Historian and Researcher

So back to the mini-series of Who I am and what I do.

6912b-historian
though I do not have a beard!!

So I’ve done the “biggies” on my business card – writer, airbnb host –  and also the easy to define one, Dog walker, and now it moves down to the ones that are harder to define. What do I mean by a “Historian and Researcher”. Well it was made clear to me the other day when I had some round from the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust to talk to me about doing workshops up there. For one we talked history and threw ideas back and forth but then once he had gone I googled what we’d been talking about, sent emails to friends to ask for information, and then went to the library to gather books. I printed stuff off, made notes all over it and then pondered. Yes that’s what I do after I’ve gathered lots of information – I ponder it all. But also I googled the man I’d met to see more about him.

But I realise that actually I only do this when it comes to historical things. When it comesgwrych-1161 down to other things I go by “feel”. So if someone asks to meet me I first of all go by gut instinct and only after I’ve met them and want to go further with what they have said, and actually only if I feel like I have connected, do I research the subject and then the person. I discovered that, for me, to try to research something beforehand leaves me jaded and uninterested. Something has to have piqued my interest first.

Also with things like History and even Bible study, I do need to see many different sides. So with history I love historical fiction and find that is an easy way to learn things. Often I would like to do it with my laptop by my side so I can google things as I do to check out whether the author is stick to the facts. But a lot of historical fiction is interpretation – in fact so is a lot of historical fact where flesh has to be put on the bare bones of an article – so  it is good to read many different authors stories about the same period in history, covering often the same characters. Some people will have a passion for a certain king, some will have a hatred for the same person. With Bible study what is written is interpreted differently  as I did say before in “It says clearly in the Bible” that it does not say it quite so clearly as one would like. There are few words and what one thinks it says is interpretation, which is why we should hear from many different people; some we will love and agree with, some we wont. A bit like the historical fiction writers. And we will gravitate to an interpretation we like but … I digress!

keep-calm-and-read-everything-9I should have known I was a researcher years ago. When I first became a Christian I read every book I could lay my hands on in regard to what I was now believing and read my Bible 2-3 times a year (not boasting, just showing what sort of researcher I am!)  for the first few years, wanted to go on every course and conference, just wanted to know. When I had my children I bought nearly every child rearing book I could and then borrow from the library. And the same as they grew  older. I think I’ve got lazier but maybe not.

So don’t just tell me something – give me the references and then a bit for me to run with.

And also if anyone out there knows anything about the Picturesque Movement and some suggested books I could be reading I would be very grateful 🙂

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It says it CLEARLY in the Bible

bible-promises-smallOh my! How often have I heard that? I have studied Reformation History too so as well as hearing it in churches since I “became a Christian” 24 years ago I have also read it. I did get in to a bit of a discussion about it at a group we meet with on a Thursday evening. What I wanted was a “where does it say this so clearly?” I know I have been totally guilty of it. I still go in repentance to God regarding a relationship I had with a young man who had started seeing a girl. He was a Christian, she was seeking, he wanted to date her, I firmly told him know and clearly showed him passages in the Bible that made this relationship wrong. What happened? He stopped attending the group that I was a leader of. He did start dating the girl. And I do not know what happened from then because he moved away. I now feel that what I said was naive and not properly thought through.

But yesterday it all came to me very clearly how dangerous this can be – using the Bible to clearly tell us things. I had the privilege of being able to pray with a girl who was running prayer-810x250away from being forced into an arranged marriage. As I have shown before I am very good at making presumptions so I had decided she was Muslim, etc. Oh No! She is a Christian. Her parents are Christians. In fact she said her father was a missionary. Her family are from Taiwan though she was brought up in Canada. For her parents the Bible clearly says that they are to choose a bride for their child. In fact she even saw this as correct and proper. What she was running away from was the fact that she did not want to get married to this man and so her family were trying to coerce her into the relationship. I am presuming they could clearly see that it was ok to coerce their daughter into marrying a man of their choosing. Maybe like many of the things I read in the times of the Reformation, they were doing it for what they saw as the right reasons. (And I googled “Christian arranged marriages” and there are a lot of sites out there who are very pro arranged marriage!!)

Often we try as modern “enlightened” Christians to distance ourselves from the Crusades, for the burnings of both Catholic and Protestants during the Reformation, of Christians having slaves, by saying that they did not believe properly or they weren’t proper Christians – whatever that might mean. But actually if one reads the writings of the time these people could quote the Bible and say that ‘the Bible clearly says …’

the-mystery-of-godWe need to beware when we say the Bible clearly says that in fact there are many things in there that it does not clearly say. Much of this is to do with us not have the original texts in front of us, and we never will. Some of it is because words change over time. And some of it, I think, is because God is a mystery, and wants to remain that way. I believe He is seeking relationship with us, which means we must converse with Him. Ok there are some people who have been married a long time who can say “my spouse would clearly say …” but even at times they can be taken by surprise!

Let the mystery of God reign within us and not keep wanting to have clear answers.

Blasphemy

eleanor-of-aquitaine-hI have been reading lots of historic novels set in early Norman/Plantagenet times. This was a time when everyone believed God was sovereign and much of what went on was whether it was “God’s will” or not. But all the way through the characters will say things like “Christ’s teeth”, “Holy Mother of God” and other phrases that invoke God or Jesus in a way that would not be acceptable to many Christians now. In fact only the other day someone was saying to me that you could tell whether someone was really following God as to whether they “used God’s name in vain” was the phrase used.

Now I am not advocating the use of “Oh my God” etc in speech but I was wondering when we talk of blaspheming what is really meant. Again it seems to be a word that has changed meaning, or rather developed a meaning different from it’s dictionary definition.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for (a) God(s), to religious or holy persons or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy as a religious crime.

So one could say using God’s name as an expletive is showing contempt or lack of blasphemyreverence but were those Medieval characters doing that? I don’t think they were. In fact the Blasphemy Act of 1650 was only brought in to be used to persecute Catholics during the time of William of Orange and in fact for most of its time was only used to “keep Catholics in their place”. It had nothing to do with saying “Oh God” when either upset or happy about something. In fact this morning I was chatting with a fellow dog walker and he was using “Oh God” as a form of emphasising what he was saying. He wasn’t being disrespectful or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. He just wanted to make a point stronger.

Previous to the act of 1650 there were other acts but each of them appear to be used to keep some other group in their place and to be able to punish them under the law whether they were Jews or other forms of Christians that the dominant Christian group didn’t like. So it appears to me that the Blasphemy laws were not kind things, not really loving, and I still think God is love.

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which is what it appears from the reasons the laws were put in place. 

So do I agree with the others saying God’s name to make a point? I don’t think I do. But then I also don’t agree with people swearing to make a point. Do I think people are being disrespectful when they use God’s name to make a point? No I don’t. I think it is a way of speech that has been about for hundreds of years. Do I like it? No I don’t. But the question I keep asking myself is why do I not like it? And I keep coming back to the fact that the Christian culture I have been part of for nearly 25 years told me it was wrong and so it has become part of what I think. Do I sometimes use God’s name in a way that isn’t evangelising or praying? Yes I do especially when I get angry. Why? Because sometimes there aren’t enough expressive words to deal with it. So like the Medieval people I have been reading about sometimes I do need to make a point deeper and sometimes that is all there is. Also the other day when there was the most amazing sunset I did also use God’s name to express myself.

And in following on from the Stephen Fry quote I do wonder sometimes if, as with the laws in put in place over the years whether it was from fear rather than having to defend God. I

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giving people what they don’t deserve because He’s God. Can we do that too?

do hope God is big enough to deal with any number of people who use His name not in the way He would prefer. I do also wonder how often He takes it literally and as it says in the Bible, both in Old and New Testament, that those who call on His name He will hear and answer.

In my opinion blasphemy is about disrespecting other people’s belief systems whether Christian of any flavour, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, pagan or whatever. And as I finish I wonder, with things hotting up about this EU voting whether we could all deal with it in a way that does not disrespect other people’s belief systems?

… and Things That Are Unhelpful

I would have written this yesterday but we were doing the final packing of the house and driving to our holiday cottage.

m5_closure-960x600Well after the great one line help from Martin Scott – which actually was very appropriate for the actual journey because the main motorway we had to go up was blocked and we had to do a pretty major detour through the middle of Wales, adding 2 hours to our journey, and then also made an error of judgement on a junction adding more to the journey. As always it was a struggle to enjoy the detours 🙂

Also I was really tired because I’d hardly slept the night before because of a chance comment from a neighbour. I’d popped round to ask our next door neighbour if he could put our recycling bins out on Monday and he just said that he was surprised how quickly our sale had gone and normally they take longer! Now I know that nearly everyone I know had said they thought it was taking a time, but we’d had this “picture” from someone about us going too fast. Ok that was back in October/November time but in the middle of the night it jumped and “attacked” me. I got caught up in the whole thing of timing and sugar-molecules-playing-when-youre-not-sleepingwhat if we’d got it all wrong. And that we shouldn’t be moving now, that we should stay put and wait. Oh and even moved on to worrying that I was abandoning my children. Ok they are 22 and 24 but it was 3am!

Oh and also he said about how expensive storage was. I then got down to the idea that I’d read the email from our removal company wrong and it was £72 a day not £72 a week. Well that was me gone. I had to get up at one point and have a cup of calming tea and pray. But as soon as I got back to bed the “demons of the night” came back to sow their doubts.

It amazed me how easy it was to go from certainty to doubt. But then that is what faith is all about. If we were certain all the time when we would have knowing rather than faith. Faith is being sure of what we aren’t certain about. Ok a bit of a paraphrasing there, but I do think that. If I was so sure of things then where would the steps of faith be? Faith certain of what we aren’t sure about!

trustAnyway I expressed by doubts and fears to Ian as we journeyed up. He was great and said about how it felt right to be doing this but actually even if we are doing totally the wrong thing in the wrong timing that’s ok. We have to work from where we are. And then he teased me to remind me that these were my words that I had said to him before 🙂

Just Happen? Or For a Reason?

bv-12xycyaasuoc1How often when something happens do we respond with “there must be a reason …” or “it must be part of the plan” or another sort of divine meant to be sort of phrase, when really it’s just the way it is.

We went to look round our new house on Saturday and the people we are buying from had had a huge clear out and had got rid of some of the furniture we were planning to buy from them. Our response was “I’m sure that was what the right thing.” It means we will just have our stuff in the house and we talked about it being all ours, etc.

But I think often we try to justify events as either good or bad, meant to bequote-trying-to-justify-a-world-we-don-t-hold-all-the-answers-to-is-what-bedevils-the-best-megan-chance-80-69-49 or not meant to be, rather than just stuff happens. The reason the people we are buying from got rid of their furniture is that they are organised people who, once they knew they had a buyer, got on and cleared out what they didn’t want to take with them. Fate or personality?

One of the issues we had to walk through during 2012/13 was whether the multiple things we walked through were meant to happen, and if they were then why all at the same time. In the end a wise counselling friend said that it was nothing to do with us why all these things happened. That they were individual deaths that we just happened to know all the people because of our relationship with each other. In fact if my husband and I hadn’t been married I would only have had one untimely death to deal with and he would have had two, instead of us both having 4! But there was no lesson that some supreme being was trying to teach us, nothing we had done that needed us to learn. It just happened.

can-stock-photo_csp12889658I know the furniture being sold that we wanted was no where near on the same scale but it got me thinking of the same thing, and there was no reason; there is nothing for us to learn. It is just that it happened and we need to get on and do something about it.

That is another thing, one can spend ages pondering the whys and whatevers and what should we learn from it, but in the end one does just have to get up and keep going. So for us at this time it means not wondering if God is teaching us something about timing, or that we are f62a560150aec2b8634f09cbb1792478going to learn how to furniture shop together – though that will be interesting. And even if it is we do still have to just pick ourselves up and get on and buy!!

Choice! Really?

I was brought up short on how little choice we give people when we are the ones in power to decide. We asked the kids that I work with what they would like for their Christmas party. Of course they came up with loads of different ideas but in reality there was only one option and we, the adults in charge, went with what we believed would work and would come within our budget. One of the young people challenged me on it and I did realise how often I do it too. In my family I will ask my kids what they fancy doing and then will make the executive decision myself.

Here’s a great article in The Guardian online that says the
same: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/18/nhs-didnt-listen-department-health-service-public-consultation?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=The+Best+of+CiF+base&utm_term=144793&subid=14796436&CMP=ema_1364   This says how the government did asked what people wanted but in fact had thben20g20ipsos20blog20chart201eir own ideas of what they wanted and so went ahead with that.

In fact anyone who has a modicum of power over someone does the same. We pretend that we are including them in the process but in fact we are only going through the motions and making them feel good. Yet there are times, like with me in the week or with this article in the paper where someone pulls them up. What do we do about it? We carry on anyway.

I have often thought that we pretend we live in a free country, yes to a point we do because we can say what we want without fear of arrest, on the whole worship how we want without fear. There are certain rules, like not running naked in public, driving on the left hand side of the road, our judicial system, that keep us in check on certain things but on the whole we are free. But that freedom only comes with being able to safely do and say what we like. It does not mean that anyone will take any notice – whether government, parent or teacher!

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.