The Jubilation-Despair Clash

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Things have been very up or down here.  I’ve just had a very busy week,  busy for me that is.  

JUBILATION   I went to a prayer meeting at the tiny church on my new street. This church is linked to my usual church – they belong to the same family. I’m hoping to get involved in their home group whilst I am recuperating from my long health relapse.

I’ve had beloved visitors to the flat which has made it feel much more homely. I also met a woman and her partner at a social event. She  invited me to her new home which is a palatial edifice overlooking the sea. The views are spectacular.  They moved up from London six months ago. Gentrification is definitely taking place here.

I also went to a craft/technical workshop yesterday which I absolutely loved.

DESPAIR  But there are downsides too. I went to my GP and asked to go back on antidepressants as being housebound much of the time has been really getting to me.  I am feeling a little brighter for that.  I am also going to be tested for Addison’s Disease.  I don’t think I have it but it is a good place to start,  to find out why I have had muscle wasting and weight loss over the last 3 years.  Personally I think it is to do with hormones,  lack thereof,  after my hysterectomy.  Low testosterone can be a real problem.

I am really struggling with my trusted mechanic, who is looking out for an automatic car for me. It’s taking ages and I feel that there is a breakdown in communication. I feel like a ‘problem’ to him, which is how my ex used to make me feel, whereas we have always got on brilliantly. 

My relationship with my  best friend, G, is also proving to be quite difficult. We have had some talks recently about how I feel the friendship is being eroded by his extraordinarily busy, stressful life. Much of his life is negative. I really do fear for his health – and he does too! He got defensive when I brought up this ‘fading of our friendship’.  He basically told me to ‘get over it’ and ‘get on with it’.  I  believe  he has lost perspective and sees me as attacking him rather than trying to sort the problem out.  We have been friends for 31 years.  I don’t think he has any conception at all of what it is like to be very often housebound and vulnerable because of that. Disappointing.

Therefore, I have jubilant times and times of despair.  I have a large desire to tell a few people to sling their hooks.  But I know that that will be self-defeating in the long run. I must master my emotions! 

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When You Are Not Needed

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Sometimes having only yourself to think about is more a of a curse than a blessing. Even offered to take my 83 neighbour to the nursing home where here hubby is today but she was already sorted!

Offered to help young friends out with childcare on their moving day, but they don’t need me. I’ve joined a voluntary group – but nothing’s happening yet, I’ve work promised – but for the future, have a business idea – but it is still in development. Even Life Group was cancelled tonight.

At least I got out of town today for a while! Hallelujah!

Praying for Healing Isn’t Enough

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Praying for our health isn’t enough. I’ve learned that we have to pray to God to be shown what we need to change –  how our thinking and behaviour need to alter, no matter how painful the execution of those things may be.  We need to meet God halfway and take responsibility for our own part. But sometimes we need God to show us what those steps are.  

Just vaguely praying for healing for ourselves and our friends, for example, in Life Group, which is what we do a lot of, isn’t enough. We need to get specific. 

 

How Hearing of A Friend’s Shortened Life Expectancy Can Galvanise Us

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Hearing yesterday about a beloved friend’s terminal cancer (could be weeks, months or years – not sure yet) has made me aware that I’m spending too much time living in the past and the future and not concentrating on the now.

I’m determined to make some changes in my life, even just little ones, like not being involved with too many things on Facebook! I do the Christian business club page, update my church’s public page, then there is our prayer group, where I am the admin, and I also am admin on a client page plus have my own business page. Time to do something else I think.

There are some bigger changes I want to make too but I’m working my way through those and how I might proceed.

 

The Age of Loneliness Programme Delivers

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06vkhr5

What a fascinating programme on BBC One just now about loneliness. I truly believe this is the affliction of our age. I loved how they profiled people of all ages and walks of life, including those who feel lonely who are surrounded by people.

One guy summed it up perfectly: plenty of people to do things with (friends) but no-one to do nothing with – after, say, a bereavement or relationship breakdown.

As 42 per cent of marriages in the UK will end in divorce it is no surprise that loneliness is on the increase. I have lots of friends who seem to genuinely care about me, and my mum, but loneliness is an issue in my life. I may not feel as bad as some of the people profiled, and I am quite extroverted, but I definitely have regular bouts of loneliness. Sometimes daily, sometimes just at weekends. Male Platonic Friend has helped me in this respect.

However, church groups and church attendance really help. This is not just because one is with people but also due to the fact that we talk about our vulnerabilities – in Life Group, for example. Also, in worship you are communing with God, even if at times you feel somewhat disconnected from God. Singing worship songs helps us feel connected to each other and to a greater being. (The great I Am).

I think some people I know may feel less lonely because they have a deep spiritual connection. But I may be making assumptions there.

 

 

Moved to Tears By Church Group’s Present for my Milestone Birthday

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On Sunday, I was driving on the interstate thr...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was moved to tears – literally – by a present from my church Life Group for my 50th birthday. As was my mum when I told her. Humbled.

The group put together a collage, and framed it, of words and stories about me. They are just amazing words. At the centre of the collage are the words: “We love you XX”. That;s just what I need to hear, every day. These words mean such a lot to me as I sometimes feel like I am a bit of a nothing, especially after being cast aside by my Ex, as his burdensome wife.

I have hung it in front room and will look at it every day, especially when feeling in need of sustenance.

It’s tough being single sometimes especially when you are ill, but at times like this I feel like I was the winner, not him. I would never have met these people if I was still with him.

This is Not America

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This is Not America, as David Bowie once sang. 

We had the bishop preaching to us tonight. He is from America. I did not take to his style of preaching AT ALL. Hated it. Very OTT, theatrical, loud and showy. 

Shudder. 

Fortunately my companions from Life Group felt the same. 

I Am the Walrus, I am the Blunderbuss

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Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss (Photo credit: Mike Miley)

 

“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19

 

I have many faults. Two of my main faults are tactlessness and an impetuous nature. My enthusiasm and openness can lead me away from my true goal of being “slow to speak”. Of course, when I realise (usually quite quickly, on account of the deafening silence that greets my blunder) that I have inadvertently caused hurt I am mortified. ‘What a jerk!’ I think. ‘Oops, I did it again…’ ‘Why, oh why, did I not think?’ I’m always quick to apologise but still…

I don’t know where this blunderbuss behaviour comes from. Is it nature or nurture? Maybe it’s because I grew up in a home where the boundaries were extremely blurred. Maybe it is written in the stars! Sagittarians are known for their tactlessness. I remember my step-dad saying that sometimes he could be walking down the street and suddenly recall some tactless or wrongheaded behaviour/action he’d executed and he would just feel hideously embarrassed. I know what he meant.

 

A few people at church – especially in Life Group – have said they admire my openness and honesty. But being too open can be a double-edged sword. At least the tactless numpte is not Machiavellian. I’m not a schemer, a plotter, a sociopath or a game player. But the plotters do better in life – or rather they attain positions that are viewed by society as desirable. The schemers are the lawyers, politicians, business giants. Maybe if I had treated life like a game of chess I wouldn’t be in the, well, disadvantaged position I am in.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Destroy Your Marriage Before It’s Even Begun

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Rose (Photo credit: kewing)

Since I have been separated and working on myself and walking with God, as they say, I have learned a great deal about how we relate to each other in couples. I’m not saying I have it sussed but hindsight is a great teacher as are self-help books, Christian books, Bible study groups and talking with your friends, Christian and non-Christian alike.

What I see a  lot of is educated couples – often not married but in LTRs, sometimes with kids too – talking badly to each other, disrespecting the other big time! I cringe. In fact, it breaks my heart – for them and for me. I can see their mistakes loud and clear because I made them too! And that’s one of the reasons I’m getting divorced. My mistakes. His mistakes. And a whole lot of mess.

OTOH, I do see couples who seem to work together beautifully. Not saying it’s a bed of roses for them but they are truly trying to do what’s right for the other rather than self.

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I Am a Woman. Not ‘one of the lads’.

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The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am following a health programme and one essential is to deal with emotions as they arise rather than letting them fester. With this in mind allow me to emote!

Friendly Guy – my friend in the church. He’s gone outside of the church to find a relationship (and succeeded) because, in his words, “There’s no-one for me at this church.” This he has told me three times.

Sorry, love, but that’s a rubbish thing to say to a woman even if she is not your type/age/remotely of interest to you. I’m still a woman. Not a bloke. Not “one of the lads”. Not invisible.

Another friend, let’s call him D, who is (or was) like a nephew to me met his now wife on one of the naffest websites known to daters. He was bound to succeed cos he has everything going for him – as does his now wife. Some people will be snapped up immediately. As D got into his new relationship I was dropped like a stone! Maybe that’s how it should be. I don’t know. But it did hurt.

Friendly Guy has already turned from  being the most sociable and proactive church group member to one who is focused on new love. That kind of hurts too ‘cos we, the ones left behind, are who accompanied him on his difficult journey.

I am being selfish. We should be prepared to let our brother go – and, like a family, be there for him when the difficult times come or if it doesn’t work out, or be there to celebrate with him when it all goes brilliantly. That’s how it should be.

What’s the underlying emotion here that I am feeling? Resentment. Hey. Just getting it out there!

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Signed Up to Christian Connection

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Flight to Romance (album)

Flight to Romance (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve put my profile up on Christian Connection. Tbh, just done it to see who is out there and to practise writing a profile… and seeing if I am ready or not. I probably won’t join up after three day free trial is over but I think you can contribute to the boards and read stuff which is a step forward. My dream is to meet someone through real life, as a friend, and to slowly get to know them and for us both to realise that, hey, we are right for each other and see how we can fit our lives together. But it’s not happened yet.

Also, as I am not out in the workplace the pool of single men I know is quite small. I know some lovely single men but they are either too far away, scared of women, not interested in me, too young or have some stuff to sort out for themselves. I meet great men in day-today life – but they are all partnered up or married.

We Are Family. Or Are We?

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My church has just run a series of sermons called Church Matters. Pastor 3 asked for some feedback. I have sent mine to him privately.

I wrote (more or less):

“I am intrigued by the idea of church as family that has come up. Families can be great; I doubt there are many on this earth who don’t need family. Yet when Pastor 1 says, “We are family,” my barriers go up. I think, ‘Mmm. Are we? Really?’

I think church can be LIKE a family – in good ways and bad. The good ways are obvious: mutual support; shared sense of doing things for the good of the cause; unity; somewhere to turn to in good times and bad. But let’s not forget that families can be very dysfunctional places.

Also in families people are assigned roles. Sometimes those roles can box us in. People can get labelled… and that happens in church too. She’s the naughty one; he’s the dull one; she’s the arty one… etc. This type of ‘shorthand’ thinking can reduce people. In truth, we are all more complex than the roles assigned to us. Families have rules, often unspoken rules at that. These rules help the family to function but it also means that family members have to toe the line. Those who don’t do this feel the weight of displeasure from the others or may be ostracised.
Then there are the power games (vile). The gossip! And silliness! Even bullying. It can all get very messy.

Also one can feel alone in a family. This is why belonging to a Life Group is vital, IMHO. It is there that you do get to something approaching family.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of My Church and my church life. I have forsaken some former activities to devote my [limited] energies to being part of the church and I don’t regret my decision. I have noticed that you [Pastor 3] personally do not push this idea of our church as family. Maybe because I don’t live in the town where our church is makes me somewhat removed from church-as-family. Part of me would love to live there but another part wonders if it would be claustrophobic.
To sum up. Church is like a family. Whether it can be family… of that I am not certain.”

Circle of Friends

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Texting on a qwerty keypad phone

Texting on a qwerty keypad phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

>Another of my very good friends, P, called me today having read my Tears on My Pillow posting. Great to hear from him. And one of the Life Group guys text me a heartfelt message too and people at church were very kind (those that know about my tears!)Had a chat with R who also has a long-term illness, though a different one from mine. Like my friend, A, she totally gets it. It’s the sheer longevity of invisible chronic illness that gets to you. It affects every sphere of your life: finances, work capacity, social life, exercise, joy, relationships, marriage… Tough call.

Like, for example, ex and I did not have kids. We could have done but neither of us was, at that time, over-bothered. Having the ICI made it less of an option. People DO choose to have kids while suffering from this illness but they are the ones who really, really wanted them. We were ambivalent. But maybe if I had not been ill I would have been more enthusiastic. I will never know.

The challenge of ICI is not just the pain but the sorrow for the life not lived.

Tears on My Pillow

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English: Lodalen, a valley in Stryn municipali...

 Lodalen, Norway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Had a bit of a melt down at Life Group last night. I should not have gone as I was too ill but I thought I might perk up once I got there. I didn’t.

Fortunately it was an easy session, mainly listening to two young people talk about their various Godly missions and then prayer. At the end I asked them to pray for my long-term illness. I just burst into tears.

I can not see what use I am to anyone, to society or myself, by being ill. I’ve tried tons of treatments. Some have helped a little but none have helped a lot. There are two new drugs that seem to be helping for sufferers in the US (low dose naltrexone) and in Norway (Rituximab) but experience with them for my condition is not extensive as yet.

Praying for a miracle.

Holidays in the Sun

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English: A burning barbecue used in a summer c...

English: A burning barbecue used in a summer cottage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We were encouraged this Summer to either take a break or devote our Life Group time to ‘other activities’. We chose to carry on, missing just two session. We had a:

  1. BBQ.  This was a great night, out on the decking, complete with chiminea.
  2. presentation and question and answer session with one of our members who does missionary work in Peru. Loved this. I don’t get to go many exotic places – well, none, actually – which meant that this gave me a brilliant insight into other lives.
  3. quiz night. We lost by one point to the boys.
  4. group meeting in another venue, complete with before and after photos of a house renovation.
  5. meal out at a pub in one of the local villages. 

I think the activities did invigorate us and bond us. Hope that is the case. Now it is back to ‘term time’.

Faced a Dilemma

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I did not enjoy Life Group last week. Yes, it was a shock to me too! The reason is simple: the church I am in is more fundamental in its beliefs than I am. I don’t mind people’s differing beliefs but sometimes it seems like some church members are not living in the real world.

Because I have not grown up as a Christian I have seen and experienced things that they may not have done. I am not saying that makes me better than them – no, but maybe I have a more rounded view of life in some ways.

It made me rethink moving to the town where my church is based. I am still keen – it’s a neat little town surrounded by beautiful countryside – but I need to keep an open mind and continue to get to know the other places on my list and keep my options open.

I did think about going to St Egremont’s (not its real name, of course.) This is a more liberal church, with around 600 members, and one of the divorce group ladies has been going there for 22 years, She is a bit of a hippy type like me and I like her a lot.

I also talked it over with two of my church friends, who are UK-based missionaries. They were helpful. They agreed that they were fundamental but are sympathetic to my concerns. They suggested I talk to one of the pastors so Pastor 2, the youngest pastor, has willingly agreed to be there for me.

I have decided to stick with my church as my ‘base’. The people are great, it is a thriving church, I like going to this other town, and I do broadly agree with much of what they believe – but not all

Steeple

Steeple (Photo credit: dmushrush)

of it. Meanwhile, I will check out St Egremont’s at some point, and possibly the branch of ‘my church’ that is in my city too.

My ex suggested the Quakers. I said, “no.” Nothing against them but I think they are quite a middle class bunch in my city. I want a church that is thriving, with Life Groups and all sorts of projects. My life is quite a secluded one as it is so more of that would be counterproductive.

Ladies Matter

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Frustrated ‘cos I can’t go to this do at the church called tonight called Ladies Matter.

(Probably quite of lot of Ladies Natter, going on too!) There is no Life Group tonight.

I’ve been out with my ex-mother-in-law today and had other things on and am in quite a lot of pain.  But I have to keep telling myself that I could not go to anything at church or elsewhere for six weeks or more when I was under ‘house arrest‘ following surgery… And I must remember that one’s journey is not just about going to church and other churchy do’s and getting a  buzz from being with the people and doing/hearing spiritually uplifting things.

I guess it is about going beyond the Be Thou My Hobby syndrome.

LADIES HOME JOURNAL, SWIMSUIT LAYOUT

LADIES HOME JOURNAL, SWIMSUIT LAYOUT (Photo credit: George Eastman House)

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The Christian Life – No Cakewalk

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Cover of "Care of the Soul"

Cover of Care of the Soul

“Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean life is suddenly a cakewalk.” I paraphrase words I read somewhere recently.

Religion has been called “the opiate of the masses” [Die Religion… ist das Opium des Volkes] – Karl Marx. Or a comfort – like a snuggly blanket. It does not seem to be like that at all when you are in it.

Choosing to live a Christian (Christ-like) life is one of the hardest things you can can do, surely? It means not taking the easiest path, staying true to a moral code that feels right and healthy, not flirting with the cute guy in the O2 shop (well, maybe a very little), not expressing anger (or ‘ire’, as I prefer to think of it) inappropriately, not being a wimp, not being too guarded, not being paralysed by fear (for submitting to God – a higher power – means giving up control), not indulging in envy (I do covet my neighbour’s ass, and I mean that in the material not bodily sense!), not popping a pill/shooting up to numb emotional pain that needs to be healed, not sticking your head in a vat of vodka for same, not getting into co-dependent relationships, forgiving what can seem to  be unforgivable… the list goes on.

It is VERY hard to trust that ‘every little thing’s gonna be alright’, as Martin Smith once sang, ‘cos God’s looking out for you. Following a Christian, spiritual path is HARD. But it feels right. On a deep level.

“A spiritual life of some kind is absolutely necessary for psychological health.” Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul. Man’s got a point.

Mark Hall, of Casting Crowns, talked about the song ‘Slow Fade‘. It’s about how we gradually slide into morally dodgy practices: “People don’t crumble in a day. You don’t fall, you fade. In your mind, there’s that pride that says ‘I’d never do that’… but you don’t just do it, it’s a slow, series of compromises, little ones that go there eventually, until you’re sitting in a place you’d never go, doing something you’d’ never do… and yet the way you’re living totally makes sense to you somehow because you’re so numb….No one crashes and burns. They just slowly fade away one little compromise at a time.”

 

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‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

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I do worry that the only times I seem to be happy, socially, these days are when I am doing things with the Church or my Christian friends – and a few other non-Christian friends. 

Will I detach from other friends/acquaintances and be left high and dry? Am I a victim of the Be Thou My Hobby syndrome? Yet… another part of me thinks this is who I am becoming, that this is the real deal. I hope so.

My main concern about My Church (i.e, this particular church) is that many members are conservative in nature and Conservative politically whereas I am from a Left-Liberal background.

Spring Heeled Jack as depicted by an anonymous...

Spring Heeled Jack – Cover of an English penny dreadful (1904) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I made a comment, quite a long one, in Life Group the other night and I did feel that they hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. It related to modern day versions of the Penny Dreadfuls like Chat and Take a Break and how publishers use them to make the poor and disenfranchised feel like their situations are not so bad after all in comparison to the horror stories they read.

There are people who are more on my wavelength in the church. They are a more intellectual (not saying I am, but I was quite political at university and so are some of my old friends and my Ex). I live in a fashionable, liberal area of a small city about six miles from the church. The church itself is in a semi-rural area.

My home area gets on my nerves, TBH, but I kind of fit its profile. It’s the hot spot for Guardian readers, public sector workers, same sex couples, Greens and liberals,  and snooty-nosed bicycle riders from down South who have settled here. (Actually, it really does get on my nerves!) 

In the church, female friend BL, Pastor 3, male friend SB and a couple of women who go to the divorce group seem to be more…thinking. Male friend SB is definitely the one person I’ve met since my separation who I have most in common with. (We are just friends and likely to remain so). He is a bit ‘out there’.  He can’t be classified easily. I’ve made assumptions about how he might think in the past – then he surprises me. That’s a good thing!

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The Scandal of Grace

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TITLE | PASSAGE 
‘The Scandal of Grace’ – Mark 2:1 – 3:12

REFLECTION | main points
To be a vessel able to hold the ‘new wine’ that Jesus brings, we need to:

  • Accept our Sickness
  • Accept the Sick

DISCUSSION | helpful questions 

  • What is it about scandals that interest us so much?
  • Read Mark 2:1-3:12, why do you think what Jesus did and said was so hard to accept for the religious leaders?
  • What can be hard to accept about the message of Jesus for modern ears? In what ways does it cut across our western mind-sets?
  • In what ways is Mark 2:15 a foretaste of Jesus’ heavenly banquet (See Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 19:6-10), and what will be different about the heavenly banquet?
  • What things can prevent people from seeing their need for Jesus?
  • Why is acceptance vital for transformation to take place? (Mark 2:15-17; Luke 19:1-10)

INTERCESSION | engage in prayer
Pray for the situation in Syria – more here: http://www.opendoorsuk.org/