It’s always hard to do a reflection of Greenbelt. It is so eclectic and focuses more, for me, around my time volunteering in The Tank and catching up with friends. This year it has also been followed by my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday picnic and meeting my son’s new girlfriend; both of which came hot on the heels of a busy weekend so my thoughts become befuddled.
catching up with a long term friend, Kate,
yearly coffee with blogging friend, Paul,
listening to bands in my tent because my feet will no longer hold my weight – Polyphonic Spree, Unthanks, and others who’s names didn’t know
happy hours working in The Tank, both allocated hours and extra ones, and catching up with other Tank regulars
living in a Tangerine Fields tent for 3 nights and not having to worry about putting it up or taking it down
volunteer’s food vouchers and finding the best deals
Dr Chris Meredith of Winchester University making me/us think and question what we think we truly know about the Bible
hearing the truth about the atrocities that those fleeing war zones have to face when they arrive on British shores
portaloos with hand sanitizer and toilet paper
being without mobile signal and internet and the freedom and frustration that brings
challenges to my way of thinking that I want to hold on to and blog some more about
This is what I love about Greenbelt. It is a mishmash of deep and trivial, challenges and settling of things. A place to share dreams and to hear of others dreams, to laugh with strangers and to have fun. This year my daughter didn’t come with me so that gave things a different perspective; like the fact that I had to decide for myself where I went and who I saw. This is my sixth Greenbelt, fifth volunteering, and second without my daughter. I do hope there are many more to come, with or without her. As things settle and I find time to breath, and to sleep – I am still really tired because of not quite having time to stop as yet – there will be more to write, more to think about. In fact in my unpacking I have found my Sunday morning service sheet with thoughts scribbled across it which may become blogs. Who knows?
I have been noticing something regarding issues that people have where it goes to court regarding homosexual issues; it is more often than not involving two men. At times there are issues with two lesbian women but that is often to do with the patriarchy of the child that one of them gave birth to. I wonder if as a society there are more issues with two men having a relationship together than two women. There are many pornographic films which involve two women having sex together targeted at a heterosexual audience, but if there are ones with two men then they are not targeted at a heterosexual audience.
Queen Victoria was asked to sign a bill making homosexuality illegal she was more than happy to do this for male/male relationships but not for female/female relationships and has been cited as informing her minsters that they were being silly to even suggest that a woman would not want a man in her life. I wonder if society, deep down, still feels that way – seeing male/male relationships as wrong and unnatural but seeing female/female relationships as just a phase that they will grow out of. Homosexual men need to be sorted out, dealt with, kept away from society, but women are to be loved till they “get over it.” Mind you I know a lot of Christian thought that sees homosexuality as “unnatural” and have places where men can go to be “healed” of their unnatural tendencies. – NB I do not think like that and I cannot believe God thinks that way either.
I am not saying that to even things up we need to see as many headlines about female/female relationships that rock the status quo but I do wonder if society is still in the place of thinking male/male relationships are abhorrent and female/female ones are just a phase. Mind you I do wonder if even in our so-called liberal society we still have ideas of what is normal and what isn’t – even down to the age difference between couples, the age they should marry, what is too much, too little, who should be older/younger, what sex they should be, how many partners they should have, etc. It is crazy.
Our society is lying to itself that it is liberal. Only when it can look at all loving relationships equally, I think, can we truly say we are liberal, but also only then can we say we truly know and love God. See I don’t think God is bothered what one’s sexual orientation is but is concerned about how loving and kind and supportive we are to each other – whether we agree with their way of life or not!
On Wednesday we watch Inside Out, the new Pixar movie. I will try not to give too much away, though my movie blogs should always come with a spoiler-alert. Anyway suffice to say that one cannot be happy all the time, and all the memories we have come with a healthy mix of happiness and sadness, and this in fact leads us to become much rounder people. If we all tried to be happy all the time then we would miss out on so much. Interestingly this revelation was followed by a family relationship meltdown; lots of shouting, misunderstanding, mistakes made, and a need for some space. I look back on many days, many memories and it is very rare that they are just happy. There is generally a mix of sadness, anxiety, misunderstanding, as well as happiness.
Out walking the dog the other day I was amazed that one of our favourite fields was glowing golden; an amazing mix of oranges, reds and golds with the highlighting it. It turned out that the farmer had covered it in some form of weed killer and was going to plough it in and change the whole look of the field. A mix of wonder but also trauma and change.
There are so many incidents when we really think about them that are a mishmash of things, and yet we spend good money trying to be happy as much as possible. And what happens? Well people are disappointed, feel let down and actually are sadder for it. If one could be content in all circumstances then that would be so much better. I could use my anxiety to try to change things, my misunderstandings into working out where I go wrong and to make me a deeper rounder person. Again that is an interesting one because so often we think we should get better, but actually as I grow I want to become deeper not better. I am ok as I am but I can become more of what I am. Yes I want to be able to understand my family to a deeper extent, but as someone said to me today I need to learn what my boundaries are too to be willing to let them have theirs. That means I am deeper and rounder but not better.
As a Christian I know God loves me as I am but that doesn’t mean I want to stay as I am, or even that God wants me to stay as I am. I love my children as they are, but I also want to support and help them mature, and want to see other people in their lives supporting and helping them. I not sure if God is like this but I know as a parent what I really would love is for my children to have other people in their lives supporting and helping them to grow because then they would become deeper and rounder. If they only have me then they will actually be very much like me. Though I suppose with God He is much rounder and deeper than I’ll ever be, which makes you wonder why we want to try to make Him able to be understood. Wouldn’t faith be so much more if we let people connect with the unfathomable God rather than the God that a church leader can give the explanation of???? 🙂
Here are some experts that I think show how at times God makes us walk through stuff rather than carry us.
Footprints, chased by hungry waves,
stumble out of the sea
A woman skips across the sand,
claiming the earth with her footprints
And here are some prophetic words that I had spoken over me back in October 2004. I happened to mention this prophecy to a friend not so long back and she asked me to get it out and share it with her. These words struck me as relevant to the walking rather than being carried.
… I bless you with an increase of faith that you might walk with a fierce faith of Jesus … And though you walk in barren places, may you see that which is under your feet as the creation of God before it was scarred, …. Therefore walk to and fro in the land. And where the sole of your foot treads, that will become an inheritance in My Kingdom. …
Often in Christian circles we see walking as when things go well and being carried when things aren’t going so well. But as I said before I had to walk these last few years, but in fact now I can see why. Like the woman I am claiming the earth with my footprints. I had to walk in barren places. In fact Psalm 23 says “even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death …” Life is tough and we, as Christians, have little to offer others if we just say “God carried me through this” because sometimes that doesn’t make sense. But I know I can say “God got me to walk through this and Him and I, we did ok.” It also means I trust Him to walk with me again when life gets tough.
Oh wouldn’t it be great if I could say “well those last few years were tough, I’ve done my bit now and so can I have an easy ride till I die”? But see I don’t think its like that. I’m a gatherer of those who need encouraging but actually I can only really encourage when I’ve really walked it! Ho hum!!
I’ve just read a post asking “Seven/Seven: Where were you?” and also today was talking with mother of the girl I tutor about remembering where we were when … and listed various events that we remembered and talked of what we remember about where we were.
I commented on the “Seven/Seven: Where are you?” post and said:
I will always remember where I was on 7/7/2015. I was at home in Frome, home educating my daughter. My son had gone to college that day in Radstock. We were really engrossed in something when suddenly we both said “let’s put the radio on”. Neither of us will ever know why but we listened with shock as the reports unfolded. We are Christians and we just prayed and cried.
But also I remember clearly where I was when the Twin Towers were hit –
We were in our first week of our Family DTS in Paisley Scotland. I think it was the first time I’d left my kids for with someone to teach them since I’d taken Ben out of school. Us adults were in a church hall about 2 miles from the main house. Our base leader came in (the days before everyone had mobile phones) and said there was dreadful news. It unfurled slowly. We were on our faces in prayer. It was not just an awful time nationally but for me it was an awesome time realising the things I could pray and the strength I could pray with.
The death of Princess Diana is neither so deep or so inspiring.
We were living in Belfast. We had been there for about 10 months. I was helping out in the Sunday school at the church we had been attending for maybe 8 months. Someone came in and said “Diana’s been killed in a car accident.” Everyone looked sad. I didn’t say anything. I presumed this was someone they knew, someone who attended the church. I remember racking my brains to think of any Diana’s I’d known. Thankfully I kept quiet and didn’t embarrass myself.
But it also brings back memories of where I was when I hear of things closer to home –
when I heard my Dad’s voice on my answer phone and I knew something serious had happened – my sister had drowned.
when my husband phoned from our friend’s house to say that friend had succeeded in hanging himself.
my Dad bursting into tears in the first ever house I owned to say my Mum had left him for the second time.
the colour of the train we were on when we picked up the message from my husband to say his dad was dead
These are a list of events where I can see and smell how things were, that have stayed seared in my brain, where everything is still so vibrant, where something has been capture. A moment in time. And yet there was a prompt on a
Linkedin group I’m part of which this morning said “write imagine your 5-6 year old self and write about the kitchen in your family home.” I couldn’t remember. I know I’ve moved a lot as an adult but as a child we only lived in four different homes and I can only really recall the third house, where I lived from 10-16. I only remember the fourth house because I visited it twenty years after I’d moved out because new friends were living in it. How can I see snapshots for vividly and yet not remember even something vague from a place I must have gone in to over a thousand times?
It is said that memory is an odd thing and that we shouldn’t trust it that much. What is truth may not be fact. Yet those things etched in my brain that I have mentioned above I am sure that they are really true, that they really were like that. In fact there are certain
words or phrases that can send me right back there. Though I wonder if I spoke to others who were there whether their truth is the same as mine?
In all I do I want to glorifying God. What on earth does that mean? And I do mean “on earth” because I think in heaven glorifying God will be easy – because He’ll be there.
I am a writer. I am away on a writing weekend with some lovely people. How do I glorifying God whilst I’m here? How do I glorifying God in my writing? I can only write what comes into my head and I do not write a very openly “Christian” story. Yes I have written poems and short stories where, for me, God is very much the centre, but that may not be open to those who don’t follow God. In fact I can see God in almost everything whether openly Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, new age or supposedly nothing spiritual at all. But how do I glorifying God in that?
I was walking this morning as the place where we are is beautiful with wonderful grounds. I had just
read some very tough stuff in John Piper’s “ThePresence of God” book and was chatting to God about it and weeping. I was thinking of my son, who’s just been so a trauma for him of seeing a dream he had planned for about ten years fall apart and the people he expected to stand by him making accusations about him. Now I, not being God and able to see all things, don’t know how true these accusations are but you know what I love my son even if they are true. And that’s the thing, these other people don’t love him with that unconditional way I do because they don’t know him. He has had to learn to trust that I love him unconditionally. He has to learn that his stepfather loves him unconditionally. But this has taken time, has taken heartbreak for him and has taken a time of others letting him down. I know this is how God is for me. With the things that have gone on in my life, not just the last three years of dealing with too much grief, but in all the other shattered dreams in my life before and after making that choice to try to put God in the centre of my life, I have had to learn to trust that God is trustable, not just when things go how I want but when they don’t. I have learned God loves me unconditionally and delights in me even when the world falls apart around me, even when I screw up, even when I make mistakes, even when others hurt me. Its not that things happen as a lesson for us to learn form but that life is about growing to know that God is trustable even when He doesn’t do as we want. My son is learning to trust us when we give to him unconditionally. It is like he is a child again, which is what we are when we first start following God. But there comes a time with God, and will come a time with my son, when He backs off, when we back off, when the trust is built and stuff can happen that we don’t want.
The question isn’t how can I glorifying God in the bad times but how can I glorifying God when life is just normal? It is easy to reach out when the waves crash around us and just let God hold us. It is also easy to praise God when things are going so well. Like it was easy this morning to praise God when the sun was shining, when everything was as it should be; peace, calm, sunshine, bird song, toad croaking, someone else sorting out my meals and doing my washing up. But I want to work out how to glorifying God, not praise Him but really glorifying Him in the mundane of my life, in what I write, in what I say. Not in a cheesy openly evangelistic way but in a way that is me, in a way that is natural.
But maybe, just maybe – and this is how so many of my posts are, full of questions and no conclusions – I just need to keep being me and keep just letting God be God?
The Rules of Francis of Assisi sums it up really:
Simplicity: “There is no pretense in the Franciscan Spirituality. We who live by the Rule of St. Francis strive to be the genuine article, that is, people who do not care much for fame or wealth–people who live in simplicity.”
Poverty: “Love of Gospel poverty develops confidence in the Father and creates internal freedom.”
Humility: “The truth of what and who we really are in the eyes of God; freedom from pride and arrogance.”
A genuine sense of minority: “The recognition that we are servants, not superior to anyone.”
A complete and active abandonment to God: “Trusting in God’s unconditional love.”
Conversion: “Daily we begin again the process of changing to be more like Jesus.”
Transformation: “What God does for us, when we are open and willing.”
Peacemaking: “We are messengers of peace as Francis was.”