Barefoot, Dusty and Chasing a Chuffing Goose

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Talking to Trees September 4, 2013

So, the other day, a friend (who isn’t freaking out at my theological conundrums, but still asks the questions) asked; ‘Are you praying?’ I answered; ‘Well, yesterday I tried talking to a tree’

Let me talk you through it.

So I made the clever decision to leave somewhere on the inside of the M25 at the ripe time of 4:55pm. Needless to say, by 6:25, I was wiggling my way slower and slower towards an even slower motorway of tears and decided somewhere in Esher that I would get off this chuffing road and sit it out. A helpful pull in car park on the edge of some woods made it easy so I escaped and walked further in to the trees until I nearly couldn’t hear the traffic (Though, I made sure I still could for purposes of hearing the general direction to return.)

I then planted myself in some grass and got out my book. Half an hour later, I felt a bit lost and disconnected. I felt rested and apart from my car journey, but I felt nothing like connected to what is around me. This seemed silly to me as I could have sat in my car and done that.

So I got up, barefoot, naturally, and started ‘grounding myself’. I have no idea what this actually means, what process it takes me on, but it feels, happy.

I found a tree in the middle of a clearing and began to focus on that. I’d gone to a nature connection workshop at greenbelt so began trying some stuff out. I started imagining the life of this tree, how it had grown off the rest of the patch, it’s relationship to other trees, I began to let my imagination flow and gave it some character. I began to ask God what was within this tree? What cry did it bring?

Then I touched it.

I’m sure we’ve all been there before…? Ever wanted to try a bit of tree hugging? I bet you have! Always felt a bit loopy, even, or perhaps, especially when you’re on your own? Well I can’t say this was my first public display of arboreal affection, but it was perhaps the most significant to date.

Nothing happened. No thunderbolts, no waves of emotion, no downloads from heaven.

Just me, and a tree, hanging out.

I’m not disappointed though. I’ve been thinking about it a lot the last few days. I think it felt real. in the context of my ever evolving theology, I think I came to see God or Spirit, or myself in the tree. It reflected me and my relationship with God. Through my own imagination I processed a lot in those moments without needing to explain myself.

I also gave another living thing the time of day. I didn’t ignore it. I don’t ignore people, most of the time, so why should I ignore the nature around me? I want to be more and more aware of the living things on this earth. Acknowledge the things they have to say.

Quite often you hear people talking of the rocks crying out if we don’t speak out our praise and worship. We see this as negative, speaking in rebuke of our laziness. For now, I’d quite like to hear what they have to sing. maybe I could learn a thing or two.

 

Lughnassadh August 15, 2013

Celebrating in te Jesus tradition I think my favourite aspect of the wheel of the year is the space it gives me to reflect.

Every 6 weeks there’s at least one day, sometimes a couple to reflect on where life is at. The big picture of the turning seasons and the nitty gritty detail of my own seasons. I’m still learning a lot about the beautiful celtic, pagan, earthy, mythical, mystical symbology and tradition around these quarter and cross quarter days . I’m hoping it won’t fade with time.

In the discovery there is so much richness, it can sometimes be an all encompassing motor powering me ahead, and sometimes be too much and I disappear into my overwhelmed head.

There’s a personal journey, but also one that requires community. Hearing other reflections on a similar path provides the companions needed to fully appreciate a view. Is it enough to say ‘wow’ to just yourself? Sometimes, not always.

Maybe that’s why we form groups, why we organise ourselves and commune with each other, fight with each other, live with each other, worship with each other. It’s good to have someone to ‘wow’ with.

I slept through solstice and I both missed it and let it slide, knowing that the wheel turns and will always turn, whether I ackowledge it or not.

For Lughnassadh I once again made my way to Glastonbury and shared the wow. I listened to tales woven together of mysteries hidden, the wondrous resurrection story echoing throughout and we muddled our way through making bread in a courtyard, not helped by oven related calamity and my lack of skills in reading details. We did it though and by the end there was a definite ‘wow’ whispered on our lips as we saw, with awe and a little grimace of frustration, the fingerprints of the divine.

Here’s

my contribution for this years lammas, which still gets one more outing at greenbelt as we celebrate a mouthful of a gorsedd of the bards of the grove of greenbelt or some such ceremony.

 

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

John barleycorn, once laid in the field with the lady at Beltane, now old and bent with his crooked cane

 we watched his crown from green to gold slow and know his time has come to let go

First feasts of corn and barley show, as memories stir with wines first flow.

 

John gave his life for the feasting of the throng, echoing one who I still hold to strong

Discover anew in turnaround time, drink deep, dream long, let it rise from your head,

Up from the ground grows wheat turned to bread, down through our soul speeds the blood that’s been shed

 

Within the death there is life, there is life,

the life seed swells with the seeds of the morn.

The expectant mother holds in her own, her third generation already born.

 

What ancestors have gone before, ceasing life to sieze the more.

Conjure life and pray for all, pray, seek, find, love and commune once more

Glittering nights and slow summer morns, the seasons turn as we whisper our what for

 

For what do we burn, do we dance, do we tread?

For all and for one says the Lord of the bread.

The final test of agility at the Avebury Lammas Games

The final test of agility at the Avebury Lammas Games

 

Beltaine and Barefoot May 3, 2013

Filed under: Church,Community,Grace,Jesus,Paganism,Unity — Helen @ 4:16 pm
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Beltaine circle

The biggest ritual circle i’ve seen

A couple of weeks ago I spent a whole day barefoot for a reason. Admittedly, since then i’ve spent much more time barefoot, but on this occasion I thought about it.

On wednesday I visited Glastonbury for Beltaine, or May Day as you might know it. A friend is beginning to do rituals in the Jesus tradition around the Pagan wheel of the year, marking the 4 quarters and the bits inbetween. I then spent the rest of the day hanging out with her and the rest of Glastonbury who celebrate these events with such beauty and unity I found myself feeling more ‘Christian’ than I have for a while, by which I mean feeling connected with Jesus and the whole spiritually feeling thing, rather than intellectualising my way through stuff.

So here’s the poem:

 

Green fingered figures chase fertility in the trees.

Bards chant the merry as we sing about the dance.

Sun filled days approaching and round about her a wall of fire and glory in the midst.

Connect my bareness to the ground and squeeze the feel of the trees on the soles of my feet.

With spring in step, roaming about the summer myst, conjured up from springs first kiss.

O where are you, son of man, hidden in the legends of old and seen by fire’s eyes, glory in the midst.

maypole dancing

Nice bit of may pole dancing

 

 

 

Barefoot and Vulnerable March 16, 2013

Filed under: Church,Community,Grace,Jesus,Paganism — Helen @ 8:52 pm
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feetI wrote an article recently for another online blog thingy on vulnerability. you can read it here.

Funnily enough it felt quite vulnerable to write.

Now I didn’t put a huge amount of detail into the depths of my life right now, but something about the whole process left me feeling exposed.

A couple of weekends ago I went to a 2 day workshop on the concept of Shalom. It encompassed a lot that I hold dear; deep ecology and the link to spirituality, conflict resolution, justice, activism and a whole lot more. It fed my heart and soul. Connecting the power of God to global, environmental issues is one of my favourite things. However, it did throw into question a lot of my previous theology. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of that now. My question for the moment is about the search for truth.

At a pagan sunrise ritual I witnessed on Winter Solstice someone proclaimed the wish that ‘all would know the truth and the truth would set them free and heal them.’

Many who know their bibles only a little will recognise this statement from John 8 in a section where Jesus is detailing essentially that he will die and take the sins of the world on him and that is how they will be free. It’s pretty clear this is what Jesus is talking about when he references ‘truth’ and describing the word of God as their reference point.

So, what of this person who declared the same? What’s his truth? What truth would he like to acknowledge as setting him free? Does he feel free? What does he see as freedom?

I’m sure we all have different ideas of this.

So, is truth relative? Or is there an essence of absolute truth that we search after.

This man may well have been searching after a specific absolute truth that would unlock for him freedom and connection with the universe, he was after all at a sunrise ceremony in December, he may already have found it.

In my unpacking of theology I am coming across aspects of theology i’m less than keen on. Don’t worry i’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water, but it leads me to think, if this is the truth, i’m not sure I like it.

But the alternative is to construct my own ‘truth’ that somehow seems paleatable alongside the rest of my life and philosophy and I will be guilty of constructing a hole shaped god to fit my well documented god shaped hole.

How do you reconcile the things that don’t make sense to you? The bits that repulse you? The bits that scare you and offend you?

Do I reject it and vote for the popular, each to their own mentality, as long as you’re happy, slightly hedonistic, experiential gospel of me myself and I?

Or do I acknowledge I still believe there are some fundamental absolutes about truth and continue my search for it, perhaps considering the alternative that what I’ve found may not be it. In it’s fullness.

 

Inner peace in other places January 2, 2013

Filed under: beginnings,random — Helen @ 9:41 pm
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It’s been a while. Normally i’m one for externally processing in this format, hi-jacking your screens with my latest musings hoping you’re interested.

It’s been a while, I’ve been writing in other places, my MA world has taken over a lot of my letters and I also wrote this piece here on inner peace for Threads.

It’s been a while, partly as I questioned why I write. Why I want people to read. Is it a justification thing? A self esteem thing? I think I want to know that what i’m thinking is ok, or not ok, depending on the post. Perhaps that reasoning is ok. ok.

It’s been a while, because sometimes thoughts take that long. My thoughts right now scare me a little. They’re in waters deeper than before and with less to hold on to. My thoughts haven’t yet found a home, which I have been looking for. Now i’m not so sure I want to or can give them one.

It’s been a while because there’s almost too much to say.

We arrive at new year and the world is blogging their resolutionary tales. So i’m jumping on and in and hoping, as I whispered on twitter earlier, to this year mess with, play with, swill around and splatter my theology and see what happens.

Because it’s been a while and it’s time for a bit more mess…

 

Anti-Social Enterprise September 10, 2012

Filed under: Church,Community,work — Helen @ 3:33 pm
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Barefoot and Submerged

I went to Greenbelt Festival a couple of weeks ago. My feet barely touch the ground all weekend (except most of the time they were submerged in the ground- check out the photo), I went from talk to performance to worship to panel to art thing to food to pub and back to talks. I get a bit overwhelmed by so much going on but I think I gave myself a bit of a theme this year instead of going to anything and everything I fancied, it’s set me on a bit of a thought tangent. I ended up at a talk called ‘Capitalism, Consumerism and Social change’ I imagined it would be a turn the world upside down, rebel against the system type talk but when the lady opened her talk with the phrase ‘I am a rampant capitalist’, ‘Error’, I thought, ‘I’m not going to like this’.

As she continued it seemed, although she did indeed support the ideas of capitalism and consumerism, she also left her high paying job to become a baker of bread. Simply, in a small social enterprise where her monthly salary is the same as her previous daily rate. She has chosen a livelihood which builds community, makes bread and got her out of the rat race.  That, I can get on board with. But she said some other interesting things which sent my mind a wandering.

We all know the financial climate we live in, we all know that unemployment and funding is a big problem. Many of us are living in the constant possibility of redundancy and some of us are beginning to plan for such a time, some of us are in such a time.  Others are taking matters into their own hands, like this lady or others who have already started their own entrepreneurial journey.

I have no problem with this, I freelance myself out for various different bits and bobs to help pay the bills, I have for years, because what I do tends to work like that. So I can understand people doing this to protect themselves financially.

The interesting point I found myself thinking was to do with how self serving this can become. See we don’t trust anyone, we don’t trust our jobs to still be here in a years time, we dont trust the funding to still be around to do our jobs, we don’t trust the government and statutory services to continue to do their job because they are being cut significantly too and we dont trust anyone to be able to pay us at all so we make ways to do it ourselves. Because we don’t trust anyone, we trust only ourselves. We decide what skills we have and what we can make money doing and we form private enterprises to bring about self sustainability. Social enterprises, are essentially private enterprises which look a bit better, you’re not our for major profit, you’re just in it to survive and try to help the world in the process. Great, but our motivation for getting there is anything but social. We’re setting these up from a place of deep mistrust, and therefore keeping all our cards close to our chest and competing in a crazy world of small business for small money. None of this is very social.

From my current role within the statuatory youth service, almost weekly I hear of a new social enterprise or community interest company forming to help community and effectively save the town. Great aspiration, but it’s all coming from a place of distrust and bitterness and the belief that no one else will do a better job. The thing is, none of these social enterprises, or committees or charities are particularly talking to each other. Town wide, one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing. Everyone wants to change the world but they all want to do it their way, looking after number one first. Unfortunately I don’t see myself behaving any differently.

I believe in social enterprise and making work for yourself, but I also believe in Community and this should come into consideration. I don’t think many people are doing much market research. No one is asking ‘what needs changing?’, everyone is asking ‘what can I change?’, regardless of need. It’s good to know what you bring, what your skills are and where you fit, but it’s also good to know what everyone else brings, what other’s skills are and where they fit in relation to you. 

It’s also making me think about churches and how you can have so many in one town and they all try to do the same thing; love God and love other people. We probably need to pool our resources a bit more to achieve this. I was thinking about examples in the Bible and how we see lots of people being ‘called’ but God didn’t really think about specific skills so much when doing the calling, He called people together, not apart. I’d like to see less business models in church, less anti-social enterprise and a bit more community. a bit more working together for the whole of a community rather than our own church growth.

I’m hoping this isn’t an anti-social rant. Just a bit of a pondering about how communities work together in a climate of mistrust. I want to learn to be community the way God intended.

All sharey sharey. I hope.

 

Transforming mind July 17, 2012

Filed under: Bible,Grace — Helen @ 11:17 am
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One of my favourite verses in the last 10 years has been Romans 12:2 ‘transform your mind by changing the way you think. (paraphrase)

When I first got hold of this verse it had a massive transformational effect in solidifying my evangelical worldview. It bought huge amounts of freedom and huge amounts of religion. An interesting phenomenon that i’m only just seeing the effects of.

I took the CBT Jesus method and I rinsed it. I absorbed scripture, repeated it until I believed it and found a lot of freedom in knowing what God thought about me. I will carry on reminding myself of these things. My identity is in Christ and that is all I need to know. But there was more to this, outside of my own identity, more in the world’s identity that led to a stubborness in my thinking where I was so scared to be proved wrong that I held to it tighter than was necessary. I was busy giving the world a good dose of CBT, ignoring what the world was actually feeling. Not a great technique.

I’m coming to reflect on this as I recently got given a reference for my MA application which was helpful. It said one of my strengths was that I hold strong opinions but that something I may work on would be to see the world with more grey areas and not so black and white.

This is interesting because in the last year I think this is what has happened. I’m beginning to see that verse in a different light. Instead of thinking I need to find the right worldview, change my mind and stick to it, i’ve let experiences, thoughts, opinions and prayers mould and change my thoughts and theology. God is transforming my mind by changing the way I think. It’s the WAY I think, not WHAT I think that is transforming.

the next bit of the verse says ‘ Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will’

If that was all set in stone and all we had to do was find it, then we wouldn’t need to test and approve. But by changing the WAY we think we can look on situations and life and through knowing Gods grace, love and hope and the WAY he thinks, we can determine Gods will in individual situations.

Jesus constantly went around challenging law and practice, because he was challenging motives, status quo and religion. because people were hung up on WHAT they did and thought, not HOW they did and thought.

I never want to be so religious in my own thoughts that I refuse to see the way Jesus thinks, or refuse to transform my mind . That would be utterly sad to look back on.