Happy New Year

Hi, why Happy New Year you ask? You have guessed it. It is the beginning of a new year for my Blog. I dislike New Year in January. I am not full of joy or anticipation as I find it an anti-climax after Christmas with nothing immediate to look forward to except long nights and cold dark winter days. I decided this year that I would celebrate New Year with my Blog in April (Well, strictly March,  please forgive three or four more weeks.)

A year on I remember what caused me to start a Blog. There were couple of main reasons that prompted me to give it a go.

Our Minister at Church was going on Sabbatical and in her absence I had volunteered to lead a series of reflections each Sunday through Lent. The format I devised was 20 minutes with a “thought to ponder on”, a piece of music on which to reflect and a blessing at the end. Each reflection took place after the morning service and was open to anyone-Church attendee or not.  The themes were from a Lent poetry book called “the heart’s time”  compiled and commented on by Janet Morley.

It occurred to me that if I set to up a blog I might reach a wider audience. I thought if I am going to do this, I might as well see if I can talk to a few more people than will turn up on the day.This was the second reason for starting the blog.

The first reason and the seed for branching out onto Social media and writing a Blog had been sown much earlier. During a work based crisis I had been appointed an external mentor to help me overcome difficulties and practise new strategies. His help had been provided during spring/early summer of 2013. My mentor discovered my love of writing and it was he who suggested I start a blog

I am not a native to the Internet. I still remember when mobile phones were first introduced, the size of house bricks which I had to shout down hanging out of a window to get a signal. Computers were equally clunky and slow and a mystery as to why it was such a palaver to turn them on and off. When my mentor first suggested setting up a Blog I was appalled.

I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or any of the usual suspects. I thought I would find it too intrusive as I like my privacy and anonymity. All I knew of social media was what I had heard on the news.  Death threats on Twitter to a woman who dared to suggest that a woman appear on our £5notes; bullying on teenage websites with tragic results of a teenage suicide; personal videos going viral (how alarming and exciting!); the danger of identity fraud.

“No,” I said, in my purist way. “I am perfectly content to write for myself in scrappy notebooks in my usual chaotic manner. Think of the intrusion of privacy. If I write on the Internet it stays out there in Cyberspace as a memento for all time.”

The seed planted began to sprout. When I heard a daily service on the radio in which the Minister spoke about the gulf between the generations on how they approach the Internet, I pricked up my ears. He mentioned how the younger generation at his church had talked about the benefits of social media to the crabby older generation like me. They found it a place of Spiritual support. It is not all bullying and criminal activity.

Another thought that had run through my head was what if I have no followers? What if I put myself out there and nobody cares? What if I feel more isolated and alone, the classic  “Billy No Mates.”

I struggled to set up the blog. What a headache! I needed help and advice and I sought it. I was put in touch with a very patient person who didn’t know me from Adam. He didn’t have a blog himself, but he was an expert in Information Technology and he talked me through it by setting up a blog to show me how its done. Even with his help I almost gave up. Yet here I am, a year later, still a novice and yet content with how far I have come.

And what have I discovered from my year with Social media?

I will mention the negatives first:

  • Post envy: The content of the post was never meant to be all about me and yet I discovered I had an ego. There was a fellow blogger who started a Blog at the same time as me. She was published in Freshly Pressed and she had so many Likes and Comments it blew me away. I was jealous. How come she had so many people looking at her blog? What about me, “Billy no mates” who struggled to get a single Like and certainly no comments for ages?
  • Spam: I decided early on to be strict about Spam. I am a sensitive soul and I knew that a lot of negativity would be destructive to me. And so I just don’t allow it. I sometimes note with mild amusement that I have far more spam comments than real comments. Other than that I ignore it and I have begun to care less about its presence.
  • Addiction: my husband says that I have become addicted to the blogging world. He notes that I turn the computer on when I first get up in the morning and I take a peek at it just before I go to bed. I must admit the thought of checking the Reader gets me out of bed in the morning. I worry that I am neglecting friends in the real world who I haven’t written to for ages.
  • Time goes too fast: The blogging world goes too fast for me. I cannot keep up. I notice a post I want to read and by the time I get chance to look it is lost in the backlog of a sea of posts.

Now for the flip side -the positives.

  • Lesson in humility to combat my post envy: I have come to admire my fellow bloggers who continue to blog day in day out regardless of how many Likes or comments you receive. I find myself deliberately seeking you out. Frankly it is less disheartening than following those who receive a zillion comments every time. Apologies to all of you who have numerous comments. I still follow you from a discreet distance. It amazes me if you do find my blog, become a follower, or give a Like or comment. I appreciate every follower, every Like and every comment even if I fail to follow back or seem lame in my acknowledgement and reply. (To be truthful I would become overwhelmed with too much information if I attempted to follow everyone at once.)
  • Comments and connections/the opposite of Spam: I love receiving true comments. I am amazed at the depth of conversation and connections with my fellow bloggers when I comment on your blog and you comment on mine. The kindness, the courtesy even when we disagree is more uplifting  than some of the disjointed chats I have in the real world. I often feel awed by the depth of the discussion and the kindness within the connection, so much so that I have shared personal stuff I never dreamt I would be sharing when I set out on this journey.
  • Invaluable friendships: I have come to depend on you, my few friends I have met here in the blogging world. I hope you know who you are. If you think it might be you, it definitely is. Sometimes I reach out in pure need, and with gentle love and affection your words are a balm to my soul. At other times you give me cause to reflect anew and I want to toss about the idea with you. (This dependency, or perhaps interdependency, is this the opposite of addiction or part of it?) I prefer to think that I am drawn by the stirrings of the Spirit of God. When I am being nudged by the Holy Spirit, I often have a restlessness about me until I have taken the action/ made the communication I am drawn towards. After the action, decision, connection has been made the serenity I experience is beyond my power.
  • Time slows down: Yes, I miss a lot of posts. Sometimes I come back to you days or even weeks later. And if I comment, you reply. I am so glad that you reply and we can have an in-depth chat even weeks later. Even though it is in front of the world, sometimes it can feel like it is just you and me. Time slows down because I find myself reflecting on the posts I do read, for a long time afterwards. And sometimes I reply with my own post on the same subject. The pebble dropped in the middle of the still water continues a ripple to the far edges of the deep lake. (Now who is it who talks about pebbles being dropped?)

Finally, dear fellow bloggers, I want to thank you for sharing this experience of my first year of writing a Blog. When I set out I wanted to reach more people with my words of wisdom. I never dreamt that you would reach me with yours.

On Monday when I was still trying to compose the end of this post, I heard on the radio that in the UK there is a higher incidence of teenage girls reporting depression and anxiety. Social media was given as part of the reason for this and the instant score of popularity with the number of likes we receive when we post something on the internet. When we receive 100 plus, euphoria; when we receive fewer than 6, a cloud of gloom.

Well, this old woman of  too can also be affected by it. And I am supposed to be mature. I will pass on the words that came into my mind when I first set up the blog.

In the words of Eva Perron on her death-bed as written in the musical Evita:

I thought the more that loved me, the more loved I’d be; but these things cannot be multiplied.

All I want to do is connect with a few others and share my experience and understanding of Divine Love despite or perhaps because of my human blundering as I journey on.

Posted in Reflections, Spirituality | Tagged | 13 Comments

Resurrection (Easter: a year on)


Resurrection

In the garden before sunrise

Kind love met Mary Magdalene

Who had no expectation of seeing

This dead man walking

Fully Alive

After his recent encounter with death.

Sightless with grief

Joyfully she knew him

Only when in tenderness

He whispered her name.

Behind locked doors they cowered

Frightened for their lives

And in his final hours

Filled with shame

For not being there for him

Love that keeps no record of wrongs

Appeared

Within the midst of them

And with his greeting:

“Peace be with you”

Perfect love

Cast out all their fear.

Thomas who missed out on the encounter

Proclaimed physical touch

Was the only way he could believe.

Patient Love,

 Not easily angered;

Respectfully offered Thomas

To touch His scars

So recently made,

Most recently healed.

Perplexed companions travelled on a journey

Away from the horror of that Passover week.

Love, that rejoices with the truth

And does not delight in evil

Walked with them.

And when invited

To sup with them

Gracious love blessed them

With the breaking of the bread.

Rudderless, directionless

On the lake all night without a bite

They headed back for shore

Love,

That celebrates success of the other

Shouted a suggestion

Guiding them to water

Where a shoal of fish awaits.

Thrilled and astonished

They turned with recognition

To waiting, silent Love

Preparing a fire

To grill their catch of fish.

Impulsive Peter

Enthusiastic as ever

Splashed out ahead of them

Abandoning the boat

In his excitement to greet.

Love, closer to us than we are to ourselves,

Took Peter aside

Removing his failure

In the morning sunlight;

Merciful Love

Ate with him, talked with him

Three times forgave him;

Empowering love named him

The Rock for all time.

And what are our stories

Of the Love of the Resurrection?

Our stories of the Love

Who protects, trusts,

hopes, and perseveres;

Simply He states

I will be with you

To the very end of the Age

Forever and ever,

Always

Amen

(Julia Coughlan)

( My poem/prayer is inspired by the risen encounters in the gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It was also inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV):

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”)

What then is your encounter with the love of the risen Lord?

IMG_0022aAs I travel through life, sometimes I am walking or skipping, sometimes I stumble and fall, occasionally I am tripped. I have my own stories of Resurrection, often realising in hindsight that the person of Love has met me, a moment that if I blinked I would miss it. Love meets me in my individual need, both in the trivial and the terrible. Love is gentle, not intrusive and the fleeting moment may seem unremarkable to anyone but me. Here are a few of my examples. Please tell me some of yours.

Specific moments:

Broken hearted in a forest after a relationship break up, love , silent and patient, lifted my gaze and my spirits when a fox trotted by me unaware of my presence and delighted me that he was there.

After making a public fool of myself while on holiday having lost and found my purse for the tenth time that week; scolded by words of a companion for wasting so much time; I waited behind. Patient love was a small bird singing strongly in a bush beside me, chasing my tears away.

The glory of a beautiful sunset which turned my head with delight and I found the key we had lost.

Anguish on a Saturday night, alone and lonely, feeling less than lovely and no-one at home to my telephone call.(This was a time before mobile phone use; texting and social media) The next morning a passage from the Bible spoke directly to me in my distress. No-one-else knew but the presence behind Love heard my cry.

Screaming at Love with confusion and dashed dreams of a child, yet finding comfort from words on a website when I discover its ok to grieve even at the beginning of lives lost in early miscarriage.

An ongoing situation:

There is always an ongoing situation where I need to trust in the Resurrection Love who always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Me with Him and He with me.

In day-to-day life:

An uplifting walk amongst my beloved nature;

A word spoken on pause for thought or thought for the day;

A random encounter with just the right person at just the right time.

Knowledge that I am Loved and the prayers and friendship of those closest to me.

Resurrection Love is not an instant quick fix:

I experience sadness too, dreams shattered, silence sometimes to my desperate prayers and confusion as to why things do or don’t happen. This is life in a broken world and I am not immune to that too. I have scars deep and penetrating which sometimes can be scratched open.

We are blest and we are wounded, as we walk alongside each other. We learn and help each other when we are able to reach out and share our thoughts, aspirations, fun and sadness as companions on the way.

IMG_0024a

“If love should count you worthy, and should deign

One day to seek your door and be your guest,

Pause! ere you draw the bolt and bid him rest,

If in your old content you would remain,

For not alone he enters;…

He wakes desires you never may forget,

He shows you stars you never saw before.

He makes you share with him, for evermore,

The burden of the world’s divine regret.

How wise you were to open not! and yet,

How poor if you should turn him from the door!”

(Second half of The Penalty of Love by Sidney Royse Lysaght)

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Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you

Amen

Posted in Christianity, Meditation, Reflections, Spirituality | Tagged | 5 Comments

An Imaginative retelling of the anointing at Bethany

Which came first-the thought or the feeling, the chicken or the egg? Like that eternal riddle, I will never know the answer as I became aware of both at the same time.
It was early morning, already bright, and the hens were clucking and strutting around me as I scattered the seed for them. I scoured the yard checking all the nooks and crannies where they like to roost. While gathering eggs I was reflecting on the previous few days. Then, simultaneously, both a realisation and fear entered me. Suddenly careless, I dropped the egg I had just picked up and the yolk spilt out over the dusty ground. I stared at it already whitening as it congealed and half-baked in the dazzling sunshine. Despite the heat I shivered, as if a cloud had passed over the sun creating shadows. The sky was blue and clear.

The sound of Martha humming as she worked in the house broke into my reverie. Already the aromas of rich and varied spices reached my nostrils. My older sister starts cooking early when she is preparing for guests. Usually by now I would have joined her, excited in the anticipation of the evening to come. Today I lingered, the apprehension and dread wrapping me in stillness, freezing my blood to inertia. I must go in. She will call me soon. I must act normal. With one glance back at the two hens still scratching at the stony ground, I turned to go in. A sparrow darted from the wall nearby to land next to the forgotten grain. An idea had formed in my mind. Would I have the courage to carry it through?

Tonight after supper, I brought down the perfume that I had reserved for my burial. My parents had given us a gift of a bottle each before they died. It was the only precious item that I had in my possession. Lazarus of course had already used the myrrh given to him, so there was only mine and my sister’s left. I smiled at the thought of Lazarus. It was as if he had never been ill. I remembered my despair, my sadness, my resentment that Jesus had not come to us earlier. It was Martha who had faith on that occasion. I grimaced at the thought of my own poor behaviour. I must make it up to him, show my gratitude. A new determination quickened my step.

I usually sit quietly in the background listening to the men talk. Tonight I was impelled forward. My eyes glistening with unshed tears, I opened the pungent smelling lotion and began to pour it on the feet of my Lord. His feet were dusty and sore from the day’s walking. I noticed a blister on his little toe and redness where the strap of his sandal had rubbed on his shin.

I heard a commotion beside me. Head bowed and kneeling at Jesus’ feet I stopped in mid action. The Judaean, that financial whiz-kid was complaining in his high whining voice “Why waste that expensive perfume? Its criminal. We could sell that to make money for the poor! How extravagant you are? Do you have money to burn?”
I couldn’t reply. Silent tears now flowed down my flushed cheeks. I had no power to stop them. I could not look up. I could not move. Was Jesus angry with me likewise?

I saw the movement before I heard the gentle sigh as Jesus reached forward and gently cupped his hand under my chin. He tilted my face towards him. His eyes met mine. He continued to gaze into my eyes as he spoke to Judas “Stop bothering this woman. Tonight she is doing a beautiful thing for me. The poor will always be with you. You won’t always have me.” I felt an involuntary shudder. For a moment the fear was back.

There had been a stillness around us, almost as if the whole room was holding its breath. Gradually the men began to start-up their conversations again. They accepted the spoken words easily, respecting my action because Jesus did. Did they not wonder at his words? Judas glowered in my direction. I knew the sophisticated city dweller was angry at being rebuffed in favour of a mere woman.

I ponder on what Jesus has said. A surge of love and appreciation thrills through me. Yet there is something else – a growing foreboding too. With trembling fingers I continue with my self allotted task. I grow bolder. With gentle strength I massage the oil into his feet.The action is bringing me a sense of peace. My hair has become uncovered and dishevelled falling over his toes. I hear a light sound and I know my hair has tickled him. I feel light-headed with the musky fragrance. His skin is warm and firm under my touch. He is so fully alive. Yet tonight I am anticipating his death.

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The Last Dance

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Becky leant into the car to help Mrs Fraser fasten her seat belt. The elderly lady grasped the young woman’s arm anxiety tightening her grip.

“I want to go home!” she screeched in Becky’s ear.
“Yes, that’s where we’re going.” The newly qualified Occupational Therapist was patient; she had explained it three times already that morning. “We need to see how you will manage and how we can make it safer for you.”

Becky closed the front passenger door and took her place in the rear of the taxi. “What’s your address Ellen? Can you tell the taxi driver?”
“22, Settle Close” Mrs Fraser replied without hesitation.
“No, I think that’s your old address, Ellen.” Becky replied, “If you remember, you’ve moved recently.”
“Oh yes, of course I remember.” Mrs Fraser hastily tried to cover her mistake, picking at her coat in agitation. “Err…I’m not sure I can think of its name.”
Unruffled Becky instructed the taxi driver as to the correct location.

Mrs Fraser fell silent as they travelled, staring out of the front window with unseeing eyes. Becky chatted quietly to her assistant, Molly, in the back of the car. At intervals Molly or Becky asked Mrs Fraser if she was all right and pointed out landmarks in an attempt to draw the older woman’s interest. Mrs Fraser hardly replied and gave no flicker of recognition as they neared the sheltered complex.

The taxi had stopped and Molly helped Mrs Fraser out of the car and placed her stick in her right hand. Mrs Fraser looked shrunken and frail standing outside the car in her ill-fitting coat. With brusque kindness Molly re-fastened her coat buttons as due to Mrs Fraser’s rush to be ready the buttons were askew and in the wrong button holes. A gust of wind blew the unruly mop of hair from her forehead to reveal an angry bruise in her otherwise ashen face.
Becky thought it cruel to ask Mrs Fraser for further directions and so she indicated the way along the path to number 41.
“We’ll walk beside you to make sure you won’t fall again” Becky’s calm manner failed to reassure Mrs Fraser as she gaped at her surroundings in bewilderment.

She began to shuffle between the two young women carrying her stick several inches above the ground. The door opened ahead of them. A tall elderly man with a stooping posture stood on the threshold, watching their progress. His movement caused Mrs Fraser to glance towards him.

“Harry! How the heck have you got here?” pure delight in her voice. She beamed up at him; her blue eyes sparkled with unshed tears; and as her face lit up, the previous pinched, troubled look lining her features vanished. Even the bruise seemed to fade. She looked like a much younger woman. Practically running she was soon enveloped in his arms, the unused stick clattering to the ground. Everyone was smiling, infected by her joyful surprise.
“Nell, love, of course I’m here! This is your home” the tender tone making his voice low and husky. He disentangled himself from their embrace and gently led her inside “I’ll make us all a nice cup of tea. Come on in ladies.”

Ellen meekly followed her husband into the kitchen, her gaze never leaving his face. The kitchen was narrow with a small table for two in a space near the door. Harry Fraser pulled out a chair for his wife patting the embroidered cushion on which she obediently sat. Becky took the other chair and Molly hovered in the doorway holding the recovered stick.

“It was quite late in life. We had both been married before.We met at a dance… “Harry began as he put the kettle on “and our Nell was the Belle of the Ball. She still is in my book” He lightly kissed her on the top of her head as with deliberation he brushed past her to take the mugs down from the cupboard.

Feeling in the way, Becky glanced around the kitchen and through the open door into the living room. The room was sparsely furnished but neat and tidy. She spotted fresh daffodils in a vase on the window sill. The radio was playing in the background. She had just registered this when Harry reached to turn it up a hint of excitement in his voice.

“Listen, Nell, it’s our song.” With one movement he whisked her up from the chair. Caught in each others arms, their eyes locked, they swayed on the spot softly mouthing the words to the Drifters’ “Save the Last Dance for me”.

I first wrote this fictional story a couple of years ago. I was prompted to publish it here after reading Paul’s post:He danced https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/

and Kyohinaa’s post “It made sense”: Thoughts on Existential Fulfilment https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/36499830/

The post is fictional and yet elements are true. It is based on an experience I had when new to my job as an Occupational Therapist 20 plus years ago. The bits that are real is the fact of the home visit, the joyful surprise when the elderly woman recognised her husband in a sea of confusion, and the love displayed between the couple. I hope you feel as touched by the experience as I was.

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Whenever God shines His light

 

This song is especially for two blogger friends Merryn at http://humbleheartscribbles.wordpress.com/

and

Lilka at

http://bisforblessed.com/

and so many more…

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The Separating Snake

 

Prompt-‘The Beginning’-The Arts-:Idiot Writing

http://idiotwriting.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/prompt-the-beginning-the-arts-2/

The challenge I believe was to write a post describing the painting. I have cheated a bit. I looked at the painting and it reminded me of poem I wrote when feeling sad and empty with regards my family splintered by mental illness and suicide. It centres on my birth and the prospects of my death. The painting reminded me of the poem. The poem I think has elements of the painting. In light of the painting I edited the poem and changed the title from Underground Fears to The Separating Snake.

PS: I don’t always feel this bleak. I think I needed to express it at the time.

Breath of Life

I burst forth crying

Amid pain, blood, sweat

Buoyant exhaustion

Baby talk…tangible joy

 

In an instant

Encircled

Plunged into the depths

Of intimate relationships

 

Playful, jealous, kind, teasing

Competing, loving

Crowded intense familiarity

Assumed companionship

 

Hurt patterns tear us apart

Paranoia divides; obsessions surface;

Anger;

Accusations destroying trust;

Blame where there is no blame.

 

Secrets;

Thoughts unspoken, not to cause offence;

Kind superficiality to avoid fresh hurt;

Analysis; opinions;

Blame where there is no blame.

 

We are separate

Yet still yoked together

By unfulfilled dreams.

Each one exists

In isolation.

 

Breath of Death

Will I be alone when it touches me?

Amid pain, blood, sweat

Flat weariness

Silence…tangible sorrow.

 

Julia Coughlan (2014)

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Longings (First posted March 2014)

He leads me beside a moorland stream

This was the first post I published a year ago when I started my Blog as Reflections during Lent. The message is still pertinent today, this Lent. Hope you enjoy it.

Expressing our longings

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank you for opening our hearts to bring us to a place for reflection. Bless our time together and inflame our longing for you. Amen.

Reflection:In my 20’s I was a keen hill walker. For my summer holiday I often chose a walking holiday. I went out in all weathers. On one forgettable occasion, it poured incessantly all day long, and we were drenched after the first five minutes of setting out. Because of the wet terrain, my walking boots had quickly filled with water. I hardly stopped to rest, because when we did the water in the boots became cold. Luxury was having warm water in my boots. My longing that day was…

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