Categories
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
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
Flexible trust

Flexibility

Photograph taken by Diane Woodrow
View from a walk taken by myself

I had a plan on Friday. Sarah from Everyday Words had just started her series of prompts for Write a Poem a Day in April because April is National Poetry month. My plan was to write from her prompts each day and post them through out April on both this website and my website, Barefoot At The Kitchen Table, which I use to promote my writing workshops to get a bit of footfall through there. Well as you can see that did not happen.

Instead I got a job!!!

A friend of mine works in a local pub and is going to be off work for 4-6 weeks for a much needed operation. I’d been pondering about asking if I could do some shifts whilst she was off as things are quiet with regard to writing workshops, and was hoping maybe if my time was more focused I might just write more. Anyway I never got around to asking. But on Friday morning her and I were off out for coffee. She was having a quick chat with the landlord of the pub about something else when I turned up at her house and said “need to go as Diane and I are off for a coffee”. She was on speaker phone and he shouted “Diane, do you want a job?” So instead of going for coffee we went to the pub where I had a quick interview and started work that self same evening.

It meant that my head was in a bit of a different place and also I had to get done those things I wouldn’t have time to do. But mainly it was because I was really nervous about starting.

Funny isn’t it how I’ve been doing all this trusting in God/The Universe to sort things out for me and yet when they do it all of a sudden I go into a bit of panic – adrenaline. But also I did not go into sorting out my autonomic nervous system [ANS] but just allowed myself to be in freeze mode for a bit.

What this has showed me is that one’s ANS goes into fight/flight/freeze/fawn mode over change as much as over good/bad things. It is always there to protect us from the perceived dangers out there – which is great because I don’t want to be eaten by a lion – but also don’t want to be in high alter mode just about starting a new job.

Some of the panic was also because I had already planned what I was going to do Friday night and had to change that. No matter how much I talk about having flexible boundaries, of being aligned rather than set in hard stone, of trusting and going with the flow, I still like my safe routines, my knowing what is going on.

So once I had worked that out I was then kind to myself about how I felt, let expectations go and was able to really enjoy Friday night – even though some very drunk man decided to kick off and I got a pint of larger poured all over me.

I so love that life isn’t settled, that it is a learning curve and as Beth commented on another post “we are only human after all”.

So I shall enjoy learning, enjoying being human, enjoy making mistakes, enjoy knowing that I don’t have to stay in a state of anxiety and can more on.

Also with this job I am going to have to learn to go with the flow because it is Sunday morning and the landlord still hasn’t sorted the rota out for next week so I will just have to trust that it will all be fine 🙂

[Post for the Everyday Words prompts will start coming as from tomorrow 🙂 ]