A life

Greetings to everyone who reads this short article, which describes some of the life experiences underpinning the prayers I post each day on this website.

I was born in the UK, soon after the end of the Second World War, and was the youngest of 3 children. My mother was unpredictable, given to destructive outbursts of rage, emotionally abusive and controlling. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I lived with constant anxiety and fear, and had very little sense of who I was.

When I left home to go to university, I was ill-prepared to cope with independence. I began having panic attacks, though at the time I had no idea what they were. At the beginning of the third year I had a breakdown, abandoned my studies, and returned home. 

After a period of unemployment, I worked in an office, then in a day centre, where I helped to care for people with physical and learning disabilities. One day a client accidentally set fire to the cushion of his wheelchair with a dropped cigarette. In lifting him up, I tore a tendon in my back, leaving me in constant pain.

The only treatment for back pain in those days was bed-rest. After about 18 months of this, I decided to try walking to the shops. Just a short distance from home I had a major panic attack. Although I didn’t understand this at the time, I had become agoraphobic. As with all phobias, the more I tried to avoid my fears, the worse they became.

Despite my constant pack pain and mental illness, my partner and I got married, and I became pregnant. When I went into labour, serious complications necessitated an emergency admission to hospital. The whole experience was traumatic. Afterwards, I developed multiple phobias, and found it hard to cope with the normal stresses of caring for my baby. 

A year later I became pregnant again, but had a miscarriage at about fifteen weeks, leading to emergency surgery. Afterwards, I developed severe anxiety and depression, so my toddler had to go into daycare. 

At this point, I learned that I was agoraphobic. From the local library, I borrowed a copy of “Agoraphobia – simple effective treatment”, by Claire Weekes. Slowly, I began to fight back, despite my mental and physical fragility.

There were further breakdowns along the way, and endless struggles with depression, anxiety, panic and dread. When my son was about seven, I began studying for a degree in psychology, but this time only managed the first year, before the panic attacks became so intense that I was forced to give up.

Along the way, though this seems astonishing as I look back, I did my best to contribute to my family’s finances whenever I was well enough. Without any qualifications, I did the best I could with the skills I had picked up earlier in my life. Over the years I worked as a student landlady, cleaner, and barmaid. I organised children’s parties, ran a dance band, and taught music informally.

Later, I joined a five-piece band, travelling to gigs all around the UK. I quickly learned never to mention my fears, and somehow got through. It was hard, but I did the best I could to have a life. I suppose I unconsciously assumed it was the same for everyone.

Throughout this time, I read all I could about anxiety, depression, panic disorders and the factors underpinning them. I made daily efforts to face my fears in a graded way, building up my tolerance until I could walk to the centre of my home-town, visit a supermarket, and drive a few miles alone.

Realising I would never be able to cope with the stresses of full-time study, I began attending an adult education centre. Slowly, over a period of seven years, I  worked to gain a certificate in counselling, an advanced certificate, then a diploma. During this time I also entered therapy, worked as a volunteer counsellor, and tried to gain insight until the origins of my mental issues. Meanwhile, I continued to push against my boundaries by starting to travel on trains. Essentially, I managed to live with my fears through dogged efforts to confront them.

Once qualified, I began work in the National Health Service as a counsellor, later beginning a part-time master’s degree. My academic results were good, but the stress of achieving them was very high. 

Unfortunately, half-way through the two-year course, I developed Grave’s Disease. Too ill to work, and deteriorating rapidly, I had emergency surgery to remove my thyroid. It took me a year to recover enough to go back to work, and to continue my degree, but somehow I managed it, even coming top in my year-group. However, the illness left me dependent on medication for the rest of my life, and with the collateral damage of daily headaches and frequent migraines.

The migraines eventually made work impossible, so I retired. Not long afterwards, a bout of influenza left me with chronic fatigue (M.E.). For the first few years, I was unable to walk more than a few paces around the house, and relied on a mobility scooter. Eventually, I learned about pacing as a possible way forwards. It took me a year of building up through slow, daily practice to be able to walk about five hundred yards up a gentle slope. Despite this improvement, I have lived with chronic fatigue ever since. The limitations it imposes have increased with each illness, and as I’ve got older.

Unable to make music  any more, I slowly developed other methods of creative expression, including textile art, writing, and editing. In 2013 I began a website (www.ruthkirk.org), and have posted a daily, original, spiritual poem there ever since. I also enjoyed helping in a charity shop for a few hours each week until three and a half years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was swiftly followed by a mastectomy, then by lengthy attempts to cope with various drugs, whose side effects eventually proved intolerable. This time, the collateral damage was losing the ability to regulate my temperature, so I now cycle constantly between sweating and shivering, day and night. There is no treatment for this condition, which doesn’t even seem to have a name, though it has a significant impact on my quality of life. 

Nowadays, my limited energy is spent on hospital appointments, occasional short walks, and a few social contacts. Church is too hard to manage, but I have made a shrine in my bedroom, which I find very helpful.

As I slowly become more accepting of my overall condition, my faith grows ever stronger. When I was confirmed, very recently, I took the name of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux. Her “little way” of doing everything, however small, with love, has become my daily aim. Accordingly, I would like to finish this article with a prayer I wrote some years ago. Each morning, I say it soon after waking up:

Your little way 

Thank you, Lord,
For this new day.
Please keep me
On your little way,

Then I will feel, think,
Say, and do
Everything with love,
For you.

No matter what
You give or take,
May I accept it
For your sake,

And strive to feel, think,
Say, and do
Everything with love –
Like you.

To those who have read this brief summary of my life-story, I send my thanks, praying that one day it will help someone, somewhere. May God bless you all.

✝️ Ruth Kirk (22.2.22.)


 

I sigh

The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden
to tend and watch over it.
(Genesis 2:15; NLT).

Father, I sigh,
Because we’re abusing
Your planet.

Father, I cry,
Because we’re exploiting
The weak.

Father, I mourn,
Because we’re ill-treating
Our bodies.

Father, I grieve,
Because this world’s future
Is bleak.

❤️

The end of the world is coming soon.
(1 Peter 4:7; NLT).

 


 

There is no mercy (with thanks to A.K.)

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent (Matthew 12:7; NIV). 

There is no mercy
In our minds
When we condemn
The meek.

There is no justice
In our hearts
When we abuse
The weak.

There is no pity
In our souls
When we exploit
The poor. 

Lord,
Stir our spirits
To repent,
Till love becomes
Our law.

🤍

Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law
(Romans 13:8; NIV).


Prayer

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

Lord,
I pray for all those who are cold,
Hungry, thirsty, fearful,
Or in pain.

Lord,
I pray for all those who are sick,
Homeless, sad, awaiting help,
In vain.

Lord,
I pray for all those who are poor,
Abused, enslaved,
Whose sorrow never ends.

Help me, Lord, like you,
To care for all,
While loving those who hate me,
As my friends.

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT).

Your ways

Show me your ways, Lord
(Psalm 25:4; NIV).

Of all your servants,
I’m the least,
Yet show me, Lord,
Your way of peace,

Where I’ll go slowly,
Say, and do
Everything with love,
For you.

As I face
Each weary test,
Please show me, Lord,
Your way of rest,

Where I’ll go slowly,
Praise, and pray
With you beside me,
Come what may.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me
(Psalm 23:4; KJV).

Shine your light

Image: Ruben Gal, Pixabay


💛

1. Shine your light
On all who live in darkness,
Till they decide to seek you, Lord,
And find.

2. Spread your peace
To all who are abusive,
Till they begin to seek you,
And grow kind.

3. Teach your truth
To all who lie to others,
Till they are moved to seek you,
And lament.

4. Pour your love
On all who practice hatred,
Till they resolve to seek you,
And repent.

💛


References

1. God is light (1 John 1:5; NIV).

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine (Isaiah 9:2; NLT).

You will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29; NIV).

2. The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT).

They all do evil and abuse what power they have (Jeremiah 23:10; NLT).

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful (Ephesians 4:29; NLT).

You will grow as you learn to know God better and better (Colossians 1:10; NLT).

3. The Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6; NKJV).

Stop your love of telling lies that you swear are the truth (Zechariah 8:17; NLT).

“My people bend their tongues like bows to shoot out lies. They refuse to stand up for the truth […] They do not know me,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 9:3; NLT).

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

4. God is love (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbour (Zechariah 8:17; NKJV).

Love your neighbour (Luke 10:27; NLT).

Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 4:17; NLT).

Not far to fly

Image: 5hashank, Pixabay


🧡

Whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit
(1 Corinthians 6:17; NIV).

Father God,

1. When I must die,
My soul will not have far to fly.

2. You live in me; I live in you –
There’s nothing I will need to do

3. But leave this body, and its pain,
To step into your arms again.

4. Then, Father, we will re-combine,
For I am yours, and you are mine.

5. Yes, Father, we will re-unite
Forever, in your glorious light.

Into your hands I commit my spirit
(Psalm 31:5; NIV).

🧡


References

1. Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

2. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

3. The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever ( Revelation 21:3-4; NLT).

The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you (Deuteronomy 33:27; NLT).

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

4. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

My beloved is mine and I am his (Song of Songs 2:16; NIV).

5. I will live in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6; NLT).

The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light (Revelation 21:23; NLT).

Consequences

Image: Pete Linforth, Pixabay


🖤

He reveals deep and mysterious things
and knows what lies hidden in darkness

(Daniel 2:22; NLT).

Lord,

1. You know I’ve been abused.
I’m traumatised, and scarred.
I’ve had to live with shame, dread
And depression. It’s been hard.

2. My physical and mental health
Have failed, time and again.
I’m sure my mother never guessed
Her rage would cause such pain.

3. Since then, I’ve tried to be
A Good Samaritan each day,
But now I see that I, too, was attacked
Along the way –

4. Stripped and beaten, left half dead,
Despised, passed by, ignored,
Then you drew near to care for me,
My Priest, my God, my Lord.

5. At last, I’ve grasped your promise,
And your plan has been revealed:
My suffering will end one day –
In death, I will be healed.

🧡


References

1. God has seen your abuse (Genesis 31:42; NLT).

2. The tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself (James 3:6; NLT).

No one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8; NLT).

The tongue can bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21; NLT).

They live wicked lives and they misuse their power (Jeremiah 23:10; NET).

You did not reflect on your actions or think about their consequences (Isaiah 47:7; NLT).

3. A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers (Luke 10:30; NIV).

4. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road (Luke 10:30; NLT).

By chance, a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side (Luke 10:31-2; NLT).

I am insignificant and despised (Psalm 119:141; NLT).

I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit about what happens to me (Psalm 142:4; NLT).

Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine, and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here” (Luke 10:33-35; NLT).

I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you (Hosea 14:8; NLT).

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess (Hebrews 4:15; NIV).

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:28; NLT).

5. My eyes strain to see your rescue, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled (Psalm 119:123; NLT).

We receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:22; NLT).

This is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6; NLT).

The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever ( Revelation 21:3-4; NLT).

Forgiveness

Image: The Betrayal, by Ugolino di Nerio, Yandex

❤️

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely,
the one who shared my food, has turned against me
(Psalm 41:9; NLT).

1. Help me, Lord,
To bless all those who curse me,
And to pray for all those
Who berate me.

2. Help me to forgive
All those who hurt me,
And, Lord, to do good
To those who hate me.

3. Help me turn my cheek
To those who bruise me,
And, like you, to love those
Who abuse me.

Father, forgive them,
for they don’t know what they are doing
(Luke 23:34; NLT).


References

1. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28; NLT).

2. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you (Matthew 6:14; NLT).

Do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27; NLT).

3. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also (Luke 6:29; NLT).

He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered (1 Peter 2:23; NLT).

Love your enemies (Luke 6:27; NLT).

We are patient with those who abuse us (1 Corinthians 4:12; NLT).

My dilemma

Image: 412designs, Pixabay


Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

Image: czu_czu_PL, Pixabay