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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! 

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Blue Monday

Hello!

Welcome to 'Blue Monday'!

That is, apparently, what today is.

Traditionally, the third Monday in  January has been given this rather gloomy title because of a combination of things.

Post-Christmas blues, dark nights, perhaps the realisation that we've still got quite a few weeks of winter ahead, maybe the arrival of bills, including credit-card bills following an expensive festive period. And let's not forget the added pressure of the coronavirus pandemic this year.

I know, I know - all a load of old nonsense, right? Maybe. Who's to say being down in the dumps is especially pertinent today?

Of course, unfortunately for some people being 'blue' is not just for one day. It's much longer lasting. Some do suffer serious depression and it's not just about feeling 'down' for 24hours. I also know quite a number of people who are really affected by the time of year. Some experts call it 'SAD' - Seasonal Affective Disorder - and it can be really debilitating.

If you are feeling constantly sad and depressed, it's not a bad thing to get some help.

But if it's just today that is making you feel 'blue' then here's a little thought for you which might help you to smile through today, if you can!

It's a poem I came across in recent years. It does mention an 'epidemic' ... sorry about that ... hope no one is offended.

But it might help.

It's apparently attributed to the brilliant, funny, talented Spike Milligan, who himself experienced challenging mental health at times during his life.

 

A SMILE

Smiling is infectious

You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today

I started smiling too.

I walked around the corner

     And someone saw me grin.

When he smiled I realised

I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about the smile,

And realised its worth.

A single smile like mine

Could travel round the earth.

If you feel a smile begin

Don't leave it undetected.

Let's start an epidemic quick

And get the world infected!

(Spike Milligan)

Smiling flower


Changing the World!

It’s 17 January 1829 and in a place called Ashbourne in Derbyshire in England, a baby girl is coming into the world.

Her name is Catherine – Catherine Mumford – and little did her parents John and Sarah know, but their daughter would grow up to change the world.

I’m not understating that. Really!

And if you doubt me then I need to tell you one more thing. Catherine Mumford young

Catherine grew up to marry a man called William – William Booth – and together they would go on to found a Christian ‘movement’ that would eventually become The Salvation Army, the global church and charity organisation that today supports and cares for millions of people, many of them disadvantaged and unable to help themselves.

People with addictions, homeless men and women, children, people who don’t have enough food and who are ill, people who yearn for education, those who are seeking work, and those who are exploited including the victims of human trafficking or modern slavery. Today, The Salvation Army is in over 130 countries and responds to need wherever they find it. And although the history dates back more than 150 years they remain relevant. During this COVID-19 pandemic, local Salvation Army churches and other associated groups are working to help people in over 100 countries!

The Salvation Army makes a difference to people’s lives every day … and it is ultimately all down to William and Catherine Booth, who’s Christian faith, vision and inspiration started it all back in 1865.

I think Catherine was an incredible person. She grew up in a Methodist household but quickly developed her own Christian faith and although she was a sickly child, she apparently read the Bible voraciously and immersed herself in spiritual things from an early age. She wasn’t a healthy person all round, it’s thought among other things she suffered from a curvature of the spine. But in her spirit she was bold and brave, and determined in her Christian faith.

When she met William Booth, a fellow radical Methodist, in 1851 – it was almost love at first sight. He was a poor would-be evangelist who would struggle for years to find a place in a church. She supported him through difficult years, and after they married in July 1855, despite her ill health they went on to have eight children, all of whom survived into adulthood and who would all become part of their mission. Catherine was also a Christian evangelist and writer/theologian, and a sought after preacher in her own right, at a time when women preachers were not only rare but frowned upon by ‘polite society’.

Catherine Booth preaching

In fact, it was ‘polite society’ to whom Catherine often preached  - middle class and upper class ladies in particular.

And in 1865, after the family moved to London for one of HER preaching engagements, William finally found his purpose, preaching to the poor and uneducated, those who 'polite society' and established churches of the day often disregarded and even excluded. From this grew a mission to reach out and support those who could not look after themselves and who others considered unworthy.

Between them, William and Catherine Booth founded the (East London) Christian Mission and then in 1878 the name was changed to The Salvation Army, adopted uniforms and a military structure, and the mission really took off. Yes, it was and is still ultimately about preaching the Christian gospel, and 'saving lost souls' but it became more. What was the point of preaching to a person who was hungry - perhaps food might be a good idea?  The Salvation Army wasn't and isn't just about a 'hand out', helping people to survive their day, but also about a 'hand up', assisting people to help themselves, providing accommodation, skills, work and helping to rebuild their confidence. 

I know what you’re thinking – Cathy seems to know a lot about this woman and her husband and the movement they founded!

Well, I should. My first ever book – published in September 2013 – was a biography of the couple.

William and catherine book coverDrawing on letters which they exchanged from the time of their first meeting until Catherine’s death in 1890 from breast cancer, I learned so much about the duo, and how they came to create the worldwide Christian movement which today is their legacy.

Much of what The Salvation Army stands for today is down to Catherine, her interpretation of scripture and her personal and professional influence. The teetotal stance which The Salvation Army still holds to, the equality of the sexes in ministry – both men and women are ‘ordained’ and 'commissioned' to preach and lead - and even the work with victims of human trafficking which dates back to Catherine and other pioneering women from across society and church denominations to advocate for the raising of the age of consent and the protection of girls and women lured into the sex trade. This was just one of the campaigns for the betterment of poor people at a time when poverty blighted British society.

My book is called ‘William and Catherine – the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army, told through their letters’ (Monarch Books 2013)  Weird I know, but true! If you fancy reading all about them then I invite you to do so! The book is still available on many online platforms.

And I hope you will be as inspired as I am, not just by their joint passion for God and people but also by the life of Catherine – a complicated, strong Victorian who was truly a woman before her time!

When she died (or in Salvation army parlance, when she was 'Promoted to Glory'),  The Salvation Army was still  a rather peculiar notion to many who still did not understand it,  but it was gaining credibility.

The Methodist Recorder paid tribute to he as ‘the greatest Methodist woman of this generation’ (9 Oct 1890) and the Manchester Guardian newspaper wrote in its obituary ‘She has probably done more in her own person to establish the right of women to preach the gospel than anyone who has ever lived.’(18 Oct 1890)

All that - and The Salvation Army!

What a legacy!

Historic images from The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

The Salvation Army UK

William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army, told through their letters - on Amazon


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


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


Epiphany - a bit of a revelation!

Today is officially the end of the Christmas season.

Yes, I’m aware that most of us think Christmas ends on Dec 25th, but in strictly theological terms, that’s the day it STARTS!

And the ’12 Days of Christmas’ then run until today – January 6th – which is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany.

This important holy day originates in Eastern Christianity and in fact today is Christmas Day in the Eastern Orthodox churches. It’s also called ‘Old Christmas Day’. In some countries  January 7th is also celebrated with a Christmas bank holiday.

Traditionally, today marks the moment when Jesus was made known to the world. If you think about it that’s where the word ‘epiphany'’ comes to us … not to get too technical but if you look up the word in the dictionary … it means ‘a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation’.

Epiphany

January 6th is the day when the Magi – the Wise Men/Kings – are thought to have visited baby Jesus, the Christ Child,  as related in the New Testament of the Bible in Matthew Ch 2: 1-12. Yes, I know, in the traditional Nativity we have them coming to the manger in the stable at the same time as the shepherds on the night of the baby’s birth, but this narrative tells us it might have been a bit after that.

But as those wise men (and by the way there’s nothing to tell us there were three of them – we just assume that because they brought three gifts … gold, frankincense and myrrh) represented the wider world outside of the place of his birth, the place we now call ‘The Holy Land’, it has become the time when we commemorate the ‘revelation’ or ‘appearance’ of Jesus Christ to the world, to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish populations of the world.

Another tradition also links Epiphany with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, thirty odd years after his birth, just as he was about to start his ministry. This story is shared in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11 and Luke 3:21-22, with Christ revealing himself to the world as God's son. Some Christian denominations also celebrate Epiphany as the commemoration of Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), an event thought to show the divinity of Christ and his divine power.

To put it simply - today, Epiphany, is a day laden with significance.

Epiphany was introduced into Western Christianity in the 4th century and these days many churches also celebrate the festival on the Sunday before January 6th – it’s called ‘Epiphany Sunday’ and soon after there is ‘Plough Monday’ but that’s perhaps a story for another time.

There are many traditions which have developed down the centuries associated with Epiphany. Today is the day when it’s thought we should take down our Christmas tree and decorations.

So that’s one of my jobs for today then!

Epiphany (holiday) - Wikipedia


Giving Thanks for the Everyday

Sometimes it's easy to take life for granted isn't it?

As we step into this new year - yes I'm still on about that - I for one am reminded that life is not all about the STUFF we gather around ourselves, or the status and position we have in life, or the state of our bank account.

Sometimes it's just about being grateful for the everyday.

Over the years I've gathered a lot of thoughts about Gratitude. They are on my Facebook page called 'Don't forget to Say Thanks' which I still update from time to time, so don't be surprised if this subject crops up from time to time. Being thankful is something I'm passionate about!

So today I bring you a message from an 'Author Unknown' (as far as I can tell) ...

 

Thank You for our Messy Home

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this sink of dirty dishes; we have plenty of food to eat.

Thank you for this pile of dirty, stinky laundry; we have plenty of nice clothes to wear.

And I would like to thank you, Lord, for those unmade beds; they were so warm and comfortable last night. I know that many have no bed.

My thanks to you, Lord, for this bathroom, complete with all the splattered mess, soggy, grimy towels and the dirty lavatory; they are all so convenient.

Thank you for this finger-smudged refrigerator that needs defrosting so badly; it has served us faithfully for many years. It is full of cold drinks and enough leftovers for two or three meals.

Thank you, Lord, for this oven that absolutely must be cleaned today; it has baked so many things over the years.

The whole family is grateful for that tall grass that needs mowing and lawn that needs raking; we all enjoy the yard.

Thank you, Lord, even for that slamming screen door. My kids are healthy and able to run and play. Many children cannot.

Lord, the presence of all these chores awaiting me says You have richly blessed my family. I shall do them cheerfully and I shall do them gratefully.

Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings... Thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible...Thank you, Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising...Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic with socks that are lost, toast that is burned, tempers that are short, and my children that are so loud...Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times not balanced...Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job is often monotonous...Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who are jobless.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest...Thank you, Lord, for life.

Author Unknown