16.11.22: I believe in Jesus

Context: Both my husband and I have covid, so I’m not able to write at present. However, here is a prayer which arrived a short time ago. I chose it because it seemed to follow on from yesterday’s (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cKC):

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25; NLT).

I believe in Jesus,
For he is all I need:
He heals my mind,
Forgives my sins,
And hears me when I plead.

I believe in Jesus,
For he is all I seek:
He heals my heart,
Redeems my life,
And helps me when I’m weak.

I believe in Jesus,
For he alone can save:
He heals my soul,
And cares for me –
His humble, willing slave.

Whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else (Mark 10:44; NLT).

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:4o; CSB). 

31.10.22: Thank you

Context: This prayer arrived late one evening, after a difficult day when I had written nothing at all. Whilst getting ready for bed, I went to stand, as usual, in front of one of my favourite pictures: Christ of Saint John of the Cross, by Salvador Dali. I touched the frame of the picture with both hands, began to pray, and this is what came to me:

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV). 

Thank you, Lord,
For all you make,
For all you send,
And all you share.

Thank you, Lord,
For all you give,
For all you take,
And all you bear.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; NIV). 


References:

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB).

Give whatever he takes, with a big smile (Mother Theresa).


Note for those interested in my rosary-making project:

Yesterday afternoon I felt tired, and it was raining hard, so while I rested I started learning to make barrel knots, which are essential for creating corded rosaries. I haven’t yet received the special tool and all the materials I need, so I practiced on some string my husband found in the greenhouse. It was much more difficult than it looks in videos, but I found it very absorbing. Eventually my efforts were rewarded with the first little chaplet of 6 knots, shown above. Hopefully more news will soon follow!

22.10.22: Healing

Context: Yesterday I woke late, and began to say my familiar morning prayers. Suddenly I saw how fragile we all are, and the profoundly damaging effects our experiences can have on our minds, hearts, souls and bodies. Then, this simple prayer immediately flowed:

How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT). 

Lord,
Heal our fragile, injured minds –
Forgive our sins:
Help us to share.

Please heal our fragile, broken hearts –
Forgive our sins:
Help us to care.

Lord,
Heal our fragile, damaged souls –
Forgive our sins:
Help us to pray,

And heal our fragile, mortal flesh –
Forgive our sins:
Help us today.

Lord, help us! (Joel 1:19; NLT).


References

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone (James 4:14; NLT). 

He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him (Psalm 103:14-17; NLT).

Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name (Psalm 79:9; NLT). 

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7; NLT). 

1.10.22: Humility

Context: This blog came to me in a split second, when I was washing my face after getting up late. It was a few days after my hospital trip to London, and I was feeling drained, lonely and rather sorry for myself. God spoke to me so personally that I was nearly knocked off my feet:

The whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14; NLT).

  • Keep on offering your love to others, but don’t expect their love in return.
  • Keep on listening to others, but don’t expect them to listen to you in return.
  • Keep on taking an interest in other people’s news, but don’t expect them to show any interest in yours.
  • Keep on showing your sympathy to those who suffer, but don’t expect their sympathy in return.
  • Never try to elicit a caring response from those you think might ‘owe’ you some love in return. It won’t work, and the effort will only increase your sadness and loneliness.
  • When you’re too drained to support others, stop trying. Wait until you have some energy to spare. Say nothing; do nothing; rest.
  • Just keep on practicing Mother Theresa’s teaching on humility: “Accept being slighted, forgotten and disregarded” (reference below).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love (Ephesians 4:2; NLT).


Reference

Here is a link to my blog about Mother Theresa’s teaching on humility: https://wp.me/P45bCr-7Ew

8.9.22: Starting afresh

Today is my 70th birthday, and it marks a fresh start here on my blog, as outlined yesterday (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cbb). From today, until a review in one month’s time, I will be sharing much more directly what God gives me, without trying to shape it into poetry or articles. Instead, my blogs will take the form of an honest daily, spiritual diary.

Hopefully, this change will enable me to continue communicating with you, whilst reducing my workload appropriately as my health deteriorates. Introducing this change is exciting, and makes me feel much more optimistic about the future, no matter what it may hold. So, here is the first entry in my new spiritual diary.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16; NLT).

Lord, please help me to remember that I live in your presence. I want to be conscious of your nearness, day and night.

As I get older, you’re slowly revealing the contents of my unconscious mind. Please help me to learn from all you show me. Thank you for everything you bring out of my inner darkness. By the time I die, I want to have discovered, faced and accepted as many as possible of the treasures hidden there, however challenging this process may be.

Help me to shine as a beacon of your love wherever I am and in all circumstances, confident that everything is just as you wish it to be. May I learn from all I experience.

Lord, my life here is an exile and a pilgrimage. Whatever happens, please help me to keep on heading back home to you, whilst doing what I can to serve those I encounter along the way. Thank you for taking care of everything else.

I ask all this in your dear Son’s name. Amen.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord (Isaiah 45:3; CSB).

He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness (Daniel 2:22; NLT).

God must wait

Context: “The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion” (Isaiah 30:18; NLT). For me, this is one of the most remarkable verses in the Bible.

God longs for a two-way relationship with us, suffers with us through all our trials and sorrows, and is always ready to help: “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years” (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

YHWH longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; TIB). 

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to live,
You have been waiting
To help me forgive.

During my time here, Lord,
Each time I wept,
You have been longing
To help me accept.

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to care,
You have been eager
To help me in prayer.

After my time here, Lord,
Learning to love,
You will be ready
To greet me, above.

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NLT). 

My flesh, my blood


Context:
Yesterday I stirred at 6am, and all I wanted was to go back to sleep. My bed was blissfully warm and comfortable, but today’s prayer began to nag insistently in my mind until I forced myself to wake fully and discover what it wanted to say. To my great surprise, it turned out to be this wide-awake, effervescent song of praise:

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

1. My Lord, my God; my flesh, my blood:
You fill my body with your love.

2. My Lord, my God; my bread, my wine:
You make my sinful mind your shrine.

3. My Lord, my God, my strength, my prayer:
You teach my hard, cold heart to care.

4. My Lord, my God, my sword, my shield:
You touch my soul, and I am healed. 

5. My Lord, my God, my everything:
You make my spirit dance and sing!

People in Zion will dance as they sing,
“Everything I am has its source in you.”
(Psalm 87:7; TIB).


References 

1. If you don’t eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Chosen One, you won’t have life in you. Those who do eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in them (John 6:53-6; TIB).

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

2. As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body” (Matthew 26:26; NLT).

He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many (Matthew 26:27-8; NLT).

We are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

3. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song (Isaiah 12:2; NLT). 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you (Ezekiel 36:26; NIV). 

4. He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword! (Psalm 28:7; NLT).

He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3; NKJV). 

5. I pray to you, O LORD. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life (Psalm 142:5; NLT).

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:8-9; NLT). 

The LORD is my strength and my song (Exodus 15:2; NLT). 

Let them praise God’s Name with festive dance; let them sing praise (Psalm 149:3; TIB).  

Images

The LORD is like a father to his children.
(Psalm 103; 13; NLT).

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
(Isaiah 66:13; NIV). 

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a father, safely guiding,
Like a mother, reconciling,
Like a teacher, gently chiding –
Now, and evermore.

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a potter, smoothly moulding,
Like a mentor, wisely scolding,
Like a comforter, enfolding –
Now, and evermore.

Holy Spirit, pray within me –
Like a pastor, interceding,
Like a doctor, caring, healing,
Like a pilgrim, sighing, pleading –
Now, and evermore.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
(Romans 8:26-7; NRSV).


Reflections on Biblical translation 

I’m often struck by how powerfully Biblical translations influence the thinking, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of their readers. The consequences of such effects can be positive or negative, both for the holder, and for those they relate to.

Below are four renderings of the quote which ends today’s blog. They illustrate how differently these verses can be translated in terms of the grammatically gendered pronouns used to refer to God’s Spirit. I have highlighted the relevant words for each quotation:

1. Neuter/masculine
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God (KJV).

2. Masculine
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (NIV).

3. Feminine
The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God (TIV).

4. Inclusive
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (NRSV).

Discussion
These four quotes illustrate significantly different ways of translating the original Greek text. All of them are justifiable, though the first three are incomplete. This is because the Greek word used for “Spirit” here is grammatically neuter, whilst its definite article (the) denotes feminine, masculine and neuter. Moreover, the reflexive pronoun translated as “Himself” in the second example, actually means he, she, it, they, them and same (Strong’s Greek).

The sheer breadth of meaning that needs to be compressed into a single pronoun here is stunning, and sadly the English language offers no easy way to express the extraordinary inclusivity of the Greek. The fourth quotation is the only one which manages this, by carefully using solely inclusive, non-gendered vocabulary.

I have great sympathy for translators faced with the challenge of trying to convey such complex meanings, especially as the decisions they make are also likely to be influenced by countless conscious and unconscious factors. Here I would include, for example, the conventions, attitudes and prejudices of their era regarding the ascribed roles and status of women and men. Each translator’s individual upbringing, education, training, experience and stage of faith development are also likely to play a part in the words they choose. So I don’t envy these brave souls, who carry a heavy burden of responsibility for how each reader understands, and responds to, every word they read in their chosen Biblical translation.

Acknowledgement
All the grammatical information on which this discussion is based is taken from Strong’s Greek, which is publicly available, free of charge, via Blue Letter Bible, at: https://www.blueletterbible.org

Worship

Context: Despite a migraine, I was able to go to hospital for a stack of blood tests. Then my wonderful husband met me, and we went in the lift together: one floor up, and one floor down. This was truly the achievement of a lifetime for me, and I wept with joy afterwards.


Worship

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Genesis 1:1-3; NLT).
 

Yahweh,
Speaking and creating,
Caring, sharing,
Giving, taking;
Comfort when my heart
Is breaking:
You alone are God. 

Yahweh,
Never once forsaking,
No beginning,
No berating;
Joyful, loving,
Liberating:
You alone are God.  

You alone are God (Psalm 86:10; NLT).