Poverty

From what I know of Christianity, taking care of the poor is something that is very important. I live in a rich country and rely heavily on welfare because of a very small income. In my country I am poor. I sometimes have to ask friends and family for money and food. But I have a roof over my head, clean running water and sanitation, heat for when it’s cold, and food in my cupboards most of the time.

I have young friend in a refugee camp in Ghana, a survivor of the Liberian war and all the atrocities that came with that and the Ebola out break that happened recently. He lives in a wooden shack with a roof that doesn’t keep out the rain. He lives there with his grandmother and some children he’s found, orphaned and living in the streets. He works at an internet cafe but the owners all too often don’t pay him because he is barely more than a child himself and they see his labour as they would a slave’s. His little family have now not eaten for a couple of days and only have access to filthy water.

His faith is strong and that gives him the hope and strength to survive from one day to the next. He greatly misses the parents who were murdered in front of him during the war he fled from. He missed out on finishing school so has no educational qualifications to help him work out of poverty. But yet he has hope that it will get better. He loves and cares for more than himself, he will go without food so that his grandmother and the children he has brought in can eat when food is available. Isn’t it always the people who have the least that give the most.

I want to make his grandmother a shawl to keep her warm at night as it gets so cold. I want to send water sterilising tablets and some rice, perhaps a few books. But looking at the restrictions for what can be sent to Ghana from the UK on the Royal Mail website it looks like even this may be impossible. I have emailed the Ghana Post Office for further advice. I may not be able to help a whole refugee camp but if I can make just this one family’s life just a little more tolerable it’ll make a difference that will hopefully have a knock on effect.

Charity is close to my heart, I have suffered many hardships in my life and survived. I know what it’s like to be abused, to be exiled, to have no food, to have no one near. I don’t know what it’s like to live like my young friend at the extreme end, but I know how horrible it was for me.

Jesus preached charity for the deserving, although I see many people who call themselves Christians getting fat on the profits of capital success. There are many religious people who still believe in charity. Look at the Pope, sneeking out of the Vatican at night to feed the poor! I actually meet more non religious that are charitable these days. All are faithful though, all have a calling within themselves to do what is right and good. I am also an Anarchist. Anarchists believe that you should do what is right and good for all people. We do not need a governing body to tell us who is worthy and who isn’t, we just go through our lives doing the best we can and treating everyone we meet as kindly as we can. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t hurt anyone else while you do it and preferably you better things for everyone.

I can’t say there is anyone in this world that I have had the pleasure to have contact with that I do not love. I may not like all of them very much, but I love each and every one of them. I hope for the best for all of them, none are less worthy than any of the others. Whether they have done right or wrong, whether I have been done right or wrong by them, I hope the best for them. Religion might say I have forgiveness, I just see it as everyone’s right to be wrong.

I will campaign until the day I die for equality among humans, from the fat cats of capitalism down to the people searching for food in refugee camps. I hope that one day the collective human conscience will kick into gear and no one will go without their basic needs for a good life, not just for their survival. I will probably not live to see the day but this is the sermon I preach to my children. Go through life and be the best you can be without hurting anyone, give what you can to those less fortunate, don’t judge because everyone has a story you don’t know, listen to everyone you meet, someone always has some knowledge you haven’t got and vice versa, never stop learning or teaching. Sometimes I think I am more religious than a lot of people who pray to God. If you read the scriptures there is so much hope there, but you have to act to make that hope a reality, it’s not enough to pray to your chosen god and expect someone else to do it for you. I have no god, I do not pray, I get up and I do, just what the Bible scriptures teach the religious to do.

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Hope

It has occurred to me that I know very little, about anything really. I am quite well read, I have an education from institutionalised schooling. I debate with experts in their field. But what do I know?

The little village I grew up in centred very much around two chapels, one methodist and I can’t remember what the other one was. We also had the church that was Church in Wales. The very Welsh people of the village went to chapel, got married in church and had their funeral in chapel.

What I remember most about growing up in this community was never leaving a house on an empty stomach, especially the farms. You were offered a drink, Ribena for the children and a panad (cup of tea) for the adults on entering anyone’s house. Baked goodies were always offered, even gluten free ones would be baked if they knew in advance we were coming round as my mum is Coeliac and both my sister and me had been tentatively diagnosed and so we lived on a gluten free diet. Crisps were always to hand for children, even in houses where the children had grown up and moved out.

Conversation was always about something going on in the community or what had happened in chapel. My grandparents seemed to be a regular topic, they were held in high regard by the older members of the community. My grandfather probably kept the pubs open!

The village was steeped in tradition, everyone was expected to be early risers, put their faith in God, keep their houses clean and tidy and work for the community. As I grew up I began realising that going to chapel and working for the community were more traditional than anything else, because it was the ‘done thing’. I also, sadly, found that a lot of the faithful were so convinced of being forgiven on their day of judgement that they did awful things without a care. I learn that theirs was a vengeful God who struck down unbelievers and so every misfortune that befell me was because I didn’t believe. Even if that misfortune was being hurt by one of their own, God fearing folk, it was my fault because I didn’t believe in God.

I never took religious education seriously. I took pleasure in ridiculing the faithful as unintelligent people who needed some explanation of why they were alive in the first place and had no idea of science, no common sense. I haven’t really had a spiritual side to me at all. I thought it was namby-pamby, hocus-pocus silliness.

Now I have grown up a bit, spoken to people with true faith, seen the workings of good people who don’t just bake cakes for a community gathering to get praise, that I have come to question this lack of spirituality. Guess what? I have a spiritual side after all, I just didn’t recognise it for what it was. Mine has nothing to do with religious doctrine, or belief in the supernatural. I believe in love, patience and hope. That given enough time and love anyone can do anything they put their mind to to at least some degree. We can all get better than we are right now, just by believing in our own abilities and getting out there and doing it, full of faith that our hope is enough to get us through until we achieve our goals.

Now I come to read passages from the Bible, extracts from Buddhism, bits and pieces of other religions, it all seems to say the same thing. Hope for better, do good things, strive towards your goals without hurting anyone in the process and good will come to you. I see none of this vengeful god that I was lead to think of when my village peers spoke of their religion. I see no, thou shalt, or shalt not, apart from a few bits, which are pretty much common sense. I see love and peace, patience and forgiveness. I see hope, over and over again, I see hope. There may be no scientific point to life, but is it really worth living without hope?

Totally Devoted to…

Devotion. What does it mean? Definitions found in dictionaries say;

: a feeling of strong love or loyalty : the quality of being devoted                                       : the use of time, money, energy, etc., for a particular purpose                          devotions : prayer, worship, or other religious activities that are done in private rather than in a religious service (Merriam and Webster)

1Love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity: his devotion to duty never wavered she was the epitome of wifely devotion
1.1Religious worship or observance: the order’s aim was to live a life of devotion
1.2 (devotions) Prayers or religious observances: she went to her devotions
(Oxford)
loyalty and love or care for someone or something: He inspired respect and devotion from his pupils. She will be remembered for her selfless/unstinting devotion to the cause.
religious worship: He knelt in humble devotion.devotions [plural]
The Christian bible extracts that I have read today seem to point in the direction of devotion being towards love. As I have discussed in another post love is the meaning of life in according to religion. This love is attributed to God. So through love one is devoting their lives to God. This devotion isn’t direct either. We are to love one another and ourselves. We are to shun loving materialism as that breeds corruption. We are to do this knowing this knowing that God loves us and by being loving creatures we are doing the work God has meant us to do.
In Buddhism devotion is toward Dhamma the cosmic order of things. In other words you must love what is and that it is what it is. This is the core of mindfulness, a wonderful practise that can exorcise the mind of anxiety. Grounding yourself in the moment means letting go of the thoughts in your mind and devoting yourself to what you can physically sense right now.
There are other ways to devote your love, concentrating on a friend in their time of need, using your time for their benefit. Devoting yourself to your children, putting their needs above your own wants. Devoting your concentration to a study subject. All in all we are creatures of devotion, our focus, attention and concentration are continually directed towards the subjects of devotion. What it basically translates to is the channelling of our love for something.
Religion cautions us against using our devotion for the wrong things, like towards money and material things, objects rather than subjects. Whether you have religious beliefs or not these cautionary messages are of value. We are tribal animals, our communities are what make survival possible, make life worth living. We do not need to take part in our communities by being physically present, just by devoting our time to them every now and again so that we can pass on love. Love is what gels relationships, and devotion is a channelling of love. If we channel our love towards a person we have a relationship with them. If we channel our love towards ourselves we can be content to be ourselves.
Religions devote themselves to God or an Other with the ultimate love for those who devote themselves. I suppose in a way we all do, believers and non believers, we devote ourselves to that which we love, to the hope we give ourselves in our own means. Love and hope are what keep us alive and a devotion to this seems pretty healthy to me whatever you decide to call love and hope. If you call it God, the Other or just love and hope, keep on devoting yourself to this and you will find a happy world, you’ll see the good there is in the world instead of focussing on the bad. Really there is a good world out there if you look for it and devote yourself to the good. You can help make the world a good place full of hope and love if you devote yourself to it in a positive way. Don’t ignore the bad, take it for what it is, a challenge, something to overcome and make good. I may still be an idealist but my belief is that as the human race we can make our humanity good. The people of religion I have met also believe this and attribute this ability to their God/Other. We aren’t that different, the believers and the non believers. We’re after the same thing, just on different paths. I hope our paths continue crossing and we have a wild party at our collective destination!

Breastfeeding: The beginning

Another subject I am passionate about, this is a very dear friend whom I have never met other than online. Please don’t just read for the prize. Take a look at the rest of her blog. She is a beautiful writer.

lycrawidow

Thanks for hopping over from Milk and Mummyand welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 1

The Start of My Journey sponsors today include Boobie Milk witha £50 voucher, Cherub Chewswho are offering a breastfeeding necklace and Loveyush who are offering a breastfeeding scarf for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

I started my breastfeeding journey with nothing more than the determination to breastfeed. I mean, how hard can it be, right? Baby is born, offer baby the breast, repeat as necessary, voila! You’re a breastfeeder!
Wrong. It is so much more than that!

Maybe I wasn’t totally clueless, I’d seen the instructional video in the maternity ward that shows you how to latch baby on, how you put chin to breast, then “pop” your nipple…

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Friends: the beauty of them

What a lovely post, beg you all to take time to think of your own friends, maybe give the distant ones a call, just to say hi.

lurchersontheedge

I have been back to Cumbria recently. I was successively Team Vicar and Team Rector there for a while. There were good times and not so good times. To be honest, when I was good, I was very very good, and when I was not…. I was unbearable. I learnt a lot about mainly myself.

Cumbria beauty Cumbria beauty

What was brilliant about being there was allowing the present to engage with the memories of the past.

The distance between 2009 and now brings a sense of perspective, but friends can help you remember that it was not always as bad as you think, and are a healthy reminder that no matter how difficult something sometimes seems to have been there is usually positive impact.

I am not a person who makes friends easily. I can do acquaintances well, if there is a mutual acceptance that I will try my best to…

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Patience

“Patience is a virtue, Virtue is a grace, Grace is a little girl with dirt upon her face”

The quotes I have read so far from the bible (isn’t Google great?) have so far told me that patience is a steadfast endurance, a suffrage. If one struggles for good and endure that suffering they are patient. A recent philosophy article tells us that patience is not only tolerance but encouragement for another person to take their time. It is a way for us to communicate that we appreciate the other person’s struggle and are willing to spend our time with them until they reach their goal. It is a form of self restraint. Which is right? Do we endure our own suffering or other’s suffering to be deemed patient? Are both right, are we enduring the suffering of our impulses while enduring the suffering of others’ agency?

Today I am very tired, my 3 yr old had a long nap yesterday and wouldn’t allow me to settle her in with her father (she had an accident in our bed so only one of us could sleep in our bed) until 2:30 in the morning. She didn’t settle immediately as I could hear her banging away in our room as I lay on the sofa with our 6 month old next to me, peacefully asleep, in her Moses basket. Then my baby wakes for a feed and I promptly fall asleep, with breast in easy reach she suckled on and off through the night, periodically waking me. By 10 o’clock this morning I gave up on any hope of meaningful sleep and got up. My 3 yr old, now awake again, is showing she has not had enough sleep by whining, screaming and stamping her feet with irrational demands to be completed immediately. I am not in the state of mind to be my usual gentle self and my thoughts turn aggressive very quickly. But endure I must, my children are too young to understand that tiredness is no excuse for difficult behaviour. “This too shall pass”. So I began thinking about patience.

The only place I can find meaningful insight into patience is in Buddhism. It’s all about letting go, contemplating your impatience, being respectful of other people’s life journeys and grounding yourself in the moment. Patience is a journey and an exercise in mindfulness. I read something along the lines of ‘find the time to meditate and if you can’t find the time then meditate longer’. This is patience. An appreciation of what is going on around you as you take the small steps to your destination. The less haste bit of ‘more speed less haste’, you will get there in the end, so will they. It’s the deep breath of resignation that now is just now and a second from now is a second from now, and really, it doesn’t matter, because time is just time. Patience is a trust that what you are aiming for is attainable if given the respect to be attained in the correct amount of time.

A lot of people in organised religion are made to feel that patience is suffering while waiting for judgement from God. To me this is propaganda to make people fearful that if they do not endure then they will not achieve. I think the real message, and I am sure many religious people within and outside of organised religion also agree, that patience is faith that good will come regardless. There is no need to endure hardship and suffer, just slow down and appreciate the journey. Patience is a happy thing not to be feared. Patience is love in one of its many forms.

Today my 12 year old needed to hear something three times in order to process it, he got distracted on my first repetition. I lost my patience with him by the second repetition and totally missed that he’d deemed what I said important enough to make sure he’d heard it right. I missed his appreciation of having me speak to him, of me being able to appreciate his attempt to engage with me. I’ve had a trying day and he has auditory processing disorder. I failed to recognise and appreciate these things because I wasn’t patient. I didn’t trust time to unfold at the rate that was needed to reach our mutual goal of communication.

Tonight I am patient again, I can look back and forgive myself for my impatient outburst, I can see it for what it was, a culmination of circumstances. This is what it is to be human and that’s okay. If I can forgive myself I’m sure the followers of the Other will place its/her/his forgiveness on me too. After all patience is faith for everyone.

Loving Life

Why life? As an atheist I would say, just because, a happy accident borne of organic compounds. Those of faith will tell you, because life is love. Today I have been exploring this, looking at what philosophers have to say about love and what is written in the Bible. I really could do with some more holy books!

“God’s Love and Ours

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

New International Version of The Holy Bible. 1 John 4:7-21

I have put it all in because I think context is important, rather than just taking the odd fragments and making them into something they are not.

My idea of love is that it is all prevalent, all pervasive, a thought, a feeling an emotion that one reflects on one’s self and on others with a degree of compulsion. We look at another human being and we feel love, that love comes in the form of familiarity, we love that human form because it is recognisable. We look at a flower and feel love because of its beauty. We are in the presence of our children and we not only feel love through our bond with them but feel loved in return. We are compelled to love in one way or another. To this end love is life even in an atheist’s world.

Imagine a world without love. There would be no responsibility either given or taken, no respect, no duty or obligation, nothing really. Without love there cannot be a zest that makes life living, or even worth living. No motivation to go from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. The flower must ‘love’ the sun for the life it brings. The baby loves the breast for the nourishment and comfort it needs to live. We love one another for the cooperation we need to live, if the farmer isn’t loved he doesn’t produce food, if the shop keeper isn’t loved, she doesn’t sell the food the farmer produces, if the consumer isn’t loved they do not consume. I can see how loved and paid can be interchanged here and that brings me on to politics.

How can love be linked with politics? Kierkegaard says that the lover is indebted because god puts love in everyone and so to love is to cover the debt of being loved. Kant says that the loved is indebted to the lover for giving the respect of love thereby obliging the loved to love. Hume ties it all up in benevolence and has done with it. The principles of Communism tells us that if we do a good deed for someone then someone will do a good deed to us, not necessarily the same person. I think this is the same with love, no one is indebted because everyone repays each other’s debt.

So to my question, why life? Well why not? Life is love and love is life, purpose and meaning all in one nice tidy place, just because it is that way, whether you believe in a higher presence or not. You give love, you receive love, you are love!

Here’s a newer translation of the passages I have quoted above. I don’t know about you but it reads better to me. This has been written by James David Audlin in his “The Writings of John”. You can find his fiction and non-fiction works at these websites:

http://audlinbooks.com

http://audlinbooks.com/about-james-david-audlin/nonfiction-james-david-audlin/

4:7 Beloved ones, we should love each other because love is from God and everyone who loves has been engendered by God and knows God. 4:8 Anyone who does not passionately love has not known God, because God is love. 4:9 The love of God has been revealed thus among us: that he has sent his son ÷ into the world so we might live through him. ÷ 4:11 Beloved ones, if God so loved us we ought likewise to love each other. 4:12 No one has ever seen God, (but) if we love each other God abides in us, and his love fully develops in us. 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him, and he in us, because he has given to us from his spirit. 4:14 And we have seen and bear witness that the father GREEK: has sent the son [as] savior/deliverer (of) the cosmos. ARAMAIC: sent the son as deliverer from the cosmos / into the Æon. 4:15 Those who agree that Jesus is son of God, God abides in them and they in God. 4:16 And we have come to know and to trust in the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 4:17 In this way love has fully developed among us, so we may be candid in the day of judgement, because just as he exists so also do we (exist) in this GREEK: cosmos. ARAMAIC: Æon. 4:18 There is no fear in love, for fully developed love pushes fear out, because fear brings on its own torment, because anyone who fears has not come to fully developed love. 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 4:20 If anyone says “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar; if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen, he cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 4:21 For this is the law that we have from him, that one who loves God should also love his brother.