Beyond the Mirage

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I wrote the following poem on a recent Quiet Day at Love’s Close , Burghfield Common.

“Dancing in front of my eyes the bright, garish lights of Christmas, some tranquil, others flashing on and off …

Copious parcels tightly wrapped, embellished with glitter and bows, tables groaning with tempting food, rich and extravagant …

Perfect looking people with perfect manners and perfect emotions, smiling and laughing …

Is this why He came?

Rather this Advent, this Christ coming, is because for many the lights are broken and they know only darkness,

They receive nothing richly wrapped, food is scarce or simply plain.

Families are fractured, fragmented, relationships lacking or soured,

He came for this

Dear Lord, take me beyond the mirage of Christmas to the brightest light of Your presence, the richness of dwelling in You, take my hand Lord, lead me on in hope.”

 

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The ‘In’ Crowd

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There is an unremarkable sixties song which begins: “I’m in with the In crowd …” Now while the song itself is quite forgettable, the premise it puts forward is an interesting one, namely that  in life there will be groups and factions to which people will belong, however there is usually an ‘In Crowd’ and it is this that most of us will gravitate towards. 

You only know the In Crowd exists, when you find you are not part of it. It appears in schools, work places, Universities and yes Churches, most definitely! The latter saddens me but it seems a given, certainly in the Western church. As is the nature of such things, those involved revel in their own camaraderie and keep others out to retain this. Why do we get so threatened and why are we sometimes so reluctant to share our relationships? Some of us even need to pursue an air of superiority to feel comfortable, and keeping others  slightly excluded can sometimes achieve this.

How we need to emulate the One we follow and get rid of these tendencies (1 Corinthians 1: 10-11) He too had to contend with his best friends trying to keep away from Him those they considered inappropriate or a nuisance; and then they were vying with each other for a place at His right hand side! As I continue on this journey of life and faith may I be more aware of the marginalised and more inclusive whenever I see an opportunity!

 

The S word …

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Have been feeling  rather disagreeable (to borrow a nice Jane Austen phrase), for the past couple of weeks.   As a busy worker for the NHS I am used to being demanded of, pulled this way and that,  often painting on a smile that I hope isn’t a rictus grin while I battle tiredness, and longing for a cup of tea or the end of my shift whichever comes first. Now this isn’t to say that I never enjoy my work because predominantly I do, but being reasonably  normal, there are times when I react to the pressures of life.

Probably the greatest  challenge can be other people. Some days we must encounter and interact with those who rub us up the wrong way or are even deliberately unpleasant for reasons of their own. Too much of this and I  put up a wall or a  spiky fence around myself, but thankfully we do have a choice about who remains in our lives and with whom we journey onward. 

Then there is the challenge of not being driven : I must put the washing on, walk the dog, do the ironing, get dinner made by specific o’ clock!  Have also been feeling a sense of work getting in the way of creativity, because I have little energy sometimes after a stressful day.

Had a bit of a revelation yesterday reading an online article posted by a Facebook friend, the topic is totally unrelated but the self awareness got me thinking.  I know that low mood/feeling downcast are normal and happen as a natural reaction to things.  However  embracing them, reveling in them,  repeating them as a mantra (“I’m SOOOOO fed up!!”) and not considering ditching them is simply sin – yes I’m doing something wrong, against myself and against God, and all the while evil tries to obscure this aspect.

The key to unlocking this is saying sorry to God, addressing this as sin and moving forward. (Re)turning to the One whose grace overshadows me & whose forgiveness releases me. No one much likes you to mention sin, much less go on about it, because it has a lot to do with self focus and absorption, (which we all love to some extent), but in a very negative way, because it tries to dispense with God, plus it’s addictive and it’s catching!

The following verses have been brought before me recently  through both the mediums of the spoken and the written word:

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.” 

Psalm 121: 1-2, 7-8

They are proving a great help in overcoming these disgruntled feelings and giving me fresh perspective, and I already have  thoughts of how to make some positive changes. 

Two Happy Girls …

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… On Winchelsea beach enjoying the lovely September sun!  We had a nice and much needed break, enjoying the Sussex coast.

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This quirky home belonged to a couple who had it converted and moved to its current location, it was formerly a Railway carriage. 

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Just love the sea, so much so I try vainly to capture it and take it home with me! I had to settle for a framed gallery print this time though.

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Winchelsea Beach

Noticed these mosaics displayed at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, a lovely touch …

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And finally, our special companion, taking a nap in our bed !!!

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From a Railway Carriage Window

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Local train headed for Reading on the Bristol – London line, taken on a Sunday afternoon dog walk in Southcote.

We moved three weeks ago and our new home backs onto a little river (the Holy Brook) and also not very far off is a railway line. I love travelling on trains, in fact they are probably my favourite mode of transport. Driving gets you door to door but is hugely tiring if the journey is lengthy, I love the excitement of airports but not the actual sitting imprisoned on a plane for any length of time and boats have to be large and the water of millpond status to get my vote, so trains it is!

In my 20’s I traveled a lot and railway journeys all over the country were a regular occurrence. I love to see the world speeding by and tiny snap shots of other lives being lived glimpsed momentarily from the train window, never to be seen again as we move relentlessly onward. There are tantalising glimpses of children waving on a gate,  shopping centres full of busy people as we cross over bridges, offices, car parks, freight yards, fields decorated with sheep, horses or cattle, lines of cheery washing and perhaps someone with her dog enjoying a familiar and local route traveled every day.

Now I am that woman … (with a dog) going her own way, purposefully  stepping out into her life and walking relentlessly into her future, glimpsed from a train window as we make our walk daily. I sometimes look up at the trains and catch sight of a gazing traveler and wonder about them. What is it about us as people that makes the otherness of lives unlived (those of other people) so attractive? I think it has something to do with escapism and living in the moment both of which train journeys give me. They are an antidote to the ennui that can afflict us all from time to time. There is the promise of new horizons and the reminder that our lives consist of happenings and opportunities and it’s what we do with these that ultimately matters.  As a traveler I am often spurred on to want to make changes and aim to start afresh in some area of my life once I have reached my destination. 

Now as that person glimpsed from the train window perhaps we (Alice and I) may have that same effect on someone else … not that I will ever know … 

June Holiday

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Haven’t blogged for a while, and am in the middle of packing for our move next week, so am posting a glimpse of our recent holiday, which will get me back in the swing of things, while absolving me of supplying a huge word count! 😉

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We stayed at Swalecliffe, Whitstable and a short walk along the sea front from Tankerton, a lovely spot with beach huts, cafes and a genteel olde worlde feel. It’s also the location of a colleague’s daughter’s wedding last year, they hired a house on the front there and had a BBQ on the beach!

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Of course Alice came with us and had a rare old time making new friends of the furry and human variety.

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Visited Canterbury which was a first for us both, but I did find it rather overly tourist-y. That said, we enjoyed the shops and eating out and the cathedral was magnificent (no sign of the Archbish though!)

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I’m rather missing Tankerton and it’s beach huts at the moment, although we will soon be living adjacent to the Holy Brook in Reading, plus I have booked for the seaside again this September, so plenty of waterside views to come!

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Such jazzy beach huts, many of which were painted in vibrant, welcoming colours and brightened up our morning walks. I rather liked this art deco one!

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Whose Voice are you listening to? …

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The cartoon above made me smile, but it’s true that we often have a conflicting dialogue going on in our heads, which can cause a wide range of emotions ranging from the slightly uncomfortable to absolute torment! I believe the human conscience is built in to all of us as a barometer of right and wrong, wise and unwise, but when we come to God and suddenly know who we are and how to live, this dialogue takes on fresh emphasis. I wanted to blog about this because it’s something current in my life and causing a certain amount of dissatisfaction and soul searching.

Jesus has sent us his Holy Spirit as a comforter and counsellor but there is also a dark voice competing for our attention and  hoping to shape our responses and behaviour. Tuning in to Jesus through His spirit is my goal and when I do manage to achieve this, the blessing and well being that results is second to none! Personally I find anxiety and discouragement to be a huge temptation as I respond to whatever life throws at me each day, the dark thoughts are whispered into my psyche and it’s easy to give up and drown in them if you are not determined to shake them off …

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

                                                                (Philippians 4:8 The Message)

This is one of the most helpful antidotes to depression I have read, it’s true that when I’m thinking about things that make me happy that my feelings are lifted. It doesn’t just mean ‘religious-y’  thoughts either, I take it to mean those things we have experienced, people we know, etc who have blessed and enhanced our daily lives. 

 Another big battle is resisting going with the flow and joining in with niggles and unrest, the kind of negative situation that typically arises within groups of people! Having a discernment gift I can read people well and quite accurately, and this makes for an ability to perceive situations without having been previously told anything. I do struggle with gossip, and am certainly no saint there (!) but I am mindful of the damage a collective unkindness can have when people jump on a bandwagon and ignore their conscience (ever read Lord of the Flies ..?) There is no smoke without fire usually but even when we feel justified, it is hugely difficult to respond fairly I find ..

” Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.”

                                                   (Ephesians 4:31-32 the Message)

What a different society we’d have if more of us were willing to try the above!!

So Lord, I’m not there yet, but with Your help I’m trying and hopefully in the coming days will make some wise decisions and make sure I’m aware of whose voice it is I’m listening to!