who they are.

As I reflect on encouragement myself I think of how my life is changing for next year with my writing life become more central. There are a few people who have encouraged that but the big one has been when, on the Cinnamon writing retreat Jan, who runs Cinnamon Press, said she wanted to mentor me and my writing. To be mentored properly I cannot just have my writing as something I dip in and out of when I want to – or rather not when I want to but when I let all the other things that crowd my life butt out. I have to take it seriously and have to give it the time. Cinnamon then ran a competition for

DSC_0436
Books in my study for reading and researching as I start on my writing project

bursaries which I bravely entered. I came equal second!! Another amazing encouragement. So because of this I am giving up a lot of things and concentrating on what I have always dreamed of doing since I was about 12 years old. It has taken me 45 years to get to this point but I am now here.

Even with that I could put myself down and think of all the wasted time but I will encourage me and say now is the time to seize the day. Carpe diem.

Going back to Mary in the Bible. We often talk of how amazing she was – and yes she was – but she was able to be amazing by the encouragement and support she got not just from God via the angel but from her cousin, Elizabeth. So I will finish this post as I will finish the skit we are going later on by saying: (and go with this even if you don’t believe in God. Substitute “God” for whatever works for you)

Mary and Elizabeth were so excited about being able to support and encourage each other so should we be that excited about supporting and encouraging each other.

We will often find ourselves in situations we can’t cope with on our own and need to remember God’s promises but also need others to remind us who God is and what He says.

So this Christmas time let’s stand together and support each other and then be amazed at what we can do

Advertisements

The Gorse Bush Analogy

Gorse bushes are a bit like life. They can stick with you long after the event!

We were out walking on Conwy Mountain and I slipped. For some reason I chose to grab gorse busha gorse bush to steady myself. Not the best idea. I squealed. My hand went all numb and tingly like it had been poisoned. I poured some water over it and all seemed fine. A week later part of my hand started to throb. My husband graciously used his first aid skills and found bits of gorse bush spikes in my hand! For a week these little spikes kept making their way to the surface of my hand and often had to be dug out. Even now, nearly a month later, my hand is still sore in places and rough where the spikes were gentle encouraged out. But it made me think about how like life this is.

Often things happen to us – we trip, something hurts us, we move on and think we’re fine. Then something else happens and we feel a hurt, a pain, that is not quite related to what is going on. This is because the previous hurt has got deep inside of us and, even though we cannot see it, it is still inside of us.

I wrote on Medium – another blog type site I have started using – something along those line. Read it on Path of Least Resistance and if you like what you have read hold the little path-of-least-resistanceclap hands down for up to 50 clicks. But as you read you’ll see if is from something that is embedded in my childhood that is having an affect on me many years in the future.

Yesterday I saw a dead seagull in the road as I was walking the dog and I sobbed. It was a young seagull and it was flat. We have loads of seagulls here and they nest in the chimney pots and the parents will swoop on passersby! I didn’t cry for the seagull though but for those I have loved and lost, for others who are going through grief at the moment and also because that uncared for death struck something deep inside of me that maybe I can’t even quite explain. It was a gorse thorn that was embedded in me that wanted to get out. I didn’t have time to write or journal about it because I was rushing off out. But later that day I was at a gathering of well-being providers and we were “selling our wares” and so I shared it when explaining about writing for well-being and how I run a course.

Even that passing dead bird had become embedded. Often when I explore in blogs I think of sad things but I think that is because they are the things that get embedded into us that we do not see. I will bring out the lovely times of my life regularly to share with my friends and family but the sad, unhappy, confusing times I hide away keeping them hidden from view. I wonder if that is just a British thing or do all societies do that? Is it just a human thing?

handsSomeone once said you need 10 encouraging comments to balance out one bad one. And also that it is easier to pull someone down and off a chair than it is to pull someone up on to it. Maybe that is why the negative, painful things get lost in our skin and then worm their way to the surface? But actually, on a positive finish, if we keep to the gorse thorn analogy, then eventually they will work their way to the surface where some kind and gracious person can pull them out for us. [Note I could not pull it out myself because the hand I had used to save myself was the hand I use to do things with]

 

The Moorside

I watched the BBC drama The Moorside on iplayer, based on the disappearance and refinding of Shannon Matthews, a 9 year old girl who’s mother reported her missing and 94221540_moorside-metrothen 24 days later she was found staying at the home of her mother’s partner’s uncle. All the way through, because of knowing the story, it ¬†appears obvious that the mother knows something more than she is saying, but most of the estate rally behind one of the women who organises searches, poster and t-shirt campaigns, marches and all sorts to keep the media focused on this little girl from the poor estate.

Thing turn horrid when it comes to light that the mother knew where her daughter was. It is interesting that the mother’s partner has been arrested for viewing child porn and there is the implication that he has been abusing the children, yet the estate turns on the mother calling her a “lying bitch” for the worry and upset she put them threw when, for whatever reason, she did not tell the truth that she knew where her daughter was.

The mother was a weak, sad, slightly mentally backward person, who had been abused all her life, rejected by her parents, and gone from different man to different man who used and her abused her. Maybe she did take her daughter to a safe place because she knew her 2016-01-26-1453834070-2415422-mentalhealth1present partner was abusing her but was not strong enough to say. Who knows. In one scene during two of the close friends of the mother are sat in the park and both say that they were abused but it is said in a matter of fact way; one saying you had to get over it and move on, the other saying she did report her father but only because he was remarrying and she wanted to project the children of his future wife. But it was just a very normal thing. It left me wondering how many people on that estate had been abused or where abusers and so reacted as they did.

There was a lot of showing mob rule and of it being all or nothing. But it was not just the people on the estate who were like that. When the mother was prosecuted the lawyer who gave the statement to the press said she was “pure evil.” No she wasn’t. She was a sad, weak, simple woman who had made a mistake and was taken advantage of and never told the truth. She never did tell the whole truth. And as psychiatrists are realising now there are people with borderline personality disorders who find truth a very strange concept.

12afa4a6d1d378e24725c1fb0fffe132Yes she did have mental health problems but she was not evil. What it left me feeling was how we are into this all or nothing. Trump is all evil or all mad or all something. Everything is in or out, good or bad. It is all or nothing mob rule and I believe The Moorside was showing just that through the tale of a young misused woman and an estate full of people who were lost and no longer knew their way.

2015 in review

A big Thank you to all who read my blog. Much as I do it to just write it is so encouraging to know what I write is read and commented on. Thank you and see you in 2016 Xx

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

View Point

I know I’ve written about how we can view the world before but today it struck me again just how we view our world via how we want to see it. Take tonight, I have had a really crazy day at work, had to walk the dog first thing this morning in the dark and then when I got home in the dark again. I’ve got a choice! I can lumber round the field grumbling or I can enjoy it. Both times, even tonight with aching feet and legs, I decided to enjoy it. My ¬†little dog enjoys it. He is just pleased to be running around outside with me. He chases leaves in the dark, finds his dog friends in the dark, and is generally happy. Also I could decide to be scared of every little movement, be scared of the dark, but I know my field. I know where it is safe to walk without falling over things, where it is flat, what to avoid. I enjoyed watching the car headlights flickering across the hedges, the lights in the sky, this morning the sun trying to get up. It was good. And it makes me day good.

I suppose what set this one off was that on the weekend my mother-in-law said that this year would be the first year ever she had had to decide what to cook for Christmas dinner. She was 70 in September. It use to be her husband who did it but he had now been dead 2 Christmases, and then his brother would choose for her and he died in January this year. There is a choice here – to say ok that’s how it is, to say how awful that this year she has to choose, or to say how great it is that for 70 years she’s never had to choose. I found myself wanting to get angry because for 36 years I’ve either had to choose what I ate for Christmas dinner or where I went. I could feel a resentfulness rising. But then I realised that I have a choice too. I could be resentful. That’s my choice. Or I could say that’s just how it is, or I could be grateful that I have had so much opportunity to choose.

None of these things are right ways or wrong ways of thinking. And again that’s a choice. We could very easily say that this was the right way to think and this was wrong but why? But even that is a choice.

So even though my legs ache and I am so tired that for the last half hour I’ve been playing games on my laptop rather than writing I can decide that today has been a good day. Why? Just because it is ¬†and that is my worldview today.

Interpretation

Will either of them say????

How often have we all been heard to say “but you said …” and the response to be “No I said …”? Each of us when we speak speak through our own interpretation of what we mean and each of us listens through our own interpretation of what we mean. Very rarely to we slow things down enough to say “I heard … Did you mean that? If not could you explain what you meant,” which is very rarely responded to by the other person saying “Actually that wasn’t what I meant. I meant … Please could you now tell me what you’ve heard,” all said in low calm voices. In most marriage courses and counselling course one is told to speak like that; to say what one thinks one had heard and then for each person to keep going back and forth till each person fully understands the other. Why does this not happen? I think because we are all in too much of a hurry to get our point over and to hear our own voices.

But also it can be interesting too. Recently someone posted a blog post in which they talked of a conversation we had had together and how much it had helped, or at least that’s how I read it, him to move on with some major changes. Now I had told this conversation to my husband only a day or so after it had happened. He also read the blog post. His comment was “this doesn’t sound like the same conversation.” Who is right? Who is wrong? Neither of us. Both of us heard our conversation with our own interpretations and also remembered the bits we liked the best.

My husband and I are in the process of a major life change ourselves and a friend of ours prayed about it and got a “word from God”. (Something with many interpretations there!) It meant a lot to us because we had had similar images in a “picture/word” we’d had when we first got married. Anyway what he shared he also interpreted. My husband and I both nodded and said “thank you” and left it at that. Later when we went to bed both of us said that we thought the picture meant something different to what our friend had interpreted. He was interpreting through his mind’s lens, we were interpreting though our mind’s lens. Why didn’t we tell him? Actually there I’m not sure. For me it can be just that I need a bit of time to chew it over.

In fact with this life change others have felt they could speak into our situation, and very often have totally misinterpreted what we are on about. Why? Probably for the same reason we all do; they hear a word that they can picture and so stay with that word and don’t hear any more. They then tell us what they think about that word they have captured and that makes sense to them. We then hear only bits of what they are saying too, so we interpret in our own way. Neither of us is right or wrong but actually we are both too busy to slow the conversation down and say “do you really mean …?” or to say “What I heard you say was …? Is that right?” I think we often don’t want to be thought of as wrong or not caring so we either don’t say someone has missed the point we wanted to make or we don’t want to say we don’t fully understand what they are saying. My husband says often him and I argue on something we are agreeing on and when we slow the conversation down we are saying the same thing.

All this can be fine until it escalates. People then fall out, fight, take sides, kill each other. Things like the Bible and other religious books really are only interpretations and yet I cannot think of one of the major world religions where there aren’t factions that disagree with each other. What is it they disagree on? Interpretation!!

whether you believe in God or not, this is a great way to live

I have often wondered why God didn’t come up with some clearer easier way to help people understand, but then I think¬†that God didn’t because then it would put the whole deity and big answers to the world into easy to manage boxes, and though that would stop people fighting and killing each other, it would also stop them from exploring and finding. So whether you believe in a God/Higher Deity/Nothing that is down to your own, and my own interpretation, of what we observe around us and how we take on board what we take on board. So for me this means that I am kinder to those who misinterpret me and so I will try to slow down what I say and ask more questions when communicating with others, but also know that there will also be times when we make mistakes and misinterpret. Then FORGIVE. I think that is the only way until we, and I include me in this, can be bold enough to slow things down a lot ūüôā

Keeping Sunday Special

What does this mean – “Keeping Sunday Special”? And what does “you must go to church” mean? And how does all this fit in with a “relationship with God”? “Following Jesus”? And “Sabbath rest”? As one who feels very much that God is saying “Rest and wait” and this whole thing of “Cormorant’s Rest” – just being and waiting for me wings to dry, though when my wings do dry I wonder if God will have me in church or elsewhere?

I was talking with someone the other day who was concerned that I had not “been to church” for a long time. I also hadn’t been to their midweek meeting for a while. There was nowhere in the conversation where she asked how my relationship with God

I am not questioning their faith in God at all but I do wonder if the Obama’s go to church to silence rumours of them being Muslims?

was, or even how I was emotionally or spiritually. I did tell her some but it was hard because her plan was to steer it back to Sunday morning. I wonder if, and I know I’m probably echoing many other blogs, ¬†…. I wonder if we judge people’s relationship with God, who we cannot see, by their relationship with a local church? We can see whether someone goes to Sunday morning stuff, is involved on rotas, talks to people, attends weekday meetings, conferences, etc, depending on the denomination raises/doesn’t raise their hands in worship. All this is able to be observed and recorded. Yes is someone isn’t doing the recognised meeting they how can anyone judge where they are.

As the Mindfulness teacher was telling us last week – we are very quick to judge things rather than just experience them. Mindfulness appears to work very much on the principle of experiencing things rather than working out even whether one likes it or not. So often we can look at people who go to church and say “they’re good Christians” and those who use to go and have stopped going as “backslidden” , whatever that word really means! The more I ponder my journey through life and with God the more I have to say it has become about experiencing rather than judging whether I like it or not. I have reached a place where I love God, I trust God as my father who loves me unconditionally, I am trying to follow how I interpret Jesus behaved and yet I really don’t like a lot of what God does. I am moving to a place, like Mindfulness, where I am experiencing what is going on around me, what my senses are telling me, but without judgement. I still get hurt, by people and by God, but I learn to accept that all that is part of the experience.

Going back to “Keeping Sunday Special” and how that is working for me I’m going to use some quotes of friends.

There are some people who don’t get “church”. ¬† They see it only in local visible terms – i.e. you have to “go to church” – as if it’s a place. Scripture to some extent supports this – don’t neglect the gathering of yourselves together (Hebrews 10.25). ¬† But church “happens” for most of us in multiple locations and with different groups of people. ¬† I’m “churching it” every day in different ways.
When people ask me “which church do you go to?” – I say “it depends where I am and who I am with”. ¬† When they say “which denomination do you belong to” – I say “all of them” ¬† A better question might be “How often do you gather with others to pray, worship and fellowship” – and the answer hopefully to that is “daily” – and for some of us “many times daily”.
The experience of Jesus is worth pointing to.   How often was he on His own with His Father?   Answer Рall the time!
So how does that work for me? Well in the past week I’ve met with 4 other followers of Jesus who live away from me so

with a gap to let others in to join the fellowshiping

we have to make the effort to meet, but when we do it is 3 or 4 hours of chatting, finding out how we really are, talking about Jesus, our walk with Him, the stuff in our lives we struggle with. It is indepth friendship, which involves prayer, worship and fellowship. I email and text other Christian friends who live across the world. I have friend I support in mission across the world that I pray for every day. In fact I do my best to have a chat with God on and off throughout the day. Also if God is really omnipresent then He’s with me always and I just have to remember that. And in fact I have to remember that He is with those who don’t believe in Him too, and there are times when He speaks through them anyway. So I do gather many times daily with other believers; physically and via technology.

I could go on about I won’t. I think it is just wise for all of us as Christians, not to judge but to look at why we go to Sunday church. For some it is a very valid place to be. It is where God wants them. I remember a church I went to in Scotland where the pastor felt that the congregation had began to worship the worship group rather than come to worship (as in sing songs to) God. He asked the worship group to step down for a season, an unspecified length. Most of the group left to go to other churches where their “talents could be used” and many of the congregation went to places where there was “better music”. I think that nicely proved his point. For me at the moment I feel like I am keeping Sunday special. I am having a sabbatical of indeterminate length and I believe, and it has been confirmed by others, that this is what God’s saying for me. But if He does suggest I go back to Sunday church then I will have to make sure I go for the experience not to “make sure my talents are used”, not to “prove I’m not back-slidden” and also not to judge it. I have to go to experience God and others and keep every day as a special day with Him and with my fellow human beings in the here and now.

…whether in a building on a Sunday, online, irregular electric groups, or friends having coffee, or a 100 other ways