1st Sunday of Advent

‘Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him.’ (Psalm 37:7)

We think of Advent as a time to take stock of our faith journey – to see how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to grow. This year why not let go to let God decide what we’re waiting for – instead of having something of our own to contemplate. Therefore, instead of rushing around trying to be still long enough to think what it is we’re waiting for, let’s wait inside a silent prayer each day to listen to what God wants. In taking one day at a time through Advent in this way – like an Advent calendar not to be opened prematurely – we will not miss a single moment of the present day – a day that the Lord has made and given to us as a gift to enjoy with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness.

Dear God, help us to find a silent space.

We say ‘amen’. Then we think again,
and instead of rushing away
to fill our day with this and that,
We stop. We sit. We wait. We stay
to listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of our life’s busy, noisy clock,
and your voice fills the silent space.

Dear God, help us to be still in the silent space.

We don’t say ‘amen’. We start again
because we don’t want to rush away
to fill our day with this and that.
We want to stop. To sit. To wait. To stay
and listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of our life’s busy, noisy clock,
as your voice fills our silent space.

Dear God, help us to listen in the silent space.

Dear God, help us to hear you in sacred silent spaces.

It’s time to claim back my butterflies

Since retiring in March, I’ve thrown myself headlong into various activities. I had many of these interests during my working life but, like so many new retirees, I thought I would have more spare time so added new interests to those. Hence, I have taken on so much that I am no longer enjoying my freedom from the routine of a working life. I realised this when I reached my birthday recently, a number that does look quite attractive, and took stock of myself. I looked at what I’d committed myself to and compared it to what I was actually enjoying. And it was a chance encounter with a friend that helped me reach a decision about taking drastic action to cut down on activities.

My friend’s name is Julie too – and she asked, ‘Julie, where have all your colourful butterflies gone?’ She went on to explain this as being the aura I usually carry around with me that she was so used to seeing and it is what makes me… well, me.

I thought about this some more when I got home and looked in the mirror. I looked tired and dull and there was definitely no sparkle. I’d confided in my friend about a stressful period I’d been going through in recent weeks and how I’d felt quite unwell, both physically and mentally, at times. She advised me to stop pleasing others and please myself more, to encourage my butterflies back. Looking in that mirror again, I think I saw what she saw: I was surrounded by dark moths that had taken my light and they were flying around me like prophesies of doom.

Over the next few days, as people made demands on my time, it finally came to a head with me reacting badly to a situation. I demonstrated traits of my character that I do not like. I knew I had to do something immediately. Once I’d made that decision, it was easier to sort out what I would keep and what I would let go, and I felt in control again.

At the moment I am honouring two commitments that end in mid-December, have dropped two things I am no longer enjoying, and I have two commitments to honour in early 2016. I feel refreshed knowing that after this I will have a clean canvas to work with. I have already started saying ‘no’ to things I’ve been asked to do that I really don’t want to do. And I owe it to myself and my butterflies to continue with that promise to myself.

At the Scarborough Writers’ Circle this week, one of the members led a session in celebration of Thanksgiving Day. The remit was to bring a piece of writing to read on the night illustrating the subject of ‘giving thanks’ by way of our own interpretation of that.

This was my offering:

I’m thankful that I am able to express my creativity through writing, painting, music and dance; I am grateful that I am blessed with the means to do this because of my sense of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch… thus enabling me to use the therapeutic qualities of my creativity as a celebration of my life.

I give thanks that my response to this creativity highlights what is important to me, and it is through the gift of my creative self that I recognise my belief in a God who gave His only son as an atoning sacrifice to pay for my sins… so that I may be forgiven and receive salvation for my soul.

I give thanks for the people I encounter on my life journey who help me grow into the kind of person fit to serve a loving God… and I also give thanks for those I encounter who bring out distasteful traits in me by their challenging behaviour, because this helps me strive to change my own reactions to that behaviour.

Mostly I give thanks that in His mercy God does not look on what I am now nor on what I have been but on what I desire to be.

I am grateful that in this world of manmade rules and regulations there are none that govern how I should pray; there is no right or wrong way. I simply talk to God, sometimes baring my soul and falling before Him like an open wound. And He picks up the pieces and fixes me within the boundaries of my broken life.

And in the midst of all this, there is love.

I give thanks for the love I’ve known; the contented feeling of loving arms; the warmth of a human heart from a random act of kindness; a loving touch of support from a friend; a visit or phone call from a prodigal – returning home – and I’m grateful for a bond so strong that time apart has allowed for a reconciliation and a rebirth of that relationship.

I give thanks for the love of my partner; my children; my family; my friends; the people in the places where I work, rest and play – yes, even those who are ‘not like me’. I give thanks for our individuality – our diversity – and that I am surrounded in love, completed in love and enabled to share my love with others.

So then at the end of each day… when I’m stripped of myself – of my expectations – of others’ expectations – of what I am or should be, and love, even love for myself, flows down like grace into my empty vessel, I can become full of what God intended me to be – for His purpose, His plan – not mine, or yours.

And I pray that God’s glory will shine from me, reflecting the love I have received, so that others who touch the edge of that radiance will know that they are in the presence of God – because God is the essence of me.

At the end of my reading I sat down and I knew that I’d just described what my butterflies look like.

And I want them back!

Julie

Belated retirement thoughts

So, while I’m waiting for the release from Customs of the PROOF Anthology for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle, I thought I’d play catch up with my journal notes and look what I found! A note to self to type up (amongst other things of course) notes from opposite page (in my journal) re my retirement (which happened in March and it is now October!). I have been busy…

This then is a record of my finale as Administrator to the North Yorkshire Coast Methodist Circuit.

The two weeks leading up to my retirement was not a time to reflect on my working life as I was still busy working and I was in a state of anxiety and panic – not about retiring but about fitting everything in that needed to be done before I left – in order to hand over to the person who was taking over from me. We all know that no-one is indispensable. There is always someone waiting to step into our shoes – no matter who we are or what we do.

Instead of slowing down to enjoy my final two weeks, I found myself making lists about lists of things to pass on. However, the time passed so quickly and the final day arrived. I was left with one hour alone in the office at the end of that day to heart-wrenchingly surge the filing cabinet of information that was no longer relevant to the new post.

I did not have the luxury of time to ponder and reflect on each piece of work as I stripped it from the files. I simply threw away the last 8 years of my journey as if it meant nothing. However, knowing I had the most important paper files backed up on disc was a consolation. I borrowed these and when I have more time to reflect I will salvage the files that contain my own creative self therein. I’ve been so busy that it hasn’t happened yet – apart from a frantic search through for information I required in regard to a worship writing project I undertook. It felt good to know that my work for the Methodist Circuit was still useful.

Almost at the end of this final day, my husband called into the office to pick up my personal adornments, ie, pictures and icons from the walls, books, cards, etc. When he left, I sat with a mug of tea looking around at the space, resting in the quiet, being in the moment, indulging in a little nostalgia. Then, I simply grabbed my bag, rose from the chair and walked out as if it was just another day – which it was really.

All the above had been interspersed with well wishes via cards and email messages from around the Circuit, from those people I have come to know and love, albeit with challenges along the bumpy way that only served to make my journey more rewarding as these were met.

I had numerous unexpected emotional moments, especially at the end of my final Circuit Meeting when I was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, which bloomed for 3 weeks afterwards. I still have the now dried multi-coloured petals from the rose in a keepsake box and, of course, photographs. I was unaware at the meeting that there was a monetary gift from all the churches inside the card I was given with the flowers as I didn’t open it until I got home. I hope everyone received my words of thanks via the email I sent to the ministers, circuit stewards and senior church stewards. (This would have been a good measure of the communication system I instilled in you all!).

My celebration continued after leaving the office for the last time on 27th March 2015 as cards and gifts kept arriving and, finally, on my favourite day in the Christian calendar (Maundy Thursday) I was taken for a farewell lunch at Raven Hall by the ministerial staff, where I received several surprise gifts. It was an emotional and beautiful farewell, and I felt much appreciated as a person.

I want to thank everyone in the Circuit (belatedly) for being part of my journey, not only in my working life but also for encouraging me in my walk of faith. I was not a Christian when I took up post on 8 January 2007 but that changed dramatically when, on 10 March 2007, I came to believe in Jesus Christ as my saviour. This single revelation has to be the highlight of my time working for the Circuit.

Almost there…

A project listed on my last blog has almost reached completion! HOORAH!

With a closing date for submissions of 28 July, I can now report that everything has been gathered in to bring the Scarborough Writers’ Circle Anthology 2015 to fruition. The anthology’s interior is in book format, cover design will be ready later today. All that’s required is for me to upload both to the publisher and off it goes. It will be 8 days before a proof can be delivered back to me for one of our eagle-eyed members to read through to check for errant typos – those annoying little errors that always seem to appear after a print run. Hopefully, we can capture these (if there are any!) before ordering that.

So… watch this space… initially for the appearance of the book cover so you can gaze at it whilst anticipating the temptation to investigate further when, on 1st October, the book should be available to purchase (at the cheapest price possible, I promise).

Many thanks for your patience, both to those who are awaiting this publication with bated breath, and to the contributors, my fellow writers with whom I share two hours on alternate Tuesdays at the Scarborough Writers’ Circle group meetings.

You are welcome to join us if you are interested in writing. Simply come along as a guest to any of our sessions.

More info at www.scarboroughwriterscircle.com (the website is in the midst of an update but you can still access it).

Many thanks for your interest.

Julie

 

Blog Neglect Alert!

The recent neglect of my social media sites is due entirely to my retirement from employment at the end of March this year. I have been engulfed in creative energy which has involved creating things for other people to enjoy (hopefully!). It’s like a burst of joy having time to spend on things I love doing though I am aware that I take too much on and need to focus on my own projects to get them finished. Come the end of September, I feel I will be in a position to do just that.

But first…

Remember the Peace Wall at Vernon Road Library. http://juliefairweather.co.uk/2015/04/wall-of-peace/ Well, I have now collated the hundred plus comments and photos from this and it will be on here for you to enjoy as soon as I set those into a presentation. This presentation is also to be interwoven with poetry/reflections about peace –  to be written and performed by local writers. Please watch this space – and the local press – for details of when and where that will be.

But second…

In relation to demonstrating my faith, I have prepared various talks to illustrate how my creativity links to my faith, i.e., ‘my creative faith’, some of which have been executed; others pending presentation at their destination venue. I hope to gather these together into pamphlet form for distribution as soon as time permits. I’m also coming to the closing stages of the creation of a prayer/meditation book… and I have a file of personal pilgrimage journal writing screaming out to become a collection of meditations. As well as writing, there is the ongoing preparation for the Sacred Space Prayer Station display at my local church.

But third…

I am overseeing an anthology of short stories and poems for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle, due to be published in autumn. This is at the stage of my bringing together all the SWC Members’ submissions into one document in book format, for a final proofread. The book’s cover, title and blurb will be decided by the whole group at a session I’m leading on 1st September.

Attempting to bring all of the above nearer to fruition became extremely challenging during the recent chaotic renovation of my flat – new kitchen, bathroom and heating system – which caused the most unbelievable mess of dust and rubble. Don’t get me started on it – please! I have a long list… not least having no quality concentration time for creativity.

I am so aware of the focus on mindfulness these days and being too busy to relax with a colouring book is a sign for me that I have taken too much on. I say this after enrolling on three pleasurable courses due to start at the end of September: Circle Dancing, Singing for Health and Well-being, and Drawing – the latter because I would like to use my own sketches for illustrating my projects. I will also be participating in a Poetry Salon – a new venture for winter months set up by two local poets/writers.

So, forgive me then for not keeping up with my blog… and other social media, I hasten to add. I have been too busy to spend time procrastinating (even with one of my favourite pastimes – colouring in my doodle books).

Colouring for adults is not a new thing. In fact, I bought several doodle colouring books from Boyes’ store in Scarborough ten years ago to aid relaxation for the management of stress/anxiety… so all the fuss about the new mindfulness creative colouring books is beyond me. The books from Boyes, by the way, were completed a long time ago. Now, when I colour, I doodle my own patterns. Remember how we created them in Reception Class? Simply, take your pencil and scribble a pattern … then colour it in. And here I am once more, making time for mindfulness colouring as a form of procrastination. Ah, bliss! Who knows what doodles I will be colouring in when I’ve completed the drawing course?

I hope my retirement lasts for a long time.   It needs to with all these things I have yet to enjoy.

See you soon on here… promise!

Circle of Love as a Celebration of May Day (With God at the Centre)

A brief glimpse of the May Day celebration held at Cross Hill Methodist Church, Hunmanby on Saturday 16th May 2015 from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00pm.

Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (1)A lighted candle was the centrepiece of a circle of chairs on which those attending were seated. The candle flame was there to remind us of the light of Christ and how the darkness can never put it out.

Our day was spent weaving in, out and around this circle of love – symbolic of a maypole dance – through quiet reflection… activities… prayer… and interaction with one another. As we weaved around God at the centre it reminded us that God is the centre of us. And through weaving in, out and around the circle throughout the day, during various activities, we were able to contemplate on the greatness of God’s love for us and recognise our own love for God.

 

Central Focal Point Candle for May Day Celebration.16.5 (2)We celebrated the dance of creation with a dance around our maypole (above). Those who chose to remain seated danced in the spirit by mirroring/improvising the actions of those dancing in the circle, thus enabling full inclusion, as the light of Christ radiated from the core of it.

This meditative dance afforded time and space to focus on the day’s silent prayers of our hearts and our offering of them to God from within our shared creativity.

A good day of fun and fellowship with love at its heart.

Julie

(top photo: candle is shown as unlit for its return to my home)

Wall of Peace

Putting the World to Rights at the Wall of Peace

This simple idea stemmed from a personal experience at a special service for peace that I attended last year. We were asked to use post-it notes to pin prayers for peace onto a wall and I asked myself: ‘how can I take a similar idea into the community?’ Answer: I could ask people ‘when you think of peace – what do you see?’ The perfect opportunity for this presented itself and the Wall of Peace in the Foyer at the Library during the Books by the Beach Festival April 2015 (when lots of visitors come to events there) was set up.

I also created a Facebook page to start the responses off by printing these out to pin on the wall at the onset of the event. (https://www.facebook.com/jmfairweather.co.uk). In addition, I received contributions via text and email from friends – including two from friends holidaying in Berlin (with photos of The Berlin Wall attached)!

The first day was quite slow as library users came and went, barely looking at the wall, and festival goers looked over suspiciously on their way up the stairs to the concert room where their chosen writer was speaking. I encouraged all those who glanced my way to come over and discover what it was about. It was an interesting day watching people’s first tentative steps to make a move towards the wall. The highlight of this particular day has to be a spontaneous truce between two people taking place at the wall – which made it all worthwhile.

On the second day, people were beginning to get used to me standing there, waiting to catch their eye, and they were more relaxed about coming forward – without being prompted in some cases. The same people tend to come in each day, as well as an additional mix of folk, and the regulars ambled over for a chat so I was able to coax them more naturally to complete a response through that. This second day saw varied individuals at the Wall of Peace, thus – to all these people in turn – I was a stranger, a friend, a confidante, a listening ear, a puzzle solver, a bag holder, a loo director, a pathfinder, a writer on behalf of those who couldn’t hold a pen, and so on. People have such fascinating complexities and I found it challenging to see who would walk in and talk to me next. I ended the day needing to trim the contributions down to make room for more. As an added bonus, I made several connections and contacts to help develop this project further.

On day 3, I felt I was coming to the end of my energy and was grateful for the ongoing cover support from the Scarborough Flare Committee – and a friend who continuously checked in to help out – which stopped me flagging.

As the library was closed to the public after 3pm on day 3 and the whole of day 4, we had to try not to encroach too much on loyal event goers and wait until they showed an interest before approaching them. However, many of them were happy to take a card and several brought them back to the wall as they left the building. So the end of day 3 saw more trimming and tidying of the contributions in preparation for the last day.

By day 4 the wall was pretty packed after a last trim and tidy before the final event of the Festival. Many event goers returned for the finale (Val McDermid) so most of these had already contributed a peace card though there were a few people writing cards as I left that event with more promising to return – therefore, the display will be left up until Friday 24th April.

The Peace Wall was a beautiful experience of community working together and a great team effort. I met some intriguing people with diverse opinions about peace – all of which will make for a good melting pot for the planned follow up performance from the responses. It is exciting to be part of something that started with a simple idea that the community embraced by their willingness to participate and develop together. I am looking forward to preparing the performance with fellow local writers and performers.

A notice will be available on social media, in the library and Scarborough News giving details of the performance date and venue a.s.a.p. It will be a free event with voluntary donations going to the Scarborough Amnesty Group.

(Please do call into the library up to 24.4.15 to read the responses and/or add one of your own.)

Julie Fairweather 21.4.15

Photos on Day 2, 3 and 4:

                                             Day 2 WoP

Day 3 WoPDay 4 WoP pre final event

Sacred Space of the Heart

Poustinia is a place where you can physically go and shut the door on the world to be alone with God – it’s a desert place where you can meet with God in silence, solitude and prayer to listen to what he is saying to you.

The following is an adaptation of Poustinia for Sacred Space Prayer Station, Burniston Church (Scarborough) during Easter. I pray that people who visit the prayer station over the Easter period will find their Poustinia waiting.

…….

Sacred Space of the Heart (Poustinia)

Seek the open heart and listening soul of a silent contemplation by locating a sacred space within your heart. This is a desert place where you can meet Christ in silence, solitude and prayer. This type of stillness can fulfil a yearning for those who desire communion with God.

Leave the noise and harried pace of daily life to enter your place of silence and solitude – and shut the door on the world around you. Contemplate the Easter story in visual form at the Sacred Space Prayer Station. Maybe this will be the place where you encounter Poustinia, your personal desert where you can return whenever you need silence, solitude and prayer.

Once you find Poustinia within your heart you will have it with you always and everywhere – God within you (Immanuel). You can return to that sacred space anytime in your imagination: in the marketplace, in the midst of countless conferences, traffic jams, bus trips, or a hospital ward – and find consolation within your vision of a personal desert that can bloom in simple, profound prayer.

…….

text adapted from http://www.madonnahouse.org/publications/store/shop/doherty/poustinia/ where you can read about Poustinia in its entirety.

 

Cruel Thorns

Lent 5 was on 22.3.15: Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:

A Circle of Thorns and A Purple Robe

I thought retirement during the Lenten period would be a fitting end to my working life as Administrator for the Methodist Churches in the North Yorkshire Coast. This particular role in my employment history began in Lent 2007 (the same time as my journey to becoming a Christian began). On reflection, I don’t think it was the best time of year for me to retire. I’ve found it difficult to hold space for these important things in my life at the same time and have been caught up in a whirlwind of chaotic anxiety – trying to balance them for the past 5 weeks – as well as keep on top of my creative writing projects. Impossible!

I processed and justified the emotions I’d been through since my notice of intent to retire in 7 points – which felt a bit like stages of grief. Without elaboration, these were:

1. Admitting I was old enough.
2. Denying it was happening.
3. Challenging self and others.
4. Accepting.
5. Acknowledging value of self.
6. Disassociating.
7. Letting go.

I hadn’t been prepared for my unexpected mood swings and behaviour in response to a backlash of comments from other people. This is ongoing as people seem to think they have to tell me what I want from my retirement – as though I have suddenly become incapable of making a decision and am unable to discern what’s important to me in my own life! I know they are trying to help but it is winding me up further – so please stop if you are reading this and are one of those said people.

Therefore, it was appropriate today that I could spend a day of reflection with the resident staff at Madonna House, Robin Hood’s Bay, to try and catch up with myself or, to be more exact, for my soul to rest in stillness and hold the space so I could simply ‘be’.

For the last 5 weeks I have been so busy planning my retirement (or trying to without being influenced by what others think my retirement should consist of!) that I have failed to spend quality time listening to God. So, I prayed and meditated on what stood out for me in The Little Mandate – a creed lived out by the Madonna House Movement and instigated by its founder, Catherine Doherty.

I began with the line: ‘Pray – I will give you rest.’ I needed that. I prayed for God to bring me rest and peace so that I could find some space to hold and allow my soul to catch up with me. Then, when I was ready, I moved on to pray and meditate on the first words: ‘Arise! Go.’ When I was ready, I walked down the stairs of the building and was drawn to a shelf that housed cards, reflections, inspirational books, pebbles and icons. I picked up ‘Peace Will Abound’ an inspirational booklet published by Salesian Missions. When I opened a random page, a poem by Steven Michael Schumacher, entitled ‘Love shall lead you home’, found me.

It read:

Love shall lead you home,
When you’ve lost your way;
Love kneels down beside you,
When you need to pray.
If it’s very dark,
Love will hold your hand.
There’s no need to speak,
For love understands
When it’s just all wrong,
Love will make it right,
Love is God himself,
The fullness of life.
…….

Enough said…

Julie

poem © 65837 Salesian Missions

Next: Lent 6 (29.3.15): Palm Sunday Sacred Space Prayer Station Symbolism at Burniston Church:Palm Branches. Blog re Postenia Prayer.

Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness

I was aware that Week 4 of Lent at Sacred Space Prayer Station for Sunday 15th March was symbolized by The Whip as I began the ‘Lent in a Day’ Quiet Day at Cross Hill on Saturday 14th March. To be close to God was the reason I attended the Quiet Day. I needed to get back on track with that. I have drifted away recently and been quite neglectful in my walk with God because of my busyness. The title for the day was Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness and I felt that this added to The Whip’s symbolism for me personally.

The following thoughts are prayers that came to me during my reflective meditations from the four sections: What is self-discipline; being out of step with God; Jesus and Forgiveness; Forgiving Others.

Self-Discipline, Sin and Selflessness

I admit a need to find new ways to lose old ways,
to resist distractions that keep me away from you;
To discipline the ‘I’ in sin;
To use self-control;
To take time out for reflection;
To be aware of Christ; and the Holy Trinity.
I hope Lectio Divina offers a fresh start.

If I repent (from temptations I have given in to)
with a broken spirit and contrite, humble heart,
the truth will set me free from my old ways –
if I trust that you have put an end to my sin .
And the grace and mercy of Christ will shower me
with colours of love to create in me a clean heart
and renew a right spirit within me.

Am I healed? Am I forgiven?
How can you forgive the things I’ve done
when I cannot forgive myself?
I keep a record – you do not.
I go fishing in the past – you do not.
That’s how.
And this…
that you sent your son to die for me
on that torturous cross
as an atoning sacrifice for my sin.
How then dare I even ask ‘Am I truly forgiven?’

Help me to accept your forgiveness
so I can be healed enough to forgive myself.
For my dear brother, I pray for healing
from the bitter agony of choices he’s made.
Let his unforgiving heart learn to forgive himself
thus ending the pain of our estrangement –
and setting us both free.

Amen

The colour of forgiveness is blue – a healing calm – those who love much, forgive much… and God forgives ALL our sins (much) because he loves ALL of us (much)… no matter what.

He sent His son to die on that torturous cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.