Heart Of Flesh

Photograph of my dog contemplating the sea on the Isle of Bute 17th May 2023.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

I have heard this verse preached many times, and probably spoken on it myself, but just recently it has made sense to me. Sense in that way that God doesn’t wave a magic wand over us if we show willing and then all is fine and one get one’s “heart of flesh rather than heart of stone” or all those other things that God promises to do. It is a two-way thing. One needs to do more than just say “here I am Lord“. Each time someone in the Bible says “here I am” there is then something they have to choose whether to do or not. And I think it is the same with being able to get this heart of flesh, this malleable heart that can feel God/The Universe’s ways.

I’ve mentioned this before in Heart of Flesh/Heart of Stone but I feel this post is how I saw my practical outworking and how it fits in with the things I’ve been working through around Forgiveness. I’m not sure if it is the same with everyone but with me God/The Universe starts with thoughts and ideas and then has to pop in a practical to make it all make sense fully to me. I’ve always preferred sermons that have a practical application.

There have been some issues recently that have upset me and I could feel myself backing away, going into protection mode, keeping myself safe. But then I got a picture of how this was myself building walls, solid walls, in my heart. A heart of stone isn’t how we are born but is grows in lots of little compounds of hardness as we get hurt and don’t find a safe place to deal with those hearts. I do also think we get taught to hold on to hurts, etc, often by learning how to blame others.

So there I was journaling away around some of the things that had upset me recently writing things like of “well that just adds on to all hurt/rejection/misunderstanding/abandonment/etc I’ve had before which of obviously why I have acted/reacted to others/friends/family/etc in this way.” Almost a “it’s not my fault”, a blaming.

Then my pen brought me up short. Slowly, as if God/The Universe was speaking in that still small voice, I felt let to forgave myself for feeling this way, for adding on a serious of hurts to other hurts, to blaming both the most recent person who had hurt me with all those in the past and using it as a reason for my behaviour. So I forgave myself for my behaviour which then seemed to mean that I no longer had to forgive others because it was my heart of stone which was the issues. Also realised I had to trust God/The Universe that as I forgave myself for adding things up all those hurts which when made it ok for me to think I could react a certain way it was safe for me to become more vulnerable.

Safe is such a big word that maybe one day it will get a whole blog to itself!

I got a picture of this place in my heart that had built this wall around the hurt so I could keep the hurts safe and keep going back and giving them a poke. Then as I got more into forgiving myself and asking for forgiveness for holding on to this hurt so I felt my heart relax, and I watched this stone wall fall and disappear. Interestingly too I looked on my Fitbit and my heart rate had gone down.

Over the last few days things have happened that have been blessings, which may or may not have happened anyway, but because my heart is open rather than closed I can see those blessings for what they are, been able to enjoy them and feel good about them.

I do now wonder if the whole line of “forgive us what we have done wrong as we forgive others” is so much of us letting go of how we hold on to hurts and build our walls and then use that as an excuse for our behaviour. So if I forgive myself the blame I have placed on my behaviour so I forgive that other person.

Makes you wonder if that line in the Lord’s Prayer should be “help us forgive ourselves so we can forgive others”.

Are we willing to say “here I am” to gain our fully malleable hearts with all the pain that could come from having a soft, fleshy heart?

A well built wall slowly coming down. Do we fear that the storms will come to drown us if we let those walls crumble? Photographed by me August 2021
Biblical Cultural Diversity

21st May – World Cultural Diversity Day

This post first appeared on on 20th May 2023

Photo by cottonbro studio on

Interestingly in planning for this something else popped up and I wrote a piece around King Charles’ coronation to do with cultural diversity. As a good detective says “there’s no such thing as coincidences” and my QEC practitioner is always saying how things come up for a reason that we need to explore. 

So what does come to mind when we talk about “cultural diversity”? What picture/image comes to mind?  And what does cultural diversity look like? 

Meaning according to 

  • the cultural variety and cultural differences that exist in the world, a society, or an institution: Dying languages and urbanization are threats to cultural diversity.
  • the inclusion of diverse people in a group or organization: to embrace cultural diversity in the workplace.

The Modern Cockney Festival looks at how the culture of Cockneys, which was originally a word used for those born within the sound of Bow Bells in London, has morphed and changed and come to embrace all those who feel they can relate to some of the cockney traditions. There are other events like this that are for people who feel they relate to those traditions, cultures or similar, that at one time certain races, genders or creeds may not have. 

There are differences in cultures that we need to recognise, honour and celebrate and I believe we are getting better and better are recognising the big differences, but what about the more subtle ones? 

I live in North Wales and when we moved here we did think that the only differences were between Welsh and English, but the longer we’ve lived here and the more people we have come to know we have found that there are much more subtleties within the land than we originally envisaged. Many of which can get lost within the bigger picture. We’ve had both Anglican church parish boundaries and electoral boundaries changed recently due to population density. But there is a major cultural difference between those who live on the coast and those who live in hills, those who live nearer the English border and those who live on the Western reaches, those who live in the large towns and those who live in isolated villages. Within a population of just over three million people there is a great range of diversities. 

I lived in Belfast in 1996-7 which gave me a feel there for the cultural diversity of the city and the surrounding countryside. I got to know people who were Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Loyalist, who had moved to the city from a village where everyone knew each other and those who lived in the city but also knew each other. Belfast in the mid 1990s was like no city I’ve ever lived in before. I cannot comment about the rest of Northern Ireland because I never made it over to Londonderry or into the hinterland. The population of Northern Ireland is less than two million and yet so diverse. 

Having lived in both these places I have seen how especially government or media do not honour the diversity of these nations but make judgement calls about what they need as a whole, what they want as a whole, and even what these people think as a whole. There is no space for different wants and needs. 

I know too that I am guilty of this with Native American tribes, with people who live in India, Asia, and all those myriad of countries I have never visited and never had the time to really get to know. Yet Revelation 7:9 says 

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from EVERY nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands 

I think the reason the bible says “multitude” is because then no one can give an exact figure. I think this is because God understands and knows each different group of people however big or small, however diverse, and is going to make sure they are fully represented in heaven. 

Note the word EVERY in there. Not most, not a few of, not even the majority, but EVERY nation, tribe, people and language will be there whether here on earth they have been recognised at all. 

I believe that we need to stop lumping people into easier to handle homogeneous groups believing we know what they want or need or think but we all need to start listening to, talking to and really finding out how we can all fit together but still stay cultural diverse. 

I think we also all need to be true to our own cultural diversity and who we fit with. I’m working with people who are between 15 and 40 years younger than me. Even those who are 15 years younger than me are of a different generation, have different values, different tastes, remember different music and TV programs. I have to accept that even though I am friends with them I also have a different culture that I relate to and fit comfortably into. 

I do think too often we try to find a homogeneous whole that we can fit into instead of enjoying the over laps. There is nothing to be afraid of in being cultural different to someone whether they are in our street, town, workplace, country, or that we never meet at all. God says “EVERY nation, tribe, people and language” will be standing shoulder to shoulder praising. We’re not going to have to conform to a “holy homogeneous huddle” but will be able to enjoy our different hues, words, styles, etc in heaven. Maybe we could start doing it now.  But also realise how much overlap there is.

How many cultural groups do you belong to? 

forgiveness Lord's Prayer

Forgiveness Part Three

As Forgiveness parts one and two both started with a photo of my dog I felt that I had to start Forgiveness part three with the dog even though this picture has no relevance to the post 🙂

So Sunday we did Forgive us our Sins as we forgive those who Sin against us in youth group.

I used the “sin” translation because SIN, I was told years ago and it has stayed with me, comes from an archery term that means “missing the gold mark at the centre of the target.” So really sin/sinning is just missing God’s mark rather than trying to work out what we’ve done wrong. We “all have sinned and fallen short the glory of God.” We’re not bad people, we’re just human and cannot make God’s mark day in day out and I think God finds that ok.

Something I feel I was taught wrongly though was that Forgiveness is conditional. I was taught that God would only forgive me if I forgave others. Now I’m not so sure. Surely if that were the case then that makes God’s love conditional when in fact God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is not based on anything I do, say, don’t do, don’t say, think, don’t think, behave, etc. God thinks I am awesome no matter what. And if is from that basis that I am safe to forgive others.

I watch it with the children I now work with in after-school club. Those who are in a secure place, who trust that we as their play-leaders like them, or from homes where they know they are loved, are much quicker to say Sorry to a fellow after-school club friend than those who don’t feel so secure. It isn’t whether they are or not but how secure they feel in that.

We are all loved unconditionally by God but some of us believe that more than others. As Paul says though that shouldn’t make us want to do more wrong things. In fact that security makes it easier for us to say sorry and try to “hit God’s mark” more often. As one of the young people in the youth group said, because God forgives us it gives us a second chance to make mistakes. I love that. That assurance that we are free to make more mistakes, rather than fear that some adult Christians have that if God forgives them then they shouldn’t make that mistake again.

One of the amazing things that we see if we read the about the life of Jesus is how ready he was to forgive. Not to forgive when that person was sorry, when they forgave others, when they were even ready to be forgiven but to just forgive because that is what true love is.

Some of the last words Jesus says whilst dying horribly on the cross were

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing

Luke 23:34

These people he was forgiving were jeering him, gambling for his clothes, generally pleased that he was gone. Not at all repentant and asking for forgiveness. Yet Jesus still forgave them with his dying breath.

There is a selfish reason why we should forgive. Not so God loves us more because that is a given. But we should forgive because it is better for us. It is a proven medical fact that people who truly forgive are healthy, happier, live longer, and are more open to the changes in the world around them. They are not fearful, not anxious, and are ready to let others into their lives. Check out what the Mayo clinic says about the power of forgiveness

And if you fancy reading more check out the book “The Body Keep The Score” to see more, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.

Neither of these things might be Christian per se but they seem to advocate very clearly the importance of what Jesus was teaching in that line in the Lord’s Prayer.

gender presumption


No presumptions with this little dog. Photographed by myself near Moelfre April 2023

I was amazed at my own presumptions the other day. Husband brought back a handout from church around Luke 24:13-35, where the disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus but don’t recognise him.

Lots of it is things I’d known or thought previously but it is Lorna Bradley’s opening line that I’ve been chewing over for weeks now

And their eyes were opened – the two disciples of Jesus – Cleopas and one unnamed and ungendered …..

UNGENDERED!! How many times have I presumed, without even thinking about it, that it was two men? And I’m sure that’s because the Bible says “disciples of Jesus” and for years we’ve been led to presume that ALL Jesus’ real disciples were men even though women are mentioned, but they are there in the supporting role.

Lorna doesn’t say if the other disciple was male, female, trans, non-binary, or whatever. She does not say if they were friends, siblings, parent/child, lovers, spouses. She actually just puts it out there, states, the fact that the other disciple is unnamed and ungendered, and then goes on to explore the piece.

It made me wonder if we would read this piece differently if they were homosexual partners, young unwed lovers, a father and daughter/son, even a married couple. To Luke these are just two disciples of Jesus who were out for a walk trying to piece together what had gone on over the last few days. One is named. One isn’t.

Interestingly the name Cleopas, which appears only in this story in the Bible means “Glory of the Father” or “Glory of Everything” and is either the male derivative of Cleopatra or a shortened version of Cleopatra or shortened version of Cleopatros. So it could be that the Cleopas we’ve always presumed to be male was in fact female as was their traveling companion.

It is the presumption that intrigues me. How many times do we all read things through our own lens of expectation, of prejudice, of culture, of lifestyle, of what we know? How often do we stop to realise what we have done?

But from our own presumptions and censoring and prejudices we tie organisations including religion into boxes, put people groups into boxes, put ourselves and those around us into boxes.

This does follow on from Cultural Diversity and will fit in with the post I am doing for 21st May. That person waving/not waving the Union Jack at the coronation is “obviously ….[fill in your own]. We make presumptions as to whether someone smiles/doesn’t smile at our cheery “good morning”, replies/doesn’t reply to our message, wears certain clothes and talks in a certain way.

And I don’t think God cares. Not that God doesn’t care for people. I believe God cares more than we could ever imagine. But God doesn’t care what gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, family background, education, etc someone has. I think this is why that story has someone in with no gender and the other person with ambiguous gender in it. And if you start looking there are many stories in the bible where once one lets go of one’s presumption then things could be more ambiguous than we’d presumed.

I wonder if I look harder how many stories I can find, where I presumed one thing and so pictured the story in my head a certain way, in fact actually are about “Glory in Everything” and especially “Glory to God” and not to gender, sexuality, orientation, or even belief.

Just this one phrase in Lorna Bradley’s piece has set me off on a whole new way of thinking. As Rick Rubin’s says in The Creative Act [and I paraphrase because I can’t find the actual quote in the book because I’ve underlined so much in there!] “sometimes we need to look at the minute to see the infinite”

Coronation Cultural Diversity

Cultural Diversity

I’ve been writing a piece for Godspace for World Cultural Diversity Day on 21st May but realised, after having my daughter to stay this past week, that this weekend in the UK is going to be quite culturally diverse.

It is the coronation of King Charles III. There are mixed reviews on what sort of person he is but also there are people coping with getting used to change after having Queen Elizabeth II for over 70 years. Most of us have not known another monarch.

There are some people lining the route of the coronation parade already. Some have been there for a few days so they can get a good space. The mood is joyous and hopefully they won’t get too wet. But then there are others putting up angry tweets about fascism, some angry that a country struggling to support those on low incomes can afford this pageantry, others who are still angry about the ending of his marriage to Princess Diana. There are also some who don’t really care one way or the other. For them is it another public holiday in a month that had two public holidays already so they are either pleased about that or frustrated at having to fit things in to a shorter working week, or having to work harder over the weekend because they are in hospitality or various support services.

The division of those excited by, those angry by and those indifferent too covers all ages, races, religions, genders. There is no one group who can say “all our people think x”. There is a diversity within the diverse groups.

But what I have noticed is that there is not chatting between the groups. Each are putting their stuff up on social media or doing their thing without a thoughts to why others think and feel how they do.

Bunting knitted by my Mum outside her house

This would be a good place, a safe place, to start a conversation about diversity, but it won’t happen. I wonder why not? A thought from my QEC practitioner about something else but that fits in with this is that sometimes people feel so unsafe due to unresolved issues that they would rather keep the other person in the “bad box” by whatever means than chat through differences.

I agree but also even if you are the calm one it can be difficult to talk to someone because the other person is so scared that they can come over as violent, angry, not willing to talk, or maybe not even sure what they really think. If we are too anxious we are in defense mode and so cannot hear anyone else because we need to keep our barriers firmly in place. The only way that will change is if each and everyone of us can admit that we should not be in this highly tense state and be able to heal.

Wouldn’t it have been lovely if this had been the weekend to start on this healing process but instead the dysfunctional British royal family has its own issues it needs to sort. Much of which came out in Prince Harry’s book. And many of these issues are fueled by the media across the globe who like to report the bad rather than the good.

So I pray and leave it to God to work on each and everyone of us to let go and find that true inner peace that is so important to the healing of this world.