God-incident

It’s true what folks say about time going faster as you grow older. It can seem a bit like when you’re nearing the end of the toilet roll. Try tearing two sheets off and, before you can stop it, the remainder of the roll has unravelled and dropped to the floor. I’m not saying you need a toilet roll to mop up stuff that’s happened in your life but it would come in handy if it was that simple. However, it’s the nature of things that we are plunged into pits of despair sometimes in order for us to treasure our moments of mountain-top joy.

I have been in the pits myself lately. So many people I know have passed away this year that I found myself caught up in thinking about my own mortality and this, in turn, led me to withdraw from some of the activities I normally enjoy, resulting in my wallowing in my own misery for a time.

During this dark period I relied on my faith in God to pull me through and was rewarded with affirming glimpses of His glory and His love for mankind. I’d like to share one such glimpse with you and invite you to reflect and consider what it might mean to believe in a loving God.

First a little background.

I am currently attending a series of meditative reflections entitled Deeper into Prayer, the latest one being ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’. During one of the meditations, the leader asked whether we thought non-believers who had died were in Heaven. She asked how many of us believed that they were not. She talked of how God had made clothes for Adam and Eve before ordering them to leave the Garden of Eden because they had disobeyed God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3:21). If God loved them so much that he did not send them out into the world naked, how could such a God turn anyone away from Heaven?

It’s a thought worth pondering over and I, for one, hope and pray that my own father, who believed there was nothing at all after death, is in Heaven. Maybe it’s enough that my believing that as I pray for him had made it true.

In life, I’ve always said there are no coincidences, only God-incidences, ie, God’s plan for our lives. One such incident unfolded the day after I’d attended this session on prayer when I came across a neighbour as I was entering and she was leaving a supermarket. It was the first time I’d seen her since her husband had died the week before. I gave her a supportive hug. She seemed in a contented state as she spoke of her husband’s release from the pain he’d been suffering. She had sat with him before the end and said it was as though he was watching something as he listened intently. When she spoke to him he said, ‘shush, wait a minute’. A minute later, he turned towards her and said, ‘you can go now.’ She slipped out for a coffee. When she returned he’d passed away. He was smiling.

Had God sent someone to accompany him on his final journey?

Her husband was a devout atheist while she believes in angels. She told me she’d been praying silently to Gabriel for her husband to be taken peacefully. We agreed that Angel Gabriel, in whatever form was unique to her husband, must have been who he had been watching and listening to.

This chance meeting (God-incidence) at the supermarket had brought us together for a reason. To help each other out in our different needs. My neighbour was able to release her tearful emotions as she told me her story. I received the gift of hope that someone had been there to guide my dad to Heaven just as someone had been there for her husband.

‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.’ (Ecclesiastes 3)

I hope you’ll allow these thoughts to soak into your soul for a while rather than reach for the toilet roll to mop them away.

With love and prayers to all.

Julie

The Beast from the East

This idea of the farm and lambs was inspired by the poetry session at Scarborough Writers’ Circle on 14th February, the inspiration behind the snow needs no explanation as it’s currently topical, unfortunately.

This piece was written for the next Scarborough Writers’ Circle on 13th March.

The Beast from the East

Funny how we can remember where we were the moment we heard Elvis had died, or when Kennedy was shot, or even when Diane took her last breath. But it’s only when the icy blast is in our midst that we remember the weather warning about the beast from the East.

We were not prepared for it slapping at our faces with its cold fingers, freezing our bodies to the bone, stopping the traffic, shutting our schools and keeping us prisoners in our homes. As we waited by our fires for the thaw, the snow kept on plummeting.

I was watching the storm from my window.

The birds on the rooftops fled the snowdrifts in chaotic scatterings towards bare-branched trees. They flitted from one leafless home to another, flapping their wings, fluttering for their lives, trying to keep warm. When they returned to their roost they discovered their young had fallen from their nests, and found them lying buried under fresh snowfall.

Surely I would have heeded the weather warning if I knew that this beast from the East would trigger a memory of a March day from my childhood, when we were trapped inside the white-out surrounds of our farm.

I was watching the storm from my window.

My mother scraped a frantic path through the snow with red raw hands and brought the young lambs into the kitchen, one by one, to keep them warm.

Later, she wrapped her own newborn inside a blanket and took him outside to meet an ambulance that didn’t arrive.

I toddled down the path soon after, following her faded footsteps, and found her and my brother lying buried under fresh snowfall.

Julie Fairweather

Perfect Sacrifice (INRI)

One hundred hearts made with loving care and sent out to one hundred artists by Untangled Threads.

The one hundred put their heart and soul into creating statements of themselves within their own concept of the WW1 heart-ship. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination and my vision was far bigger than my ability.

However, I am a Christian and I like to provide sacred spaces for prayer and contemplation. With this in mind, my inspiration – to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1 – was inspired by the analogy of sacrifice that the soldiers made for our freedom and God’s sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, for the sake of mankind.

The significance of the heart being emptied of its sawdust represents God’s love pouring out for us at the cross of crucifixion (and the blood-shed of the soldiers). The pink scrolls (containing scripture verses) placed in the sawdust around the cross represent hope (God’s promises to mankind).

The miniature booklet that accompanies the work was created using the image from the St John’s Gospel Bible, which each soldier was issued with, to provide them the comfort of God’s promises during the war.

A copy of the prayer/contemplation booklet is free to take home with you from the exhibition and contains the following text:

‘There is no greater love than this; that a man would lay down his life for his friends.’ (paraphrase John 15v3)

A crown of thorns,

a pain-pierced side,

hands and feet impaled;

the blood poured from his body

as his precious love unveiled.

(Julie Fairweather)

‘Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ (1 John 4:11-12)

Brothers and Sisters,

when we are stripped of our selves,

of our expectations

and others’ expectations

of what we are or should be,

God’s grace will flow down

into our empty vessels

and fill us with the love He intended

for His purpose. His plan.

Not mine. Not yours.

Then God’s glory will shine from within us

to radiate this love we have received

and Mankind will rejoice in knowing

they are in the presence of love

because love is the essence of us.

(Julie Fairweather)

INRI: The sign used to mock Jesus at his crucifixion “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” would have been written, “Iesus Nazarenes Rex Iudaeorum.” Abbreviated, this phrase results in “INRI.” (John 19:19)

Replica WWI Active Service Saint John’s Gospels available free here.

All Shall Be Well

I’ve not posted on my blog since August 10, the reason being that I’ve been trying to make a decision about accepting a ‘goodwill’ offer regarding an unexpected inheritance. In my sub-conscience, I believe this is the foundation of my memoir in progress because the story it contains in its context is about my relationship with my father. I need to come to terms with that relationship’s effects on family and this, in turn, has become a stumbling block in the process and progress of my memoir writing project. I am paralysed. But at least I’ve identified the problem.

The money would fulfil the memoir ambition by providing the tools and resources I need to complete it and, once complete, it will be a great tribute to my dad, if I could just take the plunge with the decision and let go of the emotional memory attachment.

During my ‘time off blog’ I did manage to send off a 2,500 word entry to the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for short fiction (cafe theme) so fingers’ crossed for that one, though I would have liked to add an extra section to the story, I ran out of time. All is not lost though as it can be resurrected, rewritten and recycled to another competition. Or even a short stories self-published collection. See? Already I’m expecting it to be a non-winning entry. I must think positive now we are moving out of the darkness towards the light again. SAD is such a crippling condition.

I also enjoyed a visit to see my son Graeme in Brno, Czek Republic with hubby ’Ric and daughter Gaynor (I do love flying!). This was followed by a long weekend away to Eastbourne with Mum-in-Law and ’Ric.

Taking the above into consideration along with the usual things I attend such as: writer’s circle; singing and dancing groups; WOTL (Writers on the Loose – trio of performers); running a card group; going to the gym, walking around the beautiful North Yorkshire Coast, getting involved in church-related events, and the glorious run up to Christmas with community festivities, I have been quite busy. Such is the wonderful world of retirement.

In 2018, I will endeavour to make time to update my blog monthly, continue to write regular journal entries and, my number one priority, organise my memoir once and for all.

The end of the year is full of hope and promise for answered prayer and I thank God that there are people with fire in their belly enough to fight for the rights of those rendered helpless by their situation as they wait in their worlds of pain for a fair and just outcome.

Wishing you all love and light for Christmas and the New Year whilst taking heart that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, all shall be well.

Learning Curves: Writing My Memoir

I’m circling the edges of memory as I wake from a dream that seems to allude an important message that I can’t grasp. Maybe writing it down here will help.

The woman looked familiar as she attempted to speak. She came rushing towards me mouthing her words then faded out again before I could understand what she was trying to say.

She rummaged around on the ground digging up clumps of earth with her hands. I held out my upturned palms and she poured the soil into them. As she poured, I noticed tiny crystals shining through the soil, like glitter on a Christmas card. We sifted through it together, choosing which of the crystals we wanted to keep and tossed those we didn’t back onto the ground. It’s as if we were sharing our memories as we looked through the dirt of our past.

She disappeared.

When I called out for her to come back into the dream she revealed herself to me as my mother and smiled. She gave me a piece of crystal, the final memory from her life and said.

‘This is your life, not mine. It’s time to stop raking around in the past and live your own story to write down.’

Then she was gone and I’m left with an unfinished story of her life.

But I think I get the message now.

Someone else’s memories have no place in my life story.

I need to write my own truth, find my own way home.

Stone Soldiers

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

I heard a fascinating talk recently by Deacon Andrew Carter, a member of the Methodist Diaconal Order who shared, in word and image, from his own recent experiences of a journey millions of pilgrims have completed over thousands of years … Continue reading

Race4Life 2017

Racing for the life of someone I love who could be saved by Cancer Research

On 18th December 2015, the news that she had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer stunned me. It felt somewhat surreal that The Northern Lights decided to make a rare appearance over Scarborough Bay on the evening of the 20th and the memory of that beautiful sight was lost as my world began to fall apart when the word ‘terminal’ was used on 24th December.

Sister

Your diagnosis floored me.

In its aftermath I walked a mile
with the sun warming my face
and a trace of your smile
as sun slipped into shadow
beamed full on my face.

Beautiful Aurora Balouris.

Your breath-taking light
radiated through memories
as I walked over sand
skimmed stones on the sea.

Then, in a downpour of rain,
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed
until I fell to my knees and cried.

You were given two years. What followed was a year of keeping my unbearable sorrow hidden as you suffered the side effects of intense chemo and radiation in an attempt to shrink the tumour that would, at best, prolong your life.

So many people prayed for you. We prayed daily that the tumour would shrink and keep on shrinking. That it would shrink so much it would simply disappear.

Sometimes, we get what we pray for.

Your last three scans have shown no evidence of disease and we keep on praying for continuance of that. The wonder of experiencing immense joy after being in a waiting space of grief for over a year is quite something.

Taking part in the Race4Life to raise money for vital research into different cancers feels like the right thing to do. It’s an expression of my gratitude to Cancer Research for helping to save my sister’s life.

My personal Race4Life on 12th July 2017 will be as a celebration of my sister’s life.
If you would like to make a donation towards my fundraising efforts, please go to:

my online fundraiser page (or ask me about my paper form)

 

 

The Reluctant Christian

It’s 10 years today since I became a Christian so I wanted to share this brief testimony of faith with you about that special day on 10th March 2007.

God grant me your grace,
that promise of forgiveness,
unconditional

Before becoming a Christian on 10th March 2007, I set foot in a church only occasionally; for christenings, weddings and funerals. Even so, I thought of myself as a Christian because I did believe in God and was a nice(ish) person. That’s what I thought a Christian was.

My journey to faith really began a lifetime ago but, to keep this missive as brief as possible, I’d found myself at a crossroads, having become an adult orphan separated from my four siblings through the toll of years of family trauma. I was at saturation point with that, so much so that my health was deteriorating. I also hated my job and, although I am married with two adult children who I love dearly, I felt there was a big hole in my life that I couldn’t fill. I didn’t know what my life was about any more or even why I was here. It was then that I spotted a poster on a bill board asking: What’s the Meaning of Life? I thought I should investigate what this was offering.

I phoned the number on the poster but they were running the course on a day and time when I was doing something else. I’d initially thought it was one of those ‘self help’ courses and was a bit shocked to discover it was a Christianity Course called Alpha. So, I left it alone as I thought it would be too intent on trying to convert people.

Then I successfully applied for the post of administrator for the Scarborough Methodist Circuit. I thought it would be quite nice to have a spiritually-led job to bring me up to the age of retirement.

On the first day, I walked through the door to start work and there was the Alpha poster in my face. In that first week, Reverend Clare Stainsby gave me a booklet about being a member of the Methodist Church (Called By Name) and the hierarchy system of the Methodist Connexion, which was necessary to carry out the job. I didn’t know anything at all about the Methodist Church, or any other church come to that. I read the whole thing and was so fascinated by it that I signed up for the next Alpha Course, which was being run by Reverend Geoff Bowell and his wife, Helen, at their home – not far from mine. It started on 29th January 2007. I’d been in the job only 21 days and here I was on my way to God.

I expected Alpha to be for people like me who didn’t go to church so I was surprised that there were people there who did, some of whom had been going all their lives via their upbringing, some were Christians – some were not. They were searching for understanding and a personal relationship with God.

During the course, I made new friends. We laughed together, cried together, shared our stories and ideas. I found it hard sometimes as I didn’t really know what my questions were – never mind getting answers to them. I asked Geoff if I’d have all my answers when I’d finished the course and he just laughed and said, ‘Oh, we don’t get the answers, we just get a better set of questions.’

I struggled with the Trinity concept of accepting that God and Jesus were the same person – I believed in God and I could understand how He was the Holy Spirit too – I knew about Jesus but couldn’t get the sense of it all being the same person. I almost stopped going to Alpha because of this hurdle. What was the point in my continuing if I couldn’t grasp the basis of the whole context of the Christian faith? Then Helen said to me, ‘Why don’t you ask God to show you in a way you will understand?’ So I did and that night I had a dream.

If I told you what that dream was you would not know how I came to my understanding of the Trinity through it because each of us gets shown things by God in ways that are unique to us as individuals. However, when I woke up from the dream, everything was crystal clear. I knew then what Jesus meant when he said, ‘I am the way’. I had to go through Him to get to God. How on earth had I got through my life so far without knowing this? All I had to do was open the door and let Jesus in and He would do the rest. But that was easier said than done.

I felt unworthy, untrusting, concerned that I may have to do something I didn’t like if I committed myself. Soon after the dream I realised that, through Jesus, God had actually crept into my life (when I wasn’t looking). I had opened that door to take a peep and couldn’t close it again. I couldn’t pour Him back out of my life once He’d arrived. He was here to stay.

The Alpha away day’s teaching based on the Holy Spirit was on Saturday 10th March 2007 at the Solid Rock café on Newborough. I knew something had already happened to me in my heart and felt that this day was going to be special for me somehow. I felt different.

We began the day by singing the hymn ‘King of Kings, Majesty’ before the lessons started and I couldn’t get the words out. By the second line ‘God of Heaven living in me’, I knew for sure God really was living inside me. I couldn’t sing. I could only listen to the words as they were being sung because I felt overwhelmed. As I was saying the words to God in my mind, something was building up inside me.

After the song, we continued our learning until lunchtime but I was in a daze and didn’t really take anything in. I felt impatient, waiting – for more of this feeling I had experienced. I wasn’t prepared for my response when we sang that hymn again at the end of the day.

Following the lessons and discussions, we stood in a circle and Geoff prayed for the Holy Spirit to descend on us. I said to myself, ‘OK, this is it – it’s now or never. Open your heart and you’ll maybe find what you’ve been looking for. Just let Jesus in.’

I could hardly breathe because I was trying to keep my emotions in check as we sang ‘King of Kings, Majesty’ once more. My whole body tingled and trembled as an overpowering sense of love struck me dumb. When we sang the second line ‘God of Heaven living in me’, I was saturated with a feeling of unconditional love and peace. Tears poured down my face. It was as though I was being washed with forgiveness. I sobbed throughout the whole song, knowing God was forgiving me for every single thing I had thought, said or done in the past that was wrong.

That was the exact moment I gave my life to Christ.

***

I wrote the following as a celebration of that day:

First Rites

Anoint me from the golden chalice
pour your presence from above.
Through your light let me come to glory
as you lead the way with righteous love.
My door was open only slightly
yet you took my breathlessness away
with forgiveness of a lifetime’s story
freeing doubt, and fear, and pain.
My tears, in silence all around me,
flow through fingers, sooth my sorrow
as feathered whispers brush my skin
with promises for a new tomorrow.
Your love, now rising through my soul
leaves my sins beneath,
in sudden triumph takes me whole
and, waiting underneath
is trust and faith – born anew.
I have found myself in you.

***

All it took was a small step to open the door to Jesus’ knock but on the other side of that door it seemed so far away. It took me years to let him in. Thankfully, it’s never too late. God never gave up on me and when there was nothing left for me but God, that’s when I discovered that God was all I needed.

Text © 2007 Julie M Fairweather

PS I thoroughly recommend Alpha if you are searching for the meaning of your life. It’s a place where you can ask anything… even those questions about suffering… the suffering in the world that many blame God for. I hope you will be surprised and encouraged by the answers and that these answers will offer you a better set of questions to take with you as you journey on.

Finding my way

I woke this morning with ideas for mapping my life story in readiness for a writing project I’m undertaking in January and, as if reading my thoughts, Facebook had produced a video highlighting events from 2016. This cheered me immensely as it proved that I did indeed have some wonderful memories to celebrate in my writing… in-between the days that I had been dogged with depression (as yesterday’s personal journalling informed me).

I pinned a copy of an old map of Manchester on my office wall as a starting point to the planning of the project, ringing the places that mean something to me. (The map is one of many that will inspire The Studio’s Art Exhibition early next year – my own contribution will be a simple book of appropriate Manchester map poems on hand-made paper.)

That decided, I embarked on a personal journey through the Advent Labyrinth at Holy Trinity Church in Eastfield. There’s no doubt that my current mood has an affect on how I embrace this annual journey and life experiences I hold on to do tend to come to the fore during part it.

The first station was a star – a symbol of God’s light. I was invited to light a lantern and carry it with me as a guide to show me the way. I thought about the darkness of the depression I’d written about in my journal the previous day. It’s comforting to know that God can lighten whatever feels dark for me… when I remember to ask for His help that is.

At the station of burdens, I picked up the large, heavy stone and imagined an image etched into it of God reaching out to me saying, ‘take my hand’. I poured out my pain in connection with my brother’s alienation of me and realised (yet again) that I can’t change him or the situation so I gave the stone to God to carry for me. I picked up the holding cross and the contrast in weight was such a relief that I had to admit to knowing that all I needed to do was hold on to the cross instead of the stone. I asked God to break down my brother’s barriers to forgiveness and left the station with the weight of that lifted from me.

At the gift box station, I gave thanks for the gift of writing and how I had been drawn to use it as a voice for prisoners of conscience on behalf of Amnesty International. I am grateful that this opportunity enhances my gifts of understanding and compassion for others and, through this, I am being led towards becoming involved with welcoming refugees to the town where I live. I want to be part of a people who belong to one another.

At the final station I visited, I reflected of my journey and confirmed my trust in God that He can help me make sense of and heal my memories so that I can move towards reconciliation of self to enable me to help others more effectively. Therefore, in God’s hands I place all these things today.

It’s hard to let go and let God and I was tempted to revisit the burdens station and pick up the stone but I resisted because I prefer the weight of the cross.

On my return home, I received a beautiful Christmas card from a friend which reads: ‘Christmas is more than just a season. It’s a feeling of hope in our lives. It’s the promise of peace in the world. It’s the blessing of God’s love in our hearts.’(author unknown)

I’d like to add that Christmas is about Christ… and realising that truth can set us free.