Arise, shine; for your light has come

Today I’m doing a reading in church. Just a regular reading. No performing. Nothing special. I’m now on the reading rota at the church we’ve been going to almost since we arrived here. I like the place, I like the people and I like reading. So of course being me I won’t just say it I’ll put inflections into it and make it lively. Not performing but just being me.

arise-and-shine-for-your-light-has-comeAnd this is why I think this passage, esp the first line is so amazing and I think will be my word for the year. Along with a few others I’m gathering but … what a great start to the year, to sit in church and hear that it is time to Arise and shine. Wow! Especially on this dreary day when the town is shrouded in mist here is God saying “Arise and shine” Wow!

So what does that mean? Well I think it has to come with the second phrase too. “Arise and shine for your light has come.” How can I arise and shine? Because my light has come. How has my light come? Well Isaiah 60 says “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” What does that mean? Well I think it could mean that actually you have realised who you are and have let the Lord – or wherever you get your strength from – rise upon you.

Without trying to be blasphemous I think you could substitute “Lord” for confidence, for isaiah-angel-smallstrength, hope, reassurance. Almost anything. I really don’t think that one can let the Lord rise upon and around you unless you have confidence in yourself. I know of a friend who went through an awful tragedy but I can hear her sobbing “Just one touch of the King changes everything” but she had to let herself be touched for Him to be able to change everything.

If we can be willing to believe that, even though it is dark and misty outside, even though 2017 is looking like being a worrying year, we are able to arise and shine and let your light shine then we can be part of changing things. We can let our assurance, confidence, strength, hope rise and so shine light into this year.

The passage goes on to say about how the world is in darkness but that people will come to the light. We are not be inert but by worrying, being anxious, being fearful we hold the darkness in place but if we go with confidence knowing that we can do our bit to bring light to our sphere of influence then those in need will be drawn to us.

hpim0765It always takes me a while to get into the fact that its a new year. Others around me come with resolutions that they can present at midnight on 2016/17 but I need a run up to it and some thinking time. So for me though I will put aside worry and also put aside false hope and I will arise. I will shine. I will let my light shine in my spheres of influence. This is my resolution for 2017.

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Success …

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This blog is about my key to success 🙂 

Success – an interesting word. What is success and how to we measure it? (Yes another deviation from the who am I/what do I do mini-series but this does rather cover it too)

This week I had ran my first ever creative writing workshops. And being me I didn’t start with just one but with 4. The reason this came about was because when I was discussing it I came up with 4 ideas and the woman who runs the community centre I’m putting them on in was enthusiastic for all of them and I couldn’t decide which one I wanted to do. Yes that is a bit of “who I am?” – multi-faceted and not single-focused. And then when I mentioned the workshops to a couple of people one could come Monday and the other Tuesday so … Again that is a bit of “who I am?” – wanting to please people/encourage others, which is very different to a people-pleaser. So there I go from not ever having really run a workshop on my own to running four in a place I’m not really known, starting something that had not been done in that venue before and was a bit different to Zumba, Kick Boxing and Weight Watchers.

So how did I do? Well for one class I got my friend who was staying with me and one other

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Workshop number 2

woman, in the second class I got my friend who was staying with me and two other women, in the third class I got no one but had one and half hours to sort out some room rental bookings, the fourth class had three people in, one of whom has said it is not for her and won’t be coming back – though she did say that what I had done was really good and she would recommend it. So I only took in fees half of what I needed for the room rental.

How do I feel it went? For me it was a success. Why? Because all that attended said they loved the content and would recommend it to friends. The one on the first workshop will come back but cannot commit regularly, the two on the second are committing regularly, and two of the three on the fourth are committing to come regularly. So no one is dropping out – apart from my friend but that is because she lives over 200 miles away – and the lady who is already being published in travel publications. All through I felt calm and confident, felt like I knew my material and was able to explain it clearly and confidently. I want to do it again.

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A momentary indecision 

I did on Monday evening have a bit of a dither about whether I should continue in the community centre paying the rental or whether I should have it in my home. The attendees on the fourth workshop very much encouraged me to keep going. So I am going to. I feel at peace with it all and want to carry on.

Success, like Enough which I keep meaning to blog on, are both non-quantifiable. But I think it is something deep inside that helps. In fact the Airbnb guest we have at the moment says that I ooze contentment and appear happy where I am. Ok there are days when I’m not but on the whole I am happy and content where I am doing what I do. Hence the reason for doing the mini-series which isn’t happening much at the mo. But I think this one can be included because “who I am/what I do” is these writing workshops, facilitating others in their writing and CWTP (using creative writing for therapeutic purposes) and feeling successful and contented with who I am and where I am is very much a part of all that.

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.

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!!!

So What Have I Done This Year?

I write the family Christmas newsletter but really it is just a snapshot of things we’ve all done and I miss out things that I’ve done and things that they’ve done too. So in reflection of the John and Yoko song “So this is Christmas … another year over and what have we done?” I thought I would look at what I’ve done.

It was at the beginning of January in my new journal diary that I wrote “Boldness to search for my true dreams and to walk them out.” To being with things didn’t go as expected …

  • I’ve had a poem published on a Mindfulness website
  • I’ve been hung out with some amazing writers in the South West and enjoyed some Sundays and a whole bank holiday weekend with them
  • I’ve realised that even though I’m a great encourager and youth worker, which makes me a great learning support mentor and assistant, I am a rubbish tutor and easily sidetracked – into youth working and encouraging.
  • Again I’m a great encourager and supporter but doing someone’s admin isn’t fun even if they find me helpful and my presence in their office encouraging.
  • I’ve been to Dublin to pray with the Interweave group
  • I’ve been up to the Isle of Arran and enjoyed time with friends and time alone and time with my husband
  • I’ve realised I don’t need to keep going to the end and if I stop one thing then a door can open to another – I stopped the Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes MSc at PGCert stage which then opened the door for Ian and I to do something together
  • And that something was to plot and plan and sell our house and make the move to Abergele in North Wales.
  • I’ve been in a play in which I wrote my own script and have been asked to collaborate with the director and other writer again.
  • I went for 2 interviews and got both of them but only took the one which actually led to a huge leap in confidence for me 🙂
  • I’ve had lunches and drank coffee with wonderful friends over the year
  • I’ve driven miles to support my children in what they do and will continue to be that sort of mum – supporting, encouraging and mentoring.
  • I went to Greenbelt and volunteered in The Tank again this year though without my daughter, but this time spent lots of time with a lovely friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and deepened a friendship with a fellow blogger
  • I’ve blogged intermittently over the year on things I want to share, gaining some friends through what I’ve written and losing others.
  • I’ve looked after 4 fish and 2 shrimps for 12 months now
  • Taken our last chicken to her retirement home before we move
  • Walked miles with my dog in all winds and weathers
  • And so much more that I know once I send this post that I will think of other things

So this is my year in bullet point. I’ve enjoyed it and wonder what will come of next year. The word I have written in my diary is “Blank Page – wait for the writer to write

I know each year never turns out how I expected but I must say that this is the first year I’ve felt like I’m standing on the threshold not having a clue. All I know is that at some point in the next 3 weeks we will be on the move to Abergele. I don’t even know the date for that. And what will our lives look like in Abergele? Who knows? But I do know it will be an adventure and I can walk with God, and with friends old and new.

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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”

Didn’t know it was gone till it returned

I know I journeyed through some stuff over the past 3-4 years, and it has kitty20high20res1been a challenge, but I have thought I was getting stronger. What I didn’t realise, until I got it back, was how much my confidence had taken a battering. Mind you as I look at it I do wonder if I was ever a confident person. I put things on my blog because its easier than saying it to people. And at times I have been quite controversial!

How did I notice this? Well I started work in a local college as a learning support assistant, with a team that had been there for a long time who knew I was only going to be there until the end of the term, and I got taken seriously, what I had to say was valued, and not just that they expected me to input and give feedback. It made me realise that I had lost confidence not so much because of what had happened but by the way people reacted to me. So how did I notice that I had more confidence? Well I offered to read someone’s daughter’s psychology degree essay and when I’d done the mum said that it was nice to have it read by someone intelligent, and confidenceinstead of saying some put down about myself I said yes I am. Also I was in a play at our church and the compare did, what I thought, was a poor introduction and so instead of just sitting back and thinking it I told him so, in a gentle way. And I didn’t blush or make it into a joke which I would have done before.

But you see the thing that has struck me is that I didn’t realise that I needed to have a confidence boost and the team I was working with were not doing what they did for me at all. They were just being them.

The thing that has struck me is how I have got something that I didn’t know I needed and got it from people just being themselves. So I want to white-blank-page-sketch-book-pen-24674827thank my team for being themselves. I want to say how pleased I am to feel an inner strength of confidence that I didn’t even though I needed. And I am also pleased that I didn’t know I needed it until I got it!

Wonder what things I’m going to get in 2016 that I didn’t know I needed. Interestingly I’ve been doing a piece with “Abbey of the Hearts” about asking for a Word for 2016 and what I got was:

Blank Page – Wait patiently for it to be written. DO NOT start to plan and fill it.

Enjoy the empty days

For me, with this realisation of regain confidence that I didn’t know I needed, this Word says that instead of thinking and planning and working it out I just need to sit and let God come with what He has and let Him fill it.

 

(Interestingly in this my fresh meat man Tony of Wiltshire County Fayre has asked if I will consider doing his newsletter once I’ve moved; which he will pay for. So already something is coming. But I need to be careful that I think don’t try to second guess that the other things might be.)