Infinite love

Context: Yesterday, after the briefest of waking-up prayers, I wrote solidly from 6-8.30am. By then I had more or less completed “Golden light” (https://wp.me/p45bCr-bR3), which later became the day’s blog. It was time to get up, but I decided to take a moment to pray before going downstairs. However, I had barely begun to collect my thoughts when I was hit by a series of revelations.

By the time they came to an end, I was shaken, tearful, joyful, reeling and awed, because I had just been given a glimpse of God’s infinite love and omnipresence. I had made some notes, but have no idea whether I wrote them during, or just after, what happened.

The experience was like watching slow-motion ripples spreading out wider and wider after a single drop of water had fallen into a vast, motionless sea. What I saw is very difficult to express in words, but I will do my best to describe each ripple in turn.

1. All love comes from God
I perceived that whenever I receive love, whether from a person or an animal, that love always comes from God, who is present within the one who is loving me.

2. God is in everything
Next, I grasped that God’s loving presence is in all that exists on earth, including everything made by people, as well as by God.

3. God is in good and bad
Then, I understood that God’s loving presence is not restricted to good people, creatures and things. Rather, divine love is equally present in difficult people, creatures, circumstances and events, including accidents, sickness, suffering, fear, grief and disaster – that is: all life and death.

4. God is in the cosmos
After this, I realised that everything in the cosmos also contains God’s loving presence, including the planets, suns, stars, comets, galaxies and even the dust of space.

Comment
Thus, I learned that divine love is present in everything, here and now, without exception. It has always been so, and always will be so, yet, like Jacob on his journey to Harran, I had not recognised this (see Genesis 28:16-17; NIV). As I write, I’m still shaking my head in wonderment at what I saw, yet there was more to come.

5. God is in all
Following this, I glimpsed that God’s loving presence can also be found in ugliness, destruction, abuse, violence and sin, though this is very hard to put into words. However much human beings damage and despoil the divine image in people, creatures, objects and creation, God’s love is still present in all things. Seeing this helped me to understand a little more about how God is able to bring good out of bad (see Romans 8:28; NLT).

Furthermore, I saw that there are no exceptions to God’s loving omnipresence. This means that there is nothing I can…

See, hear, smell, taste, or touch;
Use, waste, neglect, ignore, break, or discard;
Feel, think, say, or do;
Judge, hate, or destroy,

…that isn’t filled to overflowing with God’s loving presence.

6. Living in heaven
Lastly, I saw that when I consciously and fully recognise God’s constant, loving presence everywhere, and in all things, I live in God, which means living in heaven on earth. Similarly, after death, I will live in God, in heaven. Thus, I perceived that whether I live or die, oneness with God is the same.

Conclusion
God is present
in all people, creatures, things, experiences and events, everywhere and forever, and God is love (1 John 4:16; NIV).

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6; NLT).


References 

There is one Lord …who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NLT).

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

I worship you


Context: This prayer is an outpouring of joy, as I slowly come to feel God’s love. I have always felt essentially unlovable, so this is a very new experience for me. It’s taken me a long time to reach this stage of faith development, because I never felt loved as a child, nor did I love my parents. Excitingly, I have already begun moving into a new future, in which I am slowly learning to show love to myself.


Worship God (Revelation 22:9; KJV). 

I worship you,
Creator God:
Yahweh,
Elohim –
My Lord.

I live in you,
And you in me:
One love,
Adoring –
And adored.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.
(1 Chronicles 29:11; NLT).

Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
(Jeremiah 31:3; NLT). 

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). 

Celtic Christianity (#1 of 2)

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray throughout each task you do:
Ask the Lord to strengthen you.
Extol his name both night and day,
And glorify him, come what may.

Care for everyone you meet.
Welcome sickness and defeat.
Adore creation, sing, rejoice,
And listen for his still, small voice.

Grasp how life and death combine:
Play your part in God’s design.
Accept that everything must cease,
And revel in his perfect peace.

Worship; value all he sends.
Thank him when your time here ends,
Then leave your body far behind –
Return to God: bliss unconfined!

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

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

Moving backwards

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden
to work it and take care of it (Genesis 2:15; NIV).

Lord,
As we kill, pollute, exploit
And burn,
We’re moving backwards
All the time –
Back to the very dawn
Of this ancient world.

Lord,
If we don’t repent
And change our ways,
We’ll render your fertile planet
Lifeless –
Barren, flooded, and dark,
As fast as we can.

Lord,
With blind eyes, closed minds
And greedy hearts,
We’re blundering back
To the start of evolution.
Empty, extinct, formless and void –
This Earth will cease to exist.

Then,
All will be as it was
Before creation –
Before your Spirit
Brooded over the deep;
Before you spoke, Lord,
Long before time began.

✝️

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day (Genesis 1:1-5; KJV).

 


Help those who never hear

God speaks again and again, 
though people do not recognise it
(Job 33:14; NLT).

Help those who never hear your voice,
Although creation sings your praise. 

Bless those who never see your face,
Although your glance sets stars ablaze.

Heal those who never know your love,
Although you cherish all you make. 

Guide those who never try to pray,
Although their sorry hearts may break.  

Teach those who never seek your Son,
Although he dwells within us all.

Draw those who never grasp, Lord God,
That you must wait, until we call. 

The Lord must wait for you to come to him
so he can show you his love and compassion

(Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

______________________________

Look at your sorrow (with thanks to R.O.)

Image: 272447, Pixabay


1. Look at your sorrow,
Your pain, and your fear;
Then take God’s right hand,
For the Father is near.

2. Look at your body,
Your mind, and your heart;
Then take a step back,
And let God play his part.

3. Look at your setting,
Wherever you are;
Then move further back,
And observe from afar.

4. Look at your country,
Your continent, too;
Then shift further back,
For a much wider view.

5. Look at our planet,
The moon, stars, and sun;
Then go further back,
Till you see all is one.

6. Look at the universe,
God’s boundless space;
Then draw further back,
To behold his bright face.

7. Witness creation,
Christ’s birth, and God’s plan;
Then praise him forever,
And rest in his hand.

 


References

1. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me (Psalm 138:7; NLT).

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. I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you” (Isaiah 41:13; NLT).

3,4. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39; NLT).

5. There is one Lord […] who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

6. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1; NLT).

They will see God’s face (Job 33:26; NIV).

7. This is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children (Ephesians 3:6; NLT).

I will praise you forever, O God (Psalm 52:9; NLT).

I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28; NLT).

The Lord will hold you in his hand (Isaiah 62:3; NLT).

Creation exalts you (#2 of 2 linked prayers)

Image: falco, Pixabay



I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth
(Joel 2:30; NIV).

1. Father,
Creation exalts you:
Rocks break
When your hurricanes blow.

2. Jesus,
The wild waves obey you;
Earth quakes,
And your living springs flow.

3. Spirit,
The universe serves you:
Flames leap,
And your great waters flood.

4. Threefold God,
Reigning in heaven:
You speak –
And we bow down, in love.

 


References

1. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17; NLT).

The Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind (1 Kings 19:11; NLT).

2. When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him! (Luke 8:25; NLT).

After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake (1 Kings 19:11; NLT).

Rivers of living water will flow from his heart (John 7:38; NLT).

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water (Revelation 7:17; NLT).

3. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire (1 Kings 19:12; NLT).

Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3; NLT).

If he releases the waters, they flood the earth (Job 12:15; NLT).

4. All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations (Psalm 22:27-8; NIV).

God speaks again and again, though people do not recognise it (Job 33:14; NLT).

After the fire [came] a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12; KJV).

Bow down and worship the Lord (Ezekiel 46:3; NLT).

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).