We're almost at the end of February (sounds of cheers all round)
So I reckon it's time to get positive.
I came across this quote some years ago, but it's only recently I discovered who wrote it.
Thanks to Dr. Sukhraj S. Dhillon, scientist and writer who among other things has written books called 'The Power of Breathing' and 'Art of Stress Free Living'.
Happy Saturday everyone!
Today I'm a bit weary and a little stressed out, so I'm just sharing a sound with you which hopefully will help me, and you, feel more calm.
We've had a lot of rain recently, so the streams are running freely, and this is the water from a stream pouring into the bay near the little harbour. The tide was just coming up and the sun just going down, and in the distance you can see the wide sweep of the bay looking over to Ouaisne Bay. That's one of my favourite bays for swimming in the spring, summer and autumn. Can't wait!
Sometimes less is more ... today I just want to share this thought with you!
Thanks to my friend Lindsey for sharing this thought on Facebook the other day. Sometimes, I just need to be inspired!
I was trying to find something to cheer us for the weekend and I found this quote.
Don't you love that?
I love the optimism and simplicity of this thought. And if you're a bit fed up of February, take heart. Spring is on the way!
I have some daffodils in my garden already, and I've seen snowdrops and even some primroses in the hedgerows! I do live in the farthest south outreaches of the British Isles, in Jersey in the Channel Islands, where we do have milder winters than other places, so we are already on course for spring, despite the bitter cold and even snow of recent weeks!
But when I saw the quote it also got me thinking about the author - Patience Strong.
It's a name I've known well pretty much all my life. I remember my mum having several Patience Strong poetry books when I was young. It was quite spiritual poetry, the sort that was great for church, or inspiring women's groups. Patience's poetry is traditional in that it rhymes and it's simple, often short verse, and yes, sometimes sentimental, with themes of nature, faith and strength.
So I did a bit of digging to find out more about the woman behind the verse.
The poet was actually born Winifred Emma May in June 1907 in England. Her poems, prose and thoughts have been collected in numerous anthologies, and they are often brought together to create a collection of 'daily'' inspirational thoughts. Some under the title of 'Friendship Book'.
What I didn't know was that Winnifred also wrote books, dealing with Christianity and practical psychology, and that she was an accomplished musician and lyricist. I read that in 1930, she even wrote a song for the 4th birthday of Princess Elizabeth - now Queen Elizabeth II.
She was much more than the seemingly sweet sentimental poetry I first knew her for.
Patience's popular poems were first featured in The Daily Mirror newspaper in England in the 1930s and throughout the Second World War her daily poems appeared in a section called 'The Quiet Corner'. They brought comfort and inspiration to a generation of people living through terrible conflict.
But why 'Patience Strong'? Well apparently the name came from a book by an American poet and writer called Adeline Dutton Train Whitney. She published more than 20 books for girls in her lifetime, in the mid to late 19th century. ADT Whitney's books expressed a traditional view of women's roles and were popular throughout her life. One of them, published in 1868 was entitled 'Patience Strong's Outings'.
I wonder if that book made a deep impact on Winnifred? Maybe it was a book that had inspired her as a young girl? Who knows?
Whatever the reason for her choosing her pen name, I've always been a bit intrigued by it and I think it was a clever choice. It mixes two important emotions - Patience and Strength. To be truly patient with the world and with life, and with relationships takes really strength. And the name has certainly stood the test of time, because Patience aka Winnifred's poetry and words are still around, and enjoyed by millions of people every year.
Earlier I was chatting about spring flowers, so as we wait for Spring to appear - here's one of her poems which is just in the moment ...
by Patience Strong
I've put my bulbs in coloured bowls and hidden them away -
Inside my cupboard, where they cannot see the light of day -
I've put them in the soft black mould as cosy as can be -
And in the quiet darkness they will work their mystery . . .
And when all things lie lifeless locked in winter's frozen sleep -
Inside my cupboard one sweet day a pale green tip will peep.
I'll bring them out into the light and set them in my room -
And silently and secretly they'll grow and bud and bloom -
The grey old house will waken from its drowsy slumbering,
To find the rooms ablaze with flowers, as if it were the Spring! . . .
With daffodils and hyacinths, narcissi, tulips too -
A flaring mass of loveliness in gold and pink and blue -
And I shall smile, remembering my small part in the show -
For though we plant and tend the bulbs -
it's God that makes them grow.
Yesterday I ended my daily thought by asking what it was we might be thinking about 'giving up' for the 40-days of Lent. But I also asked whether instead of depriving ourselves of things we love, perhaps it might be worthwhile thinking about what we could START doing instead.
That would certainly be in the spirit of the Lenten season, when we may be setting time aside to think about our relationship with God and what might be the plan for our lives, and how we might make our world a better place all round.
Today I share this thought with you ... I found it online on IrishAmericanmom.com
Thanks to you, whoever you are! It's really got me thinking about how we can turn the negative into positive, not just in our actions but also in our thinking.
During this holy season it's all about reflection ... to prepare us for thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, and the celebration of Easter morning when he defied death and was resurrected.
That's the point of Christianity really, this belief in a God who is a living being, not just a sculpture or an icon, or even just a concept or way of thinking that can make us 'better people'. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that by dying and rising to life, death itself is conquered so that we can all live eternally, even when we die, if we have faith and belief in him.
It's BIG stuff - so that's why during Lent there's a good deal of self-reflection and prayer going on.
In the very early days of Christianity, when believers were constantly under the threat of persecution from the Romans, being a Christian was counter cultural and 'conversion' had to be carefully considered, so those wanting to be baptised as Christians often spent loads of time studying and preparing.
Many chose Easter as the date for their baptism into the faith, and the 40 days running up to that important step in life were often set aside for preparation and study. Others in the 'church' joined them by observing the season in similar ways, to support their new friends and sometimes to renew the commitment of their own baptisms. And so the traditions of Lent were born.
Traditionally, there are three things that Christians did and still do during Lent - prayer, 'almsgiving' (or giving to good causes and those less fortunate than ourselves) and fasting ... and the last point is where the idea of 'giving up something' for Lent comes in.
During Lent even if believers don't fast and deprive themselves of food and drink, it has been common to give up something that is important to them for 40 days, as a way of putting priorities in place, experiencing 'sacrifice' and drawing closer to God. It's part of the 'conversion' experience of Lent.
And nowadays, even people without faith have taken up this idea of giving something up for the season ... maybe trying to part with a bad habit, or not eating meat, or giving up alcohol or chocolate for these 40 days. Some take the money they save and give it to charity. Very much in the spirit of Lent. Others do it without realising why they're doing it! It's become a trendy thing to do!
After the year we've had with the coronavirus pandemic, where many of us have had to give up so much anyway, it might be a stretch too far to deprive ourselves even more during Lent, but there is another way we might think of getting involved in the Lenten season.
For a couple of years, instead of giving things UP I have instead taken a different route and have given something AWAY. In my case, I ended up with 40 items of clothing/books/bric-a-brac in a black plastic bag which I then donated to charity.
This year I may have to think a bit more laterally because after filling quite few bag loads of clothes, I'm not sure I have many good things to give away now ... but hey... I'm up for the adventure!
Or maybe the idea of starting something this Lent, rather than giving something up, is the way to go?
Perhaps instead of depriving ourselves of things we love, we can use the next six weeks to improve ourselves. Maybe do some reading that inspires our spirit or perhaps do some volunteering?
So - here are some audacious questions
How will you spend your Lent?
Are you planning a 'spiritual journey' over the next 40 days?
Are you 'giving up' something?
If so, what that might be? And will that be a sacrifice?
Or are you planning instead to start something new this Lent?
Over to you!
Today is Ash Wednesday.
And it's a peculiar name for a day isn't it?
So what's it all about?
Ash Wednesday is marked every year exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday. Now I know what lots of you might be thinking - Lent is a 40-day season isn't it? Well it IS, but Sundays don't count during the 6-weeks (ish) preparation for the Christian festival.
The 40-days of Lent represent the time that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, before he began his three year ministry. Before starting that awesome task, he took time out to think and prepare himself. In that desert, he fasted and when he was at his weakest he was tempted by (and he resisted) Satan. For Christians down the centuries the same period of time has been set aside for fasting, reflection, repentance and, finally, celebration on Easter Day. Lent is a time for believers to contemplate the life of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection. Central themes of Christianity. And to consider their own relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, and how that impacts on their lives.
Lent has also become a time when many people, including those who wouldn't say they are religious at all, also give stuff up ... but more of that another day.
What about today - 'Ash' Wednesday? Why is it called that?
Well the title comes from the fact that on this day certain Christian denominations follow the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers - usually in the sign of a cross.
Today is all about repentance at the start of the sacred season which will culminate in the weekend when first we commemorate the death on a cross of Jesus Christ, and three days later we celebrate his coming back to life - his resurrection!
The ashes for today's special church services are made by burning the palm leaves or crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations. There's something significant about that, isn't there? The palm fronds were waved by a crowd as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem at the start of the final week of his earthly life, but within a few short days that same fickle crowd was yelling at the authorities, calling for Jesus to be put to death, to be crucified! The fact that these symbolic palm leaves become the focus of repentance on Ash Wednesday is something powerful.
Ash Wednesday services are traditional mostly in the Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. They are usually solemn masses or church services which include long periods of silence for private prayer and reflection, and Scripture responses in which the congregation is invited to participate. Much of the focus is on confession, communion is taken and then worshippers are invited to come forward for the imposition of the ashes.
The priest will dip a finger into a bowl of the palm cross ashes and then the ash is rubbed, in a cross pattern, on the forehead of the person receiving them, accompanied by these words ... "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
I don't come from a Christian tradition where Ash Wednesday is marked in this way, but I'm told it's a very moving service, a time when one can really look into oneself, really reflecting on the purposes of life, and the things that need putting right in yourself. The congregation, I'm told, leave the church in almost complete silence, taking that confession and reflection into their lives outside of the building.
And the most amazing thing is that people don't immediately rub off the ashes which have been placed on their foreheads. They bear the mark for the rest of the day. That's a witness to the world of the start of this holy period of Lent, and a reminder to us all that sometimes we need to stop, and consider what God has done for us and what we are doing for him.
So, if today you spot someone with a dark mark on their forehead ... you'll know what it's all about.
And I, for one, will take the opportunity today to start my Lent journey with reflection, confession and prayer. And even if I'm not bearing the mark of ash on my forehead, I hope I will walk through today, and indeed through the Lenten period, with that spirit in my heart, in my behaviour and in my relationships.
Well at least it is here in the British Isles!
It’s Pancake Day – a day to ... well ... eat pancakes!
Whether you’ve tucked into a pancake for breakfast, or will have them for your evening meal – there are loads of ways to eat them ...
Sweet ... with lemon and sugar or even some fruit or chocolate spread!
Or savoury – cheese, ham, spicy minced meat, avocado... I’ve even seen a recipe for pancakes with Brussel Sprouts and smoked salmon!
It seems pancakes go with anything and everything.
All you need is some flour, egg, salt and little milk, a little pan and – voila!
But the question is - why do we eat them particularly on this day?
Why is it ‘Pancake Day’?
The 40 Days of Lent were and still are traditionally a time when people fasted to prepare themselves for the holy festival of Easter which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and on the Tuesday before it all began, Christians went to confession and were ‘shriven’ or absolved from their sins, ready for the serious time ahead.
It was also a day when kitchen cupboards were cleared of all the stuff which couldn’t be eaten during the Lenten Season, including eggs and fats which they mixed with flour to make – pancakes!
In other parts of the world Pancake Day is called Mardi Gras ... or ‘Fat Tuesday’ ! That phrase also relates to a season of festivals running from the feast of the Epiphany. which we celebrated on January 6th, through to Shrove Tuesday.
Some cultures, including Poland, make donuts instead for Fat Thursday – that was last week! It happens five days days before the start of Lent.
So – however many pancakes you eat today, and however you eat them – you’re in good company.
And you’re part of history ... the pancake has featured in cookery books as far back as 1439. And no sooner were they cooking them than people were flipping them! In the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire they’ve apparently been tossing pancakes since 1445 – it’s the most famous Pancake Race in the world! Of course, it's not happening this year because of the coronavirus pandemic ... but it will live on!
*Footnote - by the way if you happen to be listening to BBC Radio Jersey this morning - Shrove Tuesday 2021 - you might hear these words I've written above. I have recorded them ... or most of them ... for a little 'Pancake Day Explainer' ... just part of my contribution to the understanding and fun of the day!
What I love about this thought is the progression of words.
For me, it has a flow which is in itself spiritual and perfect for the coming season, as it takes us on a journey from silence to peace, via the 'busyness' of the everyday.
Be Blessed everyone!
*and if you're wondering, this picture is one of mine, taken from the cliffs above Swanage in Dorset on the south coast of England ... a really gorgeous place!