21.9.22: God’s presence

Context: I woke, began to pray, and saw afresh that God is constantly present in us all.

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth! (Psalm 116:9; NLT).

Practicing awareness

Once we recognise this, we can begin to practice remaining consciously aware of God’s presence, until our awareness becomes continuous. This is easy to say, but extremely difficult to put into practice. In fact, it can seem like an impossible task, for we have many distractions each day. Attempting it quickly reveals how easy it is to forget about God’s presence altogether for hours at a time.

Tangible reminders
However, tangible, meaningful reminders of God’s presence can be a useful aid. Those chosen will be different for everyone, depending on our faith and circumstances. Personally, I like to wear an olive-wood cross day and night, always available for me to kiss and hold. There are also a few pictures, icons and wall-crosses strategically placed around my home. Plus, as soon as I open my iPad, my favourite icon is there on the screen, as well.

Living in God’s presence
Slowly, usually through many years of practice, we can learn not just to remember God’s presence all the time, but to live in it. This means communing with God, whilst expressing God’s love as best we can, in all we think, say and do.

Becoming more Christ-like
Through constant contact with God, we become increasingly aware of our oneness with the Divine. This helps us to become more Christ-like, and even, astonishingly, a little more like God.

Constant oneness
In fact, of course, our oneness with God is unchanging, whether or not we are aware of it. This applies before birth, during our time on earth, and after death. So, if we want to live in the joy of God’s presence, all we have to do is to consciously practice remaining aware of, and communicating with, God, who lives within us.

Shadow-self

Context: Earlier this week I unexpectedly got in touch with some deeply-buried aspects of my shadow-self, which was absolutely shattering (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bWz). Lots of tears, prayers and much painful honesty followed. In the end, of course, it proved to be a very healing experience. 

What is the shadow-self? 

Robert Johnson describes the shadow-self as the “…dumping-ground for all those characteristics of our personality that we disown.” 

He goes on to remark that “These disowned parts are extremely valuable and cannot be disregarded.” This is because “To honor and accept one’s own shadow is a profound spiritual discipline. It is whole-making and thus holy, and the most important experience of a lifetime” (see pp ix-x, “Owning your own shadow – understanding the dark side of the psyche”, Robert A. Johnson; HarperCollins 1993).

The same author later comments that “To own one’s own shadow is to reach a holy place  – an inner centre – not attainable in any other way. To fail this is to fail one’s own sainthood and to miss the purpose of life” (Ibid, p17).

The Bible shows that Jesus, too, had a shadow-self. Some of his most significant experiences brought him face-to-face with his inner temptations, anger, anguish, fear, doubt and despair. Thus, as we strive to become more like him, we, too, need to face, own, accept and integrate our shadow selves, just as he did. 

Following the dramatic emergence of parts of my own buried shadow-self, this prayer surfaced whilst I was saying grace before breakfast:

Trust in God always, my people;
pour out your hearts before God our refuge.

(Psalm 62:8; TIB). 

1. I face my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in the wilderness,

2. And show my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, in the Temple.

3. I share my shadow-self with God,
Like Jesus, in Gethsemane,

4. And give my shadow-self to God,
Like Jesus, on the cross.

Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
(Mark 15:34; NLT).


Jesus called out with a loud voice,
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
(Luke 23:46; NLT).


References 

1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:1-3; NLT). 

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:5-6; NLT). 

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9; NLT). 

2. Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:13-16; NLT).

3. He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:37-39; NLT). 

Lord Jesus

Context: Today I will be setting out on my first long journey since before the start of the covid pandemic. It will take me two days to reach Ely, in the UK, where I will spend time with my family. This trip is going to be a huge physical and emotional challenge, as my health, energy, strength and mobility have deteriorated a lot since my last visit early in 2020, just before the arrival of covid and the first UK lockdown.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it;
but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
(Matthew 10:39; NLT).

My hope, my faith,
My light, my truth;
My joy unborn,
My sacred thorn:
Lord Jesus.

My pain, my grief,
My love, my life;
My gain, my loss,
My way, my cross:
Christ Jesus.

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”
(Luke 9:23; NLT). 

Trials and sorrows (#3 of 3)

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows
(John 16:33; NLT).

1. Let’s face our trials and sorrows
Just like Christ,

2. Bearing our cross
As he bore sacrifice,

3. Doing our best to serve like him,
God’s Son –

4. Then, at last, he will say to us:
“Well done”.

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:23; NIV).


References 

1. If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).

As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. (1 John 4:17; NLT).

2. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT). 

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds (Titus 2:14; NLT). 

People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:25; NLT). 

3. You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him (Matthew 4:10; NLT).

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:26-8; NLT). 

Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross (1 John 5:6; NLT). 

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

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; NRSV).

Trials and sorrows (#2 of 3)

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows
(John 16:33; NLT).

1. We have our trials and sorrows, Lord,
It’s true –

2. We’re privileged to bear our cross
For you.

3. Help us to face our lives
With constant prayer,

4. Until we rise
To meet you in the air.

First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; NLT).


References 

2. You have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him (Philippians 1:29; NLT). 

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me (Mark 8:43; NLT). 

3. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NIV). 

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; CSB). 

God’s presence

I will lie down and sleep peacefully,
for you, Lord,
make me safe and secure
(Psalm 4:8; NET). 

1. I sleep in your presence,
Absorbing your love,
Soothed by your peace, Lord,
And safe in your arms.

2. I wake in your presence,
Suffused by your light,
Hearing your voice, Lord,
And learning your truth.

3. I rise in your presence,
Accepting each loss,
And, trusting your strength, Lord,
I take up my cross.

If any of you wants to be my follower,
you must turn from your selfish ways,
take up your cross daily, and follow me
(Luke 9:23; NLT).


References 

1. God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

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

I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 34:15; NLT).

The everlasting Gods is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms (Deuteronomy 33:27; NET).

2. When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

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

God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it (Job 33:14; CSB). 

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

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught (Luke 10:39; NLT).

3. Rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you (Acts 26:16; NKJV). 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

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

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

The Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4; KJV).

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy (Psalm 28:7; NLT). 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall (Psalm 18:29; NLT). 

Home shrines

1. Welcome

Hello! A warm welcome to everyone who visits “Seeking God’s face”, and to all who follow here regularly. I pray for you all each day.

2. Home shrines

This blog brings a very simple message: to suggest that many people could find joy, comfort, support and self-expression through having a home shrine, especially those of us who are sick or disabled, and can no longer go to church.

3. My shrine 

My shrine is in my bedroom, on the chest of drawers. In this room, I can close the door, and pray in private. The shrine has developed slowly over several years, having started with the large wall cross, a few flowers, a candle, and an incense burner. 

Whenever I want to, I make changes to it, removing items that have served their purpose, and introducing others which are particularly significant for me at the time. As my faith becomes increasingly universal, I plan to incorporate relics from other faiths. Nothing is included out of a sense of obligation or pressure.

4. Personal spiritual practices

A home shrine offers an opportunity for the daily expression of personally meaningful spiritual practices. For example, I stoop to kiss the small wooden cross at the front, just as a priest kisses the altar before saying mass. Then I dip my fingers in the small bowl of holy water, blessing myself with the sign of the cross. Sometimes I do this in the Roman Catholic way, sometimes in the Russian Orthodox style, just as I wish. 

Occasionally I light a candle or an incense stick, though I never leave these burning in my absence or whilst I’m asleep, in case of fire.

5. Prayers

My shrine includes two framed prayers which mean a lot to me. Their presence enables me to include them in my daily worship whenever I want to, and reminds me of the words, if I forget them.

The first is about the “little way” of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, whose name I took at confirmation (https://wp.me/p45bCr-acZ), whilst the second is a prayer for world peace (https://wp.me/p45bCr-aCa).

Sometimes I am able to stand in front my shrine to pray for a minute or two. However, when I’m too tired, unwell, cold, or lightheaded to do this, I simply begin praying there, then get into bed to continue whilst lying down. Last thing at night, it’s a pleasure to thank God for all my day has brought, both good and bad. Then I say goodnight, and settle down to sleep.

6. Icons

Whether I’m just passing my shrine, or staying a little longer, I often touch each icon with love before I move on. My room also includes three large wall icons, hanging at just the right height to touch, hold gently with both hands, and kiss, as I whisper my prayers.

7. A very private place 

Some people might scoff at these  practices, judging them to be sentimental, foolish, pointless, or even idolatrous. However, for me the beauty of my home shrine is that it is a very private place where I can be honest with God without any kind of  formality, using my own words, however few or many they may be. It’s also a very good place to “be still and silent” before God, for a few, precious moments. 

8. A safe place….

Furthermore, my shrine gives me a “safe place” to return to in my imagination when I need extra support in the outside world. This grounding effect is enhanced by a holding cross, made in Bethlehem from the prunings of olive trees. When I received it, I blessed it at my shrine, then left it there overnight to absorb the essence of its peace and beauty.

9. …coupled with a holding cross 

During the daytime, I wear this cross around my neck on a long cord, hanging beneath my clothes. When I need it, I discretely retrieve it with the cord. Visualising my shrine whilst holding my cross hidden in the palm of one hand, or clasped between both, is a great source of help, strength and comfort. I do this when I face traumatic events, flashbacks, unpleasant medical treatments, pain, strong emotions, interpersonal conflict, or feared situations. Despite its small size, this little cross powerfully re-connects me to the peace and safety of my shrine. 

At night, I have a similar cross, but on a much shorter cord. Secured around my wrist, it stays in my hand whilst I am asleep. This cross is a tangible, comforting reminder of God’s presence each time I wake up.

10. Final words 

It feels strange to share these very personal, central aspects of my life with you, yet it seems important to do so. The opportunities offered by home shrines for spiritual nourishment, and for direct, free self-expression before God are far too valuable to keep to myself.

May God bless you all each day.
With much love from Ruth xxxxx

 

References

1. Welcome

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT). 

3. My shrine

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

5. Prayers 

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

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

Be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT).

7. A very private place 

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

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

You desire honesty from the womb (Psalm 51:6; NLT).

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10; NLT).

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity (Zechariah 2:13; NLT).

8. A safe place…

You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress (Psalm 59:16; NLT). 

This I declare about the Lord: he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him (Psalm 91:2; NLT). 

9. …coupled with a holding cross

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18; NLT).

When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

10. Final words

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

You formed me

The Almighty …blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb
(Genesis 49:25; NIV).

1. Lord,
You formed me in the womb,
Laboured, bore me, gave me breath,
Flooded me with brilliant light,
And washed me with your love.

2. Next,
You took me in your arms,
And warmed me with your Spirit’s fire,
Fed me with your perfect truth,
And soothed me with your peace. 

3. Then,
You stood, to carry me
From that day forward, through the years,
Prepared to bear me, and my cross,
To share my joys and tears.

As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother
(Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 59, Julian of Norwich).


References

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

You guided my conception and formed me in the womb (Job 10:10; NLT).

The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name (Isaiah 49:1; NLT). 

The Lord …will say, “I have long been silent; yes, I have restrained myself. But now, like a woman in labour, I will cry and groan and pant” (Isaiah 42;14; NLT).

The breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NKJV). 

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

God is love (1 John 4:8; NLT).

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

The Lord your God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV). 

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

Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me (John 6:57; NLT). 

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

3. Praise the Lord; praise God our saviour! For each day he carries us in his arms (Psalm 68:19; NLT).

He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

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

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

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (Hebrews 2:14; NIV).

Our daily bread

Give us this day our daily bread
(Matthew 6:11; NKJV).

I am the living bread that came down from from heaven
(John 6:51; NLT).

1. Jesus is the only food
That matters:
His body is my bread;
His blood, my wine.

2. Jesus is the only church
That matters:
His teaching is my truth;
His word, my shrine.

3. Jesus is the only path
That matters:
His footsteps are my way;
His love, my light.

4. Jesus Christ the Lord
Is all that matters:
His Spirit is my Guide;
His cross, my life. 

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us
(Colossians 3:11; NLT).


References 

1. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink (John 6:55; NIV). 

2. He is the Saviour of his body, the church (Ephesians 5:23; NLT). 

I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die! (John 8:51; NLT).

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; NLT).

He is the Word of life (1 John 1:1; NLT).

When Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body (John 2:21; NLT). 

Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22; NLT). 

God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us (1 John 4:13; NLT).

How good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter (Psalm 73:28; NLT). 

3. God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NLT). 

He loves us with unfailing love (Psalm 117:2; NLT).

I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life (John 8:12; NLT).

4. 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 3:9; NLT).

Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives (Galatians 5:16; NLT).

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Colossians 1:18; NLT).

Please help me

Serve the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT).

1. Please help me, Lord,
To serve, not sin,
To follow Christ,
Your Shepherd King,
Love everyone
Like kith and kin,
And bear my cross
Each day

2. Please help me
To grow more like him,
Obey his quiet voice
Within,
Rejoice, give thanks
For everything,
And never cease
To pray.

Never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NLT).


References 

1. Do not sin (Psalm 4:4; NIV). 

Follow me and be my disciple (Matthew 9:9; NLT). 

I am the good shepherd (John 10:14; NLT).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (James 2:8; NLT).

Love ye therefore the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; KJV).

You, too, must show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NIV).

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

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

Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT). 

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16; NIV). 

Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).