This whole Lent thing…

At Christmas time, I joined our Senior Section on a ferris wheel once again to make a promise. Part of that promise was to develop my beliefs.

They are constantly evolving.

I think it’s easy to assume that as a Christian, that I signed up to a set of beliefs and religious rules and rituals and committed to keeping them. But truth is, as I see the world, learn more, study the bible, converse with friends, strangers and God – I’m always questioning, always considering, always trying to work things out.

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There are parts of the Christian festivals that I struggle with. Pancake Day though is a ritual I love and try to stick to. I’ll be honest, my incentive often has more to do with fun traditions of making pancakes and tossing them than God. But at the same time the tradition marks a moment to start Lent – preparing for Easter and the fear, mourning, confusion and celebrating that came with in the space of three days many, many years ago.

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Last night I gathered with some Jesus freak friends (I say that with love…!) and we had a time of prayer as we always do on the first Tuesday of each month. We then ripped apart round loaf of olive bread, shared glasses of wine (grape juice for me) to do what is known as communion before making pancakes. For those of you who don’t know, Jesus shared a meal in a home just before he was arrested – and asked his disciples to routinely break bread and share wine together in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. These days, many churches mark it in a service with a shot glass and a teeny bits of bread. I won’t lie – it makes me a wee bit angry that they do it like that because I think it’s a bit of an insult to Jesus really. There is something far more real about a good chunk of bread and a generous glass of wine to symbolise it all!

There is much chat that has gone on this week amongst Christians bemoaning people giving up things for Lent and what they are giving up for Lent. Personally I think you should do or not do what you feel is right. If you want to use this season to abstain from something – go ahead. I don’t mind you using this season to do that. Perhaps it isn’t what God really cares about – but I don’t honestly know.

Over the years I’ve done different things. My uni friends still recall the year I gave up straightening my hair for Lent. It was much tougher than I care to admit. It says a lot about my vanity, and I never considered myself as one of those girls who are obsessed with their looks. Other years I’ve given up things that weren’t that tough to give up. One year I took up doing random acts of kindness each day when we did The Art of Joy. Last year I didn’t do or give up anything.

These last few months, I feel challenged – whether by God or otherwise – to consider how I spend my money and where I spend my money. I’ve been wrestling with whether I should go to the cheap places like Primark or Aldi so I can save money, and maybe make it seem better by giving the money saved to charity? Or do I spend more by supporting local businesses, that are perhaps running more ethical practices, and maybe benefitting the vibrancy of the economy? Do I go to the big corporate cinema showing the trashy blockbusters, or do I go to the independent one that is showing films “where stuff actually happens” (to quote from Lupita Nyong’o) and telling important stories that matter? Do I focus my time more carefully so I’m not running into the many local ‘metro’ supermarkets that are undercutting small businesses on my way to and form work by bringing a reusable flask of water from home, or maybe going into the little corner shop or health food shop instead?

And is it ok to have a greater focus on doing this during Lent? Is it even something God cares about?

I don’t know that I have the answer,  but I’m going to try it anyway – and not necessarily stop after Lent but perhaps as a friend of a friend put it on facebook

 “I am thinking that giving up chocolate for 40 days, but being a complete a55hole about everything else is not exactly what God has(d) in mind. So in honour of Lent, and regardless of your religious or non-religious leanings, let’s all just try to suck a little less. We can all use it.”

That sounds good to me. A start at the very least. :)

It’s a strange thing this life…

I’m not sure how we got 6 days into January already.

I spent the first 4 days of the new year with my older brothers. It’s the first time in a long time we’ve spent more than 2 days together at one time. For four days, we existed in our family bubble. And then all of a sudden it was time to get ready for going back to normal life. Going to the supermarket to get ‘normal’ food. Doing laundry. Finding work bags. Checking and replying to e-mails amongst the screeds of spam. Realising how much I didn’t get done during the holiday period.

And how many friends I still hadn’t seen.

I was reflecting after being at the beach with the Soul Surfers crew yesterday on the strange life I lead. Believing in God, but avoiding church. Being a Christian yet being deeply immersed in social issues that are polarising politically. Being known as the person that ‘knows everyone’ but rarely seeing people in person.

I find myself challenged as I head into this new year, working out my beliefs and values. Being drawn to gain understanding of different belief systems and practices. Examining myself to recognise my prejudices.

On the simple side, I think of all the tasks I have a responsibility to complete but haven’t yet. Research papers, travel insurance documents, lease agreements, keys, programmes to plan, reading lists to be conquered…it is exhausting to contemplate. And as this day ends, I realise all I can do is to take one day at a time. Get as much done as I have the energy to do. Rest. Replenish. And start over again a-new tomorrow.

Deep breath.

…and sleep. (Ok, read a book or watch something for a bit then sleep). :)

One Promise for All…

Well, I was about to do a ‘Quote of the Week’ post inspired by my amazing Senior Section and other Girlguiding ladies, but apparently there’s a demand for people to speak about an article that appeared the Telegraph on Wednesday. You know, the last day of term for us as Senior Section was the day after the new promise announcement. Several of our girls were hurt by the things said by outsiders about Girlguiding in the press as they were so excited about the wording change and asked me if they could remake their promise. I know I was hurt by it – especially by some of the things I saw on being said on Twitter. I spent 2 days defending Girlguiding and trying to explain what the press had warped and gotten oh so wrong. The one thing that encouraged me was the lovely feedback I got (especially from some nay-sayers) who read my post about the new promise and said they’d found it really helpful. Thank you for being willing to listen!

Planning for next term of Guides

As the Girlguiding members gear up to return for a new term and the new promise is about to come into action, a ton of us leaders were disappointed to see the Telegraph article appear. (And surprise, surprise, a photo with the old uniform!). And then today apparently we were discussed on The Wright Stuff and referred to us being a religious organisation?!!

A few things to say.

First of all, Girlguiding and Scouting is different from the Girls and Boys Brigade. God has never been at the ‘core’, and the promise reflects an era where there wasn’t as much cultural diversity and more people participated in religion because it was what you did, not necessarily because you actually believed. We have never been a Christian organisation.

However, a lot of Parish churches have welcomed and accommodated Girlguiding units (who often don’t have ‘Guide Huts’ – we don’t have the same money that Scouts do!). Just as they’ve accommodated Mother & Toddler groups, Women’s Institute groups, fitness classes and many other community activities. We so appreciate this!

Second, is the idea that a leader should encourage young girls aged 5 or 7/8 to continue to use the old promise when they might not believe (or know what they believe yet) is in my mind, spiritually abusive. And it might not be what the parents want! I don’t think that the new promise excludes Christians at all, or Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or any other faith groups. In fact, it encourages girls to make a commitment to exploring their personal values and beliefs.

Third, is the idea some have made about having two promises. I’m against that, because I think this is the big area where Christians historically have made a real mess of things. I remember having a conversation with my Pastor about one of the saddest sights in Edinburgh: Holy Corner. At a crossroads stands 4 churches on different corners of the intersection. Why do you need 4 different churches in one place? Because of disunity. Let’s find the things we agree on and be united with One Promise for EVERYONE! One that everyone can say truthfully, and make an honest commitment to! That’s what Girlguiding has done.

The Telegraph quoted a lady called Jem who said: “The pack leader’s insistence on keeping the old promise excludes me and any atheist girls from the troop, or asks us to lie when making the promise, something that surely goes against the Guiding principles.

That second part there is what bothers me most. Because lying when making a promise is not just against the principles of Guiding and Scouting (part of the Guide law is that ‘A Guide is honest and can be trusted‘). It also goes against what I understand, as a follower of Christ, to be against the teaching of the bible too.

We had our first day back on Wednesday at Senior Section. All 6 girls made a return and were so excited to be back (or they did a really good job of pretending to be if they weren’t – ha ha!). We had a new seventh member coming for the first time. We had an eighth new member apologetically e-mail me saying she couldn’t come this Wednesday but really wanted to join. A ninth girl e-mailed me last night after meeting some of the girls asking if she could join our group too! I’d made the girls folders to record their progress with the ‘Look Wider’ programme and used this is a base for planning their activities for the coming term.

Senior Section prep

Here’s some of what they decided to do:

A Pizza and Pyjama Party (they want to make the pizzas themselves)

Tie Dyeing t-shirts

Hallowe’en party

Diwali night

and…they want to go back on the Ferris Wheel at Christmas time, and re-do their Promise. I’m going to have to gear myself up for that one because this is what happened last year!

Some of the girls are thinking about exploring their beliefs by going to church as part of the ‘Personal Values’ octant of the Look Wider programme, as they asked Jenny and I what sort of things they could do for that octant. As I’ve said before, some of the girls while we were discussing the promise confessed they weren’t sure what they believed, or that they’d like to go to a church because their families do but they find the teaching there irrelevant or disagree with some of the messages being put out there by prominent people representing Christianity which takes stances on social issues such as homosexuality or women’s health they disagree with. I have girls who are intrigued by other faith beliefs or realise they know little about them. I have girls who regularly go to church and know they believe in God. I have girls who respect people’s belief in God but have looked into it all and know they don’t believe in a God at all.

And we all get along. We might have different beliefs about some things, but we’re ONE UNIT. We’re proud to be members of Girlguiding.

And these girls are AMAZING. The four of them who were in S4 and S5 kicked serious butt in their exams before the summer, one is now in college, the other three are still at school and looking into university options. One is doing her Duke of Edinburgh Award (she says the expedition was the worst experience of her life…but she sucked it up and got through it). Two of them have just finished their Baden-Powell Challenge Awards as they’ve come up to Senior Section. Six of them volunteer as young leaders and have a great rapport with the kids/young people they work with each week. One of them is volunteering to help tutor younger pupils at her high school. All of them are involved with a range of different extra curricular activities from playing instruments, to costume design for drama groups, to singing, ballet, badminton and being a first aid cadet…

They are caring, compassionate and stand up for injustice. Don’t tell me that not believing in God means they have a dodgy moral compass or that because they promise to be ‘true to themselves’ means they act selfishly. Their actions prove otherwise, and to me actions always speak louder than words.

 

**Update: I have since watched the segment on The Wright Stuff televised this morning on Channel 5. I was totally shocked by the lack of research and tweeted as I watched, totally understanding why my facebook had blown up with raging Guiders and volunteers wanting to throw stuff at their TV screens!

Some points:

1. Girlguiding did not change the promise ‘to gain more members’. It did so after a consultation which happened after many existing members expressed their discomfort about the wording of the promise, and their wish to be able to mean the promise they were making.

2. The logo shown  is not our current logo.

3. The oath is not usually said at the beginning of every meeting, though certainly it is discussed through the activities we do in all sections. This oath is known as ‘The Guide Promise’ and is said at a ceremony when someone joins a section of Guiding. For example, I made it as a Brownie, a Guide, a Young Leader, a Ranger and as an Adult Leader.

4. We don’t have ‘troops’. We have ‘units’ or a ‘Brownie Pack’ or a ‘Guide company’. Troops are what the Scouts have.

5. We had a consultation, and we wanted ONE promise that could include everyone rather than having 2 (or more)

6. We did not ‘get rid of the Queen’. Our new promise changed the line ‘to serve the Queen and my country’ to ‘serve the Queen and my community’ – which incorporated a line from the promise that Rangers and Young Leaders make.

7. ‘to be true to myself and develop my beliefs’ is encouraging girls NOT to be ashamed of what they believe.

8. We were not losing members. In fact in the last 2 years 16,000 new members have joined Girlguiding in the UK. And there’s more on the waiting lists.

9. Girlguiding and Scouting was never a recognised ‘religious organisation’, though true Christian principles were (and still are) the influence on the core of Girlguiding and Scouting (caring for creation, treated those as you’d wish to be treated). Robert Baden-Powell always incorporated other religions as Scouting and Guiding spread as a worldwide youth movement. He didn’t keep it limited to Christianity.

I am sad that the producers and people talking on the show didn’t know anything of the history of guiding, the Consultation, not to mention that this debate is being shown like…9 months after the consultation began, and 2+ months after the new promise was announced. **

Reflecting on last week’s QOTW post and friendships…

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It’s a while since I’ve had the chance to really sit down and get my thoughts out. First of all, I want to say thank you for all the encouragement people gave me about my Katherine Anne Porter quote post. I’d written in advance knowing I’d be really busy, and while away working suddenly remembered it would go live and was quite anxious about how it would be taken. I think a few Christian readers misinterpreted some of what I said, and I probably should have put a pre-disclaimer at the beginning of it like my friend Brisaac often does “don’t hear what I’m not saying“. But during two weeks when I’ve been asked to look at the transpersonal dimensions of people and the diversity of people’s cultural and faith/non-faith beliefs it was interesting to see some of the conversations it stemmed. I don’t know if Rebecca realises that some of that post was influenced by her chatting to me about the very conversation she quoted in a post she wrote in a sort of response to what I wrote.

This past weekend I got to meet up with my friend who has been living abroad for the last four years. I’ve mentioned her before, as she was my roommate while we were both in Durban, South Africa. She’s just one of those friends I totally connect with. Like, we never met until the day she arrived in Durban, and given the nature of what we got up to out there we had to get used to each other pretty quickly. Our two weeks were emotionally, spiritually and physically draining but also fun and if there’s one thing I associate with Ruky it is laughing. It amazes me how after a four year gap with little to no communication we just felt straight back into friendship with a lot of deep conversations and no BS. Just total frankness and honesty. I spoke about some of my frustrations and concerns with her and found that she really empathised with me on several different topics that have been on my mind lately. Like singleness and relationships, culture, the work of non-profit organisations…

The thing is, I find it pretty darn near impossible to hide the fact I’m a Christian anyway. It just comes out because my belief in God, and what I believe He has done for me is just such a key part of who I am as a person today. What I’m aiming for is to be the best possible version of myself. It means I’m constantly working on my attitudes, I’m wanting to ensure I’m open to hearing where others are coming from. It also sometimes means I get very angry at the misrepresentation of God because church culture often adds things on for better or worse that are not important principles of what Jesus taught. Which is probably why my friends get confused about Christianity. Far too much energy and time is spent on things barely (if ever) mentioned in the bible, and far too little time acting on what is mentioned A LOT in the bible.

It’s also hard to hide, because I’m a pretty open and honest person anyway. We have a giggle about that often because I am quite…uh…forthright with my opinions and do not hide my emotions well. At all. Especially when at work in a counselling room – a lot of energy and training has gone into not showing judgment to anyone through word, action or body language. Counselling skills training of any kind certainly forces you to become very self-aware, and it is a constant learning process through supervised practice and training.

I do fully admit  that over the last couple of years I have allowed my insecurity to get the better of me. I’m now going to aim to be bolder about sharing my thoughts and opinions on my blog with the hope that maybe it could generate helpful discussion. I know that blogging is a bit like therapy for me in helping me to reflect and have my values, beliefs and opinions be in constant evolution. I think that is healthy.

On a final note, I think this last week has just reaffirmed to me that I am SO blessed with an amazing community of friends ‘in real life’ and ‘online’ all over the world. I love getting to know you all better, appreciate the challenges and encouragement you each give, the great memories and communication and what you all teach me!

x

Easter…

Easter.

The most important date on the Christian calendar. Like Christmas, there’s a lot of other influences that have factored in to how we celebrate now. Bunnies, chickens, chocolate, colouring eggs and so on…and like a lot of things religion, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the religious rituals surrounding Easter.

Maundy Thursday. The day of the Last Supper. Praying and crying. Betrayal from Judas. Didn’t realise that some denominations have a tradition of the minister washing the feet of his congregation. Heck, the Pope was kissing the feet of people this week. I do get it – this is what Jesus did with his disciples. But I’ll be honest…I don’t even like getting a pedicure. I have ‘dancer’s feet’ so this is not a ritual I want to participate in from either side. Kudos to Jesus and the Pope – I don’t think I could do it!!

Good Friday. The day Jesus died on the cross. I still don’t understand why they call it ‘good’. Of course yes, Jesus was dying in the place of others. But this comic strip that went around in response to people like me who question it being called Good Friday actually disturbed me a bit…

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I don’t think I’d feel good at all about someone taking my place to be hanged. And of course, the people who knew where friends with Jesus did not have the benefit of hindsight that we have. They were scared for their lives. They were sad that their friend/son/brother was killed so brutally. They say it’s ‘good’ because of the fact that He was separated from God so we would never have to be. Personally, I don’t think hope comes in his death, but with what happened later that weekend…

Saturday. The sabbath.

Easter Sunday. Two women go to his tomb – to discover He is not there. Jesus reveals himself to them. He’s alive! Ressurection has killed death’s hold on us, and there is the promise of eternal life. This is what we celebrate. This is what gives us hope. This is where our second chance comes from.

And I love that in a chauvinist culture, Jesus once again breaks down the barriers – the first people he shows himself to are women.

For me the rolling of eggs is symbolic of the stone of the tomb being rolled away. I never give my friends children easter bunnies (though I do love the fun of Easter Egg Hunts!) though mini Lindt Easter Bunnies are so yummy that sometimes they get included in an easter egg hunt or two! It is a rule in our house that you can’t eat your easter egg before you’ve rolled it to make the chocolate crack. Though we did discover a decade or so ago that you should not try and roll a Matchmakers easter egg down the stairs (the egg burst open and bits of matchmakers went flying everywhere).

 

 

11 years on…

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That was the status on my facebook yesterday. It’s weird to think that 12 years ago I was swearing blind that God didn’t exist. 11 years and 2 days ago I believed that I wasn’t allowed to be a Christian.

It is true that I still doubt my faith and beliefs at times. I spent a long time being really angry at God for giving people control of their own actions in this world. It means people get hurt. It also means we get to make choices.

I’ve been asked many, many times by a close friend of mine ‘Yeah, but do you think you would have become a Christian if you hadn’t gone through all of that before?’ (that being more trauma and struggles as a teenager than I like to admit). I can’t really answer because my past is my past. But for sure, in 2011 more than any other year, I really questioned whether a bunch of control freaks had manipulated and taken advantage of my vulnerability at 17. I took several months away from all organised religion after a year of being made to feel like crap about things that I no longer felt crap about. Adam Hills comment in a stand-up sketch about women’s magazines ringing in my ears. Advertisers want you to feel crap about yourself so you’ll buy their products – it’s a basic sales pitch the Christian church have been using for years. I was starting to notice how often preachers were telling me how crap I felt about myself, stuff that had happened and how I needed healing for it. Again and again and again. The time away taught me that God was still there, just being misrepresented and the Holy Spirit having her identity stolen at times.

Clarity was gained.

(Not to mention it showed me who was faking friendship with me for Jesus points).

And it is most definitely true that the reasons I believe in God make me sound like I need psychiatric help. Whether it’s angels sitting on my bed, hearing voices telling me to get baptised or that someone’s relative has died or falling flat seeing visions of women I’ve not yet met while hearing voices speaking foreign languages to me. I guess it’s the weird stuff that no one can control or engineer that gives me faith. If faith is a step on a staircase, then that stuff is the electricity that powers the light so I can see where the steps are.

If I learned anything it’s that God can handle me just as I am. He is not afraid of my anger or questions. He is patient, but He’s also not afraid to admonish me when I’m not living the best way for myself or the other people He loves.

I don’t always listen or obey.

Being a Christian – a follower of Jesus – is hard, I’m not going to lie. But to suddenly ‘unconvert’ would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular and liked by the majority of western society who think people like me are strange, offensive or maybe even delusional. And to become religious would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular with all the church leaders and not have to say ‘no’ or feel offended at some of their rhetoric and politics.

I hope it’s all going to be worth it – it seems to have been so far, so that’s a good sign. And now, I have that constant reminder inked indelibly on my skin of ‘themba’ – faith, hope, trust, love. Memories of covenants marked by rainbows and weird moments I’ll narrate about with good humour for many years to come.

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Let’s see what happens in the next 11 years…

The wall: crying out to God

Of all the books in the bible, the two near the middle are my favourites. The Book of Proverbs for it’s straight up wisdom and common sense, and the Book of Psalms for it’s rawness, comfort and honesty.

Most of the time in the Psalms, it starts off positive, laments in the middle and ends with a resolve to remember the bigger picture.

I’m sure for some of my readers, you might think those verses are a little bit nutty. But over the last 4 years they’ve meant a great deal to me, and they went on my wall with another excerpt from Psalms…which is also on my wall but apparently I forgot to include it in my picture taking. Anyway, it says:

O Lord, hear me as I pray
Pay attention to my groaning
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly

Psalm 5:1-3

What I love about the Psalms, is that there is no pretending. Sometimes I think Christians make out to other Christians that we should be joyfully taking all that is put against us. The Psalms tell me different. The Psalms say ‘be honest with how you feel’.

Let those emotions out.

It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling.

It’s what you do with what you’re feeling that counts.

 I’ve learned over the years that there are a lot of things that could happen in my life that would make fears realised. Bad things happen. People get sick. People die. People get taken away from us in other ways. Sometimes we struggle, we fear, we are desperate, it can seem like there is no hope. This thing we call life can lose it’s purpose and all seem totally pointless. Why bother trying to do good when it seems like there is so much evil, so much disaster that we can’t explain ‘why’.

In all of it, I’ve had to put my faith in God. I know that’s not going to stop the bad stuff.

It’s going to help me get through the bad stuff.

Sometimes I’m crawling through to the other side, rather than walking with my head high. It’s having peace to stay calm to get through the scary and tough times.

It’s getting through to the other side that counts.

That takes grit and courage and strength and encouragement.

My Jesuversary

I didn’t realise until I was writing the date numerous times in our call log book at work that today is the 8th February.

8th February is special to me, because it’s the day that I got ‘born again’ as they say.

It’s the day I realised that

1. I did believe in God

and

2. I could be a Christian even though I’d had an abortion (due to religious pro life campaigners, I believed that you weren’t allowed to be a Christian if you’d had an abortion).

and

3. Asked God to take all the crap in my life and turn it into something good.

Someone asked me today how I could remember that date.

Well, all I can say is – if you can remember the date you started going out with your partner, I can certainly the remember the date I started ‘going out’ with God. ;)

The last 10 years since I made that decision have not been easy. I’ve faced friends pushing me out their lives. I’ve been teased and ridiculed. I’ve had people mistrust me because they’ve made assumptions on what my values and beliefs are about other things because they know I believe in God and go to church.

But I know how much I’ve been saved. I know what I’ve been saved from. I know how much my faith and my God has helped me. I know that though not easy, it’s also been so fulfilling to live life for God instead of for me.

It freed me from my past, and it freed me from an addiction to cutting myself. It made me a calmer person.

I’ll never forget that night.

And I’m glad that I have this picture (above) as a memento from that evening – this was taken at crazy o’clock in the morning after I’d got back from a night of rocking out to metal music in the student union, when I told my friend (pictured) that I’d decided I did believe in God. :) She’d been praying that I’d become a Christian for quite a number of months by this point so she was pretty excited. Tee hee.

8th February 2002 was the day I made the best decision of my life.

Happy Jesus-versary to me! :P (as Stacey wished me earlier!)

and Happy birthday to my lovely friend Rebecca! (please head over to her blog to wish her Happy birthday. She’s 23 today, and I realised she’ll be 23 when she goes to Australia just like I was. 23 was my favourite age!)

24 days of Christmas: Christmas Seasons (by Pam)

Pam Lewsey was born in a place most people call ‘Where?’. She has travelled widely but doesn’t have much to show for it, aside from a motley bunch of wide-eyed friends and a collection of teapots. She may or may not become famous one day. God is especially fond of her. 

Christmas Seasons

I was born on a hot, thunderstormy day in December – in Zimbabwe. Most of my Christmas memories are set against a backdrop of gray-white cumulonimbus clouds sharply contrasted with a bright green lawn. Africa’s Christmas decorations could be the deep pink bougainvillea, the daisies, honeysuckle, red flamboyant, purple jacaranda and it’s carols the notes of a hundred different types of birds. I remember running across a burning slate verandah for a Christmas swim before lunch, which ironically (as the colonial traditions passed down are ‘more British than the British’) was the weighted, rich roast, stuffing, ham and veg and Christmas pud. We used to have to close the curtains to try to simulate enough darkness to even see the brandy flames on the pud!

Dickens’ world of ice-skating, snowmen, scarves and hot roast chestnuts was new to me at the age of twenty-one, when I spent my first Christmas in the North. I loved that the lights of Christmas trees shone out in the darkness, and that mulled wine went down a treat, and you could find a logfire and a thick scent of pine if you looked hard enough. Santa’s warm red suit didn’t make me feel prickley hot and I could make concertina snowflakes out of paper for decoration, and not feel silly.

Christmas as a festival came largely from the pagans and, in a way, they’re taking it back. They have every right to use it the way they want to – to get stressed and into debt and have family arguments. It’s sad for us who think it think it should all be about Jesus’ birth, because Jesus’ birth signified promise and life and grace as heaven met earth one night in a hovel in the Middle-East.

I love the pinprick lights and cold of the North at Christmas, and I love the noisy birds and colours of the South. Maybe the seasons of the world work together to show us that dichotomy of a sort of death (or diminishment – like God becoming a baby) in a dark place and the life that is backstage waiting to make it’s appearance.

“…unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds…” (John 12:24)

 Jesus, help us to remember both darkness and quietness, and life and colour, because no matter what season it is in one place, it’s the opposite in another.

*******

Pam’s post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Pam has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Nativity (by Rebecca)

Hi and Merry Christmas! I’m Rebecca and a 22 year old English nurse living down south of the UK. I love sunny days, anything yellow, bleeding wounds and you guessed it blogging over atForever Making Memories‘. I hope you enjoy my post :)

When I was 11 years old I helped out with my school nativity play. I was about to start secondary school the following year and in secondary school they don’t “do” the nativity tradition. I loved helping out with the nativity props, script and seeing all the adorable children wanting to wear tea towels for hats so they could take part. It made Christmas more festive and I miss it terribly. After the final show a mum came up to me to thank the team for making it such an enjoyable evening. The conversation went like this:

Mum: It was a great show and “Molly” really enjoyed herself
Me: It was! I love taking part in the nativity. I’m going to miss not being apart of it.
Mum: Well you’ll be able to see it at your church this year won’t you?
Me: Oh I don’t go to church…or even believe in God for that matter. But it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the nativity.
Mum: *the worst look of disgust ever* as you please.

And with that she -rather rudely- walked away and muttered some things to the other mums in her company. And me? I was really hurt. I am not a Christian. I do not believe the Christmas story ever happened but if other people do then I respect that 100%. Do I still celebrate Christmas? Yes! Am I bad person for celebrating something that I don’t really believe in? That’s up to you, but I don’t think so.

I celebrate at Christmas what I have learnt from the nativity story and that’s so many things. Family, belief that miracles can happen, enjoying the company of people that really do matter, charity, cherishing those you surround yourselves with. I celebrate that at Christmas :)

When I got home I was really upset and my Dad told me that the lady was right in a way but she was also wrong to make another person feel bad. He told me to listen to this Stevie Wonder track and his words were “Stevie’s a Christian but he wrote this song about what Christmas means to him and it should be the same for you too…”

Whenever I listen to this song during Advent and Christmas I feel proud to enjoy my true meaning to Christmas. Thanks Dad…and Stevie Wonder too!

What does Christmas really mean for you?

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Rebecca’s post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Rebecca has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.