Footprints – part two

After posting the other day I came across this poem by Kathleen M Quinlan in her book From We to I. (An amazing book of poetry that can be bought from http://www.cinnamonpress.com/index.php/hikashop-menu-for-products-listing/poetry/product/10-from-we-to-i-kathleen-m-quinlan for £4.99)

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!!

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Footprints

Please note I do think there are loads of times when God does carry us

Please note that I do think there are loads of times when God carries usFor many years Christians had the poem “Footprints” somewhere in their homes. it basically said that there are times when life gets too tough and God carries you through. I’m not sure if that’s right for every time. I think there are times when God holds your hand and you walk together or even times when He lets you go to see what will happen, to grow your faith. It’s not that He’s miles away. In fact I think He’s standing closer than you realise but your human eyes don’t let you see it. But I think there are times when you have to walk the road because then you can show to others how to do it. I must say, after the few years we’ve been through, I only trust those who’ve walked a hard path too. I struggle with those who say “God carried me”. I know God kept me going through it all but because He made me walk it I am stronger for it.

When I was away a couple of weeks ago I took a series of pictures of a path the dog and I were walking, just the two of us, on the Isle of Arran. As we walked I would

A clear path
A clear path

occasionally not be too sure where I should be walking but then would come across a footprint in the mud where someone had slipped of a stone. I knew I was on the

A footprint
A footprint

right path, not just because someone had gone that way before but because someone had slipped off and got caught in the mud or bog. If the people who had walked before me had been super careful and stuck to the stepping stones or been carried by some greater force I would never have know this path was walkable. It gave me such reassurance to know this path had actually been walked by someone. And that is why, I think, at times God doesn’t carry us but makes us walk along. I think too, that at times He wants to strengthen our faith and let us walk unaided.

Again after the last few years that I have walked through I know I am a stronger person, but interestingly too that hasn’t made me more self reliant, but almost more trusting in God, have a deeper faith in God. I no longer trust for something or have faith for something but have faith that God is God and trust that He loves me unconditionally. It’s an interesting place to be. But I also know if He had carried me all that way I would have nothing to share with my friends who don’t see God in places, who don’t expect to see God.

It is an interesting phenomenon that the more I know I can the more faith I have in God. Paradox or fact of life?

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.

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