A-Z April 2012

G is for Gratitude

Welcome to day 7 of the April A-Z Challenge. Today’s letter is G

G is for Gratitude

I thought quite a bit about what I could write about today. There are a few G’s that I could have chosen – Grandma? God? Garden? Gethsemane? Grace? Gnomes?? But I chose GRATITUDE.

There are so many things to be grateful for that it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ll give you my top 5 things as things are at the moment. There are not in any particular order but here goes!

1. My family – my son has been away this week and I have missed him like mad. I’m so grateful that he has returned safely from his expedition in the Scottish Highlands (including a swim in Loch Eil and an overnight expedition up Ben Nevis in the snow….). We are all together again tonight and I am grateful for this refuge that my family call “home”.

2. My church – I’m not going to get all churchy and preachy on you, but I am grateful to my church family for supporting me through a very difficult period in my life. They haven’t done anything in particular other than just being there and allowing me to work through what has been weighing me down.

3. My bed. Call me shallow, but every single time I get into my bed whether it is during the day or at the right time at night, I say a prayer of thanks for my bed. It is soft, supportive, warm, wide and feels like an embrace every time I settle down. I know there are people around the world who don’t have such luxury as a warm and safe bed so it is all the more special to me that I do have it.

4. Food in my cupboard – maybe a little predictable but I am grateful for the food in my cupboard and my freezer. As I am not earning at the moment money is a little scarce (ha!) and so treats and luxuries are mostly out of the question, especially in the cuisine department. I am extremely grateful for the food that I do have and for the fact that I can keep feeding my family week in and week out on the basics.

5. For my final item I would like to stay away from the predictable things and nominate my local library. Actually, I have two local libraries that I can borrow books from so maybe that should be numbers 5 and 6! In line with number 4 above, I don’t have that much funds available to indulge my passion for books so the mainstay of my new literary experience has centred very much around my local libraries. I can’t help my passion for books and if I can’t buy my own I have been borrowing from my library(ies). Hats off to Blackley Library and North City Library in Harpurhey for their mine of books that I can read and that don’t cost me a penny. I borrow 8 books every three weeks or so and even if I was working again I couldn’t keep up with that rate  in purchases!!

A day off from the A-Z Challenge tomorrow and I think I will be spending the time visiting those lovely people who have left me comments this week and reading a lot more of what other people have got to say on the Challenge.

Happy Easter everyone!!


A-Z April 2012

E is for Easter

Welcome to day 5 of the A-Z Challenge. We are up to letter E, and here is the entry from the sterlingsop jury:

E is for Easter

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, which is the day Christians traditionally mark as the day that Jesus Christ was crucified and therefore the beginning of the end of the Easter story.

Just in case you are not a Christian, or if you are but don’t know what Easter is all about, let me give you my potted version.

Jesus was born to the virgin Mary (an event celebrated at Christmas) and until he became an adult, very little is actually known about his movements and actions. His life is recorded in the Bible by a series of Gospels and each of them focuses on different parts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus spent the final three years of his life spreading the word of God with a group of friends, who we know as his disciples. He told moral stories in the form of parables, he performed miracles to demonstrate God’s power and started a following that became known as the Church.

One week before his death he arrived in Jerusalem. His entrance was kind of fitting for a King – there were shouts of praise from the crowds who had come to see him and they waved palm leaves in the air for him – but unlike a royal king, he was mounted not on a war horse or charger but on a humble donkey. Christians call this event “Palm Sunday“. The people were under the cruel regime of the Roman Empire and were hoping that Jesus would come to save them from that tyranny. They thought he would set them free from the evil empire that ruled them – how little did they know!

Later in the week was the feast day celebrating Passover. Jesus and his disciples ate a meal together but beforehand, Jesus washed his friend’s feet. It was an unusual gesture, especially at that time. It was not uncommon for a servant or a slave to wash the feet of honoured guests at a meal such as Passover, but instead of the household servant performing the ritual, Jesus himself did it. He demonstrated the need for his friends to look after each other and to show themselves and others humility and servitude.

Jesus knew that end of his life was near, and knew that one of his friends would betray him to the Romans that night. That Passover meal became known as the Last Supper, for obvious reasons.

During the meal, Jesus made a promise to his friends. He took some break, broke it up and said they were to think of it as his body, which was to be broken on the cross. He said they should remember him each time they  got together and shared a meal.

After the meal, Jesus went out into the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He knew that the soldiers were on their way and asked his friends to watch out for him whilst he prayed. They all fell asleep and he had to wake them up to watch out for him.

This was all on the evening of Thursday and we now call that day Maundy Thursday. In England, our Queen traditionally hands out “Maundy Money” to specially selected people and it is traditional in the Catholic church that priests wash the feet of their parishioners.

The next part of the Easter story is Good Friday, when Jesus was executed by the Roman Emperor Pontius Pilate. He was tried and sentenced on Friday morning and was crucified in the afternoon.

All of the above bits to the story are historically accurate and take no faith at all. However, the special part about Easter, and what makes Christianity different, is that we believe that on the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead. That is the bit that DOES take faith and millions of Christians worldwide do believe that Jesus rose and later ascended into heaven.

The Easter morning part of the story is that after his death, Jesus was taken down from the cross and was laid, unprepared, in a tomb. As it was the sabbath day, nobody could deal with his body until the Sunday. When Mary went to ritually clean and anoint his body on the Sunday morning, she found the tomb had been opened and there was no sign of Jesus. There were grave clothes, but no body. She was torn apart with anguish, but then Jesus himself appeared to her to show her he was alive and she should go and spread the word.

Easter is where Christianity was born.




Hopes and Dreams

What happens to our hopes and dreams?

We are full of them when we are children. We dream of good things; a happy home, a nice garden, a good job, children, families of our own. Success. Holidays in the sun. Travel. Real friends.

But what happens to those things as we grow up? We take our exams, we leave school, we have children, we go to work and have holidays but it never turns out quite the way we dreamt it would. Life as we dreamed it is bloody hard work. “Having a good job” means long hours in spent in the office or having a physically demanding role that exhausts us. “Being married” means having to compromise every decision you make so that you can live in harmony with someone else. “Having children” means the constant worry that is the natural phenomena of being a parent – is my child happy? Hungry? Hurting? Are they occupied? Are they learning? Are they safe?

We began doing “Experience Easter” in church yesterday with the children of Blackley. It is a program designed to tell the Easter story interactively, and we are working our way through three primary schools over the next two weeks. That’s about 1000 children (wow!!!). There are six stations that we use to tell the Easter story: Jesus arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus washing his disciple’s feet, the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ death on the cross and the Resurrection.

Part of the story involves the children thinking about their hopes and dreams, just as the people of Jerusalem would have done when Jesus arrived on his donkey 2000 years ago. Back then, they dreamed of a leader who would overthrow the brutal Roman occupation; they hoped Jesus would set them free from their tyranny. We asked the children about their hopes and dreams for the future yesterday. Their answers were perhaps not surprising: “I want to be a doctor”, “- a vet”, “- a beautician”, “go to college”, “have good qualifications”. One little boy got angry with me when I asked him the question. He shouted at me and waved his hands in the air, saying “I’ve got a lot on at the minute, I can’t think about the FUTURE!!!” (this from a 10 year old. Makes you wonder what his life is really like). I suggested that perhaps he hoped and dreamed of peace and some space in his life. He welled up and said “chance would be a fine thing”. So sad, but it does make you think about what hopes and dreams are to some people.

I thought about everything the children said to me yesterday. Mums were having new babies, there was turbulence at home etc but there was an underlying thread in what they all said and that was that they wanted to be successful.

I wondered about how as adults we sometimes lose sight of that childlike desire and how we let everyday things dominate us. Maybe we should be more like children and instead of hoping and dreaming of things, concentrate on hoping and dreaming of the way to just be.