Light on the Hill

red sunset in the mountains on a black background

This is inspired by a comment from a group we have been invited to, which meet on a Thursday evening just round the corner from our house.

We had been reading John 17, about how Jesus prays for himself and for his disciples before he died and a discussion about evangelising followed. Some in the group are definitely evangelists. Me, I’m not really. My evangelism comes from blog posts like this that question things and, hopefully by my life and the way I’ve hung on in there with God through what has gone on. I’m not one to go out and tell people I meet about Jesus. I admire people who do though.

So the discussion has got on to evangelising and someone said “we need to be like a light on a hill. Let our light shine” and then they said “and die to self” and that is what struck me. If homebanner-its_not_about_me1we die to ourselves, to our own wants, needs, expectations, even wanting to see others come to know Jesus, then we can truly shine. We can stop doing things because we want some form of recognition or someone to fulfil our needs.

But also in this chapter Jesus prayed that people would know his followers by their love for each other. And it was this that struck me – I can only really truly love someone if I die to myself and my needs, wants, likes and dislikes. If I die to myself then I can love people who are not like me, who are not people I would normally want to be seen with, etc.

It was was interesting because we were all moving into the whole thing of just having a bit of moan about church organisation, and about hurts we had sustained within churches, and just almost saying how we would do it better. Though there were times when it was “let’s not talk about them but about us” which was good. And in fact I should bring it closer; “let’s not talk about us but about me.” Yes I know we need to stop looking at what How I loveJesus did as individual salvation and much more about corporate salvation but actually I can only change me and how I look at the world, how I react to the world. So if I die to self and then love others unconditionally there is much more of a chance of me being able to look at things corporately because I will no longer worry about whether someone in my “pack” does something I will be embarrassed about.

In fact if I “die to self” I will be able to be comfortable in who I am, what I believe, etc and will not worry about the God other believe in. As Karen Armstrong says in “History of God” we do all actually believe in a different God. That is not to say God is made up but because He is multifaceted we all all see Him slightly differently. But if I am too concerned about how someone else sees God then actually I have not died to self because in fact, deep inside, I am worried about what others thinks. If I have died to self I can let others believe in God how He has revealed Himself to them, which will be different to how He has revealed Himself to me – and you know, that’s ok.

So to be that light on the hill means to be totally transparent, to lGlowing personet the Light of God shine in and through me. It will mean I will care for others as God cares for them which i
s often in a very different way to how I would care/love them.

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Trust and Vulnerability

86I’ve been chewing over this post for a while. It’s really about living in the liminal place, which sounds so cool when you talk of it as that spiritual place between earth and heaven but the word means inbetween place. And this is where we are, living in that place between places. Our possessions are packed in boxes. We have done our round of goodbyes. We’ve finished our jobs. But we cannot take up new jobs, sort our new house out ready for the whole hospitality thing, can’t get to know our new neighbourhood. It is an odd place to be.

In one of my regular emails this came up:

Have you found your own, unique sense of purpose for your life? Do you have a vision of what your life might encompass if you chose to live it from your deepest desires and yearnings, from the place of that which you value above all else? What would your life look like if you lived it in accordance with your authentic self?

See now this whole thing of purpose and vision I sort of looked at over October and November when we put the house up for sale and found the new one. For me that whole Patchwork quiltbit of know the vision and the why were sort of easy. Ok not overly but they were things God had been brewing in me, and in my husband, over a number of years, both together and individually. The thing is though they involved moving and place. These questions from Abbey of The Arts actually says about what would my life look like if I lived with my authentic self, not what would it look like if I moved to the right place. It caught me a bit unawares this morning but as I pondered I could see that what I have been doing is saying to myself and probably to God that I can be all the things He has said in the vision once we move to Abergele. This mornings questions say can I live it now?

 

The above paragraph was what I was going to explore but actually I am wondering if maybe we are not meant to be living the vision yet but are meant to be living in the liminal place, in that place of neither one thing or the other, that place of not planning. There was something said at church yesterday which I interpreted as people wanting to see how we lived though uncertainty and change. It wasn’t that the world wants answers but that they want to see how we really live. How am I living not in my vision but in my place between places?

hidingbehindwall-1I think often what is seen by those who don’t go to church is a load of people going to church services, pretending everything is ok, and yet hiding something. I do think in our modern church services we’ve tried too often to show God as the answer to everything when in fact He is the supreme being to hold on to, to shout at, to be hugged by, to be vulnerable with. God is about relationship in life not about answers to stuff we don’t even know the questions for.

Today I woke up all excited like a child on Christmas morning. Does this mean we are moving this week? Who knows. That isn’t in my hands at all to say, but what I do know is that even in this inbetween place I am excited about moving. Last week I was so caught up in wanting to know and then of wondering and angsting about trusting God that I lost my excitement. We are moving. It will happen. When? We don’t know but it will happen and I i-can-t-be-calm-i-m-too-excitedwant to hang on to the excitement of what will come; the walks on the beach, having a room of my own for writing, the guests we will be having, the new stuff, the spa I want to join.

As I wrote that I wonder too if we have forgotten the excitement of heaven, of Jesus coming again, whichever we get to first. It is going to be so amazing, but we have got lost in living in this inbetween place, this life on earth. We’ve either got worn down with the cares of life or of wanting to gather us to come with us but in fact we, as Christians who know what is to come – even if we don’t know the details it will be living with God for ever and ever and eternity. We should be like small children filled with that buzz and excitement.

Oh I love the fact that God can take my situation – moving – and turn it round to make me look at Him and what is to come. Wow!!!

Conversion

“Translations vary, but in our modern day, conversatio morum suorum generally means conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one’s self and what is most important and valuable in life. In essence, the individual must continually ask: What is worth living for in this place at this time? And having asked, one must then seek to act in accordance with the answer discerned.”
—Paul Wilkes, Beyond the Walls: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life
 This is something I would like to be plaster as wallpaper all around my home at times – both to remind me, to remind the rest of my family, to remind those who come to our home, but also to remind us to give this to others. So often our world works on this upward spiral, including in church, of getting better and better and of achieving, of reaching the goal. But this says that in fact we should understand where we are and asking what is worth living for in the now. It’s not about getting better, of having a purpose, of achieving, but of being and living.
Richard Rohr says something similar today (28th Dec 2015) :
Both God’s truest identity and our own True Self are Love. So why isn’t it obvious? How do we find what is supposedly already there? Why should we need to awaken our deepest and most profound selves? And how do we do it? By praying and meditating? By more silence, solitude, and sacraments? Yes to all of the above, but the most important way is to live and fully accept our present reality. This solution sounds so simple and innocuous that most of us fabricate all kinds of religious trappings to avoid taking up our own inglorious, mundane, and ever-present cross of the present moment.
I have been working with young people who haven’t made it in the education system and all we seem to do is trying to keep them in that holding pattern until the can leave school, which is now 18 years old. Why are we not teaching them how to make the most of where they are? Many of these kids have amazing gifts and talents, just not recognised in the modern school system, so they’ve been labelled and made to feel like they have nothing to give. Yet if we could get them to live fully in their present reality, which for many is really hard, but also to ask what is worth living for in this present moment? I think we could get them to change. I really do believe not just with these kids but with everyone if we could work out what things in this present moment are worth living fully for and how can be be fully present then things would change.
The reason why we don’t teach this? Because so very few people live it. I know I struggle to. But that is also something I’m learning and am going to take in 2016 – that if I don’t get it right today then I forgive myself and start again. I don’t even have to wait till tomorrow to start again. I can start again the moment I realise that I’ve messed up and am not fully present, not looking at what is worth living fully for at this moment.
I was trying to practise this whilst out walking with the dog this morning. Ok it was helped by the fact that there was the most gorgeous burnt copper sunrise. But I’ve got lots on my mind. Today my mum and her husband are coming to “do Christmas” with us, so there was food stuffs to think of; my son is having an operation and I want to be there for him but he leave 200 miles away; my daughter is off back to uni 100 miles away and I was trying to work out whether I could manage to take her back; and of course the big one – we’re moving. All these thoughts were crowding into my head and taking over often. As was the thing of wondering what life will be like this time next month. But whenever I realised that I was not in the moment I wouldn’t be cross with myself but would just pull myself back and go back to enjoying the sunrise and the lovely day, and watching the dog rushing about. And of course my mind would wander again and again would have to be pulled back.
Again I think this is a place where we aren’t kind to ourselves or others; we don’t cut anyone any slack. If we mess up we’ve failed. If someone does something wrong they are labelled as a certain type of person. Very rarely do we give ourselves or others the grace to just say this is a phase. I am learning with my family, husband and children, to try to just let it be and say this is what it is for now. Do I force them to change? No that would be wrong because what do I know about what is best for them. Many times I’m not sure what is best for me until I’ve tried it, and then sometimes its best of then but not later on. I am a fluid evolving being and so are those around me. To truly accept this growth and change and living in the moment we must trust that all will be well.
Or as it said is Star Wars: The Force Awakens “The Light — It’s always been there. It’ll guide you.”  And also “As long as the sun is there we have hope”

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.

Everything Needs Two Sides

On Wednesday we watch Inside Out, the new Pixar movie. I will try not to give too much away, though my movie blogs should always come with a spoiler-alert. Anyway suffice to say that one cannot be happy all the time, and all the memories we have come with a healthy mix of happiness and sadness, and this in fact leads us to become much rounder people. If we all tried to be happy all the time then we would miss out on so much. Interestingly this revelation was followed by a family relationship meltdown; lots of shouting, misunderstanding, mistakes made, and a need for some space. I look back on many days, many memories and it is very rare that they are just happy. There is generally a mix of sadness, anxiety, misunderstanding, as well as happiness.

This isn’t my field because I don’t take my phone dog walking as I don’t want to be contacted but it looks a bit that colour, though no mountains in the background 🙂

Out walking the dog the other day I was amazed that one of our favourite fields was glowing golden; an amazing mix of oranges, reds and golds with the highlighting it. It turned out that the farmer had covered it in some form of weed killer and was going to plough it in and change the whole look of the field. A mix of wonder but also trauma and change.

There are so many incidents when we really think about them that are a mishmash of things, and yet we spend good money trying to be happy as much as possible. And what happens? Well people are disappointed, feel let down and actually are sadder for it. If one could be content in all circumstances then that would be so much better. I could use my anxiety to try to change things, my misunderstandings into working out where I go wrong and to make me a deeper rounder person. Again that is an interesting one because so often we think we should get better, but actually as I grow I want to become deeper not better. I am ok as I am but I can become more of what I am. Yes I want to be able to understand my family to a deeper extent, but as someone said to me today I need to learn what my boundaries are too to be willing to let them have theirs. That means I am deeper and rounder but not better.

As a Christian I know God loves me as I am but that doesn’t mean I want to stay as I am, or even that God wants me to stay as I am. I love my children as they are, but I also want to support and help them mature, and want to see other people in their lives supporting and helping them. I not sure if God is like this but I know as a parent what I really would love is for my children to have other people in their lives supporting and helping them to grow because then they would become deeper and rounder. If they only have me then they will actually be very much like me. Though I suppose with God He is much rounder and deeper than I’ll ever be, which makes you wonder why we want to try to make Him able to be understood. Wouldn’t faith be so much more if we let people connect with the unfathomable God rather than the God that a church leader can give the explanation of???? 🙂

Writing – why doesn’t it get included in “being creative” all the time?

I thought I wasn’t creative. Why? Because I really am not great at painting – not the picture kind, though can do a wall very well, and in fact am good at choosing colour for interior designs – but anyway I’m not great at painting, really can’t draw, don’t see any fun in sewing, knitting, colouring in, felting, working with wood, etc, etc. All those things that go into “being creative.” And I was reminded of it again at an event we were at where the organiser talked about how they were into creative expression so they had some prophetic painters on stage and had wanted a dancer. Ok so I can’t dance or play an instrument either 🙂 At one point I felt a great urge to splurge all my thoughts on paper, write a bit of poem and prose, so I went to look for some paper. I was told by the most lovely man that any comments I had could go in the book they had for people to write in. That wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to create with my words. They wouldn’t have liked my poem or random words scrawled across their lovely book, and it wouldn’t have been fair either. What I had to do was a bit like the artists were doing, putting random bits and pieces out on to a page until they became a coherent whole, a something that was coming from deep within.

I remember once, a large church meeting about 15-20 years ago, there were some prophetic painters there encouraging the creative arts. We’d brought along some of our youth group and some musician and painter friends to help them get some encouragement. Well the guy comes up to me and goes “you’re creative.” and i look at him like he’s spoken in a foreign language. “You’re an artist” he tries again. Again I stare. I can see he’s trying to get through to me so I mumble “well I write a bit” and suddenly he’s talking to me, wanting to know what I write, how I write, what it does for me. Well there am I crying because no one has ever been interested in my writing before. It was an awesome moment. Though I have still struggled on and off over the years because I’m not a writer as I think writers should be. Oh my that comparing thing!!! Need to kill that one some time! Anyway I often see writers as those who are clever with words, those who publish books, or even those who are working towards publishing. But in fact that is stupid. I write all sorts of things, from lists to journal to these blog posts, to emails to friends, to the start of a story, and in fact many short stories and poems.

I am a writer and I am creative. Ok so we can all write and in fact I think we should all be writing more. Maybe that’s the thing – not many people can paint well or dance well or play an instrument well or sing well – but in fact most people can write and can write well, so it doesn’t get deemed as “being creative”, maybe? I have been reading and doing the exercises in Julia Cameron’s “Right to Write” and in that she says, and I agree with her, that too often we see writing as something that schools have taught and conditioned us to – how to write clearly and tidily so that teacher and mark our work and so we get scared by writing. I think its time to realise the word in all of us – mind you I also wonder if its time to release the painter in all of us too?

Good Morning 2015!

My Facebook status this morning was “Good morning 2015! What’s the plan?”

There is so much for me that is new and strange about this year. I start it with no job. Never in my life had a not had a job. Most of the jobs I have had have been menial jobs due to my love of travel, fear of sticking at anything, and from home schooling my children. But every year I’ve had some form of job; paper round, leaflet delivering, Avon, bar work, packing job, and also some “real” jobs too – bank clerk, office worker, typesetter – and even two new years where I was “in ministry” which actually involved lots of admin and counselling work. But this year I start without a job of any kind due to an incident with my previous job which led me to feel that I needed to leave.

So a new year, a new blog, a new direction! This year will be more planned; not just my blogging but also my career plan. It seems odd to be 53 and only just really starting on a career plan. I have just completed a degree and have finished the first module of an MSc but these have been things, like with  ministry or previous jobs, that I have “fallen into.” I now feel that the reason I had to leave my previous job, even though it was very painful and I’m still aching from the scars, is so I can become directional. I have never seen myself as a reactionary person but in reality life-wise I am. This is all very new.

In fact it has been a very new start to the year. This year, 2015, I woke to a house all alone. My husband has just spent the last few days in the Peak District with old university friends and their families, 60+ of them in one youth hostel. I am becoming more of an introvert as I grow older, or maybe admitting to it more, and knew I could not cope with all those people, and also needed some space after the trauma of giving up my job. He’s been away like this before but normally I have my daughter with me, but this year she went to Edinburgh with friends. She realised this was the first time in her 21 years she’d ever been away just with friends. Previous times she’d travelled or gone on holiday had been with me or with an organised camp. A new year! So I saw out the old year and in the new without any other human contact for the first time ever. As a child I had my parents, before children I did the expected party thing, even as a single mum I had my kids in the house. I wasn’t totally alone because I had the dog on the bed with me. Dog and I were in bed by 10.30pm and slept most of the way through though he did growl gently at midnight when our street exploded with fireworks and singing.

All I have brought into 2015 apart from relationships with family and friends is my MSc in using creative writing for therapeutic purposes. I started this at the end of September 2014 so am only one term into it. My first assignment is due in on 10th January. I am almost there on the word count.

Adventure sounds like it should be crazy and full of unknowns, which I know it will be, but also for me the adventure will be to walk boldly in a direction not just jump from branch to branch. I am a planner in the ordinary course of life, needing things on the calendar, needing to know when everyone will be home, etc but it has struck me how I don’t do that with my life wider. I have never looked at my gifts and talents in a way that would take me in a certain direction. I have been insensitive with blogging as I have splurged across the page my thoughts and feelings, hurts and pains. Even my blogging is going to become more directional. To become something in the world of creative writing for therapeutic purposes one needs to be an established writer of sorts. I want to be a blogger. I’ve always wanted my work read and now I will do in a way that will be something I will be proud to have read.

So “Aspirational Adventures” has been so named because I am going to spend time looking at what I wish to aspire to become and how I will journey to find that place. Every journey is an adventure 🙂

From a friend in response to my Facebook status “2015 is the Year of Plenty – as in plenty of good things, a sense of abundance, nothing to do with greed or acquiring stuff. It is also about realising all of the good things we have.”

The year of plenty is where I’m going, that feeling of abundance, of being grateful for what I have.This is the adventure I aspire to walk in.