Category Archives: Rants and Ramblings

Happy Christmas?

“Happy Christmas”, the ubiquitous greeting of the season (or even worse “Merry Christmas”).

When did we come by this insistence on being happy in life?

Many people are in a circumstance that is far from happy – but still we think they should be. Especially linked to the ‘perfect’ family Christmas.

But life is not like that.  People are in pain, missing someone, missing anyone, alone, hungry, sad, struggling with bad news or any number of other situations that mean they are not ‘happy’ – but that does not mean Christmas, or more especially God, is not for them or with them – but it doesn’t have to be happy.

Today happens to be the Feast of the Holy Innocents. A Day to recall Herod’s fury at being outwitted by the Magi and God and takes it out on the infants of Bethlehem:

Matthew 2:13-18 (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,

    weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

    and refusing to be comforted,

    because they are no more.”

Rachel is weeping.  She cannot be comforted.  There is no comfort for a child ripped from its parents in whatever circumstances.

Culturally we are rubbish at acknowledging people’s pain and anguish.  We certainly don’t like public displays of it.  Much easier if people could at least play along at being happy.  But that is not acknowledging real life.  Rachel is weeping.  That is how it is.  Real life and emotion are allowed.  There is no sticking plaster, no chivvying to cheer up, she is comfortless.  That is her reality – and it is ok to be so.  A healing will grow, she will be able to live with the raw pain, but not today.  Today is a day of pain and raw emotion.  And God is in that.  He sits with it, with her.  God holds her and all who mourn, and weeps too.  Our pain is God’s pain.

Surely, church should be the one place where we should be able to be real and honest, to open up to how it really is; but we are not much better at it.  We should give space for however people are feeling – bad and good.

Christmas has long been a struggle for me.  I know I am far from the only one.  This year is even worse, the Circle of Life has gone very wonky.  Yes there is hope and promise – but not today.  “Happy Christmas” grates.  Yet to be honest I’m not sure how you phrase it better.

Why do we have to be happy?  Yes I am grateful that God is born in human form, but does that mean I have to be ‘happy’, fixed grin, false jolliness and the lot?  Surely if the good news of God born among us means anything, it means that he is with us in the good times yes, but also in the dross and pain.  That is what the coming of Jesus, and the power of it, means to me – that he is with me however I feel.

I’m with Rachel in her pain.  So are many others.  I’m musing on a culturally acceptable way we can acknowledge that, and get away from the assumption that just because it’s Christmas everyone is having a fabulous time.

So I wish you the ongoing love, hope, peace and comfort of the Christ-child.  God born among us.  God with us – whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, whatever time of the year.

Thank you Lord
for coming to earth,
for coming to reality,
for experiencing human life,
good,
bad
and indifferent.

Thank you
that your presence is not just for good days,
but for how it is;
that I don’t need to pretend,
or put on a good show
for you,
because you know.

Thank you
for your presence
in happiness and joy,
but also in pain
and weeping.

May I walk
in your presence,
hope,
comfort,
and peace;
and know you with me
whatever the circumstances

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Double Disability?

Mr Pamsperambulation coined this phrase and encouraged me to write this post.  I guess I’m busy dealing with it, whereas he has to sit and watch it.

What we are really thinking of are the extra challenges of ‘Invisible Disability’ (health issues that severely effect your life, but not necessarily in a way that everyone can see).  Invisible disabilities are many and various and by their very nature, you may not know who is suffering and struggling.  This doesn’t mean that they are worse than very visible and obvious disabilities, just that they bring the extra challenges of people not even knowing you need help, understanding or special arrangements.

“Tourisme&handicap MOULINS” by Jeanlouiszimmermann. – Own work..

 

Such an example would be needing to use the ‘elderly or disabled’ seat on public transport, and getting accusing looks.  But it goes much deeper than that.

If you need something, you have to constantly ask or explain.  An obvious disability cuts those corners.  You may think I am perfectly healthy.  If you don’t know me well, you won’t recognise the signs that mean I’ve had enough, I can’t cope any more or today is a really bad day.  I may just appear rude, or disinterested.  I may just go home because I don’t have the energy to explain that no I can’t just go upstairs because it’s full down here; I can’t park there and walk; I can’t sit on that chair for very long; I can’t concentrate for more than 40 minutes, however interesting you are; I can’t take part in any activity that lasts more than an hour because it exhausts me – however exciting it may sound; I can’t hang around waiting; I can’t stand in this queue; I can’t keep coming back at your convenience; I can’t talk for very long; I can’t even always find the words I want to string a sentence together; I can’t just go and do that…  And they are just some examples from my problems, other people with other invisible difficulties will have their own.  They may include access to toilets, needing space, help with logistics – the list is as long as the individual people.  And we can’t always bear to have to explain AGAIN, because no one can see them.

Today depression has hit the news again.  Can you imagine how it would be to have to try to gather yourself to explain what that means in your life at this moment?  What you need to help you?  Yet it is very real, and by the nature of the illness often hidden, yet needs understanding and support.  Not all adaptations that need to be made are physical.  Sometimes we need to change the way we say things and the atmosphere we present.

It is true that we never know what is happening in someone else’s life, how it is to live the life they live.  They may appear stroppy, attention-seeking, awkward, distant or any other way of being – but we do not know what they are battling or living with; how much it might have taken them to get up or be where they are.  We should make no assumptions and no judgments.  We should find out what we can do to help, to make life and events accessible (and not promise you will if you haven’t thought that through or don’t mean it); accept what people need to do to make something bearable (that may mean something like lying on the floor – that needs to be OK, not questioned or tutted over); try to help and most of all seek to understand – not necessarily by asking lots of questions, just taking what is.

Disability is hard enough, please don’t make it any harder by your reaction, lack of reaction or failure to understand.  Listen, accept and do what you can to make life as easy and bearable as possible.  Because actually that applies to everyone, not just those who have a ‘disability’.

Where is God? What about Me?

By Boris Niehaus (www.1just.de) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
We only need to catch a snippet of any news at the moment, to think that the world has gone mad – and bad.  Fighting, killing, hostage taking, displacement of people from their homes – general inhumanity to one another.  What are we doing?  Our minds are troubled and our hearts break.

To some, this also raises the question, ‘What is God doing?’, ‘Where is he?’, ‘Why is he allowing this?’

My answer to that is that his heart is breaking too.

For God is not allowing all this – people are.  It is not God that is taking up arms, persecuting, massacring – but human beings.

Could God step in and stop it?  Don’t you think he’s trying to?  But for that it needs the people involved to respond.  God is not the one with the weapons in his hands – human beings are.  However much he might want them to stop, he can’t make them.  He can plead with them, but do they hear?  He might show them his way, but do they listen?  And if they hear do they respond?  And if some do, are there not many more who will step into their place in hatred and thinking they are right.

It is  a responsibility of each one of us to listen for God’s voice on our actions, and to respond accordingly.  The same applies in our own lives, however small we think they are.  We might get upset about the atrocities we see very vividly portrayed on our screen – quite rightly, but do we also consider the way we behave?  The minor wars we rage in our lives?  The need for our way to be right?  The shunning and side-lining of those we don’t agree with.  That is how wars and persecution start – it is just a matter of scale.

Where is God in these situations, big and small?  He is gently whispering, and loudly shouting, into our hearts and minds.  Stop that.  Choose love.  Talk to each other.  Live my way.

Love one another as I have loved you

Oh Lord,
my heart breaks,
for the madness,
the cruelty,
the injustice
I see in the world.

But I know that your heart
is breaking much more.
You know these people,
intimately,
and love them dearly.

So Lord,
I beg you,
not to do something,
for I know you are;
but for them to hear,
and do something
to make evil,
hatred
and inhumanity to stop.
Bring
not temporary cease-fires,
but change
of heart and mind.

And Lord,
as I look on the ‘big’ situations,
may I think too
on my actions,
where I am,
each day.

May I too
hear your voice
in the way I treat others.

Lord,
in your mercy,
give us all
hearts and lives of love