More than just OK

All day every day we run around exhausted trying to work out what’s good, what’s bad, what we like, what we don’t like, instead of just experiencing this world. I’ve been doing a Mindfulness course and I must admit till then I thought that Mindfulness was just about stopping to look at things, even then to put them in the good/bad, like/don’t like category, but I don’t think that’s the case. It is about judging. I talked about this in my post on Keeping Sunday Special in regard to how we judge people’s faithfulness but I think I’m taking it further.

Over the past few days I’ve been walking the dog and trying to look and listen to nature without judging, without deciding whether I like it or not, and then have been trying to take that on into my life. At the moment my daughter is home from university, which means for a lot of the time she’s in the living room – in my space – which actually I then find it hard to write, to even think creatively. So I can decide if I want to decide if I like her being there or not or just accept that’s where she is. To a point I do like the fact that, when she isn’t working or out with friends, that she likes to be in with me. Though in honesty it is because the internet connection is better on the couch. I also don’t like her being there because I find the continuous computer gaming annoying to listen to. Now I can either get upset and put it in

make sure you put things in the “right” box

“don’t like” box or even try to work myself up to liking it and so putting it in the “like” box, which it can fall out of, or I can decide that this is the way life is and if I’m not able to be creative for 3 months then that’s what it is. See actually I almost wrote “it won’t be the end of the world” as though that made things ok, and it needed to be in the “ok” box”. That’s the other place we use if we actually don’t like something but aren’t sure what to do with it we say its “ok” which like “nice” or “interesting” has a myriad of meanings. Often “OK” can mean that actually we don’t like it but we want others to think we are good people so we tell everyone that it’s ok. So with my daughter I have to say “that’s how it is” and then work my life around it. I can also tell her how I would like to have some space. Or as happened yesterday I said, calmly, that I would like her to help more in the kitchen and we made supper together. It was helpful. Yes it did go in the “like” box but actually things to. We will always have things we like and don’t like, and that’s ok but we still need to accept that those are our tastes and not right or wrong.

So I like some help in the kitchen and I do have my own way of doing things. This isn’t right or wrong but how I like things. I like the house to myself and everything quiet, but that’s me. it isn’t right or wrong, good or bad, but just me. And when it comes to being out in nature there isn’t a right and wrong, good or bad. There are just flowers, grasses, birds, trees, cars, people, colours and sounds. All just being there.

Now that I am accepting not just what I see in the countryside as “more than just ok” then I am bringing it into my home life, my friendship life, my working life, my creative life, my Christian life. In fact I would say this article says how we should live life more than anything I could write. Integration of the Negative. Jesus didn’t put things in good or bad, right or wrong, but he did suggest ways that made life work more fully for all. And this is where I like this practise, if I’ve got the Mindfulness thing right, is that even though it benefits us we are doing it for others. If I am accepting of everything then I am a calmer, less critical person to live with, probably less anxious too. Though even if I’m anxious or depressed I can just accept that that’s the way I am and it’s ok. Not to judge me either!

Oh I seem to be back to the “love your neighbour as yourself” 🙂 which was a reoccuring theme in my other Diane’s Daily Thoughts.

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Who Do You Tell?

Yesterday I was tutoring. My pupil lives on a large country estate. I had just stopped my car to sort out my dog’s harness

Last picture I could find of my sister

when a lady came out of the gatehouse and asked if I could run her to the big house as she’d locked herself out of both her house and car. She worked at the big house. She then said to me “I know you.” We did the ‘how old are you?’ question and realised that she went to school with my sister, me with her sister. She told me I looked just like my sister. For the five minute car ride back to the big house she was so preoccupied about being locked out she didn’t ask me about my sister. I asked her about herself hoping she’d ask how Carole was then I could have told her that Carole had drowned just over three years ago. I’m not sure how much more information I would have told her, but probably because I didn’t tell her anything was why I told a friend I met for coffee in the afternoon, that I hadn’t seen in nearly three years, the details and my suspicions. I needed to tell someone.

And I didn’t just need to tell someone about my sister’s death but I was stuck with who would care about me seeing this person? None of my family knew her. She was someone that actually I remember bumping into her years ago with my sister and her with her sister and we talked about how we’d been to school with each other. It could have been me she recognised. But there was no where I could go with this information. Who could I say that I’d seen this woman? I couldn’t phone or text my sister to say ‘guess who I saw today?’ There are so many things when you live a travelling life, a disjointed life, that there is no one to pass things on to. I think of my husband’s uncle’s funeral and there were many of the same people who were at his dad’s funeral, but also people were asking about people they all knew. No one other then my sister would have known or cared about the connection. It is one of the things about grief that no one tells you – the who do you say things to that are only relevant to you and the deceased.

So who do you tell when no one else is interested?

Keeping Sunday Special

What does this mean – “Keeping Sunday Special”? And what does “you must go to church” mean? And how does all this fit in with a “relationship with God”? “Following Jesus”? And “Sabbath rest”? As one who feels very much that God is saying “Rest and wait” and this whole thing of “Cormorant’s Rest” – just being and waiting for me wings to dry, though when my wings do dry I wonder if God will have me in church or elsewhere?

I was talking with someone the other day who was concerned that I had not “been to church” for a long time. I also hadn’t been to their midweek meeting for a while. There was nowhere in the conversation where she asked how my relationship with God

I am not questioning their faith in God at all but I do wonder if the Obama’s go to church to silence rumours of them being Muslims?

was, or even how I was emotionally or spiritually. I did tell her some but it was hard because her plan was to steer it back to Sunday morning. I wonder if, and I know I’m probably echoing many other blogs,  …. I wonder if we judge people’s relationship with God, who we cannot see, by their relationship with a local church? We can see whether someone goes to Sunday morning stuff, is involved on rotas, talks to people, attends weekday meetings, conferences, etc, depending on the denomination raises/doesn’t raise their hands in worship. All this is able to be observed and recorded. Yes is someone isn’t doing the recognised meeting they how can anyone judge where they are.

As the Mindfulness teacher was telling us last week – we are very quick to judge things rather than just experience them. Mindfulness appears to work very much on the principle of experiencing things rather than working out even whether one likes it or not. So often we can look at people who go to church and say “they’re good Christians” and those who use to go and have stopped going as “backslidden” , whatever that word really means! The more I ponder my journey through life and with God the more I have to say it has become about experiencing rather than judging whether I like it or not. I have reached a place where I love God, I trust God as my father who loves me unconditionally, I am trying to follow how I interpret Jesus behaved and yet I really don’t like a lot of what God does. I am moving to a place, like Mindfulness, where I am experiencing what is going on around me, what my senses are telling me, but without judgement. I still get hurt, by people and by God, but I learn to accept that all that is part of the experience.

Going back to “Keeping Sunday Special” and how that is working for me I’m going to use some quotes of friends.

There are some people who don’t get “church”.   They see it only in local visible terms – i.e. you have to “go to church” – as if it’s a place. Scripture to some extent supports this – don’t neglect the gathering of yourselves together (Hebrews 10.25).   But church “happens” for most of us in multiple locations and with different groups of people.   I’m “churching it” every day in different ways.
When people ask me “which church do you go to?” – I say “it depends where I am and who I am with”.   When they say “which denomination do you belong to” – I say “all of them”   A better question might be “How often do you gather with others to pray, worship and fellowship” – and the answer hopefully to that is “daily” – and for some of us “many times daily”.
The experience of Jesus is worth pointing to.   How often was he on His own with His Father?   Answer – all the time!
So how does that work for me? Well in the past week I’ve met with 4 other followers of Jesus who live away from me so

with a gap to let others in to join the fellowshiping

we have to make the effort to meet, but when we do it is 3 or 4 hours of chatting, finding out how we really are, talking about Jesus, our walk with Him, the stuff in our lives we struggle with. It is indepth friendship, which involves prayer, worship and fellowship. I email and text other Christian friends who live across the world. I have friend I support in mission across the world that I pray for every day. In fact I do my best to have a chat with God on and off throughout the day. Also if God is really omnipresent then He’s with me always and I just have to remember that. And in fact I have to remember that He is with those who don’t believe in Him too, and there are times when He speaks through them anyway. So I do gather many times daily with other believers; physically and via technology.

I could go on about I won’t. I think it is just wise for all of us as Christians, not to judge but to look at why we go to Sunday church. For some it is a very valid place to be. It is where God wants them. I remember a church I went to in Scotland where the pastor felt that the congregation had began to worship the worship group rather than come to worship (as in sing songs to) God. He asked the worship group to step down for a season, an unspecified length. Most of the group left to go to other churches where their “talents could be used” and many of the congregation went to places where there was “better music”. I think that nicely proved his point. For me at the moment I feel like I am keeping Sunday special. I am having a sabbatical of indeterminate length and I believe, and it has been confirmed by others, that this is what God’s saying for me. But if He does suggest I go back to Sunday church then I will have to make sure I go for the experience not to “make sure my talents are used”, not to “prove I’m not back-slidden” and also not to judge it. I have to go to experience God and others and keep every day as a special day with Him and with my fellow human beings in the here and now.

…whether in a building on a Sunday, online, irregular electric groups, or friends having coffee, or a 100 other ways

What does it mean to glorify God?

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

The Lighthouse, Tytherington, where I walked this morning with the sky a similar colour to this.

read some very tough stuff in John Piper’s “The Presence 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.

This isn’t me but it is how I like to write; laptop, coffee, journals, and then the dog at by feet and the cat on the back of the couch, or visa versa 🙂

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.”

Is God polyamorous?

So is God polyamorous? What is polyamorousness? Well by definition poly means more than one and amorous means loving, so loving more than one person.

Perhaps a definition from someone in the polyamorous community might help – Taken from The Huffington Post on 12/03/2013 “Polyamorous relationships are about more than just couples.”

There is a common misconception that a polyamorous relationship is really no different from an open-relationship agreement: one committed couple, with some lighthearted fun on the side. But the word “polyamory,” by definition, means loving more than one. Many of us have deeply committed relationships with more than one partner, with no hierarchy among them and no core “couple” at the heart of it all.

And from the Urban Dictionary – The state of having multiple sexually or romantically committed relationships at the same time, with the consent of all partners involved.

“Polyamorous communities emphasize love and honesty in their multi-partner relationships.”

Well God is totally open and honest with the whole world. He had people write about Him, even if at times His people have interpreted it hurtfully. He sent Jesus Christ to show the world what He’s really like, His totally love and care, and yet so often we all miss what that really means. He build His Church and said it should be a place where all are accepted as they are, all given equal status and respectability, though often people, through their own fear have made it an unsafe place. So Yes I think God is polyamorous because He loves all equally, wants to be honest and open with all people all the time, and never wants to do anything that will be harmful. Ok that can’t be said about His Church all the time but that doesn’t mean He isn’t.

The reason I am thinking about this is because of friend of mine and her husband have decided to move into a polyamorous marriage and over lunch she was telling me about it all.  One thing my friend said was that you have to care for and respect yourself and care for and respected everyone in your polycule. A Polycule is the constellation of people who are seeing each other. What really struck m was this whole love and respect yourself and each other, because it comes back to the whole “love your neighbour as yourself” or as it should be “love and care for yourself so you can love and care for others”. I have seen this friend go through some amazing healing to get to this place where she can care for her own well-being and also care for the well-being of others. I wonder how often us professing Christians are at this place.

I must say I do not want a polyamorous marriage but I do realise that I do actually love others too not just my

Oh I just liked this picture 🙂

husband and my children. There are friends I have that I do love. I do wonder if maybe be don’t get God’s love because we can’t get our heads round being able to love more than one person at a time, even though most of us do, but we are often expected to have a hierarchy of who we love most. And if we are like that then even if we preach that God loves all equally we will also want Him to love us more, or think He loves us less or whatever.

Please comments would be great from those who agree and those who don’t, but if it gets unkind I will delete them 🙂

Cormorant’s Rest

I wrote a poem during my postgrad study day on Sunday in which I talked of re-emerging, coming from that stage of fertile womanhood into the wise old crone and how I now had to just stand and wait for my wings to dry. I meant like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis but when I shared what I had written with my fellow student she squealed “Wow a cormorant!” I got her to explain more.

Apparently cormorant’s have no wax on their wings so after they have bee in the sea they have to stand with their wings held out to dry and only when fully dry is it safe for them to dive in again.

I just found that so uplifting, releasing and encouraging. It is so where I am at the moment. I’ve dived and fished, helped and supported, touched the ocean’s depths of all life could give and now I know its very clear that I am to rest. But I have been a bit scared of this rest because I’ve been afraid that I’ll get old and stuck in it, that I’ll slowly do less and less, that I won’t dive again. For me this cormorant image says that I will dive again, fish, do what I do when I’m in my diving state, but for mow I just rest and let my wings dry full in the sun – and most of all not feel guilty for it. It’s how God made me, to do and dive but then I have to rest. If I dive back in too soon I’ll drown because my wings won’t be dry enough. So now I wait in this vulnerable place, wings held out, still, not able to go, watching the ocean rising and falling.

Matthew 7:21b says “…only those who obey My Father will get in (to heaven).” So often in the Sunday sermon this word “obeying” has been used as a going/doing word, and yet if Father God has told me to rest then I have to obey that. I can’t go off applying for jobs, volunteering, doing really good stuff because that would not be obeying.

Did God make a mistake with the cormorant’s wings? Did evolution let it slip through the “survival of the fittest”? Who knows? But that’s the way it is and it’s learned how to survive. It obeys the rules of God, the rules of Nature, of how it’s made. Why should I think I’m any different? To obey God for now I need to stand with my wings held out, vulnerable, and allow myself to dry. And then I can go from flappy little bird to prehistoric, wise old crone.

This is the poem that came from the observations about the cormorant.

Cormorant’s Rest

She stands, awkward, wings stretched out

Head down, perched on a rock.

All around the ocean crashes

seagulls scream, continuous movement.

In all this general busyness she stands

vulnerable in the vast active sea.

A freak of nature? God’s forgotten?

Or made to dive and then to rest?

For now the course is to obey

to stand, to rest, able to do nothing until –

the sun’s warmth seeps in to the depths

of wet and tired wings

to dry, to heal, to regain strength.

So even if there’s winter gales

when there’s so much to do

still she must stand, allow the winds

to do their job, to dry her quills.

No diving in too soon no matter what she sees

but wait, but rest, till strong and dry.

And then …

This was the original that encouraged her response –

Original poem – line from Simon Armitage’s “Book of Matches”

Don’t let me be! Don’t let me sleep!

Yes help me rest and realign

To change my shape and change to be.

Don’t let me fix into the shape I do not want to be.

Wake me, help me search to find the shape I can become.

A re-emerging caterpillar as woman become crone

with all the wisdoms I have learned,

to know that even though my womb has ceased it’s purpose

there are still children for me to nurture.

So let me rest, get use to who I am

To see the beauty of this new creation

I am called to be.

I’ll flex my slightly strange new wings

and wait till they are dry.

For now I’ll rest and sleep and then

I’ll come and be again.

Searching For Sunday – book review

I’m really late in getting this out. I should have had the review out by the launch date of 14th April, but life got in the way, as life does. I will stick to the task and then blog later on my priorities.

So I had the great privilege of being on the Searching For Sunday review launch team. This meant I got to read the book in pdf form and put comments up on a special closed facebook page, as well as commenting on my own facebook page. This did mean writing with facebook open which is not ideal for me.

I would say one of the best ways to see the bits that influenced me would be to go on my facebook page and look for #seachingforsunday  In fact there are loads of post across the world from the other reviewers.

For those of you who haven’t read Rachel Held Evans I would suggest reading her “A Year of Biblical Womanhood“, the first one of her books that I read which looks at the things that Church says women should and shouldn’t do. Rachel looks at it with open eyes and candour, not slating it but showing the roots of where these “rules” come from.

In “Searching For Sunday” she looks at her own journey from evangelical church life to exploring congregations, of finding places to question what is meant by what she believes. Like many of us, Rachel has reached a point where she wants to know why she believes what she believes and is off exploring. For many of us we haven’t lost faith in God but want to find a genuine way of working it out. Interestingly I read a piece by Richard Rohr, which I can refind to post, where he talks of how the apostle Paul had to go away and work out how it was this Christ revelation fitted into his understanding of the world. It is like having met Christ we are taking into an already formed world and there comes a time where, not so much we have to question God, but we have to question how we work in relationship to God. Here Rachel talks openly and honestly about her’s. She breaks it down into the seven parts which equate to seven sacraments; baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage. Through these sacraments and Rachel’s journey the reader gets to visit with all sorts of people who are walking out their relationship with God in their own ways. As with “A year of Biblical Womanhood”, Rachel is not judgemental or condemning. This is a book full of exploring, discovering and most importantly hope. As she says at the end

But if I’ve learned anything in this journey, both in writing this book and clumsily living its content, it’s that Sunday morning sneaks up on us—like dawn, like resurrection, like the sun that rises a ribbon at a time. We expect a trumpet and a triumphant entry, but as always, God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here. Even here, in the dark, God is busy making all things new. So show up. Open every door. At the risk of looking like a fool buried with his feet facing the East or like a mockingbird singing stubbornly at the night, anticipate resurrection. It’s either just around the bend or a million miles away. Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between. Let’s find out together”

Go buy it. Read it. Get the study guide. There is so so much to explore. If I could afford it I would buy you all a copy but I’m broke, again!