Blessed are the Peacemakers



We live in a tumultuous world, don’t we?

Even as we’ve entered this new year, and so lately have been wishing each other ‘Peace and Goodwill’, we only have to switch on the news to see so much that is not peaceful. PEACE

In homes, it stands to reason and human nature, that there are bound to be arguments even today over trivialities, siblings bickering, relationships disintegrating. Between friends there are quarrels over meaningless nothings, petty jealousies.

Nationally, politics is often an excuse for perceived contrary views on just about every issue. Media's job is to tell us what is happening in the world but some outlets do unfortunately feed on divisions, like vultures over a decaying corpse on the savannah, making what might have been inconsequential disagreements into bigger disputes. 

Riots, insurgency, unruly behaviour - that's just the start of it. On an international scale we face some of the least peaceful times in the history of the world, with terror and fear being fed by megalomania and warped interpretation of religion.

We're living through a global pandemic, and that's certainly not peaceful. It's a source not just for community effort, but also for division as people have varying opinions on where the virus came from, how bad it is, and the efforts being taken to keep the world as safe as it can be. I do believe the majority of people do understand the seriousness of what the world is facing and are working hard to keep ourselves and loved ones and others healthy. Staying isolated, wearing masks and keeping our distance. There are some, I'm sorry to say, who have contrary views resulting in behaviour which others feel put us all at risk. It's a source of discontent, there's no doubt about that. 

And let's not forget social media, which in my experience can be such a power for good, but invariably is also an opportunity for people to express hateful ideas, and a chance for people to vehemently express their opinion in the strongest possible language. And often being the source of further division where they might not have been disagreement before.

Yet in the midst of all this there will be those who strive for peace, however hopeless it may seem. These are the people who dream of a world where people, although different, coming from different perspectives and even with different beliefs and opinions, can learn to live in harmony.

On this day, in 1920, a group of men sat down in Paris as part of the first ever Council Assembly of the League of Nations, an organization born out of the horror of the Great War of 1914 to 1918, a congregation of people, and countries, who wished to ensure that the world would never again be embroiled in global conflict. The League had been officially founded just the week before on January 10 1920, but this was the culmination of years of negotiations, primarily between the allies who had won what is now known as the First World War. The first full meeting of The Assembly of the League of Nations wouldn't happen until November 1920 but today in that year was a significant moment in the march towards anticipated peace.

Of course, in hindsight, we know that aim was thwarted. There would be another world war in 1939 and plenty more wars and conflicts to follows.

And today, although it's certainly not perfect, the United Nations, which grew out of that League of Nations after the Second World War, still works to find ways of bringing peoples together and trying to ensure that peace which I think, I hope, we all crave. Among other things, UN agencies exist to help people out of poverty and ensure good health and education, often some of the causes of conflict. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to his world, and to ours.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5:9) he said.

Not all of us can be part of an international summit on peace. We can’t all sit in a parliament or be part of an advocacy group encouraging people to see the things on which they can agree rather than always to be looking for the negative in others’ policies.

But we can be ‘peacemakers’ where we are. In our families, in our communities, in our churches, at work and in the world where we might have some influence. In our relationships, in our behaviour and in our conversations in person and even virtually via social media. 

So, today, I don't know about you, but I want to be one of those ‘peacemakers’ which Jesus so highly regards.

It might start small, but who knows where it could lead, if we all give it a go.

http://www.onthisday.com/day/january/16


I arise today

I've been wittering on a bit over the last few days, so today I just bring you a prayer.

I love the Celtic Christian tradition and this won't be the last time I bring you a prayer or blessing from this heritage.

Today here's a blessing to start the day. This is a prayer that has probably been spoken for more than a thousand years, because it dates from the first millennium and attributed to an Irish saint called Brigid of Kildare, otherwise known at Bridget of Gael. 

Have a great day!

 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:

God's power to guide me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's eyes to watch over me;
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to give me speech,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to shelter me,
God's host to secure me.

 

I Arise Today (St. Bridget) – A Collection of Prayers


More

Following on from yesterday's post about Happiness and Joy, here's something I wrote a little while back which summed up how I was thinking then and what is still in my heart. 

Suffice to say, I'm a bit of a 'work in progress' 

 

MORE

Money, love, recognition, image, security

Clothes, house, car, holidays,

All the ‘Stuff’ which controlled me, which I thought defined me

All the ‘Things’ which I desired yet left me constantly dissatisfied, unfulfilled

Always comparing myself with others, always wanting MORE of what THEY had

MORE of what I thought I deserved

MORE and MORE and MORE...

 

NOW

AT LAST

I finally understand

All the Stuff and Things are insignificant, unimportant

Compared to Jesus

And now the MORE for which I yearn is only

MORE of Him, His Love, His Presence

MORE of Jesus in my life

MORE and MORE and MORE ...

 

Cathy Le Feuvre


Happiness and Joy

I guess if you asked people what they wanted out of life, apart from a long list of ‘stuff’, many of us would ultimately say  ‘I just want to be happy!’

However, I'm also guessing that for many people, happiness might feel just out of reach.

'If only I could .. get married, have a family, win the lottery, have the ideal job, pass my exams, live in a bigger and better house, have huge success and recognition, surround myself with beautiful things, enjoy dream holidays etc etc etc  … THEN ... then I’ll be happy!’

Big ambitions sometimes come with unrealistic expectations and the reality might be that being ‘happy’ is often elusive, because once we have attained one goal, we realise that it’s not made us whole, or completely happy, so we look forward to the next thing, or person, or situation which will ensure our ultimate happiness.

Now I'm not saying having dreams and ambitions is unimportant. I actually believe the opposite, I think having dreams and striving for them is vital. Well it is for me anyway. Some of the big dreamers in history have been those who have changed the world. Invented, created and made life better for their communities and the world! If I had not had some big dreams and pushed myself towards them even despite my own insecurities, I would not have done half the things I've managed to do.

But what I'm asking myself today is ... if our dreams and ambitions are just about US and the things we own or have, is that a recipe for happiness? Or might it be more about what we can do for others as well?

This whole idea of Happiness is something that has been occupying my mind recently. What REALLY  makes me happy?

I am a ‘glass half full’ person I think – not a ‘glass half empty’ person  -  more positive then negative. But sometimes I have wondered ... Am I really happy? And, to be more specific, am I JOYFUL?

And is there a difference?

I’ve read lots of really confusing things about the difference between Happiness and Joy.

Some say that 'Happiness' is more about what we do to make ourselves feel more contented and that can be short lived, whereas 'Joy' is deeper than that. It's connected more to your inner self, perhaps even to God, if you're that way inclined. It’s longer lasting, it survives even though the world around you might be falling apart.

As a child I remember being happy, and even joyful. Often.

I remember laughing a lot. Of course, I also remember being sad and insecure, but I remember getting pleasure out of really simple things – like running around on a beach, swimming, playing with my brothers, sitting on a fence looking at pigs, watching the cows coming in for milking. Yes I grew up on a farm!

I suppose at the time I didn’t realise how happy I was. Having ‘fun’ and being happy just seemed natural. I was fortunate to have a great childhood and I don't take it for granted and know I was and am very blessed. 

Later, going to university, travelling the world, starting out in my chosen career in journalism and broadcasting, meeting new friends ... although it did bring some challenges and it meant conquering my fears, having new experiences, however scary,  it was all exciting and that in itself made me happy.

Things are different these days and as I grow older, I ask myself - am I less 'happy' now? Or is it just different?

And the question I ask myself today is - are the things I do to make myself Happy also giving me Joy?

Well, my idea of fun and happiness has altered. Now a night in front of the TV is fun, or at least relaxing at the end of a long day. And a swim in the ocean and a walk on the beach are simple things, but enough to make me joyful. Yes, really 'joyful', feeling connected to the universe and yes, to God! Because these simple things are not just about having more things materialistically, but just breathing through life, appreciating what I have and the world I inhabit, recognising that there are things I can still do to help improve the world around me and the lives of others. 

I honestly find I don't need the rush of 'excitement' as much as I did in the past. Work, ongoing family responsibilities and not forgetting the stress of living through a global pandemic,  can make life feel a bit monotonous, and it would be easy just to let these situations overwhelm me. So finding 'joy' in the little things of life is important. Spending time with family members, having a coffee with a friend, feeling the wind in my hair, and that sea swimming I mentioned, which you'll hear more about at another time  - it's all 'small stuff' but there's nothing wrong with that.

It doesn't mean I won't stop dreaming, but maybe it'll put my ambitions into some sort of perspective.

Onwards and Upwards in Joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Guilty Pleasure

Guilty Pleasure Alert! Christie books

I love a bit of Agatha Christie!

Today is a bit of a depressing anniversary date to hang this thought on … because it was today - January 12th 1976 - that Dame Agatha Christie passed away … but it’s an opportunity to celebrate one of my favourite authors.

Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile – these works have always been popular stories for filmmakers down the years, and in fact they’ve recently been re-worked again, with Sir Kenneth Branagh as the magnificent Hercule Poirot.

In recent decades on TV here in the UK, the fabulous actor David Suchet brought Christie’s Belgian detective to life for a load of episodes ('Poirot') across more than 20 years. I loved it! And many people are also now very familiar with Christie's Miss Marple through television and film.

But I’m pleased to say that way before I even knew there were movies and before I watched much TV, I loved the books.

From Christie’s very first successful narrative featuring the extravagantly moustached Poirot working his ‘little grey cells’ in ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, to classics like  ‘Evil Under the Sun’, and ‘They do it with Mirrors’ and ‘The Moving Finger', featuring the aforementioned Jane Marple, as well as other stories with other ‘detectives’ at the centre … at one point in my life I just immersed myself in her stories. I can’t say I’ve read all 66 of her detective novels but I’ve given it good go!

Recently I’ve been re-reading lots of the books and thoroughly enjoying it. It’s pure escapism, but the older I get the more I realise just how clever Dame Agatha was.

They say you should write what you know, but from what I know about Agatha Christie, she wasn’t personally immersed in the world of crime and policing. But, undoubtedly, she must have been a great observer of human nature, and I’m guessing that she probably squirrelled away lots of information in her head (or maybe notebooks) about strange things that were in the news, or odd people who crossed her path.

I do know she had an inquiring mind. I love the fact that she had a fascination and passion for archaeology, which is the ultimate mystery solver. She often accompanied her second husband Sir Max Mallowan – a prominent archaeologist - on his digs, often to exotic destinations. Max, by the way, was somewhat younger than Agatha – 13 years younger – and she also defied other conventions by being not just a successful woman of words, but also a shrewd businesswoman.

And I know she had an amazing imagination – how else could she come up with some of the plots, twists and turns, and personalities she devised for her stories?

Agatha Christie has been called the "Duchess of Death", the "Mistress of Mystery", and the "Queen of Crime". And she was developing her storytelling techniques during what has become known as the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction … and her work helped to make it so!

As a writer myself, Dame Agatha is a bit of a heroine for me. Not that I want to write mystery novels, but her tenacity and ability to imagine and articulate her ideas gives me real inspiration for my own writing. Being able to just enter another world of MY imagination is something I know needs practice. And that means observing the real world I live in, and yes, ferreting away information about the people and places around me - in my own 'little grey cells'!

But also, sometimes, especially when life is a bit tough, I find it’s just good to stop thinking too hard and maybe suspend my reality, if only for a little while. 

So if you don’t mind, I’ll just turn to my bookcase and grab another Agatha Christie.

See you later!

Agatha Christie - Wikipedia

Agatha Christie bibliography - Wikipedia


Not to Worry!

“Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.”

These are words attributed to  Amelia Earhart  (1898-1937) who was a pioneer of aviation, as well as an author and decorated pilot.

We know her as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she achieved in May 1932 –it took her 14hrs 56mins by the way – but Amelia also set many other records, including on this day - January 11 - in 1935 becoming the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean between Honolulu and Oakland, California (2,408-miles). This was also the first flight where a civilian aircraft carried a two-way radio but flying in those days was still a tricky and dangerous business.

It was in July 1937, during an attempt to fly solo around the world, that Amelia disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. She was eventually declared dead in January 1939.

In her short life, Amelia Earhart achieved much and received many awards, including being honoured by her own country and becoming the first woman to receive the US Distinguished Flying Cross. Apart from flying for fun and competitively, she was also an early advocate of Equal Rights and encouraged women pilots in particular. At one point she was (the first ever) aviation editor for the magazine Cosmopolitan and she also wrote best-selling books about her flying adventures.  The book she wrote about that first (very dangerous) solo Atlantic flight was entitled ‘The Fun of It’.  What a woman!

If you are someone who collects ‘quotes’ from famous people, you may have seen quite a lot of great sayings and adages attributed to Amelia Earhart. Some of these are on Amelia Earhart - The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart but this one about worry rings bells with me.

Anxiety – worry – can be really debilitating.  I’ve learned that over the years.

Worrying about things that haven’t yet happened, things that could happen or might happen if circumstances go one way or another, even worrying about things that have ALREADY happened that you can’t change. Being anxious can rob you of sleep, of peace of mind. It can make you physically ill and incapable of functioning normally. I know, because over the years anxiety has sucked the joy out of my life at times and has sometimes prevented me from going for my dreams and with my gut instinct!

In addition, as Amelia Earhart suggested … “Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.” When we worry, we can and do make mistakes, and then our worries are almost self-fulfilled prophecies. And when our minds are full of anxieties and ‘what might be’ and ‘what could happen’ we may find it hard to make sensible decisions for ourselves and for others.

Coping with worry and anxiety can in itself be stressful, but there are things that can help. Deep breathing is a good one for me. And meditating on the moment I’m living NOW rather than the one that is past or the one that is to come.

In the New Testament of the Bible, in Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus said …

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It’s something I need to remember every day! And then, who knows, I might still have adventures to enjoy without worrying about the consequences?

Amelia Earhart - The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart


A Red Letter Day

Are you on social media? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok ? The options, it seems, are endless.  

But once upon a time, even before the invention of the telephone, if people wanted to contact their business contacts, friends, or family when they were apart, the best way was to write a letter.

I love letters. I love handling them, thinking of the person who has taken the time to pick up a pen and write down their thoughts.  Cards also work for me and it’s about this time of year we file away or recycle last year’s Christmas cards.

The letters people have written to each other in the past are also accounts of history, of facts and feelings handed down to us from people who have long since departed our world.

A few years back I even wrote a book based on the love letters exchanged over nearly 40 years in the 19th century between the founders of The Salvation Army - William and Catherine Booth. I have to say, reading their letters, which are held in the British Library in London, and writing 'William and Catherine' not only helped me to understand their personalities and motivations in life, but also to get an insight into their deep Christian faith and how that helped to create what is now a global church and charity movement!

But back to the point of today's 'thought'.

It was on January 10th 1840 that the Penny Post was introduced in Great Britain. This meant that mail was delivered at a standard charge. Until that point every letter was paid for individually by the recipient and it was a cumbersome system.  It was at the end of the 1830s that a chap called Rowland Hill published a pamphlet entitled ‘Post Office Reform’, which proposed a uniform postage rate of one penny, wherever in the country the letter was posted or received.  To prevent postage fraud, he came up with the idea of an adhesive label to pre-pay the postage. So the postage stamp was born.  

The 'Penny Black' was that first ever stamp and its inventor was eventually knighted by Queen Victoria and became SIR Rowland Hill.

Red post box (edit)

Today we can still find old red postage boxes dotted about, and whenever I spot one it draws me right back into history. It's a link with the past!

Not so many people use ‘snail mail’ today, but every time we place a postage stamp on an envelope perhaps we can think again of those who have left  their impact on the world through letters.

In the New Testament we hear accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, and the early church through epistles, or letters.  Letters which contain wisdom which is as true today as when it was conceived and written down a couple of thousand years ago.

Like St Paul’s words to the early church in Corinth - ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love!’ (1Corinthians 13:13)

If that’s not a great blast from the past handed down to us in a letter, what is?

Note - http://www.victorianweb.org/history/pennypos.html


A 17th century Prayer

In my traveling and musings through the years, I’ve collected lots of sayings and readings that I find inspiring. I'm not a 'collector' of many things, but I do have a store of inspirational thoughts which I sometimes dip into.

I may share some of them with you from time to time ...

And here’s one of them.

Just proves  I think that us humans never change really … and the older I get, the more this seems to resonate with me.

 

I do not want to be a saint but......

Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself, that I am growing older and will some day be old.

Keep me from getting talkative and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I may say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from the craving to try to straighten out everybody's affairs.

Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful but not bossy.

With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

Keep my mind from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Seal my lips from my aches and pains. They are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others' pains. Help me to endure them with patience.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally, it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint. Some of them are hard to live with, but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Help me to extract all possible fun out of life. There are so many funny things around us and I do not want to miss any of them.

AMEN

By a 17th century nun


Resolutions

We're one week into the new year.

So the questions for today are ...

Did you make any 'New Year Resolutions'? And if so ... have you broken them yet?

I guess one of the top 'resolutions' which lots of us (well at least us females) make year on year is 'LOSE WEIGHT'.

But maybe 'eat healthier' and 'exercise more' should be what we aim for. That will, we know, help us to lose the pounds.

Many of us set ourselves unrealistic resolutions, don't you think? They're more like dreams.

'Find the perfect partner', 'Be successful', 'Earn loads of money' ... you get my drift.

All our resolutions, I suggest, if taken seriously,  require a bit of effort, maybe even some imagination. Unless you are very fortunate, things don't usually get handed to us on a plate! 

If we want to be successful we need to have something we want to be successful at. If we want to earn more money, we need to think about how we might do that. We might need some aims, a plan, perhaps a strategy.

It all sounds a bit like hard work, right?

As for me, well I've given up making firm resolutions for the start of the calendar year because I've recognised that setting unrealistic expectations meant too much pressure, and too much self hatred when I failed, which I invariably did.

When I was a child I was a rather anxious personality and I was a nail biter. Every New Year I would resolve to stop biting my nails, sometimes down to the quick! I tried all sorts, including nasty-tasting stuff on the nails which made me feel sick when they touched my lips. 

Nothing worked. In fact, not being able to stop biting my nails made me even more anxious. 

Then, one day, I realised, I HAD stopped the nail chewing. Somehow, it felt almost miraculously, I had nails! I could file and polish them like other girls! Without trying, I had managed it!

Why had this, finally, happened?

Well, I'm convinced that it was because I stopped obsessing about it, and also because as I grew up I managed to grow a little more confident. Although I was (and still am actually) a bit of an anxious personality, I learned to live  with it, manage it and ... as a result ... my nails were no longer the victims of my angst! 

These days, if I secretly have 'resolutions' in my mind and heart, they are not just for the New Year but for all time.

Love, peace, joy, grace to face an uncertain future, gratitude for the people in my life and the things I have been blessed with - just a few of the things most of us yearn for I think. 

In my case, as I'm a person of faith, I also resolve to grow closer to God, to pray and read my Bible and 'dwell' on spiritual matters more than in the past, to learn to be more loving, peaceful, happy or joyful, attempting to be full of grace and gratitude. But like all resolutions, this also means my being willing and determined to do this regularly, on a daily basis. 

Nothing, not even those untouchable 'somethings' which are less about 'stuff' and 'possessions', come to us without our own determination and resolve ... and it might mean a bit of hard work on our part!

 

 

Follow your Dream

I’ve been a journalist for a long time. I’ve occasionally reinvented myself along the way, from newspaper reporter, to radio and television reporter, presenter and producer, to PR consultant and even to writer and author. Some would say I have a short attention span!

Maybe they’re right.

Down the years I’ve met some very special people, especially in my work as a journalist and presenter, and although I’m not one to name drop – well, not routinely anyway – I am privileged to have been in the same room and even conversed with some of them.

I’m thinking today of someone who I met him a couple of times during his lifetime in a professional capacity and who always left me in awe.

Why I’m mentioning him today? Well, because it was on January 7th 1925 that Gerald Durrell was born.

Writer, naturalist, conservationist, zookeeper, television presenter and a larger than life character, he founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and the Jersey Zoo, which is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s no ordinary zoo but rather a place which epitomises Gerald Durrell’s passion for animals and conservation. Here – at its headquarters in the parish of Trinity in my lovely home island, and in its centres around the globe – the Trust is in the business of rescuing, breeding and sometimes reintroducing endangered species into the wild. The animals in its care are not kept in traditional cages and in fact, some of the work in Jersey which champions the cause of endangered species has also helped to change attitudes to 'zoos' and the way animals are kept in captivity.

Durrell statueI first read about ‘Gerry’s’ passion for the ‘little brown jobs’ – the inconspicuous animals which few others cared about – through his books including My Family and Other Animals’ and in recent years I’ve enjoyed the TV series ‘The Durrells’ which documented the Durrell family’s years living in Corfu in Greece.

Gerald Durrell was unorthodox, adventuring and a bit of a rule breaker. He followed his heart, often to the detriment of his wallet and his ambitions. He was a man of perseverance and untold imagination.

But what has resulted from his extraordinary if somewhat unconventional life is an exceptional place and mission, and some astonishing results in conservation. Thanks to Gerald Durrell, his team and legacy, there are dozens of species - many of them small and seemingly inauspicious - that survive today. And as each species is part of a chain, that often means that the saving of that one animal also may ensure the survival of those within its circle of life.

I remember when I was working at Channel TV (now ITVChannel) – the local commercial TV station for the Channel Islands - Durrell was already on the hunt for a strange almost legendary little creature purported to still be existing in the forests of Madagascar. Thought to be extinct, the Aye-Aye is a weird looking little beast  (actually a type of lemur) with bulging eyes and a long middle finger and in 1990, Gerald Durrell departed for that island off the coast of south Africa, to find it. He was accompanied by a Channel TV crew and I remember the excitement surrounding the expedition. And they made a brilliant film on return!

Today you can see some of the offspring of the original Aye-Ayes that were rescued, in the Jersey Zoo, living in a specially designed enclosure which mimics the climate and darkness of the Madagascan forest. It’s one of my favourite places at the Zoo. And if you’re interested you can read about Durrell’s last major animal-collecting expedition  in a book called ‘The Aye-Aye and I’.

We can’t all be internationally renowned conservationists, or even pioneers who change the world. But if we have a passion, perhaps we can determine how much it means to us, and start following it – if we are brave enough?

And so,  the question I ask myself today is – am I really following my dreams?

Gerald Durrell - Wikipedia

Image of statue of Gerald Durrell at the Jersey Zoo .. thanks to Alice & Richard Nunn