Categories
Alignment heart

Heart of Stone/Heart of Flesh

Stone pillar, Isle of Lewis. Taken by myself May 2018

My husband and I were discussing the whole thing of the heart of stone which God changes to a heart of flesh and I got to thinking. We have always either been taught, or picked up, in our churches that a heart of stone is something that is hard, feels negative emotions, etc, but that a heart of flesh is joyous, happy and only feels positive emotions – which sort of takes us back to the good box/bad box idea which I looked at a bit in Two Trees. But I don’t think that’s right. See I don’t think following God should be all happy clappy everything is wonderful. I think if we feel that way than we still have that heart of stone.

A heart of flesh is vulnerable, feels things, notices things, is flexible, is free to experience things not encased in boundaries. It is free to be flexible and go with the flow. A heart of flesh will feel hurt and pain, will feel sorrow and anger. It will of course also feel joy and love, carefreeness and happiness. It will feel all these things to a much deeper level that the heart of stone will. But it does not mean it will be pain free. In fact it is the heart of stone which will be more pain free because it is encased in something solid and safe.

I often wonder when we first get to know God and try to follow Jesus that we get confused when we get angry, get hurt, feel sadness, feel pain. I wonder if we try and fight our way of out it. There is a Bethel song that says “sing a little louder” and of singing in the middle of the storm, etc. But what if the pain is too deep? What is you don’t want to sing? What if you just want to curl up on God’s lap and lie there? What if God just wants us to curl up on their lap? What if God doesn’t want us to sing a little louder but to quietly walk through the valley of the shadow of death?

Your heart of flesh is going to let you know what to do and when to do it. I’m not saying it is wrong to sing loudly when things are tough but I think to only do that if your heart of flesh is wanting to. But if it is hardening of heart around what is really going on then that isn’t accepting the heart of flesh God wants you to have.

A dog walking friend was moaning about how at her young niece’s funeral the pastor said that God taken this young girl because he wanted her to live with him. My friend was so hurt that her heart has been hardened away from God. But I do wonder if the pastor was hardened too. If the pastor did not want to weep and bemoan the loss of someone so young. Sometimes it is ok to be angry with God, to shout at them for allowing something one doesn’t like to happen.

Life isn’t all great and plain sailing and with a heart of flesh it will actually be harder. Your heart of stone can protect you whereas your heart of flesh can let you feel. Your heart of flesh can let you full experience what is going on around you, let you be honest and open with yourself and with others, and with God. The heart of stone will keep you safe and closed and maybe not that much help to others.

The heart of flesh will feel the so called negative emotions as much as it feels the so called positive emotions, whereas the heart of stone will keep you safe. The question is – what would you prefer?

Categories
Endangered species day Godspace

National Endangered Species Day 2022

First published on https://godspacelight.com/2022/05/19/national-endangered-species-day-2022

Taken by myself at our local park

The 20th of May is Endangered Species Day, another of those days put on to calendars to help one focus on something else. But I wonder how often we see ourselves as an “endangered species,” especially when one sees the cries coming from certain Christian elements in the US around the potential lifting of the laws to allow abortion. 

That is extreme but I wonder how often when we see polls saying numbers of church attendance is decreasing, an increase in various ethnic groups, and a rise in the voice of LGBTQ groups, that some think that we are endangered. When we feel endangered we act in fear, panic and anxiety. It does not make us nicer to be around but makes us harsher. 

The focus is meant to be about endangered animals, insects, flora and fauna, with the hope that we will care about our earth, our environment more. But if we are feeling endangered then we won’t want to do that. We will want to build our walls higher, make our voices louder, our weapons stronger. 

Yet Jesus tells us that when we feel threatened we should “turn the other cheek”[Matthew 5:39], that we should “love our enemies”[Matthew 5:43-48]. He tells us not to be afraid and to trust God in all things. As Francis Spufford says in ‘Unapologetic‘ [and I paraphrase], one of the hardest things about Christianity is that it isn’t about following rules but about our heart attitude. And our hearts need to be trusting God, need to not be filled with fear or anxiety, need to be open to God and listening fully. 

When the natural world is endangered it cannot get itself out of the mess humankind has got it into. It needs that self-same group, humankind, to make the change. But also sometimes with other people, they need to shout to be heard and need to get other people to help with the changes. So when we hear people of different “tribes” to our “tribe” shouting loudly because they need to be heard instead of shutting our ears, building our walls higher, etc we need to stop and listen. We need to really tune into what they are saying, listen to their fears, but also listen to our fears about why we have reacted as we have; of why we want to not listen, feel fearful, want to push the oppressed group down further. 

Unlike the natural world we are the ones with the power to change and to make a better world. We do not need to react. We have the God-given power to act and act in a way that is beneficial for all. But only if we stop hardening our hearts, unblock our ears and really listen to the world – human and natural – and follow God’s true leading in how to act. 

Taken by myself on a beach walk early one morning

Categories
Castle Security trust

Castles!

A castle in Gwynedd, North Wales, photographed on my husband's birthday in June 2018. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Dolbadarn Castle. Taken by myself June 2018

Last night I had two dreams with castles in them. I have looked up what “dreaming about castles” means and there are many different interpretations. Then I journaled around and about castles for myself.

I’ve had a few things going on recently that have left me a bit insecure and I think that might have been the reason for the dream. I want something safe and secure – for myself and my loved ones. But being a medieval historian as well as a writer I know that castles aren’t as secure as one would like. It is a perceived security not a real one.

A castle could be besieged; wall dug beneath and weaken or surrounded and wait for the occupants to stare or throw in contaminated meat and poison the occupants. Castles weren’t as safe as one would have liked them to be.

So I wonder whether sometimes we try to build things like castles – boundaries, walls, barricades – in our hearts, lives, work, relationships – to try to keep out the things we perceive to be bad and keep in the order of things we perceive to be good. And it is our order we can contain within our castle walls – when not being besieged. But all we are doing is exerting our control because of our fear and lack of trust in ourselves, others, the Universe, God. But all of these things need lots of maintenance and effort. And all can be destroyed.

Even though I think in my heart I want to build strong castle walls to keep myself safe and to exert my control on the things I know, even though it looks strong that it is in fact fragile. Instead I need to be in the open, be free to the changes of the seasons, trust in those around me, trust in God/the Universe, let go of fear.

If I do this I can be free to run in open meadows not trapped within castle walls. It may seem more scary out there but in fact, if I can trust then I can be free

Down on the Abergwyngregan coastal path. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Categories
Bodies Listening

Our Amazing Bodies

Photograph of the highest point on the walk I went on testing my endurance. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Above Abergwyngregan taken by myself 22nd March 2022

I am always amazed at my body when I listen to it. At the point when this photo was taken my heart was pumping and my breath was ragged. But that is to be expected.

I had chosen this path on a whim, though had had a bit of a look at the map the day beforehand, and I had walked the opposite way with my husband many years ago. But as I was going down the path from this point I noticed the pylons and I was very high above them. I could see the popular path to the waterfalls way below me but things seemed all wrong. So I sat down, got out my phone and tried to work out where I was. I couldn’t get a good signal and started to panic. I was on the top of this mountain surrounded by sheep and thought the path I was on could be wrong. My heart started racing and my stomach cramped and then my legs started to ache. I was at a point where I could convince myself that I could not go on. So I remembered my QEC work, got my autonomic nervous system [ANS] away from fight/flight mode, listened to my heart, put my phone away and continued along the path. This was about 45 minutes into my walk. The path curved left in a while and I went under the pylons and along to the waterfalls and back to my car.. I had been on the right path all along.

But what surprised me most of all was that as soon as I got my ANS calmed and started walking again my legs stopped aching and I did the next 75 minutes of my walk with not an ache. The pain in my legs was due to my fears. Interestingly my sister-in-law says she knows when she is nearing the end of a walk, no matter how long, because her legs start to ache. I know it is often seen as a form of encouragement to say “nearly there” but maybe that makes our bodies start to ache thinking we are nearly there.

I remember years ago when some famous politician’s car was blown up in the tunnel under the Houses of Parliament. One thing he said after was that even though he could not feel his legs he believed that no major blood vessels had been damaged and that he would survive. He said he had seen many young men on the battle field die because they had believed the injuries were fatal when they weren’t. Ok so different to my aching legs from fear that I was on the wrong path but also similar.

Another interesting thing with my body is that from Thursday or Friday I felt short of breath and it stayed with me till Monday. I even did a covid test to check I was negative. As you know from the My Sister post it was 10 years ago that my sister died. Well also 10 years ago a really close friend committed suicide. Eight years ago this same time period my son broke his collar bone playing rugby. Six years ago the same weekend my daughter had a major break up with a boyfriend and I helped her move from London to Cardiff. And then of course 2 years ago this self same time we went into lockdown. It was only when I was catching my breath at the top of yesterday’s climb that I realised over that whole period of last weekend I was holding my breath waiting for something bad to happen. Nothing did so now I can breath again. Again fascinating how my body remembered those incidents and was preparing itself.

I do think too often we are too busy and don’t listen to our bodies. Or we have so many other things piled around us that our heads are making too much noise to be able to really listen. Listening to our bodies takes time. Listening to our bodies means slowing down. Listening to our bodies takes understanding. Listening to our bodies means not judging them. Listening to our bodies means having a sense of awareness. It also means not being afraid to look back and ask “what happened then?”

I know this is a question I keep asking but – are we willing to slow down and really listen? to ourselves and also to the world around us?

Categories
Confict Russia Ukraine

War! What is it good for? ….

Sunrise over snow taken from a tank by Diane Woodrow's son Ben
Taken by my son four years ago

And finishing the line of Edwin Starr’s song – War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! – and I think that is one of the things that breaks my heart the most, not just for this invasion by Russia into Ukraine but for all the other wars, conflicts and atrocities that are going on across the world – many of which have been going on so long they don’t make headlines any more. They are old news and no one cares.

Because we live in an age of instant news we know moment by moment what is going on in Ukraine. I wonder if World War One would have panned out differently if people could have seen videos from the trenches and seen the waste of life. Because whether medieval war or modern war or all wars in between that is all that is ever achieved by war – loss of life.

Ok so the leaders are no longer riding into battle but one day they will died. No matter how invincible Putin or despots think they are, or even good leaders for that matter, they will all die. And they will be remember in various different ways by the generations that follow them in certain ways but they will still be dead, along with all those they led into this war.

My heart aches to know of the civilians in Ukraine who are taking weapons against fellow human beings. To see women making Molotov cocktails sitting together chatting is heartbreaking. No one should want to hurt or main another human being but they are being led down that road.

So maybe the Edwin Starr song should say “War, what is it good for? Encouraging innocent people to hate others”. And that is the saddest thing to me.

The picture at the top was taken by my son in January 2019 on maneuvers in Estonia. Even though I have mixed emotions about my son being in the army I am also proud of how he is developing as a human being. But also I love this photo because it shows such beauty with the sun rising and glistening off the snow and the tank.

One of my prayers will be that there is beauty comes from not just this atrocity but from all the awful things that going on through the world. I want a world full of hope to live in and I see it within some of the disadvantaged young people I work with. I just pray they can taken it onwards across the world to touch even the hearts of people like Putin, Trump, and others whose names do not come to me at the moment.

With hope we will not be afraid – or so I believe.

Categories
new road trust

Another New Road

A winding path through woods  taken by Diane Woodrow
A walk in the woods, April 2020, taken by myself

The wonder of being brought, by God, around a corner and to realize a new road is opening up, perhaps—which He alone knows. And that there is no way of traveling it but in Christ and with Him. This is joy and peace—whatever happens. The result does not matter. I have something to do for Him and, if I do that, everything else will follow. —

A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk’s True Life, January 23 and 24, 1958

I go through phases of taking photos of the same thing. Paths have been an ongoing theme. I love the nature of paths. The way they lead you onward and how much one puts ones trust in a path. I think this is why this quote jumped out at me. And the whole thing of being at the start of another year, and my husband had said about someone he follows on Facebook had said about a bend in the road.

But it is Merton’s joy that comes through here about the wonder of a new road. With all the changes that have been going on since the start of the pandemic, which for us in the UK was March 2020, we are tired on new roads. We are tired of walking roads we have no map for. We really do not want to go round another corner and see something new opening up.

Yet Merton talks of wonder and trust, of joy, and of not worrying about the results. And whatever our religious beliefs most of us do fight worry, which the media encourages.

I wonder how different life would feel if instead of being fearful about the new road, instead of hoping the new road will be similar to something we knew, we could step out in joy and wonder, in trust of each other and something bigger than ourselves, not fearing what is to come, letting go of needing to control the situation.

I’m not talking of not doing anything about the injustices of the world, or ignoring climate change, or pretending everything in the garden is rosy. I’m talking about having eyes that are open about what is going on and of wanting to do something to change, but in a joyful, wonder-filled, trusting way

I think we would feel more peaceful, many of our nations mental health worries would ease, and I do wonder if actually we would then have more energy and confidence to really change things instead of living in fear?

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2020 accepting Advent being me Brexit Building a Wall Charles Dickens christmas Christmas Carol faith Joseph Mary open Scrooge trust Trust God

A Christmas Carol

Advert for BBC’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol

The BBC have done a fascinating interpretation of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where they have given Scrooge a larger backstory than the Ghost of Christmas Past shared in the novel, as to why Scrooge is the way he is. Episode two where Scrooge is taken to Christmases past should be shown to all business people who put profit first. This is not a problem that has gone away

But the thing that stuck me most were the issues this version has chosen to highlight. Scrooge was as he was because he had been unloved and abused as a child, been told the only way to survive is to have money in the bank, not to trust others, and be be his own person. Bottom line – he was afraid and had built his own saftey net around him.

The alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t abuse their body and their families because they think it is a good idea. They do it because they are afraid. Even the person who abuses their partner or children or attacks others does so because they are afraid. And these are the things society notices. But there are also those who have more money than they could spend in a life time, but they are also afraid – of not having enough, of not being safe, etc, etc. If each of us is honest we are all afraid of something and have all built walls, big or small, to keep ourselves safe.

But this is the time of year when the Bible expounds with “do not be afraid” – to Mary, to the Shepherds, to my big hero of the Chrismas story, Joseph. Joseph has such a bit part in this story and never gets any of his own lines, but twice he is told not to be afraid; the first time when he finds out Mary is pregnant and is told not to be afraid of how she got with child, and the second when he has to leave everything he knows and go to Egypt to keep this child that is not his own safe. He is amazing because he marries Mary, but doesn’t sleep with her till after Jesus is born, takes her with him when he goes for the census so that there is no chance of her being stoned whilst he’s away, and then goes to a land to live as a refugee until God tells him it is ok to come home again, and home to a place he really doesn’t know what his relatives will think of him.

God tells him not to be afraid, and we too often read that as “dont be scared” but I think it means “to let go of all those issues you carry with you that will encourage you to build walls of self preservation around you and trust God“. I think Jesus learned a lot from Joseph about how to be open and trusting even in a place of fear. And Joseph through all that went on around him learned to trust God, to not be fearful, to put aside his own strength and not build up walls.

I believe fear kills because it causes us to shut ourselves away from not just others but from out true selves. Fear causes us not to trust others, causes us to use other things for our safety; like career, profit over people, having ‘enough’ money, etc, being accepted by others, alcohol, drugs, being the life of the party, food, overly caring for others at the detriment of ourselves, not being able to say yes, or not being able to say no, relationships, and … here ponder and name your own.

I don’t think God asks us not to be scared but asks us not to be afraid and to stay open and trusting to all the facets that make up the Godhead, and trusting others too. So as we enter this season of vaccines and Brexit and being unsure let us be open, trusting and not afraid, not build walls, and lean on the One who can hold us through.

mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-wallpaper.jpg (1291×1600) (wordpress.com)
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#MuslimBan belief Bible blessing Building a Wall faith freedom God Grace heart Jesus Jesus said ... life Love Orphan No More peace prejudice presumption relationships True freedom

The Wall #MuslimBan

At church yesterday our vicar asked “What side of the wall would Jesus have been on?” You 31447faccd0d731d92860fe22a947c6dknow what I think? I think he would have been on both sides. Yes both sides. Both sides are hurting and in pain – ok the refugees and those with green cards, etc stuck in airports have a noticeable need but the side behind the wall also have a need.

Those who want the wall built, want Muslims ban, are scared. Not just slightly scared but terrified. They have believed the media hype that all Muslims are terrorists and that we need to beware of them. I’m not sure what they America equivalent of the Daily Mail is but these people are Daily Mail readers. Mind you I often think the Guardian readers only see one side too.

I found it interesting too that there has been this big fuss here in the UK about the wall to stop Mexicans coming into the US and Trumps Muslim ban, but not so much has stayed in18666794_303 the news about the fences and walls being built across Europe to stop the refugees entering the UK. Yes this includes those fences that have now been torn down in Calais.

There was a post on Facebook that said “If you’re a Christian and you support #MuslimBan, you might be a lot of things but you’re not a frigging Christian”. I can see the sentiment behind this but I don’t think it’s true. I think there are Christians who are scared of Muslims, scared of dying, and not fully putting their faith in God. For some it comes out noticeably in saying they support #MuslimBan but for others it comes out in different ways; not believing this they do can be forgiven, not forgiving others, not giving to the poor, gossiping, keeping boundaries in their hearts that keep others out, not doing things that God asks of them. I go on. Yes supporting it shows an uncaring side, a side that is misguided but also a heart that is scared of things, lives in fear. You know I think Jesus would be with these people wanting to change their hearts and wanting them to let go of their fear and to trust him and to love others.

Recently I attended a course about the connection between Judaism and Christianity led by some lovely Christian people. It did reach a point where I could not go any more because they were talking of how the Jews reclaimed Palestine/Israel and I said that I felt we also ought to look at the awful things the Jews had done against the Palestinians. Well I was told that it was prophesied in the Bible so this made it ok, that actually these people (the wave of refugees that I had said were like the Jews prior to WWII) only wanted to come over here to kill us all, and that the Jews ways of dealing with the Arabs were ok because “the end justified the means”!!!. These were not bad unloving Christians but they had got caught up in a side of things that said that if one does not honour the Jews one will not be blessed. And they wanted to be blessed. So I am sure they would be very pro the #MuslimBan but also very caring and loving towards homeless people, people with needs, Jewish people. But they live in a mix of fear of Arabs/Muslims and a desire to claim major mountain-298999_1280-crop-fear-quote-1024x398blessings from God.

I didn’t want to do the comparison between now and Nazi Germany but I’m going to. Back in the 1930’s there were some good Christians who went along with what Hitler was saying about the reasons why Germany was failing. They supported him to begin with. And even, to save their own skins, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. Not every person who let things happen in Nazi Germany was a bad person. Many were scared and wanting to look after themselves.

So what side would Jesus be on? Again I believe he would be on both sides, wanting to give the refugees the peace and freedom they deserve, but also wanting those who think they should be banned/walls built peace and freedom in their hearts so they can also have the freedom they deserve. When one is fearful or angry or prejudice there is no freedom to truly live. One is always wanting to look after oneself, keep an eye out for those who might take away the blessing/the job/the destiny. freedom

In the next few days I’m doing to look and blog on words from one of Josh Luke Smith’s songs – “Come as you are not as you should be” – because I think it says an awful lot about how we need to think and pray for the who are being oppressed, for the bigots who are doing the oppression and for ourselves and how we should be reacting; how we should be living in peace and in true freedom

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accepting faith glorifyingGod God Grace Love mystery of God politics trust US Election

Results of a Vote

I’ve done my best not to read any blog posts that are appearing today. My facebook feed was crazy enough. In fact at one point Facebook crashed it was so busy.

donald-trump-and-hillary-clinton-with-us-election-state-mapSo what do I think? Well for someone to win the majority of the voting public must have voted for them, even if by a small majority. I know after Brexit there was a lot of talk of the percentage that didn’t vote and that if they had voted then there would be no Brexit. Um! How was one to know what they would have voted for? The same here. I don’t know how many Americans voted yesterday and one can claim that if the rest had voted the result would have been different but would it? I really do hope we don’t get into that because that’s silly.

So in both Brexit and the US elections what do I see people voting for? I see them voting against the “Global Village”. Not so long ago, as the internet took over the world there were a lot of people excitedly claiming that this was making the world smaller, people slide1_1_finding it easier to keep in touch, people knowing what the rest of the world is like, and also migration became easier. But it appears from these two times of voting that the majority of people who voted do not want that. They do not want to be multicultural. And actually when they see what the media is throwing at them why should they? If you live somewhere that has very few people of a different ethic mix to you but you watch the media and all you see is people of cultures and colours you do not know fighting and killing each other do you really want them living by you?

We seem to have got into a way, not just on the news coverage but in general of only showing death and horror. I love a good detective thriller but do have to be careful that this does not colour my view. Watch the TV series Shetland and you can see that this beautiful Scottish Isle is full of drug dealing and murder. Not a safe place to go. The TV show Hinterland, shows that Aberwysth in Wales is full of dour people who hate and kill each other. I could list loads and loads of programs that just drift into our homes now that show the world as a bad place. And then once we get on to the news well…

But actually across the world these wars, not just in the key places we see but across Africa, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, etc etc there are people who are fighting, globalisationand killing, to stop integration of those of a different race, colour, religion, background. And in stopping that integration they are working on a basis of ethnic cleansing or assimilation.

I truly believe that what we have seen in the voting that went on yesterday in US and in June in the UK was a cry from the people to say that they do not want globalisation.

There has just been some major commemorations, which will come to ahead in 2 years time, a hundred years of World War I. In the human psyche a hundred years is not a long time. Yes there have been times of prayer for forgiveness and reconciliation. But a hundred years ago the world was a divide place. People did not move around like they did. I remember less than thirty years ago travelling Europe and being seen as a bit of a hippy for doing it. Someone I worked with had just been on a package holiday to Spain. Thirty years ago were the times of going to Spain and being able to play bingo and drink Watney’s Red barrel beer – warm and flat, and the only wine we drank was Liebfraumilch, spaghetti bologniase was seen as foreign food. Ok so most towns did have a Chinese takeaway or curry house  but that was for drinking after the pub or on special occasions. All this is not very long ago but with the arrival of the internet, cheap plane travel, the EU, borders changing, a lot of people being more tolerant and wanting to help those in war-torn places, so things have changed and have changed fast. I do think these votes are a cry against this change.

tutwiler-kingdom-of-god-july-2016But my hope and prayer is that this vote is accepted, that people are kind about it and that
Christians are willing to pray “Your Kingdom Come” rather than telling God what should be done. I believe God uses all things to good and He will use this. It was no surprise to Him.