Tag Archives: Read52

Rounding Up the Year – 2014 – It’s been a weird one.

2014 has not been the greatest year, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst year by a very long mile.

We had only just moved into this house (in November 2013) with mixed feelings – not the home I had hoped for, we’re still renting with no end in sight, but relieved to be out of the hell that was the previous rental. But on the home front I have spent most of the year battling the agents over a long list of problems, not least of which the intermittent hot water, which thankfully was finally fixed in time for Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, I set out meaning to read one book a week for #Read52 but I doubt I have even read one a month. I can’t remember another year when I have read so little in fact. I started off the year with lots of energy and did several courses – an OU course, DD101, an introduction to Social Science, as well as several MOOCS, and I also volunteered with Scouts and Guides AND Boys / Girls Brigade. By the beginning of the summer holidays I had totally overdone it and had a relapse which kept me almost housebound over the entire summer and well into September. I have been getting better since then but I have had to pace myself and I haven’t resumed any of my volunteering again so far.

In the Spring – also when I was feeling healthy and strong and on top of the world – I put myself forward for Ordination. I had two interviews and was informed that, although it was considered that I had a ‘call’, I wasn’t quite Anglican enough yet and needed to do several things before coming back to them. Although I know it was the right decision, I did experience that as a kind of rejection that has made me feel quite miserable and frustrated since. This Spring I will need to decide whether or not I want to pursue it. I have a feeling that it may be an uphill struggle, and it’s a funny kind of mirror of the struggle one has to go through in order to convert to Judaism – you can expect to be sent away and persist several times before your wish to convert is taken seriously.

And then the other big issue of 2014 was the beginning of a possible adoption journey which so far has consisted of a lot of reading (mainly of blogs – see the blog roll to the right for recommendations) and attending information meetings with the Council and an agency, but not much else so far. I have been lucky enough to discover the amazing adoption community on twitter which, since mostly anonymous, is able to be very open and honest about the reality of adoption and they have been kind enough to answer my questions.

Oh and finally, I did successfully complete my second ‘novel’ for NaNoWriMo in November. I haven’t started editing yet…

Overall, 2014 has been something of a weird and unusual year – not good, not bad, but a lot of new stuff and big stuff being contemplated which could possibly lead to big changes.

There seems to be a lot of pressure to make resolutions and have a ‘new start’ for the new year. But ‘New Year’ is an invented non-entity. The winter solstice has already passed and there isn’t even a new or a full moon – there is no astronomical reason to say that the year turns on this day or night and yet somehow we imbue this date with significance that give it a kind of magic. Whatever. Every day can be a new start. I would love to resist it, but I find myself – as I often seem to do – in the position of being very unhappy with where my life is and feel the need to make some decisions about the direction it is taking. In that sense I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to make a new start. but on the other hand, I feel as though there is very little within my control that I can change.

I have realised that I perceive myself as a victim in many areas while often seeing everything as being ‘all my fault’ – all of which results inevitably in misery. in other words, my thinking has become rather negative and unhelpful.

I have made some painful realisations recently, the details of which I won’t go into in any depth but they revolve around needing to rely on myself for what I need. This is nothing new really – when I did the 12 Steps back in 2010 in working through grief and did a ‘life evaluation’, it became clear that my life was very strongly characterised by disappointment. What has taken me a little longer to take on board is the fact that it hasn’t just been ‘bad luck’ or that I just need to wait for hope to be realised around the corner. No, it is that my expectations (of God, of marriage, of family, of friends, of church, of community, of neighbours) were wildly outside what they were prepared to give or be to me. (The book ‘Disappointment with God’ by Philip Yancey, that I read many years ago springs to mind. Worth reading, although it doesn’t resolve anything, and I seem to remember wanting to throw it across the room! But it very eloquently explores the theme and I do recommend it.)

So the crux of the matter, I think, is that I need to change my thinking. I don’t mean that I need to ‘think positively’ – I have had an earful this year about ‘the Secret’ / Law of Attraction from people who have a ridiculously easy life because they’re selfishly and thoughtlessly living at others’ expense but believe they have ‘attracted’ their good fortune by thinking positively while all the dreadful things that have happened to other people were also somehow ‘attracted’ by them. NO, NO, NO! Although that philosophy may be ‘attractive’ (pun intended) it really is the most offensive claptrap when you think about it in any depth. So as my Dad (of blessed memory) used to say, “Take the meat and leave the bones” – if it helps you to think positively, that’s great! Please just don’t let it be a weapon to bash yourself or others when disappointment, failure and disaster happen. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. And if you’re successful while others aren’t, it’s not their fault. Really, people, as a philosophy LoA is severely lacking. It’s not that simple. Life is (and people are) complex, multi-faceted, inter-connected and unpredictable.

What I do mean is that I need to start thinking of myself as capable – capable of providing for my own needs without relying on anybody else to make me happy, capable of making my own decisions, capable of making the life that I want for myself without relying on anybody else to do it for me.

So, 2015…

My main goals are always along the same lines – get healthier, enjoy life more, be a better person, be more disciplined. This year though, I would also like to learn better how to look after myself (knowing now that nobody else is going to do it). That means, in the first instance, forcing myself to go to the hairdresser’s. Its such a small thing but I have developed something of a hairdresserphobia. I have probably only been perhaps three times in the last 15 years or more. I know that, if I manage to get there, I will feel better for it, but I really do have to force myself to do it.

I am intending to sign up for some new courses. My OU account is still apparently having funding problems, so I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be able to do the course I had intended (I wasn’t able to sign up for anything in September but I was assured it had been sorted in time for the spring term, but it seems not…), but I have signed up for a Ministry Course with the deanery and a free Archaeology MOOC, and I may do some other things, depending on finances.

I have been extremely frustrated with my de-cluttering efforts over the holidays so far. I was hoping to be able to have the house spic and span with a view to finally registering for Stage 1 of the adoption process. (It has been around 8 months now since we first enquired with the Council about adoption). So now I’m not sure whether untidy house is an insurmountable obstacle. I have got rid of nearly 50 books along with old furniture and lots of other junk including 20 years of magazines! But the place seems ten times more untidy that when I started so it’s obviously going to be an ongoing project.

I do know that, for the purpose of adoption, I need to do some work on building up a bigger and better support network, since any that I had before we moved down here is now completely non-existent, and developing a new one down here has not come easily.

I may come back with some more specific goals linked to specific times and dates because I think the deadline aspect is a crucial layer of accountability that causes resolutions to fail when they’re not included.

So finally, wishing all (any?) readers a happy new year and, as ever, I hope to be more consistent 🙂

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The Celtic Year

I thought I would share some of my reading, even if I don’t always manage to finish with them. In which case, I do have quite a large backlog of books I have started this year.

The Celtic Year by Shirley Toulson is a fantastic month-by-month list of Celtic saints with recommended ‘pilgrimages’ to make in every month.

It is put together in a peculiar arrangement of pagan seasons: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas. I think that, if I hadn’t already done a lot of research on all things Celtic, and had my hardline ‘Messianic’ head on, I might have been put off by this arrangement.

But an unexpected delight in this book has been the attention that the author has drawn to the fact that the very early Celtic church very much resembled the earliest, ancient Jewish Christian church, before it became influenced by more powerful forces.

Toulson also points out how the early pagan Celtic year resembled the Jewish year in many respects – a calendar based on the moon rather than the sun, counting the day from sunset to sunset rather than midnight to midnight, and the year from the autumn harvest instead of midwinter for example.

Additionally, the timing of the Celtic pagan festivals at the cross-quarter days, rather than the solstices and equinoxes of Anglo-Saxon and Roman paganism, are not far removed at all from the Jewish festivals. So when primitive Jewish Christianity came to Britain, as there is ample evidence it did, it would not have been an enormously difficult task to convert these pagan festivals to the new God of Christianity.

Jag har haft fullt upp!

It has all fallen apart a bit. I tend to do this. I tend to take on so much that I burn out and end up not finishing anything. (Sigh) The title is a Swedish phrase, which means roughly ‘I have had a full schedule’, or ‘I’ve been super-busy’! 🙂

I have picked up a dozen or more books and started them, but not finished them. In fact, I took a bunch of half-read books back to the library yesterday. I’m trying not to kick myself about the Read52 challenge. I don’t think I could catch up now, unless I get credit for good intentions!

I’m also so far behind in the Bible in 90 Days challenge this time that I really have no hope (or intention, sorry) of catching up. I also got to the end of Job just feeling that I was getting very little out of it this time round. Last year I read through faithfully every day, and marked all the words of God in red, and anything else important (like repetition and themes) in blue, and I really loved it. I saw new things in it and I’m really glad I did it. But this time, I had already switched to listening on audio Bible by the time I got to Joshua instead of actually reading it, as I was finding it so… boring! I really don’t want to feel that way about Bible reading.

So actually I’m juggling. I have a lot of plates to spin – being a wife and ‘mum’ with ME, homeschooling, housework, study, and trying to set up a Ministry / Business. I have never managed to find a great balance between homeschooling and housework – when the children were young, I figured that if I managed to get out of bed and the children were basically washed and fed and clothed and happy, everything else could look after itself.

I have been wondering why I decided to take on the extra spinning plates of study and business. Maybe a psychoanalyst is called for – do I have some need to set myself up to fail? Actually, I think I’m pretty driven, perhaps I need to prove myself in some way (I’m not sure to whom though or why). But being driven and fighting ME is a pretty tough battle. Actually I have heard that there’s quite a bit of evidence that a lot of people who get ME are A-type personalities (I tried to look for a good article to link to but I couldn’t find one).

I have never quite learned to pace myself either. I always seem to need to start something new, take on a little bit more, work a little bit harder. I help out at Scouts and Guides in a limited capacity, I teach (Sunday School, very basic Hebrew, adult Bible Study, although actually I haven’t done any classes since we moved down here as there doesn’t seem to be any interest), I’m now involved with two churches, I study (and now I ‘have’ to be studying my OU course, just about everything else looks more interesting which is another challenge! I’m even trying to learn Cornish in my ‘spare time’!)

I constantly feel on the edge of relapse, but resting doesn’t help anyway. I figure that, if I’m going to feel desperately tired and in pain whether I rest or get on with it anyway, I might as well just get on with it. Thankfully my ME is not severe (although I have had a few bad patches, and poor husband always seems me at my worst as I’m always pretty wrecked by the end of the day). I still don’t want to accept that it is ME to be quite honest. I would much rather have something that’s easily fixable, curable. But I don’t go to the GP anymore. My current one is nicer and more helpful than previous ones, but he’s no help really. When the blood-tests always come back negative or ‘borderline’ there’s no clear direction on how to treat me. So until and unless I can’t, I keep on keeping on. I keep picking up books and starting them. I keep trying to read my Bible. I keep studying and writing and doing my little groups. The children are washed and clothed and fed and reasonably happy. That sounds like a good life to me 🙂

Read52 Fail?

I may be officially failing my read52 challenge – I haven’t read anything for the last couple of weeks, unless I’m allowed to include the Bible (although actually I’m also about 3 days behind in my B90Days challenge as well – will be trying to catch up tomorrow), and also my OU textbooks – I’ve completed the first Learning Companion and started the second, and I’ve started the first main textbook.

So I’m busy and I am reading, but it’s less intentional than I’d like. I have a huge, I mean ginormously humungously huge pile of books I’d like to read (ten years of compulsive book-buying without a matchingly voracious reading appetite will do that to you) but I’m not managing to get round to it. So I think I need to get a bit more organised and plan out what I’ll read over the next few weeks.

I have unpacked the last few boxes of books after moving house now, so the house looks a bit like an explosion at a book factory, so I think tomorrow will involve sorting them out a little bit. I’ll come back to you with potential titles 🙂

Read 52: What week are we in?!

I am trying to catch up – I’m very naughty for tending to take on far too much and then finding that it is in fact too much which can lead to a complete crash and ending up achieving nothing!

In addition to my Read52 commitment, I started the Bible in 90 Days on February 1st and I officially started my OU course. I will try to post separately on each of these as time allows.

So two books this last week – The Dyslexia-friendly Teacher’s Toolkit (review on my homeschool blog):
http://lillbjorne.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/book-review-dyslexia-friendly-teachers-toolkit/

And Leadership Secrets of The Salvation Army by Robert A Watson and Ben Brown. I had promised to try and include some fiction, but this arrived in the post and it was un-put-down-able!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1618433156/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?qid=1392124705&sr=8-3&pi=SL75/

I have read a few books on management and leadership but I have to say, none so thrilling or inspiring.

The late, great Peter Drucker described The Salvation Army (in the US) as the most effective organisation, bar none – not even qualifying the statement by saying “the most effective charity or non-profit”, so this book was in response to that statement.

I won’t give away all the secrets, but I will say that they all boil down to having a Mission that is greater than the organisation itself – in the case of The Salvation Army of course, it is to “save the world” 🙂

It’s available in paperback or kindle, so I say to you, go and get a copy right now! 🙂

Read52 Week4: Army on Its Knees

Another quick read this week, as I’m so busy at the moment:

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“Army on Its Knees” by Janet Munn and Stephen Court.

This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, by any means, but I do like the metaphor (unlike Napolean’s Army which marched on its stomach, The Salvation Army ‘marches’ on its knees in prayer).

The book’s essential purpose seems to be to motivate Salvationists, by means of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of prayer, without providing anything very much in the way of practical structures or guidelines, which is a little bit disappointing, but the chapter on fasting was very good.

I’d like to switch to fiction for next week, but I’ll also be starting the Bible in 90 Days on top of all my studies, so it may need to be another slim volume until I’ve got into the swing of all the extra reading 🙂

Read52 Week3: The Grace Outpouring

This week’s choice is a book that my mother bought me last year and which has been sitting on the shelf for several months, unread.

“The Grace Outpouring: Becoming a People of Blessing” by Roy Godwin and Dave Roberts is another inspirational book documenting the incredible spiritual power being unleashed at Ffald-y-Brenin, a Christian Retreat Centre in Wales that has become a “missional house of prayer” which blesses individuals, groups, building locations, communities and whole localities (not only their own).

Like Catherine Booth’s book last week, there is a kind of infectious passion contained herein which has made me want to change the way I speak, the way I think and the way I behave. Instead of criticising and complaining, I am challenged to bless and invoke God’s blessing.

On the other hand, it could be extremely depressing to read about all the amazing, supernatural workings of God when one’s own experience of faith has not included anything like this. My own background is a mixture of Pentecostal and Cessationist. I have seen some strange and possibly dodgy things in church (and emotional manipulation by means of music to create a fake atmosphere is a pet hate of mine), but I have also been present in rare meetings where the presence of God has been so thick and heavy and beautiful it has been almost tangible.

My Cessationist background (via Baptist Midmissions – American missionaries who ran the church I grew up in) tells me to beware of ‘Strange Fire’ – and I haven’t wanted to look too deeply at the recent controversy because I think that on balance it’s not terribly helpful. Yes, be discerning and ‘test the spirits’. But I admire the Pentecostal earnestness and enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t want to dismiss as ‘demonic’ or ‘Satanic’ what might be a real move of God.

Read52 Week 2: Aggressive Christianity by Catherine Booth

I have had a long on-and-off relationship with the Salvation Army, from Corps Cadets youth group as a teenager, through working (for most of my working life) at THQ in London, to infrequent attendance at various Salvation Army Corps around the country wherever I’ve been living. But this year I am planning to cement our relationship by becoming a soldier – more on that as my application progresses – and I am setting out to read some classic Salvationist texts.

agressive

‘Aggressive Christianity’ is a series of addresses given by Catherine Booth. It wouldn’t be quite fair to call her the wife of the Founder, as her influence was substantial, and from the outset women were allowed equal status, rights and responsibilities in the Salvation Army.

The sermons were collected in 1880, but have a surprisingly pertinent, modern feel to them. Excusing the use of some archaic language (which I like actually, as I happen to be a KJV fan), Catherine Booth’s arguments seem just as relevant over 130 years later.

She talks with passion about the imperative for Christians to be at work rescuing people out of the ‘flames of hell’ – she wasn’t just talking of alcoholism, drugs, prostitution and the like of course, but of a real possible future eternity in ‘hell’. Whether or not Christians today believe in future damnation, there are still people for whom life is a living hell, who could be helped if Christians were willing to go out and rescue them. But what if? What if the modern sensitivity and rejection of the whole idea of hell is misplaced? How motivated should a church that believed in hell be to make sure that nobody would perish?

Aggressive Christianity is also a round rejection of ‘easy-believism’, emphasising the imperative for repentance and holiness. A modern discussion would certainly want to explore what is meant by the terms, but Catherine Booth’s passion is infectious, and although many Christians may take issue with some Salvationist Theology, (not only their belief in hell, but also their rejection of Communion and Baptism, and their belief that salvation once gained can subsequently be lost, which appears to be a works-based salvation),  I’m inclined to think that this little volume should be required reading for anybody considering going into ministry, and perhaps for all Christians.

Read52 Week1

IMG-20140109-00154

This week’s book for my first official read of Read52, courtesy of a charity shop in Plymouth, is “The Kindness of Strangers” by Kate Adie.

It is considerably thicker than it looks in he photo, and I worked out that would need to read just over two long chapters a day to finish it within the week. I have struggled to complete each day’s reading but I plan to read all day Saturday 🙂

I don’t often read biographies (I’d struggle to think of another off the top of my head), but I have always been interested in Kate Adie because she did the same degree as I did… or so I thought!

When I was at UCL, the Scandinavian Studies Department (and especially the Swedish section) trumpeted Kate Adie as their brightest and best, but not only have I now discovered that she actually studied at another university (Newcastle), but I now know that her degree included German as an integral and compulsory component, which the UCL course did not. That rather changes the flavour of the degree, I feel. (Not sure that German would have made international journalists out of us all, but anyway!) 🙂

One interesting aside relating to Scandinavian Studies is that Kate confides that she managed to slip in to the course by the back door, despite not necessarily having the requisite A Level results. When I was at UCL, Scandinavian Studies had become a booby-prize course, occupied mainly by students who couldn’t get into the course they really wanted, which is a shame really, as it is a fascinating subject in its own right.

The majority of the story is of course related to Kate’s journalistic adventures, and she regales with witty, self-deprecating stories of the vagaries of BBC life and the oddities of foreign customs and governments. So far it has been thoroughly enjoyable, funny, interesting and educational. I’m quite pleased with my first pick.

Intro and Read52

I blogged for a few years with a captive audience of friends at Multiply under the name “Life for Beginners” and when  the Multiply  platform folded, I found myself in an isolated location without internet and despite valiant efforts, lost all my posts, so I have had a writing hiatus of about three years. I’m starting again, mainly because I want to document all the crazy changes that have happened and which are continuing to happen now in 2014, and specifically to record my reading.

I have had several other blogs in various places, which I may link to later, but I haven’t been faithful or consistent, so I won’t make any promises about being faithful or consistent 🙂 I have a lot going on, but I’ll do what I can.

I have decided to take part in the Read52 challenge, to read 52 books in 2014, which is conveniently one per week.

I am a reader, and I tend to read in certain distinct categories of non-fiction much more than fiction. These categories are, broadly, health, education, sociology and religious.

For reasons that I will explain in due course, religious is probably increasingly my largest category, so I will aim to read the Bible at least once this year, but don’t plan to do it in a week, so not sure whether I will include it in the 52.

This week doesn’t count as it’s only a partial week, but I thought I would start anyway with a little book that’s easy to read. I picked one that is little more than a pamphlet at 36 tiny pages, which has been on my shelf for a long time, challenging me to read it. It’s called “Finding God in Illness” by James Woodward and published by Lion Publishing in the UK with the Christian Evidence Society in 1997. It is out of print, but available on line as a pdf file here, and is quite easy to find second-hand if you prefer your books in paper.

Finding

I thought I would start with a quote from the beginning of the book, as it is so apt for the first post on a new blog:

“One of the challenges and adventures of writing lies in imagining who will read the text and what they might want from the text. So, I wonder who you are and why you have come across this particular piece?”

So who are you, and why are you here? I’d love to hear from you, and perhaps you could provide me with the accountability I need to post consistently. I haven’t been consistent in reading blogs either, so I’m starting with no links, but I hope to build them up as I rediscover my favourite internet places.

I’ll be trying to make sure I post weekly with details of my books, and will endeavour to post a fuller introduction before too long. 🙂