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
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
Everyday Wrods writing prompts

Speak Simply

Pensarn Beach strand. Photographed by Diane Woodrow
Taken this morning [27th April 2022] on my early morning beach walk with the dog

There have been a few ups and downs clouding my outlook and stopping me looking forward to my holiday. One of them, which might sound trivial, is these prompts from Everyday words. As I have said before they are so full and there is so much to think about that I have been doing them slowly. But they are now filling up my inbox and my “get it done” nature is struggling with them all. So I decided to take a new tack and am doing the ones that are most recent. So today I have done today’s prompt even though I still haven’t done Day 10’s. Coming from this approach has stopped me feeling so overwhelmed. I am learning too that sometimes life in general overwhelms me and I have to find a way out.

Preparing for a holiday can overwhelm me. I feel like there are so many things to get done – packing, sorting and preparing things for the animals that are either staying [the cat] or coming with us [the dog]. I feel like I need the house clean and tidy and all the washing done. Some of that comes from wanting to be kind to my future-returning-from-holiday-self, but it does make me panic a bit. This morning I was really pleased when my husband hugged me and thanked me for doing the washing so that there would be clean clothes for the holiday. It is probably from those words that the inspiration for this poem comes from.

Even though the PDF says one thing I am renaming it “Simple Things“. So the prompt comes from my friend Victoria Field’s poem ‘Dandelions’ which can be found in her new book A Speech of Birds. and Sarah’s suggestion of taking the line “Dandelions speak dandelion…. write about what they might say to each other”

My dog walk this morning was filled very much with the simple things of a dog enjoying being on a walk, of the sea and these lovely plants that grow on edge of the shore, of chatting with fellow dog walkers and a friend giving some wise advise. In my preparations for my holiday I need to keep the simple things in focus and not get all ‘Marthaed” and do what doesn’t need to be done.

Categories
presumption Viewpoint

Not Everyone Views The World As I Do

Photograph taken whilst on a walk with husband and mother-in-law taken by myself, Diane Woodrow
Lambs, Lady’s Walk, Montacute April 2022. Taken by myself

I was really surprised yesterday at the writing group I was running that the two ladies who were there had never picked wild garlic and so never cooked with it. I then told a dog walking friend this and she had also never picked and eaten wild garlic. Her and I are now off to do that later this week. But it got me thinking of how many things I take for granted and think everyone can do them.

But it also clouds ones view of things. I know I would not be great at helping people who struggle with money because I have always been great at budgeting and of making money stretch. I am not 100% sure how I do it but I just do. So for someone to say they just cannot budget would leave me confused. But also I cannot map read. No matter how many times my husband shows me how to do it, and he is patient, I just can’t seem to get my head round it. I still am amazed that the sea is at the top of the map here. We live of the North Wales coast so for many of you that will be obvious but to me – Nope!

Too often when we talk about things, whether it is how we budget, what we eat, or try to share our faith, we come from the place of what we know. So for instance faith-wise we know what we know about God – and that can be different for each person – but we talk about it from what we have experienced, how it manifests to us, and then get frustrated with others from that point. This with the ladies at my writing group has helped me to see this. They are both over 60 and to me everyone has picked garlic.

With the Christian youth group I’m privileged to co-run I have started to ask the young people questions based on the liturgies and phrases they use about God, about their faith, about the out-workings of it all. When you say “I believe in God the Father” what do you mean by that? Because I am a writer I get them to write it down. Also I think there is space to say things in writing that you might not say out loud.

So for me from these ladies and that they had made it past 60 having never picked or cooked with wild garlic I am hopefully learning that my experiences of the world are mine and have shaped how I do and see things but not everyone has experienced, done or see what I have or in the same way I have. So instead of presuming I will start asking and wondering and learning and finding out.

Perhaps if we all started listening, learning and asking questions rather than presuming and going our way then there would be less fear, less anxiety and less fighting and wars?

Categories
International Women's Day

International Women’s Day

Found on https://www.wheniscalendars.com/when-is-international-womens-day/

I remember my daughter asking why we had to have “Black History Month” when the history of all nations is interwoven. Well the same, I think, holds true for International Women’s day. Why should we have a special day to celebrate women? Well this article on the BBC helps one to know why – Why misogyny is at the heart of South Korea’s presidential elections

The article goes on to say –

South Korea has one of the worst women’s rights records in the developed world. And yet it is disgruntled young men who have been the focus of this country’s presidential election.

“Nearly 90% of men in their twenties are anti-feminist or do not support feminism,” he tells me.

I am only citing this article today because it was on my newsfeed. Too often in too many countries, even ones that cannot be cited as having bad women’s rights records, women still stand behind men in too many things, even if it is just how they are viewed.

How often do we expect it to be the man who follows a career and the women who stays at home to support him? How often do women change their schedules because a man cannot change his? I heard too often over lockdown and home working that it was the man who got the best room in the house to work and the woman had to juggle her demanding job around childcare. For a women to put herself first it is harder than a man in too many cases.

Though I also know my husband would say that as a man it is hard not to be expected to be the breadwinner and would be frowned on by many in society for not being the top earner.

But with all this going on I want to just honour a few women

  • the young women I have worked with in Youthshedz who can talk about hope when they have walked through some really tough things in their young lives.
  • the friend who has been living with cancer for years and yet is still setting up her own craft business and not giving in
  • the women who stay home to look after their children
  • the women who choose a career
  • the women who support each other’s life choices.

Two women who always come to mind when I have to talk about women are Pam and Betty.

Pam tipped my Christian worldview upside down and opened me up to thinking about my faith rather than just accepting what I was told. This has led to a much deeper and sometimes more controversial walk with God than it could have. Her and her husband welcomed me and my kids into their lives at just the right time, and have made space for my husband now too.

Betty, as well as teaching me how to make gravy with fat from the meat, flour and vegetable juices, which I still think of as “Betty’s gravy” even 35 years on, also opened my eyes to political issues, to relationships, to looking at sex, in a whole different way. Her and her husband also welcomed me into their home, but that was at a time when I was a wee bit crazy.

So I should also add to my list – women who have room in their lives and their families to welcome in others.

So to all of whatever gender help to use today to celebrate the women in your life

Categories
Knowledge life Trees

Two Trees

Taken by myself August 2021

When the Bible talks of the “fall of man” it mentions a paradise garden and then two significant trees. I’m sure in paradise there would have been a lot more than fruit bearing trees. But these two are significant. I do also think that the story is a mythological story and not a factual story. My thoughts are that it tells of the human condition.

All of us inside our heads/minds/hearts have two major choices – do we choose life or do we choose the knowledge of good and evil? I’m sure there are many people already going “well of course we have to know what is good and what is evil or how will we know what is the right thing to do” but I’m not so sure if life is as black and white as we would like it to be. Lots of what we do [even Putin’s invading Ukraine, or the other atrocities that happen across the globe] are driven by the hurts and traumas we have experienced and also our putting things into good and bad boxes.

We would rather choose to know what is good and bad/evil than to choose life. In that bold statement I’m sure many would say “No I’d rather choose life” but I think it would be life with a caveat of the knowledge of good and evil.

God goes on to say that humankind has to leave paradise because if they then choose life as well as the knowledge of good and evil they will be like gods. I wonder if that is because humankind would still put that knowledge before life rather than being able to combine the two as I hope God can.

In doing some of this QEC counseling I slowly learning, as I’ve mentioned before, to let go of past traumas and to teach my heart/mind new statements about those traumas. I’ve forgiven and let people and myself go, no longer placing them or me in the good/bad box. I am bit by bit learning to look at things through the lens of “that is how I feel about it” rather than “good/bad”. Even some of the traumas that have wounded me I no longer look at as good or bad but as what is.

In fact I was working with a young woman on a project with Youthshedz and she tells her story very succinctly but also adds that all the things she has gone through are what makes her her and has brought her to the place she is. She talks of holding on to hope rather than boxing what has happened to her into good/bad. She is willing to explore the tree that will give life.

I do believe even as Christians we are not exempt from deciding whether things, people, lifestyles, etc are good or bad, and yet I don’t think God does that. I think God wants us to have life but also I believe God just wants us to trust them and talk to them and via Holy Spirit through prayer to trust them.

I was going an online yoga with Abbey of The Arts yesterday and at the end the instructor said that prayer is us talking to God and meditation is us listening to God. I think we do more praying and less meditation. Maybe we need to turn it around, hear from God/The Universe/Higher Being and so gain life and not worry about putting things into the good/bad box.

So today, not just with the people I meet but with God, I am going to try to really listen rather than just wait for my space to be able to speak.

Categories
2022 Don't look up Power of meaning

Don’t Look Up

View of clouds and a wing tip taken on 2nd January over the skies of Europe. Taken by Ben Cromie Diane Woodrow's son
view from airplane on my son’s 1st trip abroad with the army. Taken by Ben Cromie January 2019

Last night I watched “Don’t Look Up“, the Netflix movie that is a satire of politics, social media and so much more. Also as I’d quoted from the film on my Epiphany blog I thought I should watch it. And I was not disappointed. It is a film of over 2 hours long and generally my concentration can wane after an hour and a half. Also I was watching it later than I would normally watch a film. But I was gripped throughout. There was much laughter but also a lot that made one think and needed to be chewed over. This could be a film I watch twice.

It is a reflection on our society and of how so much becomes “political”, causing people to think about it along their own political lines, even down to whether the comet exists or not. The news is full of sounds bites and is all about “keeping it cheerful” with the news of a pop singer being proposed to online bigger news that the announcement of impending doom. I wonder too with covid how much of what goes on is politicized rather than for the best of mankind, and also, like with the comet, how much could have been averted if any of the world governments had acted sooner or if money, or rather profiting from the event, was not an issue.

I am also reading “The Power of Meaning” by Emily Esfahani Smith which looks at the four pillars that give us all meaning; belonging, purpose, storytelling and a transcendent experience. Without being a spoiler alert the film finishes with the key characters gathered together as a group of people who belong together and with a purpose where they tell their stories and one of them prayers the amazing prayer

Dearest Father and Almighty Creator,

We ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride

Your forgiveness, despite our doubt

Most of all Lord, we ask for you love to sooth us through these dark times

May we face whatever is to come in your divine will.

with courage and open hearts of acceptance

Amen

All the pictures at the end of the movie show those most at peace with what is coming involved in something either of belonging or spirituality.

So as my inbox still keeps being filled with suggestions of how I can mark the commencement of 2022 I think I will continue to settle into my place of belonging, finding ways use my talents for a purpose outside of myself, tell my story and encourage others to tell theirs, and find space for God and experiencing the “divine will with courage and an open heart of acceptance” whatever comes my way.

Don’t Look Back” has had a part in encouraging me along this journey.

Categories
2022 new year

Tis The Season Of The Resolution

It is that time of year again, when everyone feels obliged to make “New year resolutions” as if what they had been doing for the past 12 months wasn’t good enough. There is the talk of going on a diet – and the various diet aids are being pushed like made on adverts on various medias. [yet no one says that the winter is the worst time to start a diet because your body naturally wants to hold on to its body fat to keep warm. Start your diet at Easter when your metabolism is more in tune to it] to exercise more [again a similar one to the dieting. It is dark and dreary still at this time of year. To run before work means getting up in the dark. Again wait till the days start to get longer and then enjoy the whole thing], to write more, to be more ….. [add your own] And most of these resolutions are broken before the end of January. Most of this is to do with doing things that you think you ought to rather than the things you want to.

It is why I’ve put the pictures of the animals at the top of this post and Hobbe’s thoughts at the end. All three animals are all doing what they are best at – being themselves, and not caring who is looking. Why do we not all resolve to be more ourselves? More genuine to who we really are? Or even – radical thought – spend time trying to find out who we really are.

So much of how we behave, even down to this desire to do resolutions, around wanting to be what other people think we should do. So we work harder to be appreciated more; lose weight so others will look at us more kindly; get another book published to justify the time we spend writing [ok that’s a personal one!!!]

Instead of making plans and resolutions this year I have put some things I’d like to so in my diary, some projects I do have to get finished, and some ideas I’d like to pursue. But really what I am going to try my best to do for 2022 is “wing it and see what happens“. And after the last couple of years we’ve had as a nation I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea for many more to feel that way?

Categories
grateful gratitude

How to be grateful when life isn’t being fair

Photo looking across a wooden fence through trees that are just starting to turn autumnal towards a waterfall. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Swallow Falls, Conwy, taken by myself on Sunday 10th October

I’ve been having a quiet rant to God on behalf of a friend. I’m not sure if she’s ranting too but I am. Last week her youngest daughter gave birth to her first child in her early 40’s after years of trying; miscarriages, IVF, etc. But then at the start of this week my friend’s dad died suddenly. It isn’t fair, I am shouting into the heavens. Why can’t her and her family enjoy the awesomeness of this miracle baby just for a few months without having to deal with grief? Why???

The season in GodspaceLight is gratitude, and I know I’ve also written about gratitude on here in various guises, but my thought for today is “how can I/we be genuinely grateful when life is being unfair?

But then as I walked the dog in the park this morning I experience the second awesome sunrise of this week and also had a heron fly from the pond almost directly in front of me. It got me thinking – I only get to see the sunrises on my dog walks now because the days are getting shorter, daylight hours are getting less. And I can marvel at how there are amazing colours in the sky for a good 20-30 mins before the sun rises officially. Even if I get up in the summer really early the sun doesn’t do that same thing of filling the sky with colour and light earlier than it pops its head up. If it wasn’t for that shortening of daylight hours I wouldn’t get to see this. So a place to be grateful when the dark is getting more?

Also what I felt when all this was going on around me is that yes life isn’t fair but there are good things going on in the unfairness. It reminds me of the fact that the trip to Paris to launch my daughter into university was marred because my father-in-law died that same weekend, so when I look at the picture of her grinning over a very very frothy cappuccino I think of his death too. Life throwing one of its unfair curve balls.

So all I can say about how to be grateful when life is being unfair is to accept and grieve in the unfair bits, the death bits, the darkness, but also be grateful in the sunrises, the births, the trips to Paris.

Both are allowed. Both are ok. It is not ‘either or’ but ‘both and’.

A few years ago I supported another friend though the first year after her husband’s suicide and we cried lots but we also laughed lots. We were able to be ‘both and’. Even now when we meet we do both – laughing and crying – more often than not in a public place

So I will hug my friend as she grieves and laugh with her as she delights in her new granddaughter. Together we can accept that life isn’t fair and that there are sunrises and there are sunsets. Somethings are beautiful and some things are tragic. That we do not live in a world where only good happens and somethings we have to deal with both things at once. But we can do it!

And for that whole humanness of who we are I will be grateful

Categories
Lord's Prayer Trust God

All About Titles

maize field in the foreground, a row of conifer trees then rolling hills and onward to Snowdonia national park. Sky is cloudy with patches of sunshine. Taken by Diane Woodrow
Looking into Snowdonia. Taken by myself on 16th August 2021

So I will end this run of four thoughts on The Lord’s Prayer at the beginning “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name” I’d love to do a straw poll and find out how many of us cringe a bit when we feel we have to call God Father. I know my hand would go up. I’m not just thinking of my own father but of many other fathers I know who struggle along trying to do the best for their kids but carry so much of their own baggage that they don’t really know what “Father” actually means.

So I start my prayer by saying “To the all loving being who inhabits both the heavens and the earth, who made it all, and all that it is in it, whether the created acknowledge their maker or not. To the connected universe that holds all together and lets all move freely. To you I open my heart today because you are immense and amazing.”

Ok so it is a bit more long winded than the words we read in the Bible. But again I think that is because, for the gospel writers, it was obvious who they were connecting with, and obvious what they and others believed and expected.

In my journey with God I have come to see prayer more and more as not an asking thing but a connecting thing, and so I have to ask myself “what or who am I connecting with?” which is why I have the long opening. It is for me and not for God. God knows who God is. God doesn’t need telling, but I do need to realise the enormity and amazingness of God.

I think often our prayers are for ourselves. So we pray for those we love because it helps us cope with what they are going through. Yes I do know and believe that God answers prayer and intervenes. I also believe that God intervenes without our prayers too. I know prayer is important. But I think we often do it for our peace of mind too. And I believe that when we connect with God, the Maker of the Universe, through prayer or mediation or centering, or whatever we want to call it, then we connect with something higher, wider, deeper, more all knowing than we are.

To gain the real amazingness of prayer we need to also trust that we connect, that we are heard, that we are part of something, that we are co-creators of the outcome. Even if the prayers aren’t answered as we would like.

I like stories to confirm things so … I offered to pray for a lady in the park because her father had been taken ill. Her father died two weeks later. She told me that she knew I was praying because she felt such peace through it all. I didn’t give her peace. I didn’t stop her father dying. But what I did was connect her and her father and her family with The Amazing Power and Peace of God and let things flow as they were intended.

The outcome isn’t my call. My call is to prayer, connect with my Heavenly Savoir, and trust that things will go as the Universe believes to be the right way with peace.

I have to end by saying I think prayer is amazing and I need to remember to do it more often during the day as it changes me and my energy as much as it changes things I pray about.