16.9.22: Light and darkness (with thanks to KB)

Context: This blog arrived yesterday morning, whilst I was exchanging messages with a friend. It simply formed in my mind as I began to respond. By the time I had put it into words, I realised I needed to hold on to what I had written, so I copied and pasted it into my spiritual diary. Here is the result:

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29; NLT).

Lord, you are light, and you live in the darkness of my unconscious mind (see reference #1).

Constantly present there, you move mysteriously in the depths, patiently revealing, insight by insight, all that is hidden within me, especially all that needs healing (2).

As long as I keep on searching, waiting, looking, listening, learning, changing and growing, you keep on revealing more and more, slowly bringing everything about me into the light (3). 

Through this life-long process, you are healing all the physical, mental and emotional damage caused by my abusive childhood (4).

Thank you so much for everything you show me, Lord, for all your love, help, and healing.

I offer this prayer through your dear Son’s name.

Amen.


References

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

Clouds and thick darkness surround him (Psalm 97:2; NIV).

He shrouded himself in darkness (2 Samuel 22:12; NLT). 

2. We are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).

You cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things (Ecclesiastes 11:5; NLT). 

He knows the secrets of every heart (Psalm 44:21; NLT). 

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

3. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21; NLT).

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Luke 11:9-10; NLT). 

4. I am the Lord who heals you (Exodus 15:26; NLT).

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).

Equality

Introduction 

Some Christians believe that women are, and should be, subordinate to men, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Having researched and reflected on this issue for many years, I want to examine it in some detail, beginning with a question:

Did Jesus ever teach, state, claim, suggest, imply, or show by his behaviour that he considered women to be subordinate to men?

Jesus’ attitude to women 

The Gospels illustrate how Jesus went out of his way to include and relate to women in ways which were revolutionary for a man in a highly patriarchal society. He talked with them, listened to them, taught them, touched them, healed them and ate with them. He had close women friends and cared about women’s spiritual development. He depended on his female followers’ financial backing, and received their emotional support to the very end of his life, when all his male disciples except John had fled. Women were also the first witnesses of his resurrection. 

Jesus’ male disciples were sometimes shocked  by how closely and equally he related to women, as seen when they found him talking to the woman at the well (John 4:26; NLT).

Perhaps most significantly of all, there is no suggestion in the Gospels that Jesus excluded women from becoming his disciples:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; NLT). 

Saint Paul’s attitude to women 

So, given Jesus’ egalitarian example, where did the belief that Christian women should be subservient to men originate? Here I turn to the letters of Saint Paul. A tough, educated and opinionated man, Paul did not question the culture of his day with regard to the sexes:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord (Colossians 3:18; NLT).

Going even further, he instructed churches to silence women members, regardless of their spiritual gifts:

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (1 Colossians 14:34-5; NLT). 

In saying this, Paul presumably felt he was adhering to the Gospel, even though Jesus said nothing of the kind. 

It’s interesting to note that in his letter to the Galatians, Paul once stated the exact opposite of what he wrote to the Colossians. Experiencing a moment of sublime insight into the essential equality and oneness not just of the sexes, but of all people, he was able to write:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NKJV). 

Historical context

I don’t know how Paul managed to square his contradictory views on women, but I take care to bear in mind how strongly his writing was influenced by his historical context. Although he was an extraordinary, sometimes inspired, speaker and writer, he was also a fallible man of his times, whose views were shaped by widely-held beliefs and prejudices, some of which unfortunately crept into his letters.

Unfortunately, these non-Gospel aspects of his teaching have continued to influence others ever since. Thus, when powerful men spent years arguing about which books should be included in the Biblical Canon, most of those by, for, and about women were ruthlessly excluded. The selections they made still influence Christian belief and practice over 2,000 years later.

Conclusion

It’s hard to understand why Paul’s conventionally patriarchal attitude to women came to be so thoroughly embraced throughout history, whilst Jesus’ consistently loving, egalitarian approach has been largely ignored. Even as I write, I’m shaking my head in disbelief that Paul’s first-century beliefs about the roles and status of women and men continue to influence so many individuals, families, congregations and denominations right up to the present day.

With love

Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

May I do everything
With love:
Say everything,
Think everything,
Feel everything
With love.

May I face everything
With love:
Meet everything,
Greet everything,
Bear everything
With love.

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away
unless I drink it, may your will be done.
(Matthew 26:42; NIV).


Pray constantly

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

Lord,
May I pray constantly,
Sharing all I feel with you,
Holding nothing back at all,
Remembering you’ve felt the same.

Lord,
May I pray constantly,
Sharing all I say with you,
Trusting you to give me every word
I need, to spread your name.

Lord,
May I pray constantly,
Sharing all I think with you,
Taking captive every thought,
And knowing you’ve been tempted, too.

Lord,
May I pray constantly,
Sharing every deed with you,
Growing more like you, God’s Son,
And serving you in all I do.

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

 


Your Little Way*

Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18; RSV).

1. Thank you, Lord,
For this new day.
Please guide me
On your Little Way,

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

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

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

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
(Galatians 5:6; NIV).

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
(1 John 3:16; NLT).


References

1. The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life (Matthew 7:14; NASB).

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children, and walk in the way of love (Ephesians 5:2; NIV).

2. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT)

Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (Romans 12:2; NLT). 

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

Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

3. Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21; CSB). 

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done (Matthew 26:42; NIV).

4. 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).

*As taught by Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux.

With me (#1 of 3)

The Lord is always with me.
(Psalm 16:8; NLT).

Lord,
You’re always with me:
You hear every word I say,
And, staying close beside me,
You see all I do, each day.

Lord,
You know my foolish thoughts:
You live within my mind.
You suffer my emotions, too,
For you are always kind.

Lord,
You dwell within my soul:
You share my pain and loss,
And, as we walk together,
You support my heavy cross.

🖤

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

 


Like you

Live a life filled with love,
following the example of Christ
(Ephesians 5:2; NLT).

My Lord, my God, my Brother,
May I grow more like you,
By treating my emotions with acceptance,
And with care.

My Lord, my God, my Teacher,
May I grow more like you,
By mending each judgemental thought
Immediately, in prayer.

My Lord, my God, my Shepherd,
May I grow more like you,
By speaking kindly, making sure
That all I say is true.

My Lord, my God, my Saviour,
May I grow more like you,
By doing everything with love –
Then I’ll be more like you.

Do everything with love
(1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18; NLT).


 

Rest

I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue since 2005. This means that my energy is always very limited. Exhaustion often forces me to rest, regardless of what I want, or need, to do.

Until today, I have always understood ‘rest’ as time spent sitting down, or being in bed.

However, to my astonishment, God has now shown me that rest can also be a state of mind, and even a way of life.

With this approach, whether or not I am active, living restfully means noticing my sensations, thoughts, and emotions as they occur, acknowledging their reality without judgement, then sharing them simply and honestly with God.

Hopefully, this process will teach me how I need to change in order to live more restfully, so I can be at peace with myself, with God, with others, and the world. 

References

My soul finds rest in God (Palm 62:1; NIV). 

Give back

Image: Thanasis Papazacharias, Pixabay



Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s,
and to God what is God’s
(Luke 20:25; NIV).

1. I give my body back to you:
Lord, we are one in flesh and blood.

2. I give my thinking back to you:
Lord, may we share one humble mind.

3. I give my feelings back to you:
Lord, may we live as one, in love.

4. I give my spirit back to you:
Lord, may our joy be unconfined.

 


References

1. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14; NIV).

2. Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey (Zecharaiah 9:9; NLT).

Have […] a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8; RSV).

We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; NLT).

3. Live in a way that pleases him, and love and serve him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 10:12; NLT).

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

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

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

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

You have been united with Christ (Ephesians 2:13; NLT).

You will live in joy and peace (Isaiah 55:12; NLT).

Contemplation: a different approach

Image: ImaArtist, Pixabay


Introduction

Do you find contemplation difficult, or even impossible? Does your mind constantly slip away from observing the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations bubbling up within you, becoming caught up with them, instead? If so, you might like to try a different approach.

A fresh approach

1. Sit, lie, or stand comfortably, or walk, if you feel restless.

2. Ask God to help you with everything you are going to share with him.

3. Let your breathing be however it is. If you are still, you can close your eyes if you wish.

4. Notice the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations arising within you, and share them honestly with God. You can do this silently, or aloud, whatever suits you best. Tell him anything you want to, even if you think you shouldn’t feel, or think, that way.

5. Ask God to help you with each issue you tell him about, listening for his still, small voice in response. It doesn’t matter if you move on to a new concern before you have finished talking to him about something else. It doesn’t matter if you fall asleep. You are always in God’s arms, like a little child, and he already knows everything you are experiencing and sharing with him. This kind of contemplation is about being yourself, and being honest with God.

6. Do this for whatever amount of time you wish, long or short; again, it doesn’t matter. Thank God for listening, understanding, caring, and helping you. Then continue with your day.

Conclusion

With practice, you may find that you can continue sharing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations with God whilst you are doing simple tasks. He lives within you, so you can commune with him in your heart whenever, and wherever, you want.

In time, always aware of his presence, you will unhesitatingly share everything with him, and this is a vital part of what it means to love both God and yourself.

Image: Anja, Pixabay


References

Introduction

As I stood there is silence – not even speaking of good things – the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words (Psalm 39:2-3; NLT).

A fresh approach

1. Be still in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 37:7; NLT).

I cannot be still (Jeremiah 4:19; NLT).

2. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14; NLT).

3. The life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being (Job 12:10; NLT).

4. Pour out your heart to him (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Lord, you are searching for honesty (Proverbs 11:5; NLT).

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

5. He will be gracious if you ask for help (Isaiah 30:19; NLT).

Tell God what you need (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Listen to his voice (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT).

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

He knows the secrets of every heart (psalm 44:21; NLT).

6. Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help (Psalm 86:5; NLT).

Conclusion

I know the Lord is always with me (Psalm 16:8; NLT).

There is […] one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:4,6; NLT).

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

Commune with your own heart (Psalm 77:6; KJV).

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

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength (Mark 12:29; NLT).

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