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Laughing Out Loud

Have you ever had one of those moments when life feels so great that you just want to smile, and laugh out loud?

I had one of those moments last week when walking on St Catherine's Breakwater in Jersey. After a stressful few weeks it felt great to just be in the fresh air and walking. I could see the French coastline in the distance ... it was Glorious! 

I've always loved St Catherine's, not just because it's also my name, but because when you walk the breakwater, it feels like you're stepping into the ocean. The breakwater is about half a mile (700metres) long so a stroll to the end and back is about a mile and it's an easy walk. Even if it's busy you feel like you're getting away from it all and it always fills me with joy, whatever the weather.

The other day spring was in the air, the sea was calm in the bay, the sun was shining and there was a bit of of breeze on the coast. As I walked to the end of the breakwater, it felt a little more windy, but I was bundled up against the chill and it was exhilarating. When I reached the end of the breakwater, looking out to sea across to the French coast, I breathed in the clean air and my heart began to soar. I found myself laughing out loud.

Now, I don't often film myself, let alone when I doing something like smiling and laughing, but I did switch on the phone-camera the other day. It's nearly a month ago that I finished work with the BBC and started a New Adventure as a freelance writer/broadcaster/PR and communications expert, and lots of my friends and family members have been so kind to check on me from time to time, to see how I'm doing. So I sort of wanted to show them not just the beauty of St Catherine's, share some sounds of the ocean, which I find so relaxing, but also that I'm doing ok in my New Adventure!

There's a quote which sums up the benefits of laughter for me and which is attributed to the English poet, satirist and politician Lord Byron, who died on this day in 1824. I'm not going to talk much about him today ... I may do that another time ... just to say he was a bit of a character, to say the least. I remember studying his poetry at school as part of our exploration of the Romantic poets of the late 18th/early 19th century, and learning about some of his physical and romantic antics! 

And from what I discovered he was a bit of a 'lad' and certainly enjoyed life.

So I can imagine him saying something like this ...

Byron laughter
There's loads of science which indicates that smiling and laughing is good not just for our physical but also our mental health. So today I hope YOU find something which makes you Laugh Out Loud!

And if you want to smile with me ... here's my moment at St Catherine's ...

Have a great day everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Be Gentle

I am a very fortunate person. 

I have many friends, all over the world. People from lots of different parts of my life - my childhood, my school years, my church and faith life, my working life down the years.

And since social media became 'a thing' I've been able to reconnect with so many people with whom I'd lost contact. These days, no matter where we are in the world or whether we are living through a pandemic which so restricts our lifestyles, we can talk to each other, support each other, encourage each other, all via the magic of the internet.

I know lots of people find social media toxic, and sometimes it can be. But I have to say on Facebook I'm generally surrounded by good friends. By and large, positivity reigns.

Recently I've shared some news on Facebook - I'm about to leave my job at the BBC and have a new work adventure. Long story short ... my contract with the corporation was up for renewal and unfortunately the offer that was made to me would have added more responsibilities to an already busy workload, so I decided not to sign the new deal.

Which means that of today (Friday March 26th) I will no longer work for 'Auntie'. 

So, last Sunday I put a post on my Facebook page, just to tell everyone. Although it was only a couple of days since it had all been agreed, the news had already begun to filter into the atmosphere, so I thought ...'I'll tell everyone'.

I don't have a job to go to ... I'm planning to return to the freelance lifestyle that I once enjoyed ... and I'm not made of money,  so a lot of people might find a decision to just walk away from a job hard to understand. But I was inundated with lovely messages. Messages of support and affirmation and encouragement.

Maybe that says something about how people perceive me. Those who have known me for a while may be aware that I'm not adverse to a bit of risk-taking and daring to go on new adventures, but they also know that I don't take these steps on a whim.

Being a person of faith, I'm a bit of a Pray-er ... so I have prayed a lot about this. I've thought much about it, to the detriment of my sleep. I've made my usual 'pros and cons' lists, which involves making two lists - one of the positives of staying in the job and the negatives of leaving it, another of the negatives of staying the in job and the positives of leaving. If you get what I mean.

And I've chatted to a few people, not to help with the decision, but to weigh all my options in the balance.

SO - decision made - I posted on Facebook. And, as I said, got loads of support and, I have to say, a little advice from a few friends. And that counsel was the same over and over.

Give yourself some time. Try not to rush into the future without resting a little. After leaving such a busy job which has made so many demands on my time and my energy, breathe a little before launching into new commitments.

But I think the most useful and thought provoking message I received was this  

Be gentle

I love this.

Being 'gentle'  means so much.

I'm encouraged to be kind to myself and not beat myself up about what's past and the decision I've made, especially in those moments - and they are bound to come - when I'm wondering what the (......!) I've done by giving up a well-paid job!

Being 'gentle' on myself encourages me to forgive myself if I begin to doubt my decision, but also to remain humble and not to think arrogantly and unrealistically about the future, but instead to take things a little cautiously.

I'm encouraged through this piece of advice to find peace within myself, and to  seek stillness in my spirit. 

I could go on ... but I'm sure you get my drift.

So as I enter this new phase of life, thanks to all my friends for their great encouragement and support of me in my new adventure and for their great words of wisdom.

But thanks especially to my friend Alison Fox for this particular thought which she shared with me. Alison is, among other things, a counsellor and psychotherapist - so she knows what she's talking about! 

And, as I move into this new chapter of my professional life, I will keep her advice and encouragement in mind.

And if, today, this thought helps you, please feel free to join me!

 

 

 


A Day to Say Thanks

March 23 2020 - a significant day in the history of the UK.

Any idea why?

Well it was exactly a year ago that the British people found themselves in lockdown ... for the first time!

With COVID-19 figures rising, it was on this day last year that the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation and announced a 'stay at home' order. For weeks people had been 'asked' to try to keep safe, sanitise, social distance, stay indoors where possible, but now it was an order! 

Mr Johnson described the pandemic as 'the biggest threat this country has faced for decades' and of course it wasn't just the UK that was affected. This new coronavirus was then, and still is, a global threat. This time last year we could not have predicted the devastation it would bring to all our lives, our economies, our culture.

To try to cut the spread of the virus, from March 23 2020 people were only allowed to go out for shopping for necessities - most shops were closed. People could leave home to seek medical care and limited daily exercise, but that was pretty much it. Where possible we were asked to work from home. No mixing of households, no meeting friends or family members who we didn't live with. No gatherings, no social events - so no church, weddings, baptisms and very limited numbers for funerals.

Over the past year the British people have now experienced quite a number of lockdowns or versions of them, depending on where you live.

Here in Jersey, our first lockdown began about a week after the 'mainland' UK's, but the experience was just as harsh. Businesses closed, hospitality closed, lives closed down, people getting sick, some dying, health services stretched to the limit of endurance.

And today, some of us are still working from home, and only now that the COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out are we beginning to see considerable decline in positive coronavirus numbers.

However, it's not all doom and gloom because when the nation, and our island, entered that first lockdown and so much stopped, what BEGAN was an outpouring of friendship, support, love and community.

People offered to do their neighbour's shopping when they went for their own. Walked dogs for those who could not get out because they were isolating. Sewed masks and scrubs, creating them out of spare material and even sheets and tablecloths, at a time when there was a world shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) even for those heroes on the medical frontline, those men and women who nursed desperately ill and dying people around the clock under sometimes unbearable and stressful conditions.

Remember the 'Clap for Carers'? That weekly moment at 8pm on a Thursday? Many of us applauded, banged pots and played musical instruments on the street (socially distanced, of course) just to say 'THANK YOU' to the nurses, doctors, care workers. And then, a bit later, we clapped also to show our appreciation to all those who kept our communities working while most of us isolated at home - street cleaners, shop workers, emergency service personnel, charity workers, all those who, actually, were putting their lives on the line so that WE could stay safe.

Down the months the kindnesses rolled on. Here in Jersey, a brilliant Facebook page called 'Jersey Acts of Kindness' was created to share the love. Rainbows started appearing in windows and on the sides of roads. Thousands of rainbows, many of them drawn by children, with the word 'thank you' often embedded in the image. Here in Jersey, pebbles decorated with rainbows and flowers and 'thank you' often popped up unexpectedly.

Foodbanks provided essentials for those who couldn't cope, those who has lost their jobs or were 'furloughed' and were not earning as much as usual and so were struggling to put food on the family table. In Jersey, our foodbank was hosted by The Salvation Army. Hundreds of individuals and families donated food and other essential supplies, out of work people gave their time to sort and distribute parcels, many donated and raised funds. It was phenomenal response.

Talking of fundraisers ... we all remember Capt (later Sir) Tom Moore, who raised nearly £33million pounds for the English National Health Service, walking up and down in his garden as he approached his 100th birthday. In Jersey people also walked around their yards, did challenges at home, climbed up and down ladders, created online choirs to raise money for charity.  And so it went on. And on. And on.

Throughout the year on BBC local stations we've been tracking all the 'Make a Difference' stories, and it's been wonderful. Charting first the stories of those who helped in the midst of lockdown and now, also, featuring those individuals and groups who are consistently creating opportunities for others, making life better for our world, sharing love and kindnesses every day.

Most of us have someone we could thank today, for their support during that first lockdown and, indeed, across last year.

So today, across the BBC network, there's a day-long reflection on lockdown. At 12noon today we are remembering in silence on all stations all those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus (69 people in Jersey so far) . We will broadcast features about all the wonderful people who made life better for others in the last year. It's called 'BBC Make a Difference Thank You Day'.

I've spent the last week or so listening back to interviews and features transmitted over the past 12 months, and have re-edited and re-mixed to create new audio features for broadcast on BBC Radio Jersey today. And I have been humbled and inspired by those who are, in my opinion, heroes in our midst. 

Today we all have an opportunity to write and ring in to our local BBC radio station to say a personal THANK YOU to those who cared for us, who showed kindness, helped us, looked after our wellbeing even at the risk of their own.

So ... here are my personal 'Thank Yous' on this day.

Thank you March 23Thanks to the staff at my local supermarket who opened the doors early so that those of us isolating at home could go out to do their weekly 'shop' without feeling too much stress.

Thanks to the health professionals who cared for some of my friends, many of them in intensive care, and some of them right through to the end of life!

Thanks to my work colleagues for enabling me to work from home so I could stay safe, especially as I care for an elderly parent. And thanks to my brother Tim for sharing that responsibility and just being brilliant.

Thanks to those who also 'stayed safe' to try to prevent the virus from spreading. OK, so in the autumn here in Jersey lots of people forgot the need for caution and, in fact, behaved irresponsibly which meant we went into another lockdown over Christmas and well into this year, but I want to stay positive and be grateful for those who DID stick to the rules. 

Thanks to the local Contact Tracing team who worked tirelessly, especially during our Christmas/New Year lockdown when, thanks to those who partied in the autumn, our COVID-19 positive numbers rose to over 1,000 - and that's in an island population of just over 100,000! I've recently had experience of the local Contact and Trace team's efficiency and I could not be more grateful for their diligence.

And thanks to the Government of Jersey and all those who are rolling out the local COVID-19 vaccine programme which means that our numbers are now very low (just three at the time of writing this) and we can see light at the end of this very long coronavirus tunnel.

Although we know we will live with this dreadful virus for many years to come, I am confident that we will emerge eventually and although we may be battered and bruised in many respects, we will all hopefully be changed, and for the better. 

Because if those kindnesses and the love and compassion and care we have felt and witnessed over this past 12 months are the legacy of lockdown ... that has to be a good thing ... right?

 

 

 


A Poem to Inspire

Today is World Poetry Day.

Says it all really. It's a day to celebrate poetry, read poetry, write poetry and basically ... just think poetry!

I love poetry and I do even write a bit, from time time. But today I'm not going to impose one of my rather poor creations on you. Instead I'm going to share a poem with you that I had to learn many many years ago. So it's one of those that I can (sort of) still recite. If I think about it a lot.

I learnt the poem for an Eisteddfod, a creative arts festival. I stood on a stage and performed this. 

I didn't win the contest, but for someone who wasn't keen on performing in front of others, at the time it was a great, if terrifying, experience because I was forced out of my comfort zone. I was much more comfortable being part of a team, so this was different and unsettling, but character building.

Some of you reading this might be surprised to hear I wasn't that keen on putting myself forward in public when I was a child and a teenager, because for years I worked as a TV and radio presenter. And I've done a whole load of presenting not just in the media but also on stage in some really really big auditoriums - including  Wembley Arena and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

I can't say I haven't had nerves and anxiety over those appearances and the media presenting - sometimes that anxiety has been debilitating -  but at least I've done it. And it was experiences like the Eisteddfod poetry moment that helped me at the start of the long journey towards a future career which required me to put myself forward and not hide behind others.

And what was the poem I recited?

If by Rudyard Kipling poemWell, it's this.

IF, by Rudyard Kipling.

I think I mentioned a couple of days ago that he's one of my favourite authors and poets, and this is where it all began.

It was a strangely prophetic performance because although the poem was written as a general advice for life, for me it has become personal. 

In the media, it's easy to get above yourself and think you are better than others, but also you can be intimidated by others, people who hold high office, those who believe themselves superior to you, people (even your own colleagues) who act like they are the only individuals in the universe. This poem speaks into that.

It also tells us a little about how to deal with the sort of negativity that can come one's way. These days, especially, people in the media (and anyone actually if you give yourself a bit of a profile) can come in for all kinds of abuse on social media, and sometimes when things are going badly, you just need to keep believing in yourself. And then, when you need to change course, to follow the dreams you once had, these words can inspire.

This poem has so many nuances. It's one I've gone back to time and time again over the years. And it doesn't matter that it says 'Son' and 'man' at the end ... it works for us girls as well. I find it empowering!

And on this World Poetry Day I will simply say ... enjoy and be inspired!

IF

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
 
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
 
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
 
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
 

 


Don't waste Time

I don't know how you're reading this.

Maybe you've logged on to your desktop computer, or perhaps you're reading this daily blog on your handheld technical device, or even your phone.

If you're as old as me - which is not ancient, but old enough - you might remember a time when we had no computers, and phones were plugged into the wall in your house, office or a 'phone box' on the side of the road.

I think I first saw and used a computer, a very basic one, at work in the 1980s. It was stand alone, and not connected to any other computers. To share information I had to load the data onto a 'floppy disc' which could be inserted into another machine. There was no 'internet' and no fancy graphics. Just black and white, or green on the screen.  

It wasn't long though, just a few years, when we had greater 'connectivity'.  The World Wide Web was 'invented' in 1989 and by about 1993 it was something we used every day. Initially I could connect (rather slowly and with that distinctive 'dial in' sound) via my telephone line but eventually came what we now know as 'wifi'. What freedom! When it works.

As for a 'mobile' phone, my first was a rather large analogue device which had a cover I flipped open to get to the dialling numbers. It had an aerial I had to extend to get a connection.  I think I could text on it and make calls, but nothing else. I'm talking about the early 1990s, so not that long ago in the greater scheme of things.

We've come a long way very quickly. No longer do we need to be 'plugged in' to connect to the world. Today I have a laptop and an I-pad, and an I-phone and I can do pretty much anything I want to on it, on the go, through wifi. 

The idea of mobile phones goes right back to the early 20th century and many many people have been involved in the development of the technology down the years. 

But I'm going to mention one man today who is synonymous with the development of the personal computer era.

His name was Steve Jobs, and he was born on this day - February 24th - in 1955.

Business magnate and guru, industrial designer, pioneer and innovator.  He and Steve Wozniak, a former high school friend, set up Apple Inc in 1976. Under Jobs' leadership as chairman and chief executive, the company has become one of the leading firms, if not THE leading technology company in the world.  Think that I-phone and the other tech I mentioned just a few moments ago.

I could say so much about Steve Jobs, but I won't. You can look him up on your I-phone or similar tech device to find out more.

There's no doubt that Steve Jobs inspired not just computer geeks and tech people during his time, but also those who wished to emulate his business acumen and determination to get things done. He was an unconventional character but he created an astonishing legacy which continues to inspire, even though the man himself is no longer with us.

And there's one quote which I found from Steve Jobs, which inspires me. It's part of a longer thought which I offer below, but it starts with this...

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” 

This is so profound. 

Many of us spend our lives trying to please others, and trying to be what others want us to be.

We do jobs that we have no passion for, because our family or our teachers, or our community want us to follow those paths. We believe things because we think if we stop believing we will upset the people around us, or those who taught us, or raised us. Even when it comes to relationships we maybe settle for less than we might, because the world tells us we need to be married, paired up, have children before we're a certain age. Even if we're with the wrong person. We tie ourselves into careers because they bring us money to buy the house, buy the clothes, have the holidays, live the life that 'everyone' lives. 

And think about the celebrity culture.

So many people think if they look like, sound like, wear the same things as those they perceive to be 'successful' then they will successful too. But one of the reasons that the celebrity who we might try to emulate were successful in the first place is because they WERE at the start, different and distinct. Original.  By copying them you are a poor facsimile, just a copy. Not original at all.

Take the example of music ... today's popular music. Listen to the charts and many of the successful downloads of tracks, and you may notice that many of them sound the same.  That 'breathy' rather 'whiney' sound where the singers slur their words. Many of them, when they occasionally sing 'properly' without that affectation, have great voices. But they adopt this sound because others have made a success with it. But what the copycat musicians forget is that the original artist made it BECAUSE they sounded 'different. They were original. 

Maybe if people had the courage to follow their OWN style, rather than just copying what they think will make them successful, they might actually get what they so long for. And if not, well at least they've been true to themselves.

I know I've been part of the system. I've been guilty of doing things, and making even important decisions in my life,  because I thought it was 'expected of me'.  I've stayed in jobs I dislike or am bored with because I don't want to let people down and to be seen to be walking away from 'a good situation'.  I've missed opportunities because I haven't been brave enough to step outside the expectations I think others have of me. It's so complicated.

But the older I get, and the shorter the amount of time I know is left to me, the braver I become. 

I'm not sure yet where this might lead me... but today, on this anniversary of Steve Jobs' birth, I take his thoughts on board and determine not to waste any more time living a life that is not mine.

Steve jobs feb 24

 

 


Brighter Days Ahead

Sometimes less is more ... today I just want to share this thought with you!

Brighter days ahead

Thanks to my friend Lindsey for sharing this thought on Facebook the other day. Sometimes, I just need to be inspired!

Happy Monday!


That February Feeling

It's that time of year when life can be a little overwhelming. At least that's my experience.

January is over but Spring is not yet with us. We are still often being battered by the winter weather, wet and windy, cold and dull. Life can feel a bit dark in the first couple of weeks of February. Winter can seem never-ending.

Of course, we know it WILL  come to an end ... after all, this is not Narnia during the reign of the White Witch when it was, in the words of their creator C.S.Lewis“Always winter but never Christmas.”

But sometimes it does feel endless.

Although here in Jersey in the Channel Islands we've had the occasional bright winter's day in recent weeks, January was the wettest on record, with only a couple of days of the month rain-free, and right now we're in another dull and cold snap. 

Add to that the fact that we've had nearly a year of pandemic restrictions, working from home and not much getting out, well it's very easy to start to feel sorry for oneself.

But on a day like today I need to remind myself that, even though life is getting me down, actually I have so much to be thankful for.

So many people during this coronavirus pandemic have lost their lives, or loved ones. Many have lost their jobs and life is very insecure. Although the past year for me has not been a bed of roses, I have certainly not had a terribly negative experience. I'm sure I'll talk more about this again from time to time.

But I do need to keep on top of the tendency towards negativity.

A few years back, I realised that sometimes we forget to be grateful for the things we have in our lives. We chase dreams and perhaps things out of reach, rather than just being satisfied with and thankful for what we have - right now!

It was then I created a Facebook page called 'Don't Forget to Say Thanks' . It's not the most followed page in the world but every now and then, when I need to remind myself of the need to feel gratitude, I post a little thought. It's a work in progress. Aren't we all?

So, today, when I am feeling a little worse for wear and mournful of the season, I turn to that inspiration ... and share one encouraging thought with you!

Thanks Feb 9

 


The Gift of the Present Moment

So .. this One Day @ a Time blog is my attempt to do a thought for every day of the year. 

So far, I've managed it, but 21 days does not a year make!

As I hope people will enjoy and maybe even be inspired by a daily thought, reading, poem and more, I also want to share some of the readings and people who have inspired me on a day-to-day basis.

As a Christian, I find daily inspiration in reading scripture and prayers, but there are also other publications and people to whom I also turn from time to time. 

Have you ever heard of Marcus Aurelius?  He was a first century Roman Emperor but in his lifetime he also acquired a reputation for being a philosopher, in the Stoic tradition. His renown continued after his death and even some early Christians admired him not just as a philosophic but also as a philanthropic leader. 

Today he is still known, for some 'Meditations' that he authored. Marcus book cover 2

While on a war campaign (between 170 and 180AD), Marcus wrote his Meditations in Greek, firstly as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. Although it's not known how widely these writings were circulated during his own lifetime, they have been handed down the centuries and today they are still very popular. Just check out the internet ... there are loads of sites which include his sayings and epigrams.

Some I find difficult and even challenging, mostly because of the two thousand years or thereabouts between the authoring and my reading of them, and the contexts of the times Marcus and I were/are living through.

But some of his 'Meditations' are surprisingly 'modern' and completely up to date and perfect for the early 21st century. I bet Marcus didn't expect to be so relevant for so long when he scribbled his thoughts all those years ago!

Take this one from Book 8 of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus quote1 (2)

This could really have been written for today, couldn't it?

We know there are lots of people who are obsessed with leaving their mark on the world, and spend every living moment thinking about the future, trying to ensure people will remember them.

Being ambitious is not a bad thing, of course, but if it is all consuming and we are always reaching for the 'next thing' and believe that the grass is always greener in the next field, maybe this prevents us from just enjoying the life we have - right now.

Even back in the first century, Marcus Aurelius seems to have recognised this trait of human nature.

And his advice is as sound today as it was all those years ago.

'Give yourself a gift: the present moment'

Today I'm going to try to do that. Moment by moment. To appreciate what I have, not worry about the things I do not have. Not being concerned about what people might think of me, or say about me. 

Just to breathe in the joy of life. Right now! 

#


Surviving Celebrity

We live in a celebrity culture, there’s no doubt about that.

Reality TV stars, ‘influencers’ on social media, icons of fashion and music and self-proclaimed ‘experts’ in everything from keep fit and nutrition to commenting on other people’s lifestyles and television programmes. It seems we can’t move for ‘celebrities’ and, of course, through the media – TV, the online world and particularly social media – their fame spreads fast and wide. Although some reputations last down the years, invariably the fame and celebrity of many of those in the public eye doesn’t last that long - adoring fans are prone to move on to other ‘celebrity crushes’, seemingly on a whim.

But this ‘celebrity culture’ is not just a phenomenon of the 21st century.

Almost from the beginning of time, I would suggest, humans have wanted to have ‘celebrities’ in their lives. People they can look up to, people they can aspire to be, people who they can copy, people who they can ‘adore’, if you like. 

Of course, the reasons why individuals are favoured and admired change with the times and it's interesting to note that in the past many of the ‘celebrities’ were religious people – alive and dead!

Today is January 19th and in the church it’s the now little-known Feast of St Wulfstan.

Never heard of him ? No,  me neither.

But back in Anglo Saxon times he was HUGE!

And part of the reason for that is that he was a survivor!

If you know your English history, you’ll know that something big happened in 1066. The Normans under William the Conqueror invaded the country and took over. The Anglo Saxons were out. Many or most of the kings and leaders lost their lives, or at least their positions, lands and power. And that included the church men.

Ok – so that’s a very simplistic telling of history, but it’s the basic story.

But remember what I said about this chap Wulfstan? He was an ‘Anglo Saxon’ and, much against the odds, he survived the transition.

Wulfstan had been appointed Bishop of Worcester in England in 1062 so he was one of the leaders of the Anglo Saxon church at the time of the Norman conquest just four years later.

Very unusually, he was the only Anglo Saxon churchman to keep his position under the new regime and he continued to serve for another 30 years until his death, actually on Jan 20 1095.

The new King William himself had noted Wulfstan’s importance in his diocese and during his lifetime the Bishop was much admired especially within the church and by the new regime. At one point he even managed to help prevent an high level insurrection against William the  Conqueror.

Wulfstan was buried in Worcester Cathedral … one of his big projects was the rebuilding of the site, demolishing the old Anglo Saxon church and building the new Norman cathedral. But Wulfstan also help to re-build Hereford CathedralTewkesbury Abbey, and many other churches in the Worcester,  Hereford and Gloucester areas. 

And if you think Wulfstan was popular in his lifetime, that was nothing compared to his reputation once he was dead. People started reporting that when they visited his tomb, there were miraculous cures. And these supernatural and spiritual experiences led, in 1203, to his canonisation. He was made ‘Saint Wulfstan’

During the Middle Ages especially, Wulfstan was a very popular saint and King John, who ruled  from 1199 until his death in 1216, thought so much of him that he asked to be buried close to Wulfstan -  he was buried in Worcester Cathedral in front of the altar of St Wulfstan.

The saint's reputation persisted across the decades and in fact, he continued to be a popular saint for many centuries. Pilgrimages in his name to Worcester continued until the turn of the 18th century. HIS celebrity was far from fleeting!

These days few of us, especially outside the church, have heard of him, and his ‘Feast Day’ on January 19th every year is almost completely ignored today, apart from at Worcester.

Wulfstan was a lowly monk who rose through the ranks to the top job and managed to hang on, despite the cultural and political turmoil than came with the Norman Conquest.

His reputation survived strongly for at least 700 years, and … well I’m talking about him today … so he is still remembered. Perhaps it was because he was known for more than his personal achievements (like the rebuilding of Cathedrals) and it was his spiritual legacy that persisted.

Question – I wonder where the ‘celebrities’ of today will stand in the history of mankind? I wonder if those who today are applauded, and rewarded, for their antics on reality tv, their wealth, appearance and fashion sense, even those who are known for ‘helping’ the world through online ‘self-help’ videos, will be remembered even into the next decade? Let alone the next millennium?

I think I know the answer!

British Saints Days, 19th of January - St Wulfstans Day (information-britain.co.uk)

 


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