Endings, Beginnings

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 

James 2:14-16 (NRSVA)

This was part of my bible reading for yesterday, 31st December 2018. It was particularly striking for me because it seems to be the summation of what God has been speaking into the lives of my family and I.

I’m beginning 2019 with Veganuary, for a combination of reasons. Going vegan is the single best action I can make for the environment. Countless studies have shown this. Here’s a recent one. I also wrote a blog post about climate change a few years back.

Climate change affects the poorest most, so addressing my contribution to this is something I can do that is concrete. I also don’t want to be party to the treatment of animals that takes place on farms and in abbatoirs. It’s violent whichever way you look at it and I can’t reconcile the compassion that I have learned through following Jesus with violence in whatever form. I also have health problems and veganism has been demonstrated time and again as the antidote to so many health problems that for someone like me, I can’t not do it.

We’re also developing a proper financial system for our family so that we can be more responsible and more accountable with our money. Not that we’re exactly irresponsible, but we’re not as mindful of all our assets as we could be. Our income has dropped rapidly in the past few years so it was necessary and long overdue. It’ll mean focusing on the important things.

So I prayed about what should be my phrase or word for 2019 and came up with this:

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Seems obvious, but Complex PTSD can make things feel overwhelmingly complicated, so this is a real blessing just on its own. Be blessed, friends, in 2019. Lay down your life for Him so that He can pick it up. Shalom.

Made in God’s Image?

Even without overt sexual abuse, all young women are known to experience a descent into low self-esteem at puberty, probably as they realize their role as sexual objects.

Aron, Elaine N.. The Highly Sensitive Person (Kindle Locations 1732-1733). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are you the parent of an adolescent – past, present or future? If not, I imagine you were one yourself, once! Do Dr. Aron’s words shock you? I hope so. I hope that they shake the core of any decent human being. If you are a mother or a father, how can we best instil into our adolescent sons the non-objectification of women and girls, given that it is e.v.e.r.y.where? Do you recognise where you yourself have objectified women, however unintentionally? This is just as much a question to women – women’s magazines, etc., attest to the fact that women buy into this objectification of one another. How can we best teach our daughters that they are worth so much more than just their physicality?

If you are a follower of Christ: Jesus is recorded on many, many occasions taking care to give particular respect and esteem to the women that He encountered, who were at the time generally treated as ‘less-than’ the men. It is clear from the New Testament that the early Christian church – the living expression of the New Covenant – was a place where women were included and valued. Jesus in fact told men, in no uncertain terms, not to objectify women. So why is this rarely addressed in churches? Why is a structure in which men’s voices are always the loudest (reflecting the world – not Christ) still the status quo? I ask this of Christian men and women, not just men. Men have to recognise their privilege and women have to recognise where they are reinforcing stereotypes against one another (which is also a reflection of the world, not Christ). We need to stop these generational inflictions on our young people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – and all, by grace, are lifted up and made beautiful. A healthy self-esteem is a recognition that we are bound, in this earthly body, to fall and to fail, but that we have a dignity bestowed by a loving Creator, who made us in His image.

There are words of hope for those for whom this is a daily struggle, for whatever reason, and they come from the same chapter; Jesus was on a roll that day 😉 Can you imagine what it would have been like to actually hear Him speak, to be there in His presence? Amazing!

Jesus said:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

Matthew 5:3, Amplified

Sometimes blessings come from the places we least expect, eh?

What are your thoughts on the prevalence of the objectification of women in Western culture and on the subsequent effects on young people? Is it something you have given any thought to? How do you think men and women within the church can respond?

 

Marmite Wars (and Other News)

Tesco bans marmite from its shelves! The attention-grabbing headlines reflect a wider truth which is, funnily enough, exactly what any sane voter could see would happen. I voted ‘remain’ because to leave the European Union is likely to benefit the few at the expense of the many. There are some very undemocratic processes within the EU that need reform, but our departure throws out an infant blue whale with the proverbial bathwater. The pound depreciates. Food prices rise. No sugarsnaps*, Sherlock. More on this from the Financial Times:

https://www.ft.com/content/2c651be2-9228-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923

*’sugarsnaps’: my word of choice. Polite yetersnappy.

*******

In other news, I continue to use the KonMari method of decluttering, along with the Sidetracked Home Executives method of home management. The household is becoming more organised and orderly, albeit at a slower pace than I would like due to my health (and certain messy members of the family who shall remain nameless). My lovely Fluff, now aged 13, has really taken the ideas on board and has been very helpful. I’m so proud of her. Her attitude to everything has changed for the better lately. Hurrah!

I’ve begun studying Data Analysis again with the Open University. It’s going well but I need to be extremely careful to stick to a schedule of study, housework and rest because if I don’t it will all fall apart (again).

My dear mother-in-law was poorly and ended up in hospital for a week but is back at the care home now. I think the dementia has progressed, but she is very well looked after. I’m going to crochet a cuddly animal for her, because often she needs to be comforted in a very basic way and what better than something to snuggle with? I’ve been crocheting away like mad, lately, ready for Christmas as money is a bit tighter this year (and because when I finally decluttered my craft stuff I found a huge stash of yarn). I’ve even been to a sewing class where I’m learning to use a sewing machine 😀

Prince has had a resurgence of the pain that made him stay off school for six months (from December ’15 to June ’16), so we have an appointment at the pain clinic for the beginning of next month. He asked me yesterday if I was praying for him. ‘Of course!’ was my reply but I was so touched that he thought to ask. Please pray, if you’re so inclined, that we get to the bottom of it quickly? His life is hard enough with the inevitable, near-constant anxiety that autism brings. 

How’s life where you are? I’d love to know.

Where are You?

Sometimes people respond to ill health by ‘[feeling] that it’s all their fault, that they somehow brought it on themselves. I don’t know about you, but adding a heavy guilt trip to feeling physically lousy doesn’t sound like a recipe for recovery, does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that the individual has mistaken responsibility for blame…

Blame… is as pointless as what the farmer said to the lost motorist who asked his way to a remote village while driving through a maze of country lanes. The farmer, after scratching his head and thinking for a moment, advised the motorist, “Well if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from ‘ere.”

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

~ from Healthier Every Day Hypnosis by Julie-Ann Amos

I have been using hypnosis as a tool in my recovery. I don’t go in for all of it, e.g. Set Free Your Inner Goddess or How to Get Rich. Those things are anathema to me. But that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water, is it?

I am making good use of hypnosis and suggestions. I listen all the way through first, to make sure I find nothing objectionable, and then if it’s all – how do I put it? – in line with the bible? Yes, if it’s not promoting something absent or contrary to the bible, I listen regularly and I listen prayerfully. The words quoted above reminded me of Jesus’ words in one of my favourite gospel stories – the healing of the man born blind, found in John 9:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in Him.”

John 9:2,3 (NRSVA)

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind in order that he might be healed, but so that he could reveal the working of God. If you read the rest of the story in John 9, you will see that this man reveals God by his testimony, by his honest, earnest faith, not by his healing.

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

Debussy and Runner Beans

I was trying to practise the piano. For some reason, after years of very little playing, I’ve been playing quite a bit this past week. Today, after five minutes, I had to stop. I was making too many mistakes because, alas, I was too tired. So now I’m just sitting and trying not to be too bored. I’m looking at the runner beans that I planted. The way they shoot up is nothing short of miraculous.

This is what I was practising, before this stupid illness made me stop and – er – contemplate runner beans o_O It’s a beautiful interpretation of Debussy’s The Girl with the Flaxen Hair (La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin):

As for me, a little later this afternoon I have to drive for an hour to pick up our girls from Guide Camp, which will no doubt knock me out for the rest of the day. It’s been so quiet this weekend.

Fasting

I need to have a ‘fast’ from the internet. No blogging, no random youtubing, no news-reading, no online shopping, no nuffink for the duration of November. Why? Because I had a setback, health-wise, and it’s been getting me down. After some thinking and talking to God I realise that maybe this ‘setback’ is not really a setback. Maybe it’s just my ‘thorn in the flesh’.

…I was given a… physical ailment… Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me. I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

extract from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (GNT)

Like I say, I’m beginning to think this is actually a way to keep me focused on what’s most important – to help me keep my eye on the goal, as Paul wrote elsewhere. I do have a tendency that, when things are going well, I am so determined that they will stay well, or I’ll achieve whatever I set my mind to, that I end up denying the fact that I’ve been so unwell in the first place (which is ridiculous considering this illness – Myalgic Encephalopathy – has been part of my life, on and off, for well over two decades) and that I’ve had to face so many enormous emotional difficulties what with all the traumas, etc. In conclusion, then, I need to take some time to refocus on my health, my family, my marriage, my home, my studying and, most importantly, on God. It’s part of spiritual discipline, I suppose, in the sense that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same root.

So take care. Stay well. Keep on loving Jesus.

See you soon x