‘Bathing’ a New Home in Music

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Scandi wallpaperI moved into my new flat around 4 months ago.  it is quite hard to meet somewhere as big as this feel like one’s own but I have put up my pictures and move my own things in here, obviously.

However, I don’t feel it will be quite mine until I have a bathed the space in my music – in my case mainly rock/hip hop/soul music. Maybe that sounds strangely spiritual.  I know people do perform rituals when they moving to a new place.  I was encouraged by someone at church to pray for the flat to clear it of negative energy,  or dark stuff.  I did.

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Sweet Memories of My Friend Who Died Saturday

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My friend PJ died on Saturday. She was friend, neighbour and some time client – and I was her client too. She was a nurse, a high flying one, and a holistic therapist. Hugely talented.

I thought a lot of her. Admired her. Envied her. She had the family I would have longed to be part of, a great job, great friends, smashing kids and a brilliant husband.

I’d listen open-mouthed as I heard about all the energy she’d expended – over the weekend, say. I could only dream of being that well. I don’t mean she was flighty or an adrenaline addict, no! She just had a zest for life and a lot of stamina.

Her youngest daughter was the very first person who spoke to me when I moved into that leafy, middle-class street 16+years ago with my now erstwhile husband. The daughter invited me into her house to a benefit for the Tanzanian tiger! I bought a fairy cake. I recall that, PJ, the woman who later became my friend, was sitting at the dining room table chatting while lots of well turned-out children did their best for our big cat friends. It’s a nice memory.

Although I knew her for 16 years she knew me better than I knew her. Most times it was me seeing her for treatment and there was a good measure of counselling/listening involved on her part. She understood about boundaries and professionalism.

I was also lucky enough to be a guinea pig when she was studying aromatherapy. Her massages, in her fantastic, elevated summer house, were awesome. When I had to go into hospital for surgery in 2013 PJ made up an aromatherapy stick for me to calm my nerves. It comprised rose oil and frankincense. Still got it and it still smells divine!

She helped me no end: when I was undergoing some awful stress related to my ex’s family, (2009) and during our break-up, (2011) and after that too. Her generosity was much appreciated. Incidentally, her acupuncture treatments were one of the few things that truly helped me out of all those I’ve tried.

The last time I saw her was Autumn 2015. She had moved away by this time to the North but she was back in the city to meet friends for lunch. I kept bumping into them and she was really giggly from lunchtime wine and lively chatter. She looked as glowing as ever and very happy.

Just weeks later she was diagnosed with cancer. It was aggressive and unrelenting. She died around 7 months after diagnosis.Within the last two days her eldest daughter has raised over £1,310 via http://www.justgiving.com for Hospice at Home.

I’m heartbroken for PJ, her family and close friends. As a Christian I don’t know what to make of it. I can pray for them.

I’ll always remember PJ. At 52 she really is gone too soon.

 

My Big Posh Church, Lent, Day 18.

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As I was very tired from my night out I decided to go to our town’s poshest church rather than make the trip to my own church this evening.

Very beautiful surroundings and wonderful choir, good sermon, but strange to be there.

This posh church’s ethos is extremely liberal – which is my 1970’s upbringing background. It’s all gay vicars and seminars on transgender issues. But the hierarchical nature of the service, the Us and Them aspect (congregation v clergy), the formality, is now alien to me, yet this is what I grew up with.

At my usual church services anyone can pray out loud, singing is done by all of us and we sing a LOT! Sermons, a.k.a. the message, are chatty, funny, moving. But gay vicars are a big no-no. It’s a fundamental church, in effect, though with kindly pastoral care rather than punishing.

Sometimes trying new things can be a disappointment. But it does stretch you and also makes you appreciate what you have already.

The War Room, Lent, Day 15

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War-Room-Table

We had a film night at church tonight. We watched the Christian film, The War Room, which I had never seen. (Hence, it was NEW to me).

I did enjoy it but found its lack of subtlety difficult, and as my friend, JH, said, the ends were all very neatly tied up, rather unrealistically.

I found this review from The New Yorker interesting: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/the-sanitized-christianity-of-war-room

To Sleep Perchance to Dream.

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The Radio 3 logo, introduced in 2000 along wit...

The Radio 3 logo, introduced in 2000 but replaced in 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am just listening to ‘Sleep’, which is the all-night world premiere performance of Max Richter‘s eight-hour epic piece on BBC Radio 3. Beautiful but eerie. As a chronic insomniac this intrigues me.

I don’t find praying very conducive to sleep as it makes me think about the things and people I am praying for too much! It’s actually too stimulating.

Sleep is such a precious thing, one I have trouble with, due to my chronic illness. I am doing a sleep course though.

Head for the Hills for Divorce Support

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Goodbye blue sky

Goodbye blue sky (Photo credit: [xinita])

Last Saturday was our inter-church divorce group Away Day to a remote, ancient village. The weather was amazing – hot with one of those magical clear blue skies. I could go only for the afternoon session but it was great to reconnect with some of the people I had not seen for a while and talk to some I had never got to know because I was doing Chained No More when they were on the divorce course.

I stayed over in a hotel in the village. That was good but challenging at times as I was the only single person, it seemed, in a village crammed with tourists in couples or families. However, I managed. I sat in the churchyard and just enjoyed being somewhere remote with no access to the internet or phone! I also prayed. Then I watched The Hunger Games on TV in my room, which I loved.

I woke up at 3am and looked out onto the silent cobbled streets, half expecting to see ghosts. But all was quiet.

All Night Long

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A collection of lit candles on ornate candlesticks

A collection of lit candles on ornate candlesticks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new experience came last night when I attended part of an All Night Prayer Meeting: 10pm start through to 8.30am with communion at 7.30am.

You could go for the whole night or just for a while, praying for community, healing, breakthrough etc. I made it for a couple of hours (due to my health issues). It was nice. The little church was lit by candles and there was music and singing and prayers, then chatting and snacking. A little tent had been erected too, in the church, with pillows and books, for peaceful retreat!

Most of the prayer warriors there are experienced Christians so I felt like a novice but that’s okay. I did not do much ‘out loud’ praying but I did write out a prayer and pin it to the cross and added names to various prayer sheets.

I’ve also started helping out with a pastoral team project. I can’t afford to tithe so thought that offering to ‘serve’ was a good measure.

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Prayer Instructions from Jackie M Johnson, author:

In the morning: Pray for wisdom, guidance, healing and favour.

In the evening:  Give thanks and gratitude for all God has done for you that day – whether you enjoyed it or endured it.

 

Building Healthy Relationships

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James Dobson in 2007 in Washington, DC at the ...

James Dobson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Life Group focuses on “Healthy Relationships” – Colossians 3:18-4:1.

Pertinent. Have read James Dobson‘s book Love Must Be Tough. Don’t agree with everything he writes but the basic premise is spot on. Perhaps I should give it another read.

REFLECTION: remembering the main points

  • Advice to Wives & Husbands. V18-19
  • Advice to Children & Parents. V20 -21
  • Advice to Slaves & Masters. V22 – 4:1
  • Paul’s advice for Healthy Relationships only works if we allow God into our relationships.

DISCUSSION: helpful questions

  • What is the relationship you admire most and why?
  • Why are relationships so challenging?
  • Do you think Paul’s advice about relationships in the first century AD is still applicable in the 21st century? Why or why not?
  • Wives & Husbands. What does Genesis 1:26 -28 tell us about God’s original plan for the relationship between men & women? What does Genesis 2:18-25 tell us about God’s plan for marriage? What does Genesis 3:16 tell us about how the relationship between men & women has become strained?
  • Children & Parents. What do you think about James Dobson’s advice that parents should “bend a child’s will without breaking a child’s spirit”? What do you think about the suggestion that the commandment to Honour our father & mother has different applications depending on our relative ages?
  • Employee & Employer. What difference would it make in the work place if employees & employers remembered that we will all ultimately give an account to one who sees all & is impartial?

APPLICATION: ideas that work

Look at your own relationships. Take time to reflect in quietness about what you’re grateful for. Consider ways in which God might encourage you to be a positive influence. Does something need to change in you? Respond to God in praying for one another in 2-3s.

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Uncertainty Is Strength

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English: Lucas Cranach the Elder: Law and Grac...

Lucas Cranach the Elder: Law and Grace, Gotha version, 1529. (Pic credit: Wikipedia)

My friend is certain about many things. She is positive, upbeat and always has an answer.

When I was younger, and particularly in my marriage, I was a doer, a task-orientated type. I thought I had answers – or if I did not I would find them in a book. Research was the key. (I’m still a keen researcher and, I confess, I do delve into things way too much, especially now I have the world wide web to trawl.)

Providing answers to other people’s problems can deprive them of their need to explore how they actually feel about things, to process events or situations, and maybe to meditate on them or, for those inclined, to pray things through. Being a chronic rescuer or a purveyor of certainties disempowers people.

But, you may argue, Christians are a group of people who are full of certainty.

First of all, Christians come in all shades. And, yes, for most Christians there is certainty. Certain of God’s existence, certain of God’s grace, certain about the resurrection.

Yet all this is a leap of faith. Christians believe in something they can not physically see. They feel/sense/believe in God’s grace. And as Pastor 3 says, not all Christians believe in the resurrection (though he preached on being unable to build your faith without believing in the Resurrected Christ.)

While some people say they just ‘know’ for others leaping into faith may mean choosing to believe.  Or at least being more open-minded than they previously were. To me, this is a good thing. ‘Cos one thing my life has revealed is that there are few certainties. Things can change, cataclysmic-style or joyously, in the blink of an eye – or while the lights turn from green to red.

And I am no longer impressed by people who think they have all the answers.

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Prayer Power?

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Prayer Space.JPG (Photo credit: bhsher)

I did a little research on the net recently about the power of prayer and whether it actually “works”. I guess one’s answer depends on what we mean, each of us, by ‘works’. Do we mean as in  an instant result?

Today’s church talk (I can’t call it a sermon ‘cos they don’t come across as preachy) was about the ‘inbetween times’ – the times when you can not see God at work in your life. The talk was based on the life of Joseph. I suppose that even when you pray but don’t see the results that you want God is still at work ‘cos his timeline is not the same as yours.

Someone prayed for me today. After she asked me how I felt. I wasn’t quite sure if I felt much different though I was very pleased to have her prayers. There have been times when people have prayed for me and I have felt a definite lifting: Pastor W; Life Group people; my ‘mentor’, BH.

But I also read that prayer – when you know that a lot of people are praying for you – can put pressure on you for a certain outcome. I can see this.

OTOH, certain people I trust, like HT, say it definitely works.

Ask and it shall be given, eh?

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We All Have Messy Moments

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This week’s Life Group was on the subject of radical redemption and messy moments. I’ve definitely created my own fair share of messy moments. Makes me shudder to think of them all!

A fascinating evening of discussion. We looked redemption and its relation to repentance and atonement.  I felt much more confident about joining in and piping up (I have a habit of piping up, but it’s just my enthusiasm) and I received some good feedback.

Life Group is quite a long evening if you want it to be. We start off by talking about issues that have affected us in the week or upcoming events then there is prayer: anyone can pray and it is very informal, unpretentious. This creates a real feeling of warmth and love in the room and everyone gets a chance to air their problems or fears for the week ahead.  I don’t mean the praying is happy, clappy. You have to be there to get what I mean. Then there is discussion based on the Sunday sermon/talk that Pastor C has given, then closing prayer, then lots of chat. Cake seems to make an appearance too! An acquaintance tells me that cake and God seem to go hand in hand. There are about five women in my age range in the group, give or take fifteen  years or so, and that’s really nice. Very bonding.

Atonement (novel)

Atonement (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Sleep Reversal Means I Miss Out

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sleeping deer buck

 (Photo credit: jonnnnnn)

One of the most frustrating aspects of my illness is that my sleep patterns are awry, especially in WINTER.  This means I always miss the morning service at my church, which is in the next town from me, because I can’t get there in time and I feel so lousy in the mornings anyway.

This is hugely frustrating because it’s the main service of the week, in a nice location and with time for coffee and chat afterwards. If I do go to a service it tends to be a night, a smaller affair, and not as sociable. But, there you go. I can’t fight my symptoms, only try and manage them as best I can. I don’t suppose God minds when I go, but I do.

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My First Life Group

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Managed to get to my first Life Group session tonight. Fortunately I had met all the group members before and some are quite good friends already so it was not too daunting on that front.

I loved it! The session was based on Luke Chapter 5, verses 17 – 26, (Jesus Heals a Paralysed Man). Our discussion focused on breakthroughs, compassion, obstacles, continual prayer, reaching out to others and noticing those who may be alone, or ‘hidden’ -even within our own church.

I have to say that people have been overwhelmingly welcoming to me. Admittedly, I did know people through the divorce group, but even so, strangers have welcomed me. In fact, I found it rather shocking at first that complete strangers would be so friendly  – and I hail from one of the friendliest,  least pretentious towns in the UK so heaven knows what a ‘soft southerner’ would have made of it all!

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Tough Enough For Love Must Be Tough?

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Folio 31r - David Foresees the Mystic Marriage...

Folio 31r – David Foresees the Mystic Marriage of Christ and the Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even if I remain anonymous I doubt it would take the ardent follower, should I ever get one,  long to determine who I was as I wrote another blog elsewhere, on Blogger. That one is on popular culture. I will no doubt be cross referencing with that one from time to time. I guess I could keep other people anonymous though, the ones I will refer to, people from my church.

I came to my church by a series of coincidences. Basically, it was through a forum, based in America, for separating people. This led me to a divorce group that just happens to be in a town near me in the UK.  Out of all the people in the room at that first meeting there was just me (and later another guy) who were not Christians.  I was surprised at how normal, and indeed, hip, many of these divorcing people were! That sounds awful, but they looked unlike whatever my image of a Christian person was.

I did not really take on board a great deal of the Christian teaching in the seminars and DVDs but I was open-minded. Two books, self-help ones, had had a profound effect on me during the beginning of my own separation: Hope for the Separated by Gary Chapman, and Take Back Your Marriage by Bill Doherty. The latter is one of my favourite books of all time. While Bill does not openly state he is a Christian, the way he expresses himself, seems to indicate that he is. He is very focused on marriage being supported by community and he is very pro-marriage – and he also talks about how we have a view of marriage as a consumer item.

Neither of these books saved my marriage but they helped me to remain calmer during the separation. I liked the more rounded view these books present of marriage and what it means. Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson was also a good read, though I do not agree with his views on homosexuality.

For me, getting a more involved with the church has been partly about encouragement/teamwork on a spiritual, emotional and practical journey and also about connecting with decent people.

I read the book Safe People, from the divorce group library. This book builds on things I had learnt previously through counselling and other self-help books. I am the Queen of Self-Help! At this time, just months ago, I was knocking around with some people  – mates, I suppose – not my close friends, who are ace, but these other people I knew from the music scene. The mates are not bad people but not what I would call ‘safe’. Many of them are delightful, but some are or were not really addressing deeper issues – and that can impact on those around them. Meanwhile, I was hearing people talk at divorce group and thought, ‘Maybe these are the sorts of people I need to spend a little more time with.’  These were people trying to get ‘whole’.  They were not idiots.  That was what brought me into the church first off.

Now I am trying to read as much as I can, read the Bible, and sort out my thinking.

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