Categories
christmas Joseph

Joseph

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

As I have said before, Joseph is one of my favourite unsung heroes of the Christmas story. He never says a word. He questions, wants to follow the law 100% – what with Mary being pregnant and all that. As a lawful man he should have had her stoned to death. Funny things laws at times, but that is probably for another post entirely around women’s rights, etc.

The other day I was reading through the Genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17, encouraged by the Red Letter Christians advent calendar. Now this is Joseph’s genealogy because the prophets said that the Messiah would come through the line of David and that was Joseph’s line, hence why Joseph took the pregnant Mary with him to register for the census in Bethlehem, the town of David. So again I am struck by how important it is to God that Joseph is included in the story of Jesus. In the first two chapters of Matthew Joseph is actually the lead protagonist of the tale. It is his actions that keep the story moving and keep Jesus from being killed – first by potential stoning of Mary and then by Herod’s massacre of the baby boys.

The prompt was “which name stands out?” Now I was surprised that it was Jehoiachin [read more about him and his demise in 2 Kings 24:14-15 and 2 Chronicles 36:10]. He is the last king of Judah who gets taken away to captivity in Babylon. Though he does also get treated well by the son of his capture. So Joseph is from a line of kings and there is that royal connection. It makes me wonder how he felt about that. Proud? Disillusioned? Ignored it?

In the UK we have a tradition of royal households being dispossessed by other royal household. And countries like France and Russia have lost their royal households due to revolutions. Once in the UK there was a DNA investigation that found someone who allegedly had more of a claim to the British throne through an older royal household than the present royal family, who were actually invited in by the British government because they didn’t want a Catholic on the throne back in the 18th century.

So here is Joseph of this royal household that was dispossessed by an oppressive regime but who still knows his lineage .

But also back in the First book of Samuel God uses Samuel to tell the people that having a king isn’t a good idea and that they won’t be happy with it. If they just followed God they would have freedom but a king would expect things of them; tithes, to be his army and fight for him, to work in his household, etc.

Now here’s the twist for me – God says that having a king isn’t a good idea then brings in the saviour of not just the Jews but of the whole world through a lineage that God said was not a good plan. Now that is an interesting plot twist. I find this whole thing fascinating and I think it gives great hope to all of us.

We too often do what we really shouldn’t do. It is not like it is a bad thing but it isn’t God’s best for our lives. Often we can feel, and be made to feel, that we’ve missed it and so we don’t see the restoration, the redemption, the way we could be part of something so much more than just us and our little clique.

I’d like to think that once Joseph got his head round that idea that him, a descendant of the royal house of Judah, was now going to be the link between that and Jesus’s kingship over the whole world that he had this huge smile on his face. I wonder if that was why he was able to leave his reputation, his job, his town, and not just go to Bethlehem but then go on to Egypt, to be part of making sure God’s plan came to fruition. And that he was willing not to need to be in the foreground. He could take an active part in Jesus’s early upbringing but be willing take a back seat in the Christmas story.

As I stay pondering this I hope that I am willing to take a back seat and not have to hog the limelight when God allows me to be part of sometimes in the lives of those around me. To not expect that I will get my recognition, my five minutes of fame, but that I will be ready and willing to do as I am being asked by the Creator of the Universe and just let it be.

That is my hope for me through this Advent season and into the unknowing of what 2023 beings.

Categories
Captive thoughts

Take Every Thought Captive

Photo by Anna Bondarenko on Pexels.com

This post title is taken from 2Cor 10:5 which says “take every thought captive”.

I heard a sermon once about how we were to spear each of those thoughts, capture them, so to speak. And I’m sure there was an analogy of standing in a river trying to spear those thought like someone spearing fish. So you had to get a good look at that thought, spear it and then fling it away.

A friend and I were talking about spearing our negative thoughts over coffee yesterday and we both seemed to have the same internal picture. But we both realised that as we did the spearing so we gave those thoughts a good look, even examined them to decide if they were good or bad thoughts. Sometimes we even chewed those thoughts over before casting them aside and even once cast aside we might still give them another good ponder, poke them around a bit, see if they were still edible.

But that was not doing either of us any good. It also wasn’t helping us to live in that true peace and joy of God. In fact keep looking at these captured thoughts doesn’t mean giving them a poke afterwards. I don’t think it even means judging those thoughts. But I also don’t think it means ignoring them.

To be honest with ourselves we need to acknowledge that some thoughts, which come from things people have said to use or done to us, trigger traumas, trigger feelings, that if we don’t acknowledge will fester inside of us.

So if I just throw away those thoughts that are painful and don’t acknowledge that it has caused a reaction then I am cheating on myself and actually could go on to doing harm to myself, my relationships, my future. But also if I pick and poke at that thought, work out who is to blame for me feeling/reacting that way then I am also going to do harm. The person or situation that caused that thought may not have meant how I reacted to it. So if I chew on that thought again I will cause harm to myself, my relationships and my future.

So what are we meant to do with these thoughts if we can’t attribute blame, cant judge, cant investigate, can’t throw away? I think we are meant to accept them as our thoughts, notice and acknowledge them, accept this is what we are feeling/how we are reacting, etc to whatever, and then hand them on to God/the Universe/a High Power.

So whether is it the craziness of the UK political situation, fears of covid, fears about economy, global warming, education, etc, etc, worries about what to do in our future, … [add your own] , we acknowledge openly to ourselves this is how we feel, these are the thoughts that have swum through the river of our mind are ours, and then we capture that thought and pass it higher.

As the song in Frozen goes “Let it go, let it go“. But don’t just fling it away. Instead hand it onward to that higher place/person/being that can handle it.

Here is a piece I wrote on a similar vein 4 years ago. It is interesting that my thoughts haven’t changed much, even if I didn’t remember writing the piece. Taking Thoughts Capitve

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Believe Belong

Belonging Before Believing?

Lindisfarne Castle taken by myself Sept 2022

There is a saying in a lot of churches that we should encourage people to “Belong” before they start “believing” but on a walk with a friend the other day we got to pondering this. I might not get all the conversation but I’ll put down some of they key points I remember and that have got me thinking not just about church but about the town I live in and the projects I’m getting involved with there.

Would you want to go to someone’s house if you did not know who they were? And what if you did go but didn’t know the etiquette? Would you want to go back again? Also what if someone took you to someone’s house but they didn’t know the way you were to behave because they didn’t know the owner of the house, how would you both feel?

A sample of the questions from our conversation on Saturday

I think that if the person who takes someone to the House of God knows God really well they can help and support that person through the intricacies of who they are meeting with. They know what to do. They ease the way. They can make things feel safe. But if that person doesn’t know God that well, or even has had a tiring week and wants to just curl up with God, then they may not be able to help their visitor through the spaces needed. The visitor comes away having had an ok time but they still haven’t come close to meeting with God, meeting the being whose house they have entered.

My thoughts are that if I bring someone to meet with God I have to have a relationship with God and be in the right frame of mind to want to share that relationship.

I often think we try to rush that whole process. So we are encouraged to get people “through the door” so to speak so they feel like they belong to the community, when in fact they are just going through the motions but not meeting the being of God. Instead we need to slow things down, deepen our relationship with God and then get others to meet our friend, our creator, our lover, the one who thinks we’re awesome even when we screw up, the one who loves us unconditionally.

When I was doing Qigong this morning Mark, who leads it, was talking about fire and what we need for fire. We need a spark, we need kindling but to keep the fire really going we need a solid seasoned log that won’t burn up quickly, will keep going for the time needed.

Qigong might not be Christian per se but so often God speaks through it [because if God is as big as we are taught then God is in all and everything anyway] And for me that quick way of getting people to belong in a church community is the quick kindling and if we don’t have the solid seasoned log of our relationship with The Creator of the Universe then the belonging may never become believing because belonging fits all the component parts that that person needs.

Categories
fixing healing

Wounded or Broken?

Walk by river at St Asaph taken by myself August 2022

I am blaming The Naked Pastor for bringing my attention to the difference between saying you are broken to that of saying you are wounded from a trauma. He says, and I think I agree, that if I am broken then I need fixing but if I am wounded then I am ok but have parts of me that need to be healed.

Here’s a quote from David’s last newsletter and a link to the cartoon relating to it:

When you set out to ‘fix’ yourself, you end up changing the person you are and causing extra hurt and extra trauma. 

But when you change your mindset to one of healing, you begin to realize that you were never broken and that you never needed fixing at all. 

David Hayward The Best Healing Cartoon

I’ve just done a Biblegateway search of the words “broken” and “healed”. Broken only applies with something physical, like bread or bones, or branches of unbelief. But Jesus does loads of healing and if fact Peter says of Jesus:

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

And Isaiah says, when foretelling of Jesus

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Not broken but wounds. And for transgression read “all the things we’ve done wrong, had done wrong to us, our traumas, hurts, fears, physical, emotional and spiritual.”

Yet last night I was at a meeting where the host, who was the pastor of the church where the meeting was happening, said that the church was for broken people and that he was the most broken of them all. See now I don’t think that’s a great boast. Why would I want to be part of something that seems to be proud that people are attending and being led by someone who is more of a mess than they are. What I love about QEC is that not only does it help me to be healed of my hurts, fears and traumas, but also gives me tools that I can then do this for myself. I don’t need to keep seeing my therapist to go over stuff. I have been healed, set free. Oh yes it does sneak up and bite me often but I know how to recognise it and deal with it.

I am slowly growing towards being the person I am meant to be. As Naked Pastor says we aren’t broken and needing put back together as if there is something wrong with us but we are hurting and wounded and need healing. And this is what the Bible tells me Jesus died for and yet why is this church, and others, saying that it is ok to be broken and to want to stay that way?

I am so grateful that when I met with God I was in a total mess and got filled with a great reassurance that I was loved unconditionally just as I was. Yes I have gone on to be fixed but have learned that it is about being healed not fixed. I am not broken and don’t need fixing. I am awesome as I am but need to be healed so the real me can get out into the world. And I am learning to do this with a mix of Jesus, Holy Spirit, God, some great friends who like me as I am, and also [and I know I keep publicising it but it is awesome] with the help and support of QEC and the tools that come with it.

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hamster people pleasing

People Pleasing

From http://www.clker.com/clipart-495807.html

On a recent QEC session we got talking about how people pleasing can be like being a hamster on a hamster wheel. If only I could draw because “a picture paints a thousand words” but “words are all I have”.

So I want you to picture three hamster wheels – you’re the one in the middle and on either side are those you are trying to please. You’re all running as fast as you can. You keep getting carrots but instead of eating them you keep giving those carrots to the hamsters either side of you because you want to please them. Your deepest wish is for them to be happy, to be content, to calm down, etc. And you have been brought up that to be a “good hamster” you make sure everyone else is alright. But the thing is a hamster doesn’t eat the food it is given but stores it in its pouches. So even though you are being a good hamster and trying to keep the hamsters beside you happy they aren’t getting fed because they are storing it in their pouches.

Too often we think we should do everything for others, should be the one pleasing them all the time, should be the ones putting everything right, but we lose sight of ourselves. Like the little hamster in the middle we get thinner and thinner whilst those we are trying to please just get fat pouches but are still not happy.

Because I am a follower of Jesus I often try and think about what the Bible says about things. So Jesus says “love your neighbour as yourself,” which even for someone who doesn’t believe in God it is a good way to be. This is what the little hamster in the middle is trying to do. The little hamster is doing what all good sermons tell them to do, putting others first.

BUT WAIT

This isn’t what that verse says. It needs to be looked at in more details. And if the Bible is read as a whole and not as soundbite then it does go on to explain further.

Someone once asked Jesus who his neighbour was and Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] If you don’t know it then go and read it.

Now in this when the Samaritan does rescue the man he does basic first aid but then takes him to a man who can do more. The Samaritan does not lecture the man and tell him he was daft to be on the road alone, he does not give him extra money to be able to get home, he does not give him what he has lost. The Samaritan takes him to the inn then offers to pay for all expenses for him, then goes on his way. The Samaritan did not throw money at him, he did not set him up in business again, he doesn’t even go and tell his family the man is gong to be a bit late getting home. Nope! The Samaritan does what needs to be done to a man who is danger and needs help. All the other things – like rebuilding what he has lost, of being more sensible in future, of thinking for himself – is left for the man to sort out when he is well again.

I often wonder if, as well as fearing being “unclean”, the two ‘church’ people were afraid that they would not know when to stop giving. And I think we have all been taught how to give but very rarely have we been taught how to stop.

So back to the hamster analogy – you, the little hamster needs to get your needs met, needs to know what you need. And that might just be getting off the hamster wheel for a bit and finding out what your needs actually are. And also maybe letting those you think you are meant to be pleasing look after themselves for a bit.

It might surprise you, little hamster, to know that those you think you should be pleasing will actually be ok if you stop feeding what you think are their needs all the time.

Categories
healing Remembering scars

Scars to Remember

St Asaph taken by me May 2022.

This tree has been here for about a year now. It was swept down by the floods but it is there as a reminder. At a similar time I had a bit of a mishap on two different youth events. In one I opened a heavy firedoor across my foot and then at a different youth event the following day I feel over going uphill. Both very painful at the time. I still have a scar on my left shin from the fall and a deep line up my right big toe nail. Neither hurts now but both are very clearly still there.

It got me thinking about scars and healings. As you know I have been through quite a bit of QEC healing sessions and have swept out a lot of stuff, but sometimes things trigger a reaction from me and I realise that although I am healed the scars are still there. They are fading and don’t stop me doing things as they used to but it is like there is a reminder. And sometimes it is a good thing. It also helps me to know why I am reacting in a certain way.

For instance because I do walk round in bare feet a lot – hence the name of business BareFoot At The Kitchen Table – I do see my funny toe nail. It has made me more cautious when I open doors. I see the scar on my leg and it reminds me of how clumsy I can be at times too.

When I react to something and acknowledge my headed scar on my heart I can understand what has gone on. I can also remind myself that I have been though healing for that.

I was talking with a friend around this yesterday. We have both been involved with young people and we are both Christians. We were saying that too often we expect people to forget their scars, that to be fully healed means to not have scars. If that were true why then did Jesus show his scars to his disciples? Jesus came back with a scared body even though he was fully healed. I don’t fully understand all the theology around the cross but I do know that Jesus was scared, Jesus died, Jesus rose again, Jesus still had the scars to prove awful things happened to him. Why do we expect to be any different?

So if you or I still have scars that is because we have been through stuff and have been hurt. That does not mean we have not been healed. But I do also know, with the insect bits around my ankles at this time of year, that if I keep picking at those scars they will not heal. So we need to let God through whatever means they know best – whether direct intervention, whether Christian healing, whether things like QEC, whatever – heal us, and help us to leave our scars alone so that even though they may still be visible they are no longer causing us pain.

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
Holy Spirit Limpet

Blown By The Spirit

Photographed by myself, Diane Woodrow, whilst I was walking the dog this morning. It was from here that a poem emerged
Abergwyngregyn nature reserve June 2022

This morning I did my regular walk Abergwyngregyn nature reserve. I do this every couple of weeks. It is close enough to home but far enough away that I don’t see anyone I know. It also has a great dog friendly cafe in the village.

I walked and made notes and something about the limpet shells floated past me so I took some photos of them. Since publishing Inspirations From Walking in North Wales and getting such a positive response from those who bought it at the Abergele Arts Festival last weekend, I have been encouraged to work on a new collection.

So I had a few words and ideas about these limpets. I’ve recently done a QEC session around holding tightly to cliques/groups/tribes who are not good for me. So even though these thoughts were not foremost in my mind because when I do this walk I can just let my thoughts wander these things joined together.

But then what came next was James 3:8 where Jesus says to Nicodemus “The wind blows where it wants, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.“. This comes after Jesus has told Nicodemus he must be “born again”. It is interesting but I have heard many preaches about being born again but very few of being blown wherever the Holy Spirit wills.

But as I pondered the limpet, the letting go of being in toxic groups and of being blown by the spirit, I came up with this poem

No longer holding tightly just to survive

Letting go was not as painful as you thought.

You drifted for a while until you came to land.

Now you lie and let the elements do their work on you.

Day by day, week by week,

with scrunch of food and pound of wave

slowly you are changed.

Then one day you wake and find you are small grains of sand.

It is then and only then

that the wind can pick you up

and blow you where it will

Too often, I think, we wonder why we are not freely flowing within the Holy Spirit. But I do wonder if that is because we are holding on to tightly to the rocks and things like limpets when in fact we should be letting the Creator of the Universe do their stuff and change us into something small enough that can be blown by with gentle wind of the Spirit.

Categories
peace Transition

Transition

Photograph of Pensarn beach taken one warm evening by Diane Woodrow
The shoreline is always a place of transition. Taken by myself May 2022

I’ve just read this great article from Godspace about Transition and creating healthy boundaries for it. Whilst reading it I got a bit grumpy about how easy it is to create these boundaries when you are in control of the transition – which is not what the article says but what my brain decided to put in to wind me up because there had just been a transition within our family that I had not been brought into the discussion about and which, though not out of the blue, had wobbled me a bit. Only a bit.

But then actually if one reads the article without that grumpy, poor me attitude then it is about having things in place for when transitions come so one doesn’t get wobbled by them. I won’t go through each one but to say that it was the last one Transitions cannot be rushed that really got to me. But once I had calmed down – which involved taking the dog for a walk in the rain. And I do think there is nothing quite like North Wales drizzle to sort one’s mood out. Or at least it always works for me.

I came back realizing that even though the family members appeared to be rushing the decision they had probably been talking about it for a while. Just because my counsel had not been sort for whatever reason – and that is another thing – don’t go second guessing other people’s reasoning for asking or not asking for you counsel. That is very much a “grow up and get over it” that we have to say to ourselves and our attitudes when it comes to our children, I think.

Another aside – why is that often we find it so hard to see that our children have grown up and don’t need us to ‘parent’ them any more? Thoughts for another post one day maybe!!!

Anyway just because someone else is transitioning doesn’t mean that I have to go so fast. I can sit and ponder their decisions, their transitions, and I can slowly allow their changes to seep into my consciousness. And also though their lives are changing mine is staying the same and slowly but surely as I adjust to their changes I can allow their transition to become my transition.

I found this all very exciting. Sometimes though I do wish I didn’t have to have a grump beforehand. Though, and I know I keep pushing it, since I’ve been doing the QEC work around my issues, hurts and past traumas so I have found the grumpy times are getting shorter, the wise voice is coming in sooner and the peace is deeper.

So now as I process this transition – among the many other transitions that have gone on in these last couple of years – I feel a profound sense of peace. It is not my decision to decide someone else’s lifestyle choice, whether they are family or friends, and that really does give me enormous peace.

Jesus said “my peace I give to you” and as Naked Pastor said about love so I think is true about peace. It is all around us and there for anyone but we do just have to open ourselves to it. And being grumpy does stop that peace.

So as I transition into my family transition so I lean into that love, take it slowly and all that “peace that transcends all understand “to guide my heart and mind [Philippians 4:7]

Categories
Prompts writing

Everyday Words – prompt for 5th April

Photo of stakes and safety nets taken by Diane Woodrow whilst walking with her dog.
Abergwyngregan Nature reserve, 8th April 2022 taken by myself

I like this picture because it is a bit smudged. I took it on Friday when I was out on a long walk, which culminated in coffee and a bacon buttie, with my dog, getting away, getting some headspace and pondering the poem I had started whilst I was working in the pub the day before. The prompt came from Sarah’s Everyday Words prompt for Tuesday 5th. So as you can see I am a long way behind.

I have gone in a totally different direction to the prompt, which as I have said before is not a bad thing. A prompt is to prompt one to write something not to hold one in chains as to what to write. But it also got me thinking about God and the Bible and of how both those can be used not to prompt us to explore but to hold us in chains. How often do we get told that the Bible means X and if we don’t agree when we are wrong? How often do we hear someone’s interpretation and then worry what is wrong with us because we don’t agree?

I very much think that God allowed the Bible, and many other religious texts, to be written as springboards to get us thinking, so see what direction we would head off in. I do not believe there is a right and wrong in interpreting God’s word however it comes it us. I do believe that the base line for it is the commandment that Jesus told us – to love God with everything we have and to love others as ourselves – which is why I would disagree with any war, genocide, abuse, control, etc that is done allegedly “in the name of God”. But with that as our base line then we go onwards and outwards and explore from there.

So as well as creating this little poem that I’ll share with you from Sarah’s prompt I have also had chance to explore God. Again it is amazing what one little carefully thought out prompt can lead.

So the prompt was based on a poem by Mohja Kahf called The Aunty Poem (Mi Privilege Es Su Privilege)  For me it was Sarah’s final suggestion that sent me off on what support and safety nets can mean to me and here is what came to me, Safety Nets. It was good and therapeutic for me to write this, as it often is I find with writing poetry rather than journaling around things as I have said before. But also it excited me to what a prompt can do.

So remember – no right, no wrong – no write, no wrong 🙂

It is also why I’ve just put this prompt up alone because of the “more” I wanted to talk about. But also that the prompt for 6th April has even more meat in it and I’ve been chewing that over all weekend!!!