Daybook Entry – 18th February 2017


For Today 18th February 2017

Looking out my window… I am looking at a garden that is in serious need of some TLC

I am thinking… about how busy I am going to be for the next 8 days. I am going to be taking part in my first brass band contest for a very long time, and in the first section which I have not played in for even longer than that. The busyness comes from the amount of rehearsal I have to do between now and then, not just the 2 hours each night with the rest of the band but the couple of hours each day on my own practice at home too to make sure I am in tip top condition to the band and the performance justice. I am looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measure to be honest.

I am thankful… for the gift of music.

One of my favourite things… is sharing food on a Saturday with my family and having some good ol’ quality time together.

I am wearing… post-shower comfies.

I am creating… a crocheted blanket for my son’s girlfriend Megan.

I am watching… as I type this, “Despicable Me” is on TV in the background, but something that I have been going out of my way to watch is “No Offence” on Channel 4. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

I am reading… “The Ghosts of Idlewood” by M L Bullock for a bit of light fiction reading, but I am also working my way through Richard Coles’ “Bringing In The Sheaves” and “Being a Priest Today” by Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown.

 

I am listening to… Meatloaf a lot at the minute. I was at my cousin’s partner’s funeral last week and we listened to “Paradise in the Dashboard Light” as part of the service. It spurred me on to revisiting some of the tracks I used to listen to a while back and that I’d not realised I hadn’t listened to for a while.

I am hoping… to hear from the bank soon about a proposal we made to them about our future finances. If they don’t agree in writing then we are going to be seriously up against the wall and will more than likely lose our home. It is a tense time.

I am learning… that even when you do things right, and that you obey the rules, when you’re at the mercy of big corporations who can change the goalposts on a whim then it doesn’t matter how much you comply, you will still lose.

In the kitchen… we are having burritos for tea tonight. Probably not too authentic but tasty and a great way to share food with the family regardless of accuracy!

Board Room… I so need this! Time management skills from Joanna Kay

Shared Quote…

I thought the sparrow’s note from heaven,
Singing at dawn on the alder bough;
I brought him home in his nest at even;–
He sings the song, but it pleases not now;
For I did not bring home the river and sky;
He sang to my ear; they sang to my eye.

From “Each and All” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
A moment from my week…

dsc_1477.jpg
View from the PamCam at rehearsal one night this week. Contest next Sunday in Blackpool …. gulp!

Post Script…

I was caught up in the aftermath of a crash on the M60  on Tuesday this week (video link below – apologies for the advert beforehand, I can’t control that). I had dropped my husband off at work so I could have use of the car to get me to an important meeting about my future training in the church. Fortunately for all concerned in the incident there were no serious injuries or fatalities, but unfortunately for me, I was sat in the car for about half an hour and very nearly had to visit the Bishop’s office still dressed in my pyjamas!

It’s funny how one careless action by one person could have so many consequences that cannot be foreseen or even dreamt of when they do it.

http://players.brightcove.net/2540076170001/Ey9zhZNae_default/index.html?videoId=5326870000001

 

Blessings


Transcript of my sermon delivered on Sunday 29th January 2017

This sermon uses two passages from the Bible, and questions what are blessings, and how do we recognise blessings in our lives. The passages are Micah 6: 1 – 8  and Matthew 5: 1 – 12and I began my talk by showing this piece of video from “The Life of Brian” – the Sermon on the Mount

It might seem a bit surprising that a clip from an anarchic film such as The Life of Brian could be used in a sermon in church, but I like this clip because it shows us so much about human nature, and the very real way that we can not only fall out over insignificant things, but also how if we’re not careful the Word of God can be misheard and mis-translated. It also ties in with our gospel reading today, where Matthew writes about Jesus’ sermon on the mount. If you know the film, or if you are familiar with parts of it, you will also know that later on, there’s a scene where the elders are all sat round and the conversation goes something like “pah, what have the Romans ever done for us?”. (Aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public order, health, peace etc)

The scene that Micah writes about in our first reading is not dissimilar: he speaks of the Israelites who are complaining about “what has the Lord ever done for us”, and Micah points out that God led them out of slavery, he sent great leaders in the shape of Moses, Aaron and Miriam, and he saved them from Balak’s plans to have them cursed by the magician Balaam in Moab. Not only that but when they were stuck in the sinful city of Shittim, God led them to safety by crossing them over the river Jordan to the safety of Gilgal. You can almost hear the answer “yeah, well, apart from all that, what has God ever done for us?!”.

How many of us can say, hand on hearts, that we have never said something similar? How many of us have felt that we are hard done-to, or downtrodden, or that we deserve all the misery that is in our lives at the minute? I think it’s fair to say that at some time or another – some probably more than most – we have all failed to see what God has done for us, and we have simply not acknowledged his presence in our lives. Through Micah we are reminded that the Lord has done, and continues to do great things for us.

It’s the same message that we hear from Matthew too. The Beatitudes – a collection of blessings that Jesus is reported as saying in his oft referred to “sermon on the mount”. Scholars now argue that what Matthew wrote here is more of a series of headlines or soundbites rather than a word for word account of a single address given by Jesus on a hillside. I don’t know either way – I’m not a Biblical scholar and I have still got a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus – but if these are really just headlines, then I feel it’s up to us to put the meat on the story, so to speak.

So what is a blessing then? What does it mean to be blessed? 

It’s perhaps easier to think about what a blessing isn’t. It isn’t the same as being happy, for example. If that were the case, then most of the beatitudes are nonsense. Can you imagine saying “happy are those who mourn?”. Nope, that doesn’t work for me.

Tom Wright says we can understand “blessed” to mean “good news”. That works a little bit better for me – “good news for the poor in spirit…” does feel a little closer, but it’s still not quite right.

We drop the words “blessing” and “bless” into our everyday language and conversations with each other. If I were to sneeze now, how many of you would respond by saying “bless you”? How many times have you heard or said “aw, bless him”, or “that’s a blessing in disguise”? In the words of the Johnson Oatman hymn “Count Your Blessings”, we are encouraged to think about our blessings in terms of what the Lord has done for us and to acknowledge his touch on our lives. For me, this is getting a bit closer to the real meaning of blessing, that when we are blessed, we have received the touch of God.

For those who mourn – the touch of God will comfort them; for the meek, the touch of God means that they will inherit the earth.

You see where I’m going with this?

It doesn’t quite go all the way, and it starts to go awry for me when we hear about those who are merciful, or those who are peacemakers and the righteous because the point is that we can only ever be these things by God’s touch in the first place. Peace-making, showing mercy, righteousness – without the touch of God we cannot be any of those things. We need God’s touch, his presence, throughout all aspect of our lives so we can be those things in his name. It doesn’t come naturally to us to be merciful or righteous – those are gifts from God and we must acknowledge that. We must be honest with ourselves when we claim to be righteous, or humble or any of the things we are called to be, because no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are only ever at the beginning of a long pathway, and even then, it is only with God’s grace and touch that we can even begin to see the first bend in that pathway that leads to him.

I feel that even though it has a flaw, my interpretation of what it means to be blessed is close enough for us to understand what a blessing is, and in such a way that enables us to be able to share with others the gospel message.

Because after all, what are we doing as Christians if we don’t share the good news with other people? How do we let the meek, the persecuted, the bereaved, those who are poor in spirit know that there is good news for them? How else do we let them know that Jesus Christ lived and died and lives again so that we can be part of God’s kingdom, that we can enjoy fruitful and meaningful lives here and now even though life feels hard and bleak sometimes. That with the touch of God and the blessings of God, even the most dismal and heart-breaking of situations are transformed, if only we take the time and trouble to acknowledge them.

Too often we find comfort in being down, and miserable. Sounds daft, but we do. We would rather put up with a poor situation, or a hurtful relationship, or stick with the old, destructive patterns of thinking because we take comfort from their familiarity. We know where we’re up to with that friend who always puts us down, and we know that if we always have the same reaction to situations in the news – immigration, poverty, injustice for persecuted groups – we don’t have to think too hard or put too much effort in to speaking out against them and those who inflict them.

I’m not just talking about straightforward pessimism and optimism here; people are far more complicated to be labelled either a pessimist or an optimist.

[Hold up glass half filled with water]

Is the glass half full, or half empty?

Your answer shows if you have a pessimistic view of life, or an optimistic one depending on whether you see the glass as being filled or emptied; but as a Christian, you should have a third answer up your sleeve; that with God’s touch on your life, with his grace, his love and with his blessings, this glass is infinitely refillable.

Are you in mourning? Do you grieve for someone, or something you have lost? You are blessed by God! [Fill up the glass to the brim/overflowing]

Do you show mercy to others? Do you let compassion and love for others flow out of you? [Emptying glass part way]

You are blessed by God – Jesus told us so! – and you will receive more mercy than you will ever need [fill glass to overflowing].

Do you feel pure in heart? [hold up full glass]. With God’s touch you will see him in everything you do! And if you see him in everything you do, then others will see it in everything you do too.

And for this grace, these blessings, this full glass, these touches of God which transform our lives, what does God ask of us in return? How on earth can we ever say thank you enough to him for his blessings? How can we ever repay him?

As Micah says, it won’t take the sacrifice of your first-born, nor ten thousand rivers of oil, nor the masses of calves and rams as burnt offerings, nothing like that. All God asks of us in return is that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

So as we go from here today, let’s think about what it means to be blessed by God, to have his touch on our lives in the darkest and bleakest places as well as in the joyful and bright ones. Think about how your lives are blessed by him every step of the way, and how those headlines on that mountainside are as alive and meaningful to us today as they were to those who heard them two thousand years ago. But more to the point, think about what God asks in return from us; not a lot really – simply that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly with him.

Amen

Daybook Entry – New Year’s Eve 2016


021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFor Today… the last day of 2016

Outside my window… I can hear some isolated bursts of fireworks going off locally. The weather is mild to cold but not frosty yet.

I am thinking… about some changes I need to make in myself, my outlook, my worldview and my expectations.

I am thankful… for so, so much! Where to start? Well, first and foremost I am thankful for the ever present grace and love of God in my life. My faith in him (and his in me) has got me through so much this year and I am thankful to have reached this point still in one piece.

I am praying for… Charlotte and Kieran who are dealing with the most heartbreaking loss anyone can imagine; my brother who is going to be having an operation in a couple of weeks and is facing a long recovery time afterwards; Roy, Margaret, Iain and Megan who will be taking a big step next week; Emma who is starting a new job on Tuesday; Ethan who has got a high-pressure time ahead this term.

I am wearing… a happy smile this evening as I look back at what has happened this year.

I am creating… a new way of thinking. I have come to realise that my thought patterns and behaviour patterns need an overhaul if I am to ever make progress with my life. For example, I am desperate to write a full length novel but fear of failure is holding me back. I know I have the skills (talent is as yet still untested), but I keep talking myself out of doing anything about it because I think my story is not good enough, or that people won’t want to read it and so on. I am trying to create a new way of thinking about myself where I concentrate on the positives of what I’m doing rather than worrying about the (unknown) negatives.

I am going… to put my new thinking into action over the coming weeks and let’s see where we are by half term.

I am wondering… whether I ought to do something about my physical health as well as my mental health this year…

I am reading… “Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs. I was fortunate enough to receive an Amazon gift card for Christmas which I have already bitten into and bought this latest one in the Temperance Brennan series. I have had my eye on it for a little while and I was really chuffed to be able to buy it on Boxing Day. I’m nearly at the end of it and to be honest, I can’t wait for bedtime tonight so I can go and finish it!

I am hoping… that our financial difficulties will be eased this year, if not resolved somehow. I have faith that we will be ok.

I am learning… to ease up on myself, to lower my expectations, and to celebrate the small things.

In my garden… we have a gazebo erected over our deck area at the back of the house. We put it up there for Christmas Day so we had somewhere dry to put the settee out while we had the long tables set up for dinner. We haven’t got round to putting it down yet but I rather like it and might persuade Kevin to keep it for a while.

In my kitchen… we have some snacks and treats waiting to eat while we watch the final Harry Potter film later on tonight.

A favourite quote for today…

new_year_meme

A peek into one of my days… I’m going to cheat here and show you a few photos from December as there’s too many to choose from!

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A bonus little video for you: filmed outside our house on Christmas morning as we played for our neighbours before church. Hope you enjoy it!

One of my favourite things… is planning and researching things for writing about. One of my least favourite things is spotting when “research” becomes “procrastinating” and getting a move on and to get writing.

Post Script: This year has been a year of spectacular highs and devastating lows, and this is my chance to acknowledge those difficulties and joys and to say a public thank you to everyone who has got me through it all.

Those of you who have followed my blog over the months and years will know that from time to time my mental health takes a hit, and that my family’s financial situation is not particularly secure or hopeful. This year has been the worst we have endured and we have come close a few times to crossing the line. However, we have been blessed on so many occasions by the kindness and support of family and friends who have seen us through. With gifts of food and other necessities, and on more than one occasion the gift of money, our family and friends have literally saved the day. Ethan would not have been able to go on the trip of a lifetime with the music centre had it not been for an anonymous gift of a substantial amount of money which was put through our front door the day before the deadline for payment. More recently, we were facing a very lean Christmas with no spare cash to be able to buy any presents for anyone but again, from anonymous gifts, we not only were able to get some gifts for our children but we have enough now for both Kevin and I to be able to replace our glasses in a couple of weeks. We are both desperate for an eye test and new glasses but until this money came in, we were getting very anxious about how we were going to pay for them. As I said, we have been extremely blessed and we are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in 2016. The grace of God has been in abundance in our family this year!

Some high spots have punctuated the seemingly endless struggle to “get by”, such as our family camping holiday in Wales this summer (again, paid for as a gift to us – and boy are we glad for that gift!). We were joined by my brother and his family for a few days, which was a great experience, and I got to enjoy some spiritual time in a very special part of the world. I finally finished my studies and I got my degree this summer which is an achievement I never in a million years thought I would ever do. Kevin and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year too, which, as with my degree, is an achievement and milestone I never thought I would ever see. But we did and I am proud to have made it with my best friend and partner in life.

Thanksgiving


In the spirit of Thanksgiving in the US today, I thought I would share with you a list of things I am thankful for in my life just now:

  1. homeThe roof over my head. Yes, we owe more on the mortgage now than when we took it out 18 years ago, and yes there are some fairly hefty repairs that need doing on it, but these four walls and the roof on top are my safe haven. Homelessness and the possibility of losing the family home have been brought home to me recently, which makes me all the more thankful that I have this place to call my home.
  2. The food in our freezer. It was only a few short weeks ago that we were in a position to pool a couple of weeks worth of groceries and do a big batch cookout so that we would be seen through the “silly season” ahead, yet already we have had to turn to those supplies because of an unexpected bill (and therefore massive bank charges for failed payments) and we have very little cash to see us through the next 6 weeks or so. We also have an unexpected lodger too, so the food in the freezer was well timed, and continues to be a life-saver for us. I am thankful that I was prompted to fill the freezer just before the money ran out.
  3. Spiritual support from church friends. Linked to point #2 above, this one is another big one in my life. My faith in God is as strong as ever, but sometimes, the spiritual support of other people is what keeps my grip strong. I am thankful that my faith in God has brought me to such a place that I can be part of a group of supportive and understanding friends.
  4. dsc_0949.jpgMy family. Especially my husband. We are like a tag team at the moment, and we seesaw between being strong and weak. When one is weak the other lifts them up, and vice versa. Sometimes we are on an even keel in the middle, but as anyone dealing with a financial (or other) crisis knows, emotions and ability to cope can swing quite violently from one extreme to the other and it takes a particular type of relationship to hold it together. My kids have been fantastic too, both in emotional support and simply bringing laughter and sunshine into an otherwise bleak and austere existence. My parents too – where would I be without them?!! From my mum “accidentally” making an extra Shepherd’s Pie, to my Dad transferring an emergency lump sum into my bank account over the summer to bail us out (yet again), my parents have been instrumental in me holding things together in the last few months. I am thankful for the loving and supportive family I am surrounded by.
  5. crochet-hookCrochet. A life-saver a couple of years ago when my illness first took hold and everything seemed pointless and without direction, crochet has been an activity that I turn to again and again to help with anxiety and depression. I have started some Christmas projects and I am thankful that I have been able to find a cute snowman which I am working on for our house this Christmas.
  6. Music. Like crochet, music has been a life-saver in so many ways over the years for me. Whether it is listening to it, playing it, writing it, arranging it, planning it, organising it or whatever, I am thankful for the presence of music in my life.
  7. My Kindle. I was bought a Kindle as a gift for Mothering Sunday a couple of years ago and at first, I was a bit sceptical about using it. A lifelong lover of books and reading (notice the differentiation I made there), I didn’t really want to engage in technology like a Kindle but having been given one as a gift I thought I didn’t have much to lose. I haven’t actually looked back since being given it and I have engaged in so many more books and articles than I would have done in hard-print books in the meantime, largely because of all the free books available online. I am thankful that I have got access to such a large, free, library of books to read and the mechanism to carry them all round with me all the time.
  8. bedMy big comfy bed. Might sound a bit trite, but I honestly say a prayer of thanks every time I get into my bed each night. Linked to the point about the roof over my head above, I am so grateful that first of all that I have a place to put my head each night, and second of all that it is so comfy and warm once I get in. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to rest properly each night.

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, and it isn’t in any particular order, but these things are on my mind most of the time and they are the things see me through when times are bad as they are now. I am sure that when the climate changes for me I would come up with a slightly different (and longer) list.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

happy-thanksgiving

Recovering From Grief


Our regular study group at church last night was a little bit different, and we had a discussion around death instead of our usual Bible study and worship. We looked at death in today’s society and our experiences of it with a view to how it will help us in our ministry to those who are grieving or who are having difficulty moving through the stages of grief and bereavement. It might sound a little bit morbid, but to be honest, I found it a really uplifting and enriching experience and it wasn’t the least bit fearful or distasteful as it might first sound.

We looked at our own experiences of loss and grief, and then we looked at various aspects of death and, using discussion prompt cards, had a chat in small groups about a couple of them.

One question that really stood out for me was “Do we ever recover from grief?”.

My initial response was “yes, of course we do”. But then we got into discussion about it and after hearing a couple of other people give their experiences of grief, I realised that I was not really in a position to answer that question quite that easily, because I hadn’t lost someone very close to me such as a spouse or a child. I have lost close family members and I have grieved for the loss of them, but I am fortunate in that I still have both my parents, my husband and my two children alive and well alongside me. That means that my viewpoint of the question is slightly different from my friend H who lost her husband within the last two years, whose answer was “no, you don’t”. She explained that she has learned to cope with her loss but she doesn’t feel secure in the knowledge that she has “recovered” as such. I was moved by her explanation and it has given me a lot of food for thought today.

I talked about this question with my husband Kevin earlier, and we talked a little bit about how grief has affected us individually and how that the idea of “recovering” from grief very much depends on the person who has died and the nature of the relationship we had with them before they died.

After a bit more thinking and talking, we came up with this analogy:

crumpled-paperIf you take a piece of paper – clean, white, unspoiled paper – and crumple it into a tight ball, then open it up and smooth it down again, you could say that the piece of paper having gone through the grief process of being crumpled up then straightened out again is still the same piece of paper as it was before, only it has been changed by it. It isn’t quite the same; it bears marks and scuffs that show it has been through some sort of trauma, and while it can still function as a piece of paper, it has been changed by it.

smoothed-out-paper

Thinking about it further, I came up with another one that might explain what it might be like to lose someone close:

eggTake an egg, and plunge it into boiling water. When you take out that egg, it is still an egg and is still fully serviceable as an egg, but because of the boiling water experience, you can’t even begin to put it back to the state it was in before. The intensity of the boiling water did something to its internal structure and it cannot physically or emotionally be the same as it was before, yet it is still an egg.

And so it is with us. For some of us, recovering from grief may be a little bit like the piece of paper analogy. Yes, we go through some pain of being crumpled up, and for some of us the process of smoothing out again can be a further source of pain but eventually we get there. Not quite the same as we were before, but we are more or less as we were before we experienced loss. However, for some of us, recovering from the loss of a loved one is more like the egg. We go through the intensity of boiling water for any length of time and yet our outer shell might look the same as it was before, our innards have irrevocably changed and we cannot be the same people as we once were. We still have a function, and we still look and taste the same, but to say that we have “recovered” would be wrong.

 

 

Wednesday Hodgepodge – 8th June


Welcome to the Hodgepodge! Thanks to Joyce for the questions again this week. If you want to play along, please click the graphic and follow the instructions. Here we go:

1. I read here a list of 13 things you should do in June. I’m paraphrasing a little but basically…

Go on a road trip with your best friend, pick fresh strawberries, host a garden party, take a morning run, treat yourself to a flower bouquet, spend a whole day hiking, discover a new coffee shop, try a new ice cream flavour, read at least one book, visit a Farmer’s Market, make a swing for your home, and visit a new city. 

Which thing on the list do you most want to do? Of the activities mentioned, which one holds the least appeal? How many on the list will you attempt in June? What’s one thing you’d add to the list? 

Having looked at the list there are a couple of things I do anyway (reading books, eating in the garden) but if I were to try something new I would go for a different ice cream flavour

Something new on the list? I would say have a haircut. Spring/early summer is the perfect time for a good cut that will make you feel brighter and lighter to match the weather and the season.

2. What’s something you could do today to feel more peaceful?

I have had a fairly peaceful day today, which was lovely. I cut my Mum’s hair this morning, sorted a huge pile of laundry out, hung some on the line to dry, did a baptism preparation session in church for a family and have been generally pottering about cleaning and tidying up today. It has been a very nice day.

If I’m feeling anxious or stressed I like to try to do something creative such as crochet, writing or painting to help me, but generally speaking, prayer is my go-to activity to find peace.

3. June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Are you a fan? Swiss mocha, rocky road, chocolate chocolate chip, peanut butter and chocolate, or a dish of plain chocolate…what’s your pleasure?

I’m not a huge fan of ice cream, but perhaps that’s because I only really have vanilla. Chocolate ice cream always gives me a migraine so I’ve developed an aversion to it in any form. My favourite ‘different’ flavour was one I tried once that I have not been able to find anywhere else which was absolutely gorgeous – ginger and honeycomb – oh wow, what a flavour sensation that was!

4. you came with a warning what would it say?

At the moment it would be “Warning: Walking Heat Source Ahead”.

5. What’s the most interesting website you’ve visited in the last week?

I did a bit of research on WebMD, which was fascinating. My son has been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency, probably due to mal-absorption rather than poor diet or lack of sunlight and I was doing some reading into it. A very enlightening article that was to the point and didn’t go over the top with the “you’re going to die” messages that online health websites tend to do.

6. Spring, summer, autumn, winter…which season are you? Why?

Spring. I feel that I’m only just getting going with my life and I have the rest of my life to look forward to.

7. “You lose sight of things…and when you travel, everything balances out.” ~Daranna Gidel

Would you agree with that sentiment? Explain why or why not.

Not sure I agree with this, but I agree with the reason for making it. It is easy to become prejudiced to your own point of view if you don’t take a break away from it and look at things from someone else’s perspective. It can be dangerous to think that the rest of the world sees things the way you do, because they don’t, and you have to challenge yourself all the time not to become so entrenched that you think your view is the only view. However, I don’t think travel is the only answer or the only way to challenge your perspective. Reading books, watching films, meeting people, asking questions about your beliefs etc can all helpfully challenge the way you think.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

DSC_0075

This is the view out of my back door into the garden this afternoon. It was lovely and sunny, hot etc and my washing dried in next to no time, which was a good because shortly after this photograph was taken the heavens opened and it was like Armageddon out there! Thunder, torrential rain, black skies… it was almost like the end of the world, honestly. The whole area suffered – flash floods have closed roads and submerged vehicles, drains have collapsed with the force and sheer amount of water that appeared in about 30 minutes this afternoon.

Welcome to the English early summer!

 

A Time To Be Still


Everybody needs time to be still. Stillness implies stopping something – moving, talking, eating, worrying, crying, laughing, agitating – whatever it is, we all need to stop and be still.

But how difficult is it to stop yourself and just be in the moment, in the presence of something bigger than yourself and not to fret about what you are not doing?

I suppose the answer lies in the difference between being and doing, and sometimes, when we are so wrapped up in doing we forget what it’s like to simply be.

When are the best times to be still? Anyone can be still when they are relaxed or comforted, restful and happy, but what about the times when you are stressed and angry, or agitated and sad?

Are you like me, who when I get stressed and bogged down with things to do, I turn into a ball of spiky energy and get so wrapped up in myself that I can’t function? If you are, then you’ll recognise the added angst I feel when someone tells me to ‘calm down’. The worst two words in the English language!

But what happens if you can calm down, and you can stop yourself getting tighter and tighter wound up into a ball? I had a wonderful opportunity this evening to be still, and to be calm, and to not be distracted by the jobs and tasks mounting on my my ‘to do’ list and it was wonderful. For the space of an hour and a half I was in fellowship with some of my church family, which in itself is a calming atmosphere, but in that time we spent just 3 minutes or so listening to some music with the lights low which was like a shot in the arm for me. I didn’t really focus on the music and I didn’t even focus on the things I’d left at home but I did manage to just enjoy the moment and to feel a connection to the world that gets lost in the stress and anxiety of living.

I feel better for it too. The things that were making me so angry have simmered down and don’t seem so prominent now, and I have been able to get a grip on my sliding anxiety. I still have a lot to do but it somehow doesn’t feel so frightening now.

What ways do you find to be still? Do you find it difficult to justify the time to yourself if you do take some time out? How do you recognise the need to be still?

Or is it something you hadn’t thought about before?

If that’s you, then take some time to be still and let yourself simply be, not do. Let me know how you get on.

be still

Love-ly Hodgepodge


Welcome to this week’s love-filled Hodgepodge. If you want to play along, please click on the badge below and you will be taken to the host site where you can get all the instructions and info on how to join in. Thank you Joyce for another great set of questions.

Here we go:

1. Create an acrostic using the word LOVE. If you’re unsure what an acrostic is click here.

Love is….

Lying together quietly listening to the weather outside and simply being.
Opening your heart without fear of criticism or judgement.
Viewing the future through someone else’s eyes.
Empowering someone else to be the best they can be.

2. Does love really conquer all? Why or why not?

I’m with Joyce on this one. Human love, no matter how well meaning or well intended, cannot conquer all. We try to, but some circumstances and situations are just too big/deep/wide/difficult for love to conquer them. But God’s love is entirely different and yes, without a shadow of a doubt, his love will bring us through everything.

3. Tell us about a time recently, where you really put your heart into something.

I am currently putting my heart into a piece of writing I am doing explaining how I feel called to ordained ministry. The trouble is that it’s a very emotional process and not at all easy.

4. What’s your favourite fictional love story?

Niles and Daphne in ‘Frasier’. Theirs was a slow-burn love story for years and years, and when they finally confessed their feelings for each other…wow…those episodes are still my favourites even though I’ve seen them dozens of times!

5. Do you generally wear your heart on your sleeve, or keep your cards close to the vest?

I try very hard to keep my cards close to my chest, but my emotions and thoughts are generally written all over my face. I can’t hide anything.

6. What food says love to you? Why?

Tater Ash – or in posh parlance, ‘potato hash’. It’s a regional poor-man’s dinner of minced beef, onions, carrots and potatoes in a rich gravy which we have when it’s cold outside, when there’s not much food in the house, when we want to fill ourselves up on yummy goodness, when there are too many mouths to feed for the amount food we have available and so on. It’s one of those dishes that most people I know have grown up with and each family will have their own variation – some will put brown sauce in, some will add other vegetables, some will use Oxo stock cubes rather than Knorr etc. It is always the tastiest when a big panful goes around lots of people and we all fill up on bread and butter, pickled red cabbage and beetroot, and it speaks of love to me because it just reminds me so much of family, tough times and a drawing together to have a tasty but cheap meal.

7.When were you last ‘tickled pink’ over something? Explain.

I did an unexpected and unplanned Spoonerism when we were waiting for the Super Bowl to start the other night, and I asked Kevin ‘are we waiting up for this Bowler Soup?’ (bowl of soup). For some reason it tickled me pink and I nearly fell off my chair with laughter.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Have you seen ‘The Jump’ on Channel 4? It has been billed as a bit of a “fun” show, where celebrities take part in winter sports against each other and those at the bottom of the leader board each week have to do an ‘air jump’ to stay in or get kicked out. I hadn’t seen it before this year but was aware of its reputation for being a bit brutal, but even so, I am shocked that this year – and only two weeks in – five, that’s FIVE celebrities have had to quit due to quite serious injuries. Linford Christie has torn a hamstring (fair enough, could happen to anyone doing an active, physical competition – think Strictly Come Dancing and the injuries people can get there), but Rebecca Adlington has a dislocated shoulder, Mark Francis Vandelli has broken his ankle, Tina Hobley has broken her arm in two places and dislocated her elbow, and poor old Beth Tweddle has broken a vertebrae in her neck (or back – the news reports conflict) and has had to have surgery to fuse the broken pieces together. Now this is a girl who has competed at several Olympics and is Britain’s top gymnast who has only just retired from competition, so for her to have an injury like that shows you just how dangerous this programme is.

There has been a viewer backlash, especially after Beth Tweddle’s injury, and the production team have allegedly been hauled over the coals by Channel 4 bosses to review their safety procedures, but it begs the question, how much is too much when it comes to ‘edgy’ and ‘dangerous’ activity in the name of entertainment?

I quite enjoy watching winter sports, but even I know that they are highly dangerous and those who take part have to have rigorous training before they compete, risking life and limb (literally) each time they hurl themselves down a snowy or icy slope wearing only a thin bodysuit and a helmet. If the professionals have accidents and hurt themselves badly (for example Lindsey Vonn – video below) then how can we expect mere mortal celebrities to get away with it in the name of Sunday night TV?

I don’t know what the future holds for ‘The Jump’ but I would be surprised if it is allowed to stay on our screens for this year, and I will be very surprised if it ever makes a return.

 

 

“Come To Me”


come to me

 

There are times in life when it all gets a bit much. A bit overwhelming. A bit tiresome and heavy going. We all go through stages like that and some people go through them more often and more deeply than others but the message from Jesus is the same: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.

I am wrestling with a couple of personal issues just now and they are weighing me down and tiring me out. I have suffered with depression in the past and I can feel it lurking in a dark corner of my being at the minute too.

Some people refer to depression as a black dog and I can see how that fits – the darkness, the threat, the hot breath down the back of your neck, the fact you can’t outrun it, the slobbery, shadowy beast following you round giving you a nip at your heels now and then – and I know that when I get tired and overwhelmed like I am now, that black dog starts growling and stepping out of the shadows.

I need to reminded of that verse today. If only so that I can keep that black dog in his kennel for a while longer yet.