Tortoise or Hare?

Five minute Friday writing prompt – FAST

I am slow coming to this prompt, as I had a very busy last week.

Go

This is a word that describes what I am not! In the tale of the hare and the tortoise, I am the tortoise. That said, I don’t mean that I win, or run a better race, but that I simply do not do anything very quickly at all. Fastidious could be a better word to describe my processing; I am usually thorough, persistent and concerned with getting it right.

I know it is not good to compare oneself, but we often do and I particularly notice when I am around people who do work fast and think and act quickly. My best friend was one of these – I would find she had finished a job before I had understood what the job was. And she always did a very good job! It used to bother me, but I accept it now.

On Saturday I had another example of a comparison with a person that could be described as ‘fast’. She described herself as ‘new to writing’, but had started ‘having a go’ with writing at the start of lock-down, two years ago. She amazed me by not only having written and published a novel already, but also having written and published not one, but 30, novellas!!! How is that even possible? But it is, it was and I hope she continues to get joy and success out of her writing.

I take my hat off to such people. My first book took me eight years to write and publish, and this second one has taken six years to date (and still counting, as it is still in its editing/re-writing stage).

But we are, thank God, all uniquely blessed with very different talents. Speed is not one of mine.

Another meaning of ‘fast’ came to mind this morning, as I thought about this prompt, as today is a ‘fast-day’ for me. It is also not something I am good at, or something I look forward to or enjoy; but it is something I have been doing in obedience for the last 18 months or so – it is another one of those disciplines that I do in faith and at the end of it, I am always so happy to have done it.

That’s all I can write, because my 5 minutes are up, and, as I say, because I do not do anything very quickly.

Tortoise or hare, do not compare,

just keep on keeping on,

plodding or flying,

until you get there.

Five-minute-Friday: Writing prompt: Run.

Five-minute-Friday: Writing prompt: Run.

Go –

I would like to have written about how I love to go running – but I don’t! It hurts my knees, so I don’t do it any more.

But running away is something I have done plenty of in my life.

When things were a bit too much for me, I would run. I would escape. I would be an ostrich and run and hide.

The amygdala is a part of the brain that is thought to control or deal with the strong emotions – fear, anger and pleasure – and it is that which is said to be responsible for the basic responses to big fear – the fight, flight and freeze responses.

I am not a fighter.

In the throes of actual confrontation of fear, I would freeze, but then, on surviving that, I would plot my way to run.

I have often ran away from intimate relationships, but really I was always running away from my own thoughts and true feelings.

My feelings were what I felt most compelled to run and hide from. They were what had me most in fear of falling apart.

I am so grateful to say that I am no longer like this. By the grace of God and a long process, I no longer need to run or hide.

I don’t hide from my own truth now. I have faced those Bogeymen! I still have fear sometimes, but I face it, knowing I am safe in the here-and-now presence of God.

And I am so thankful that I cannot hide from God. It says somewhere in the Psalms – where can I run to and hide? If I go to the edges of the world or the bottom of the sea, You Lord are right there.

I am so happy that I cannot hide from my loving Father and I am so grateful that He also pursued me when I tried to hide. I praise God for His never-ending patience, mercy and active loving of all of His creation. I thank Him for His promise to never, ever leave me, no matter where I go!

Stop.

Aren’t you grateful that you cannot hide from Him?

Five-minute Friday – Deny: Foot washing?

I sort of want to cheat today, because I have been burning to share a thought with you that has been floating around my heart for a few weeks, but was right back with me in the beautiful Maundy Thursday liturgy last night.

Having just seen today’s writing prompt, I will attempt to put the ideas into words and make the reflection fit the title –

Deny

Having loved his own who were in the world, he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.  John 13:1 (NIV ‘84)

Go –

Jesus had spent 3 years of His life with this band of individuals, who had witnessed many miracles, hugely radical teaching and had seen and experienced His compassion, forgiveness and love for them, but also for complete strangers. They had seen Him show equal love to male and female, healthy and sick, lepers, cripples, beggars, the immoral, the swindlers and hypocrites.

But He had loved them, forgiven them, healed them, taught them patiently and constantly denied Himself in order to fulfil His mission.

He had shown them such radical, unconditional love.

But there He was, in the room in Jerusalem, knowing He was about to suffer and lay down His life… He prays for His disciples present and all of us; He shares the passover meal and settles the promise of the New Covenant in His blood and continues to teach them, but the it says:

he [Jesus] now showed them the full extent of his love.  

He then took off His outer garment and wrapped a towel around His waste, got down on the floor and one by one He washed their feet, telling them to do likewise.

What blows me away is how big a deal this one act was.

He even washed the feet of Judas!

But it was not about washing feet!

And I asked myself: What is this act of complete humility to me? What would be my unthinkable act of service?

I remember years ago, when I became a carer for my mother, saying “I’ll do it until I have to start wiping her bum!” Of course, as that time came I shifted the boundaries as my love grew.

What act of denial, forgiveness, generosity, sacrifice or service would be beyond me?

What are my limits of love? Of course my love is limited, but the more time I spend with Him, the more it grows.

What would I refuse my Lord, who denied Himself and gave up everything for me?

Stop.

What about you? Is there something you would deny to Him? He loves you none-the-less!

Book Tour Review. ‘Burrowed’ by Maressa Mortimer.

Burrowed, by Maressa Mortimer – fresh out this month (April 2022)

BUY HERE on https://vicarioushome.com/ or on Amazon

This must be the first time I have read an entire book in five sittings!

This gripping adventure is billed for teens and older, but as an adult I was gripped by the plot, full of intrigue, mystery and a weaving of relationships and challenges.

Set in the fictional island community of Ximiu, our heroine, Jasira, the daughter of the Governor and a budding detective, discovers a plot to undermine the island’s way of life.

Maressa Mortimer has created a world that has challenged the status quo and put women in power. Her matriarchal world has risen to the challenge of making sacrifices to create a sustainable way of life and future.

The author cleverly approaches some very topical political themes and issues: sustainability, radical green solutions, gender/power inequalities and stereotypes, democracy, exploitation, propaganda, science, genetics and over-population. Her characters grapple with the complexities of change and the practical considerations of forcefully implementing any system.

The relationships between the characters are a forum to explore issues of trust, compromise, team-work and courage, as they learn to face their own strengths and weaknesses to overcome forces larger than themselves.

I take responsibility for the thoughts that came up in myself, but I found myself making many parallels and comparisons with political issues and the contemporary world’s approach to the environmental and climate crisis.

For me, the book reminded me of many themes that disturb me about a move towards a more authoritarian political climate.

I was reflecting on human-trafficking and the exploitation of weaker communities and our pilfering of resources to serve the richest.

I considered the gender inequalities throughout the world and how male and female can have such complimentary qualities, that working together can create a harmonious world.

I saw parallels in media propaganda and the blind acceptance of rhetoric (despite the evidence and their secret resentment) and how the ‘sheeple’ often police the authoritarian agendas, believing that it is ‘all for our own good and for our future’.

I found myself considering possibilities and ways to address climate change that maybe did not involve such drastic measures and sacrifices; that perhaps need not let the ‘baby out with the bathwater’.

I saw a world where we inadvertently let ‘science’ dictate policy and let ‘green sustainability’ become the new religion, with a focus on animals and the environment at the expense of human life.

Burrowed also brings the reader on a journey of growth through choices, courage, risk, sacrifice, justice, loss, disappointment and faith.

Emotionally, I worked through the grief and anger that God does not always say Yes in answer to our prayers. Sometimes God seems far away and when we have to deal with grief, pain and injustice, it can feel like God is either unjust or uncaring. Jasira has to process her own response to disappointment and grief, but I was left with hope in the goodness of God and that, though life can sometimes be hard and grieving is dry and grey, that surely ‘this too shall pass’ and we can re-learn to trust, to love and to hope again.

Maressa reminds us that we are allowed to see the splashes of colour in the grey winter, if we refuse to pull up the pretty flowers that appear in the cracks.

Five-minute-Friday: Explore

20:13 Go

I love to explore!

I was in a fascinating webinar last night, looking at the disease that has taken education over the last 30+ years and exploring solutions. One of the attendees suggested that schools allow 20% of curriculum time for children to ‘explore’ themes and questions that interest them – with guidance and facilitation by the teacher, of course.

My own response was – 20%?? Is that all?

I remember a good friend from back in my teaching days in London, who used to regularly ask me at a weekend

“What did the children bring you this week?”

This was because it delighted him that I built almost all of my curriculum around what the children brought to me in the week. If a child has experienced something, it is something that can be discussed, researched, creatively expressed, counted, measured, looked at in every ‘curriculum-discipline’ way. And these things the child never forgets.

But I don’t want to just talk about how children learn through exploration.

I myself love to explore.

My learning style is mostly kinaesthetic, which means that rather than hearing about something, or seeing it, I learn best if I experience it. For me, this is what exploration is – it is the way I learn.

This morning I completed a small example of such learning.

About 18 months ago, A friend bought me a gift of some air-drying clay.

The instructions were not in English, so I kept meaning to look up on the internet ‘how to use air-drying clay.’ I don’t follow internet and YouTube instructions well, so I didn’t do it.

I looked around a few months ago for a ceramics class, but could find nothing in my budget or location.

Finally last week I opened the packet, took out a chunk and began to make something – allowing it to suggest a shape and I made a little pot.

This morning, I took out a range of gouache and acrylic paints to see what would work and I painted it. Trial and error. I explored it and it was such fun!

Here it is.

My finished little pot.

PS: I’ve run over time now, but just to say that I had such fun squidging the clay, that I took the clay to use with the children at Sunday School last week. They concentrated so well on the story I told them and asked amazing questions, whilst their hands were busy exploring the clay. Soon I’ll tell more stories whilst they paint their creations.



My March Joys and Thanksgiving

March Thanksgiving

Spring bursting out along the paths.

I do love March.

March contains my birthday and some clear signs of Spring; plus more daylight hours and therefore the hope of more opportunities to be out and about.

We have had some amazingly hot weather and some crazy snow and hail downpours – truly balmy weather, just as we British love it!

This March I scheduled several very sociable occasions, so I found myself extremely thankful for the connections to wonderful people that have blessed my life.

I had a party for my birthday, a trip away to see special friends, a reunion of great school-pals and the occasion of a funeral thanksgiving service to meet up with memories of special people from my past.

I am so thankful for each and every one of those people and for the value they have added into my life. So grateful.

My word for March, and for most of this year so far, has to be faithful. Not me, but God.

God is so very faithful.

Here again I want to give public thanks to God for all of the visible answers, during March, to specific prayers brought before His throne.

Specifically I thank God for:

Being well enough to go ahead with the party and for all being well enough to attend.

For inspiration to make just enough food to serve everyone throughout the day and not be overwhelmed with leftovers.

For an invitation to do a presentation at a lit-fest in April.

For smooth, seamless train connection on each of the journeys away.

For the timing and honour of being with D at the moment I was needed and for many opportunities to glorify Your name.

That D has a job and home that she loves.

For being able to take the opportunity to meet face-to-face with some great writer friends.

For 3 invitations for food and connection with old acquaintances in London.

For a successful DIY week and mutually pleasant company.

For encouragements for myself as a writer and blogger.

For evidence of real growth and healing of my inner-child and for a great new strategy to help me face fear.

For the great turn-out of love and friendship for the thanksgiving service for a great man of God.

For scheduled catch-up time with L. and film nights with C.

For the celebration of 7 years sober – for Your help every step of the way and for AA and the wonderful community they are.

For healing and refreshing L.

For the deepening friendships in our special ‘home-group’.

For mothers everywhere, but thank you for all the blessings that I have received as a mother and a grandmother – joy beyond words!

Lord, You are faithful.

Psalm 5:3 says, ‘In the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.’

Blessed be God forever.

What are you grateful for today?

Five minute Friday – Coffee

I have never done the Five minute Friday writing challenge before, so this is rather experimental. I have just taken the prompt and checked the time and began writing… I panicked too!

But 5 minutes passed very quickly and, well, I’m not sure whether it is for me, but here goes: I will share it and be vulnerable yet again.

It took longer than 5 minutes to find an image and copy and paste it to the blog, but the writing was 5 minutes.

connections over coffee
  • Go –

Coffee

I love how folk say – and I say – can we meet up for a coffee?

It doesn’t have to be coffee, but if it is a morning date, I will probably be glad of a coffee. What we drink really doesn’t matter though. Nobody is bothered if we drink milkshakes, tea, juice or hot-chocolate ( a second favourite of mine!) what matters is that we spend time together and connect.

A blogging friend of mine does most of his evangelism in a coffee-shop. It is neutral ground and relaxed.

Many years ago, I lived in Southern Germany and the family I lived with had a coffee percolator at a time when coffee was not so common in the UK. I was in charge of making the morning pot of coffee which then went into a Kaffeekanne – a thermos-type pot which was to keep it warm for the morning. Maybe it did, but the coffee never lasted the morning, as I would drink it too quickly.

Nowadays, I mostly drink decaf coffee, but still I drink too much. I don’t seem to do anything in moderation.

I hope that my faith will always be my addiction, my all-or-nothing too and that I will never become lukewarm.

  • Stop.

Tiny Ripples of Hope

This is a beautiful Easter poem of hope – hope placed in us, the church, because of our hope in Him.

DarylMadden

The worlds looking for
The answer to cope
The chosen called to spread
Tiny ripples of hope

Of message echoing
The truth known of the way
One that conquered death
That rose on Easter’s day

A peace beyond this world
Known in our joy and strife
Love the only word
Of everlasting life

Like diamonds that sparkle
Upon an ocean bright
Or stars from above
Found in the night

Come now brother sister
As one body unite
A wave of hope rising
Of His glorious light

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Encouragement

When I think of people that I admire and those whose company gives me much joy, those people, I notice, have one certain character trait in common – they are encouragers!

This week I was at a thanksgiving service for a dear soul who was a great encourager. Whoever met him would leave his presence with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.

I want to be like that. I want to lift others; come alongside others; speak joy and hope to others.

A person who encourages is one with whom one feels one’s own spirit lifted. They do not use flattery or shallow, people-pleasing rhetoric, but they see what is good, what is true, what is possible, what is excellent and they focus on those things.

I have often said of myself that I am very easily encouraged and equally too easily discouraged. I am not proud of this. I wrote a poem some years ago, called ‘Emotional Rollercoaster’ because of this unpredictable powerlessness I had over my emotional state!

And it is still true of me. My emotional response to circumstances can fluctuate so rapidly, with the next change of the winds of fortune and opinion! It is not a healthy way to be and it is something that my growth journey of the last seven years has had me constantly aware of and working on.

It is a battlefield in the mind, as Joyce Meyer expounds in her excellent book with that title.

We are called to be transformed, by the renewing of our minds. Thankfully my mind is changing and being renewed slowly.

The key is in the word, courage.

When I am discouraged, I lose courage and become fearful. Such fears are rooted in rejection, punishment and limiting beliefs about myself, lies that say I deserve nothing, that I am stupid and that I am worthless.

When a circumstance changes and an obstacle arises, or a person shows hostility or opposition to something I hold dear, then the negative thoughts in my mind can trigger the fears and leave me feeling powerless and without courage or hope. I sink rapidly into a pit.

When I am encouraged, it feels like the world smiles on me; I feel accepted; I feel okay and I have the courage to believe that I can do something worthwhile. Encouraged, the sun shines and I can look for solutions to obstacles and I have courage to believe the truth and to stand against opposition with truth and resilience.

The trouble is that I still rely too heavily on such encouragement from other people.

Though I am working on ‘re-framing’ those internal scripts, that say I am rubbish, and contradicting them with true facts about who I really am and the truth of who God says I am, still I am too easily swayed by the opinions of others and the obstacles that appear in my circumstances.

Likewise I can choose to focus on the speck in the eye of another and the plank in my own eye, or I can be grateful for the goodness in that person’s heart and in the growth in my own life.

I am a work in progress. I have to constantly contradict the lies from my internal critic; have to constantly be mindful of the truth about the present reality; have to remind myself of what God says about me in His word; have to build myself up in faith and stand with courage on the faithful promises of God.

I need to build my house upon the Rock, not upon sand.

And I need to do this for myself and not rely on the opinions and acceptance of others. For transformation, I have to remain alert and keep up the housekeeping in myself. It is a daily practice of hope, as essential as sleep, food and water.

However, it is also my mission to my brothers and sisters.

I remind myself that today I will only say and do that which build another person up, in the truth.

I will not criticise, gossip or speak doom and gloom.

I will see all that is lovely, all that is good and true and excellent.

I will focus on those things and I will point them out to myself and to my fellow warriors who battle with their own minds.

I will be an encourager, a light and a smile to others, wherever I find myself.

Will you encourage and give hope to somebody today?

Accountability

There is a picture forming in my head, with concepts spinning around, to do, I think, with accountability, but somehow all the words seem insufficient.

Like most of the world, I was reflecting on Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine and the fact that he was allowed to march into another sovereignty and begin killing, bombing and doing whatever he liked. And nobody could really stop him.

I’m aware that this is a very simplistic summary, but he’s not the first to invade somewhere and probably won’t be the last. Britain has done it’s share of invading too.

But my thoughts went mainly to the phenomenon of autocratic governments, dictators and those who set themselves up with absolute power. Like wannabe deities. What struck me was that they do not seem to be accountable, or answerable, to anyone!

At some point in the climb, either brute force, or charisma, or an established custom took the person to a place of power, where they then decided to assume total power, without consequence.

This is a dangerous place to be and seems to cause a kind of insanity. We know the expression, ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

There is no boundary. If a person disagrees, or disobeys, they are likely to face punishment. They surround themselves with ‘yes-men’, who encourage them and, like some of our monarchs used to do, they satisfy their every whim at the expense of others, or else, ‘off with the head!

In our western democratic-style governments, leaders do not have absolute power (although Parliamentary Sovereignty is a very interesting notion), but they have their power limited to what will be accepted by the party they represent and by the voters. They have to win and maintain their position by persuasion, or else they are voted out. They are accountable to the status-quo maintained by the system and to the voters. If they overstep the mark and go off party lines, they can lose the job.

This happens in all levels of society – there are laws, rules, boundaries and expectations that most people follow in order to not face the punishment or consequences reserved for those who break the rules. This may be in school, within the family hierarchy, in the workplace and in society at large.

Most of us do not obey solely to avoid punishment. We obey sometimes out of love and respect for the leader, or because we respect the wisdom of laws and the standards such laws seek to protect and maintain.

All of us are accountable to someone in the pecking order. A parent, teacher, boss, spouse, group, organisation.

Even if one of them is a bully, they can only go so far, before the one to whom they are accountable calls them in.

I once witnessed a boy of only 10 years who was a tyrant to his helpless mother and completely without boundaries. It was very sad, in that he became obese in his boundless greed, was friendless because of his selfishness and rage and he became depressed.

You may have a parent who is a complete tyrant and bully at home, but they know they are breaking the law of the land and they live in some fear of being discovered and face the consequences of that law.

Accountability is an expectation and a check and balance with those to whom you are answerable. In a simple example, I promise something and I do it. You employ me, I do what you employ me to do.

There was once a time when I thought that accountability applied only as far as I didn’t get caught! But that was because I feared punishment. I feared all authority figures, but had little respect for most of them.

When I became a parent, I still struggled with the notion of discipline and consequences, but many years later, I now appreciate the value of boundaries. Boundaries set a safe limit and make us accountable. As humans, I now believe this is something we need for our general health and well-being.

Now I am grown up (ish), I choose to be accountable to others. It helps me to be disciplined and productive if I am to report success and failure honestly to others. When I gave up drinking, already seven years ago this month, I found it helped to announce the plan to family and to let them hold me accountable. AA was also great for this. To turn up, be transparent and answerable to the group is part of AA’s effectiveness. Of course, this also means others are there for you and they understand.

Another friend has chosen to report her targets and progress to me – also for that external accountability. It can be encouraging to have another celebrate those less public victories and successes.

I have chosen to acknowledge that I am always accountable to El Roi, to God who sees what is done, even in secret; to God who loves me unconditionally. I find the simplicity of keeping short accounts with my conscience, regularly acknowledging my honest faults and failings, this helps me to grow. I also know that each act of kindness is seen by the one that matters and I do not have to parade my virtues before others. This too is liberating.

I obey my conscience, not to avoid punishment now, but because I am loved.

I am so happy to be accountable to God and to others and to no longer seek to hide myself in the shadows. I find that this makes every thought, word and deed a special gift and a joy.

What are your thoughts on accountability?

Who do you consider yourself answerable to?