social spark Aisling Beatha: August 2014

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Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy your stay, however short, and find something that interests and blesses you.

The tabs just below will take you to posts of particular topics. So if you are looking for my posts on food, fitness or creativity, you will find them there. You will also find my posts on thankfulness or other more contemplative posts, as well as a set of posts with traditional blessings from a number of different cultures.

You can find posts with labels not included in that list via the labels list over in the sidebar.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

God, IF You Are Real, then Please . . . . .

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No explanation today, just something for you to read/watch and consider.


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Prayers of
“God, IF you are real, then please  . . . .”
Are supposed to be saved for unbelievers.
Right?

For those “still searching”,
Who don’t know yet.

Then why do I find
myself
asking these questions?

Why am I the one
crying
“God, IF you are real then please . . . . . “?

I’m supposed to have it all together,
I’m supposed to know the answers.
For crying out loud
I’ve been “following” for nearly 30 years.

But I am not alone,
Others have gone before me on this path,

Others far more versed in Loving than me,
Others most would think of as “knowing Him.”

Mother Teresa,
Revered by many,
Loved by thousands if not millions,

We may disagree
on theology,
But surely we
can agree
that she
Was
Follower of God
Lover of the unloveable
Friend of the untouchable

And she,
yes even she,
cried from the bottom of her heart,
“My God, I have no faith,
So many unanswered questions
live within me
Afraid to uncover them,
IF there be God
Please forgive me.”

No, I am NOT alone,
Others have gone before me on this path.

Consider Moses
At the burning bush
Negotiating
Even arguing with God

Or Gideon
DEMANDING proof

Or Job
Who
Was NOT afraid
To
Ask the questions
Burning in his heart

No, I am NOT alone,
Others have gone before me on this path.

And we read psalms
Where David praises
David rejoices
David cries
David begs
“How long Lord?
How long will you forget me?
Will it be forever?”

No, I am NOT alone,
Others have gone before me on this path.

And so I stand
And so I sit
And so I lie
And so I cry

With the man
Of Mark 9:24

Lord I BELIEVE

HELP ME IN MY UNBELIEF!

© 2014, Zoe Gregg (Aisling Beatha). All rights reserved.


Come back next Thursday for another Thoughtful Thursday post.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Art journal Book Study - Part 9

Here we are at the next season and the next word or spiritual practice in the Brian D McLaren book - "Naked Spirituality", more from the season of perplexity and the word "No!"

Summer Reading Art Journal   Chapter 18 No!
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Sometimes the prayer of aspiration works like a long doorless passageway.  You keep trudging along until you're ready to collapse.  You turn a corner, come to a door, open it and suddenly you're outside.
BUT SOMETIMES it doesn't go that way.  Sometimes the void expands.

Doubters, atheists & sceptics have an important part in the community of faith.  Their "No!" comes from a sadness that a truer, brighter, bigger, better, REAL God isn't showing up, only an imposter.   It's also a refusal to accept the true god's absence.  No!  I will NOT accept this!

This daring word, NO! has more holiness to it than it gets credit for,  Through it we refuse to let God off the hook, we demand not to be abandoned.  We stamp our foot in God's presence. We raise our fist and we say "I will NOT accept this!"


Summer Reading Art Journal   Chapter 19 No!

However one reads the beginning of the book of Job, the middle rings with Job's refusal to paper over the ugly cracks in reality.  SCANDALOUSLY, God agrees with Job.

No! is the response to all that is unacceptable, a refusal to accept everything that is not as it should be, in our worlds, our lives, our emotions, our thinking, our relationships, our situations, NO!  No isn't a rejection of God, it is a refusal to accept the unsatisfying attempts to let God off the hook.  And it's a parallel refusal to give up hope altogether.

No! then is actually a YES! to a deep and pure belief that G-d, if G-d exists, would rather us be honest doubters than hypocritical believers.  AND that if G-d exists, G-d is even more opposed to and heartbroken by the current status quo than we are.  BUT it doesn't feel like a "yes" most of the time,  It feels like death and then it gets worse.

The only sane alternative is to hold the pain, to feel it, to lie down in front of it and let it crash over us and as we do, to voice our protest, disappointment, rage and refusal with No! shouted, screamed, groaned, whispered, however we need to express it, however we have the strength left to express it, No!


So far in this summer journey of reading and exploration I have shared with you


You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living "in Between"

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Wait,
Stay,
Be,
Learn to "Live in between".

Between is not comfortable,
Between can feel pressed,
Between is neither one thing nor the other.

It is a no man's land,
A place of harsh landscapes
And not belonging.

Living in between
Can leave you exposed on both sides,
Not knowing who to trust.

Living in between
Can make you doubt everything you thought you knew,
Can you even trust yourself?

And yet,
Living in between is a good place
Because something is coming.
And while it might not be here yet,
(well you wouldn't be between if it was),
It IS coming.

Living in between
Can become a place of hope,
Where deep wells are dug.

Living in between
Can become a place of visions and dreams
Where YOU decide what really matters.

Does that make living in between any more comfortable?
No.
It is still a place others find difficult to understand.
It is still a place where,
Digging deep inside yourself,
You never know what you will find.
It is still a place where,
Digging deep inside your faith,
You have no idea what discoveries you might make.

Because living in between
Means facing the questions,
Holding apparently contradictory concepts in tension,
Discovering that who you are might not be who you imagined yourself to be.

What you will find is
Not something to be afraid of.
What you will find is
The real you,
The real Saviour,
The real Father.
What you will find is
A reason to live
REALLY live.

© 2014, Zoe Gregg (Aisling Beatha). All rights reserved.



You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Art Journal Book Study - Part 8

Here we are at the next season and the next word or spiritual practice in the Brian D McLaren book - "Naked Spirituality", the season of perplexity and the word "WHEN?"

So far in this summer journey of reading and exploration I have shared with you
Summer Reading Art Journal

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The season of perplexity takes us from summer into Autumn.    From the times of simplicity and then struggle into times when sometimes there is no winning and there are no answers in sight.  In this season what matters most, more than being right, more than being effective, is being HONEST, authentic, even brutally so.

For all its angst there is beauty in perplexity.  there's the strength of ruthless honesty, the courage of dogged endurance, the companionship of the disillusioned, the determination of the long distance runner who just will NOT give up.

Summer Reading Art Journal

And so, we come to WHEN and the questions of, what happens when, pray as we might, vicious cycles spin and spin, gears grind and grind and we get NOWHERE?  The coping strategies that have carried us this far in our journey of faith no longer work.  And we are left with what seems to be nothing but questions.

WHAT IF when we pray we think we are just talking to ourselves, or when we read our bibles it seems like a nothing more than a bunch of legends, of when we are at church we find ourselves thinking it's all a bunch of group make believe?  What if we don't want to think these things but we just CAN'T HELP IT?

What comes after this is fear, the fear that this will never end.  And so we move to survival.

Summer Reading Art Journal

The when of survival  is one of aspiration morphing into desperation.  And yet, above it all the flag of hope says "again", as in psalm 42.  Hope in God for I again shall praise Him.  it doesn't dare to be brave enough to say "SOON", it just manages a more modest "SOMETIME".  And so with that repeated mantra of when? again! when? Again! When? Again! we survive for one dragged out moment at a time.  We survive through delay, frustration, hardships we feel we cannot endure for one more minute, and our desire is tested and stretched.  Do you really want this?  How much longer are you prepared to wait?

And through it all, day after day we SURVIVE.  So we hold our WHEN or HOW LONG or WHERE before God, we make space for it, we allow ourselves to feel it rather than fear it, we let it out like an OUCH!

Check back soon for more pages from this art journal, although they might be slightly delayed as we have holiday club (VBS) next week.


You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing - THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS

I've been thinking about my blog and getting a little more structure over here.

Over the next few months I am thinking of introducing a few different themes for posts, so I can keep the mix of creative stuff, foody stuff, but also provide that space for me to do what I love, but haven't done in so long, and that is share my thoughts, on the deeper stuff of life.

So, we shall begin with that last one, through Thoughtful Thursdays.

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A few months ago I was asked to write a set of notes for sharing with my church.  And now it's time to share them with you.  Those will make up the first couple of months of thoughtful Thursday posts.  Some of them are reposts of previous items on my blog, some of them refer back to previous items on my blog, but put together they seem, to me at least, to make a complete whole.

When I was asked to write these I was reluctant.  I knew that the journey writing them would take me on was not an easy one, and that I would get to take all my readers along with me for the ride.  These Thursday posts might sometimes leave you worrying about me.  You might worry for my faith, my salvation, or my sanity, but you need not be concerned.

The place I'm going to take you to is one where deep faith and deep doubts and questions are held in the same pair of hand.  It doesn't mean I've fallen away from God, lost my faith, or just need to try harder.  I was going to tell you that this is a place I have gone to willingly, but I have to admit that at times I've been dragged kicking and screaming.  It is, however, a place that God has led me to, and a genuine part of the journey.

I'll leave it at that for now.  But watch out next Thursday for more . . . .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WHAT IF?

Some thoughts from a few weeks ago.

What if?


What if "Being used by God" doesn't mean "bringing lots of people to the Lord" or "building orphanages in Africa" or "being involved in your local community" or any of the other things with which that phrase comes loaded in our churches?

What if "Being used by God" means being willing to DELVE INTO THE DARKNESS within your own heart and within the hearts of others.  What if it means not hiding it, not denying it, not pushing it under the carpet? What if it means being real, raw and honest about the doubts, about the questions, about all that stuff that we are so good at avoiding.

What if it means not trying to FIX that stuff, but accepting that it's part of the journey and that by acknowledging that stuff, the journey will be richer and deeper and truer and actually closer to God.

We assume that what we see as negative = BAD
that what we feel as negative = MUST BE FIXED
that what we hear as negative = NOT ACCEPTABLE
that what we are told is negative = WRONG

What if we change the way we look at things.  What if
Negative = OPPORTUNITY
Maybe what you see as negative, what you see as needing to be ditched, maybe that is actually NECESSARY and you just can't see it yet!

Under a cloud?

Maybe we need to stop trying to FIX and learn to BE.  It's not about sitting under the negative like a cloud, or about letting it break you, it's about being willing to engage with it, dig into it, etc.

What if "exercising your faith" means HOLDING ON even when you don't believe, even when you can't believe?  What if it means holding on even when you have big questions, valid questions, questions that you can no longer ignore?  What if?

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You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Summer Art journal Book Study Part 7

Here we are at the next word or spiritual practice in the Brian D McLaren book - "Naked Spirituality", the word PLEASE.

So far in this summer journey of reading and exploration I have shared with you

Summer Reading Art Journal

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When we move from HELP to PLEASE we move from Petition and we enter into Intercession.
The author discusses through an example from his own life how when we experience pain and struggle we can experience the upside of increased compassion for others.
If we experience some degree of comfort in our own pain, we eventually find ourselves empowered to turn outward in sacred compassion toward others.
He also explores the dilemma that intercession can bring, because it means that others are in pain and we don't have the answers as to why that is.
So, we practise compassion in intercession not because we have fully satisfying answers to explain the suffering of others, BUT BECAUSE WE DON'T
 The practice of compassion through intercession, in this light, is not just a response to the agony of another in pain.  It is also the response to our own pain of not having answers about why anyone is in pain.

Summer Reading Art Journal

Chapter 15 begins with the story of the paralysed man who was lowered through the roof before Jesus.  One of the points the author makes is that it is written that Jesus noticed the faith of HIS FRIENDS.
They literally carried their paralysed friend.  They let the weight of his condition become their burden to bear.  In a sense his paralysis became their paralysis and their ability to move became his ability to move.  
Will we join the stretcher carriers, the burden bearers, feeling the pain of our fellow humans being and making it our own so that we carry OUR pain - their pain together with our pain for them - to the one we call COMPASSIONATE.
The author goes on to discuss not just praying for people, but for all of creation and also challenges us with the concept of praying for our enemies.
Will praying for our enemies really make a difference?
The important thing is to keep praying, whatever answers do or so not come, whatever you think about HOW prayer works, because however much or little prayer changes THINGS. prayer changes YOU and you need to be changed. 
That last concept, THAT would be worth reading this whole book for, I think.  But there is SO MUCH MORE.  "Naked Spirituality" by Brian D McLAren".  Check back tomorrow for yet another post with yet more pages as we move into the season I bought this book for, the autumn of perplexity.


You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Summer Art Journal Book Study Part 6

Still going?  Yep, I'm still reading this book, still making art journal pages to cover what I read.  I swear this is the most consistent I have been with a project in a very long time.  If I miss a day or two I don't say "Failure, just give up, you'll never finish it", Nope, because this book is so enthralling and I am gaining so much from it, I just pick myself up, get back into the studio and carry on!

So far I have shared with you
Summer Reading Art Journal

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Chapter 12 introduces the next word or "spiritual practice", HELP!
There are days when we wish there could be some other system.  We wish there could be way of developing patience without delay, courage without danger, forgiveness without offence, generosity without need, skill without discipline and strong love without hard to love people.
 It turns out there is no other way.  The creator has created the right kind of universe to produce these beautiful qualities in us creatures.  And among these beautiful qualities is INTERDEPENDENCE - the ability to reach out beyond ourselves, to ask for help from others and from God, and to offer help as we are able.
 He finishes the chapter with the concept of yourself as your friend.
Through the practice of petition, you learn to stand with God and see yourself as needy, weak, limited, imperfect, edgy, stressed, driven, frightened or troubled.  But you don't criticise, condemn or reject yourself.  Rather, you join God in God's desire for your own expansion and well being.  You join God in wanting the best for yourself and in that light you make your request for your friend, for yourself.

Summer Reading Art Journal

Chapter 13 continues with the concept of help and there was so much I wanted to record here, to remember, that I had to use 3 of the journaling spots as tip ins, securing one edge with washi tape.

Summer Reading Art Journal

At the beginning of chapter 13 the author discusses the sometimes controversial book, the Prayer of Jabez, which has been criticised by some as a selfish prayer for just getting more for self.
The author suggests that it is in fact prayer for liberation:
"Liberate me God from the way I have been labelled by my Mother."  It is a cry for the cycle of pain to be stopped.  "She named me pain in response to the pain I caused her, but that, in turn has caused me pain.  Let it STOP!"
So, in petition, like Jabez, we expand beyond selfishness to otherliness, beyond pain to blessing.  "Bless me, not just so I can be blessed, but more, so I can be a blessing to others.  Heal me not just so that I can be healed, but so that I can be a healer for others.  Provide for me not just so that I can be comfortable but so that I can provide for others and bring them comfort."
He goes on to explore 3 areas in which we frequently need to cry to God for help and how the word HELP , the practise of petition, can benefit us in each of those areas.

  • Anxieties - What MIGHT happen
  • Woundedness - What HAS happened
  • Disappointment - What HAS NOT happened 

Whether we're dealing with anxieties, wounds, disappointments or other needs and struggles, there is enormous power in SIMPLE WORDS - the words by which we name our pain and then translate it into a request to God.  HELP is the door into this vital practice.
Check back tomorrow for the pages on the next word, PLEASE, as we express requests to God, not for ourselves, but for others.

You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Summer Art Journal Book Study Part 5

Yes, I'm still going and have just got a bit behind on posting the updates here for you.  This book is amazing and I think that wherever you are on your faith journey, you should be able to find something useful in it.

So far I have shared with you
Now we are on to a whole new section, or season, the Summer of Complexity or the season of Spiritual Strengthening.

Summer Reading Art Journal

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In the season of Complexity our focus shifts from right versus wrong to effective versus ineffective.  We move from seeking right belief to seeking right behaviour.  We're no longer satisfied to be part of the right "in crowd" we now seek identity as part of the "winning team" and we want to play our part within that team well.

Stage 2 is a really enjoyable time in life, a time of hard work but of achieving things and getting things done.  Saying goodbye to that time is so painful that many people never do it and stay cycling between stages 1 and 2 forever, between simplicity and complexity, never acknowledging the perplexity that stage 3 brings.

Summer Reading Art Journal

Chapters 10 and 11 introduce the next word or spiritual practice - Sorry.  The author talks of the temptation to pretend, to stage manage our spiritual appearance and pretend to be more than we really are.
We all need to come out of the closet.  We don't have to hide the real us - the sexual us, the insecure us, the doubtful us, the complex, different, tempted, actual human us.
He talks of self examination and confession, that acknowledges the difference between our preferred appearance before others and our reality.
Through confession we say "God, I will not hide anything from You.  You know already.  Pretending in Your presence is pure pathetic insanity.  I want to be who I am in Your presence."
He goes on to examine what happens to the heart if the cover up is maintained, if no acknowledgement ever comes and discusses the connection with the way sin was dealt with by the ancient Hebrews.
No wonder they built into their calendar holy days of repentance, when ALL members of the community would pause to examine themselves, acknowledge their faults and come clean.
The author also talks of collective faults, things we need to examine together because they are part of who WE are together, not just who I am.  I have to say that the chapter 10 page is my favourite so far, visually.  I love the way the images and background colour work together with the journal spots that I used.  And I especially love the strip of colour down the left side of the page, which was a happy accident from adding colour to the next two page spread.


Summer Reading Art Journal

In chapter 11 the author talks of what happens when we share our faults not just with God, but with another person, especially when we receive a positive response.

  1. Until I share with another, I believe I'm the only one who struggles that way, that I am alone.  When, in fact, upon the sharing, the response often comes, "Oh yes, I know that feeling, that struggle too."
  2. When the response is compassionate rather than judgemental, that mercy and acceptance make visible for me the Good News that previously seemed beyond belief, that God also still accepts me.
  3. In an environment of grace I find myself free.  Free to continue to failing if I must.  But also free to do better if I can.
As in other chapters he introduces extra words or concepts that can really help alongside the initial one.  Alongside Sorry we are encouraged to consider Mercy.
If I name my wrong as I exhale, I can hold the word mercy as I inhale.  Breathing out regret, breathing in mercy.

Check back tomorrow and I will share the next 2 pages , as we move from Sorry, examination and regret to HELP, the expression of our personal need for God.


You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Summer Art Journal Book Study Part 4

First, let me say, this is probably the longest and most consistently I have stuck with a creative project in a very long time.  That shows you how much I am getting from this book.  Yes, I am still making art journal pages from my notes on the first book from my summer reading challenge.  No, I seriously don't think I will get through them all, in fact I doubt I will get through more than a couple of them, but that's OK, because at least I am sticking with it.


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So far I have shared with you

Now we are on to another word, the final word from the first section, or season.  

Summer Reading Art Journal

The 3rd word or "spiritual practice" is O!  It's worship!  The author talks of his experience of people, even in desperate circumstances who are still able to experience and express joy.  He talks of that simplest of words, O! as an interjection, or exclamation that can express the widest range of emotion.  That it erupts from within us, often uncontrollably, expressing our reaction to any deep or powerful emotion.

He goes on to talk of worship as an act of the whole being, that unites all parts of us in a joint eruption of joyful love and loving joy.

Summer Reading Art Journal

In the 9th chapter, the author continues to write on the subject of worship, or the expression of delight, O!  He talks about it not being just a word, but being a way of life, that we need to infuse into our whole lives through various methods..

He talks of all the ways we as human beings have found over the years to express that worship or delight, from singing, and dancing, right through to liturgy and amazing architecture.  He points out that even after we have done everything we could EVER think of to do to express that delight, to express that O! of worship, that we would still never be able to do justice to the glimpse of God's awesomeness with which He has graced us.

Keep checking in for more posts on this art journal.  In the next post we will move into the next season of the journey - the summer of Complexity.


You can check out the sites I link up to over in my sidebar. Before you go, why not check out my recipes index page, or my craft projects index page, I am sure you will find something there to interest you.
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