Turn to God

Each of you must repent and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

Turn to God,
And start afresh:
Repent of all your sin.
Accept forgiveness,
Bless your foes,
And welcome Christ within.

Turn to God,
And start again:
Be Spirit-filled, and pray.
Take up your cross,
Put others first,
And follow Christ each day.

Turn to God,
And start anew:
Accepting all he sends.
Through good and bad
Love everyone,
Until your journey ends.

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


World-wide justice

Don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.
(1 Peter 2:16; NLT). 

Let true justice prevail (Deuteronomy 16:20; NLT). 

1. We pray for world-wide justice, Lord:
For shame about the lies we’ve spun;
For confession, and contrition
As we weep for what we’ve done.

2. We pray for widespread mercy, Lord:
For sorrow that we’ve used brute force;
For repentance, and forgiveness
As we face our deep remorse.

3. We pray for global fairness, Lord:
For readiness to love our foe;
For penance, and for reparation
As we pay back all we owe.

4. We pray for perfect wisdom, Lord:
For faith and hope; an end to war;
For reconciliation, truth
And peace on earth, for evermore.

The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war any more (Isaiah 2:4; NLT).  

You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end (Isaiah 9:4-7; NIV).


The song of the dead

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day,
nor the moon to give its light by night,
for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light.
(Isaiah 60:19; NLT).

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

Father, brighter than the sun;
Jesus, every battle won;
Spirit, all your work is done:
We love you.

Lord, we walked the path you trod;
You, our guide, with staff and rod,
Leading us straight back to God:
We love you. 

Every enemy outrun;
Here, no hatred, fear, or gun;
All will live in union:
We love you. 

Father, we have run our race;
Jesus, we can see your face;
Spirit, overwhelming grace:
We love you. 

Lord, in paradise, at last,
Every pain and grief is past;
You have saved us, held us fast:
We love you. 

Now, our joy, Lord, has begun;
Now, we hear you say: Well done!
Now, we know you, Three-In-One:
And love you.

🖤

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).

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.
(Revelation 21:4; NLT). 

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
(1 Corinthians 13:12; NIV).

 


If you remember me…

Remember the Lord your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:18; NLT).


1. If you remember me,
Do as I bid:
Loving your neighbours,
Just as I did.

2. If you believe in me,
Strive to do good:
Loving each stranger,
Just as I would.

3. If you depend on me,
Help others, too:
Loving each foreigner,
Just as I do.

4. No matter what happens,
Hold fast to me, still:
Loving your enemies –
Just as I will.

🖤

I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’
(Hosea 2:23; NIV). 

 


References 

1. Love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:31; NLT).

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

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

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

4. Hold fast to the Lord your God (Joshua 23:8; NIV).

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-8; NIV).

 


 

Love, say sorry, forgive

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.
(Romans 12:9; NLT; my emphasis).

1. Love your family and friends,
Neighbours, strangers, too;
Foreigners, and enemies –
Serve all of them, bar none.

2. Say sorry to your family and friends,
Your neighbours, too;
Strangers, foreigners and foes
For every wrong you’ve done.

3. Forgive your family and friends,
Neighbours, strangers, too;
Foreigners, and enemies –
Then you’ll be like God’s Son.

🖤

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).


References

1. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8; NIV).

2. 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). 

3. If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:14-15; NIV).

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And … Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; NLT).


 

I want to hug you

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
(Jeremiah 29:13; NLT).

1. I want to hug you, Father,
But I can’t;
Yet when I hug a friend, Lord,
I hug you.

2. I yearn to kiss you, Mary,
But I can’t;
Yet when I kiss my neighbour,
I kiss you.

3. I long to hold you, Jesus,
But I can’t;
Yet when I hold a stranger,
I hold you.

4. I seek you, Threefold God,
With all my heart;
And when I love my foe, Lord,
I find you.

🖤

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

 


References 

1. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13; CSB).

2. Love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:31; NLT).

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

4. You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1; NIV).

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-8; NIV).


 

Pray

Never stop praying, especially for others.
(Ephesians 6:18; CEV).

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). 

Pray for those you read about,
And everyone you see;
For those you only hear about,
And people on TV.

Pray for those you pass each day,
And everyone you greet;
For those who stop to chat with you,
And all who never speak.

Pray for those you’re glad to know,
And all you’d rather shun;
For those who want to put you down:
Yes, pray for everyone.

Pray for all your family;
For those you trust as friends;
And pray for all your enemies
Until your life here ends.

Ask the Lord to bless each one
With faith, hope, love, and health;
Then, when you’ve prayed for all the world,
Pray, lastly, for yourself.

🧡

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last,
and the servant of all (Mark 9:35; NIV).


I delight

Image: PublicDomainPictures; words: NIV.


🧡

1. I delight
In your forgiveness,
And rejoice
In your great love.

2. I exalt
In your salvation,
Lord, my God,
In heaven above.

3. I submit
To every test,
And undertake
To bless each foe.

4. I commit
To follow you,
My Lord, my God,
On earth, below.

🧡


References

1. Take delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4; NLT).

He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

Rejoice, you who worship the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:10; NLT).

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

2. Exalt in his holy name (1 Chronicles 16:10; NLT).

I will reward them with a long life and give them salvation (Psalm 91:16; NLT).

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! (Isaiah 61:10; NLT).

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9; RSV). 

3. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul (Deuteronomy 13:3; NLT).

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27-8; NIV).

4. 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).

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

There is no God like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below (1 Kings 8:23; NLT).

Dealing with hurt

This blog is about dealing with hurt feelings. In three short articles, it charts my learning over a period of several months.


 1. My dilemma – written on 19.8.20.

Image: level17-design, Pixabay


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

Introduction
During the summer of 2020, two people hurt me badly, on separate occasions. I decided to be direct with them, and did so as lovingly as I could. However, both reacted to my feedback with anger and blame, and neither was willing to work together towards reconciliation.

My dilemma: Should I speak out, or say nothing?
This breakdown in two significant relationships left me ruminating for many weeks about all that had gone wrong, generating a constant sense of dread. Sadly, this was not a new experience. Dealing with hurt feelings has posed a serious dilemma for me throughout my life: is it better to speak out to those concerned, or to say nothing?

What did Jesus say and do?
As always, when I don’t know what to do for the best, I looked for guidance in the teaching and example of Jesus. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt, criticism, and injustice, which I have always found confusing.

For example, on one occasion he stated: If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them (Luke 17:3; NIV). 

Yet he also said: If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also (Matthew 5:39; NLT).

So, what happens when I try to follow each of these two apparently very different approaches?

Speaking out
Experience has taught me that when I speak out directly to someone who has hurt me, it almost always backfires. In response to my feedback, they turn on me with anger and blame, or end our relationship. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic endless sense of dread.

Saying nothing
On the other hand, when I say nothing, I allow the other person to hurt me without protesting, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. This makes me feel powerless, worthless, and depressed.

Thus, whichever approach I try, I generally end up feeling as if life is not worth living.

Forgiveness
Fortunately, Jesus was absolutely clear that whether or not we speak out, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never acknowledge what they have done, and never apologise. Forgiveness gives me something positive to work on during the months of emotional distress which follow each time someone upsets me.

Conclusion
When people hurt me, I see myself as having only two basic choices: to speak out, or to say nothing. Either way, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health. Not knowing how to resolve this dilemma has plagued me all my life, and remains a serious problem to this day.


After writing the piece above, I began to talk my dilemma over with a few, trusted people for the first time ever. Gradually, my thinking about it began to change, as described in the next article.


2. My action plan – written on 30.8.20.

Image: Jackson David, Pixabay


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).

Introduction
After writing the above article, I spent a long time working out how to improve my ways of relating to those who hurt me. From the insights gained, I gradually put together an action plan to follow whenever a crisis arises.

My action plan
Rather than seeing my response as a stark choice between speaking out and saying nothing, I decided to tackle each situation in a series of stages.

Stage 1: Withdraw, pray, reflect
When someone behaves unacceptably towards me, I will not confront the person involved immediately. Instead, I will simply tell them that I need time to reflect on what they have said or done. I will then withdraw to sleep on the matter for at least one night. Taking time out will enable me to pray, discuss the situation with someone I trust, and think carefully, before responding. This should help to prevent me from reacting angrily in the heat of the moment, with a high risk of permanently damaging the other person, our relationship, and myself.

Stage 2: Decide whether or not to be honest
During the time out, if I decide it is pointless, or inappropriate, to speak directly  to the person concerned, I need take the matter no further. Instead, I will work on praying for them, and forgiving them.

On the other hand, if I decide to tell the other person how their behaviour has affected me, I need to remember that they may have had no intention, or awareness, of upsetting me, and might therefore be very taken aback when I raise the subject.

Stage 3: Speak out briefly, and lovingly
When I decide to give direct feedback, I will do so as briefly and lovingly as possible. I will remind the person of what they said or did, and be honest about how it has hurt me. Anything beyond this is superfluous.

Stage 4: Wait to see how the person responds
If the other person reacts badly, there is no need for me to do anything further. We are all responsible for our own behaviour, and I can’t expect everyone to respond exactly as I wish.  Instead, I will try to put the whole matter behind me, though I admit that I have always found this impossible.

On the other hand, if the other person reacts positively, and apologises, I will accept this immediately, forgiving them completely. We can then be reconciled, and the whole matter will be resolved.

Stage 5: Start afresh
Finally, however badly things turn out, I can try to start afresh each day. Every time I find myself ruminating about what happened, I will remind myself that the matter is now closed, and that it’s time for me to move on.

Conclusion
From now on, when someone hurts me, I have an action plan to follow. My overall aim will be to maintain a careful balance between being speaking out, preserving relationships, and protecting my mental health.


After finishing this article, I made further progress in dealing with hurt feelings, as described in the final piece of this series.


3. My further learning – written on 23.1.21.

Image: Manfred Antranias Zimmer, Pixabay


Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves
(Philippians 2:3; NLT).

Introduction
Despite my hopes, putting together my action plan didn’t make me feel any better about my two shattered relationships. I was still living with constant dread, which drained my already very limited energy. My sleep and dreams were disturbed, and I began to slip into depression. Clearly, my approach to dealing with hurt feelings was incomplete.

Then, one day, I suddenly realised that when I’ve been honest with someone about their behaviour towards me, and they have taken it badly, or stopped speaking to me, there is one more step I can take, in the hope of resolving the situation.

One more step
I can write to the person concerned, saying how sorry I am about everything that has gone wrong between us. I can tell them that I’m praying for them, and for our relationship, and let them know that I long for us to be reconciled. Even if they don’t respond, I will then know that I have done all I possibly can to put things right between us.

This insight enabled me to write carefully and lovingly to the two people who had hurt me. To my delight, one responded with great generosity of spirit, though sadly the other did not reply. However, by sending these letters, I finally managed to stop ruminating about all that had gone wrong. In consequence, my abiding sense of dread slowly began to diminish.

The teaching of Mother Theresa
At this point, I believed my action plan was complete. Some weeks later, though, I stumbled on Mother Theresa’s teaching about how to deal with exactly the kind of hurtful situations that had destroyed my peace of mind for so many months.

In  her book, “The Joy in Loving” (Penguin Books, 2000), Mother Theresa offers brief but powerful advice on how to become more humble, and therefore more Christ-like. The wording varies slightly in different editions of the book, so I have amalgamated the most relevant points into a single list which hopefully maintains the spirit of her approach:

  • Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  • Accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
  • Accept criticism, even if it is unmerited.
  • Accept insults and injuries.
  • Accept being slighted and disliked.
  • Accept contempt, being disregarded, and being forgotten.
  • Be courteous, kind, and gentle, even when provoked.

Inspired by the simplicity and clarity of these teachings, I began to absorb and practice them. Not long afterwards a friend unexpectedly censured me for something which was not under my control. Feeling hurt, I began to defend myself, but quickly recalled Mother Theresa’s wise words, “Accept criticism, even if it is unmerited.” I stopped speaking, and turned away. Overwhelmed by despair, I started to weep. To my friend’s credit, she quickly realised how much she had hurt me. She approached me, apologising profusely. We clung together for a long time in great distress, comforting each other. Eventually I was able to explain how afraid I had been of her sudden anger, and how much her words had upset me. I told her that I loved and valued her, and we were fully reconciled.

Humility, acceptance and courtesy
This was a deeply healing experience, unlike anything  I had previously experienced. Moreover, it was not followed by dread, or depression, which seemed little short of a miracle. I therefore resolved to adopt Mother Theresa’s approach of responding with humility, acceptance, courtesy, kindness and forgiveness whenever someone hurts me.

Conclusion
These three linked articles have described how I resolved my lifelong dilemma about the best way to respond when someone hurts me. I no longer see myself as having a straight, binary choice between speaking out and saying nothing. Nor do I need a complex action plan that relies on how the other person reacts at each stage. Instead, from now on, whenever I am criticised or attacked, I will use the simple, humble approach encapsulated in Mother Theresa’s teaching.

To my delight, this completely resolves my original dilemma, as it is entirely in accordance with the spirit of Christ’s own words: Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also […] Then your reward in heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High (Luke 6:27-9, 35; NLT). 

There can be no finer action plan than this.


Acknowledgements

My warmest thanks to all those who engaged in discussing this issue with me, especially Alan, Dianne, Rosemary, and John. Their contributions have been invaluable. Many thanks also to Ber, whose technical help and personal encouragement enabled me to write and organise this document.

May I love

Image: Keith Johnston, Pixabay


🌹

There is […] one God and Father,
who is over all and in all and living through all

(Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

1. May I love each child, Lord God,
Because they are your cradle.

2. May I love each neighbour, Lord,
Because they are your home.

3. May I love each stranger, Lord,
Because they are your temple.

4. May I love each enemy,
Because they are your throne.

5. May I love you, Father God,
Because you make and keep me.

6. May I love you, Jesus Christ,
Because you cleanse my sin.

7. May I love you, Holy Ghost,
Because you never leave me;

8. And may I even love my self –
Because you dwell within.

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

🌹


References

1. Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me (Matthew 18:5; NLT).

Jesus, […] though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7; ESV).

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

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them” (John 14:23; NLT).

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

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

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

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

He loves all his people (Deuteronomy 33:3; NLT).

5. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength,
and all your mind (Luke 10:27; NLT).

Your hands shaped me and made me (Job 10:8; NIV).

The Lord keeps me alive! (Psalm 54:4; NLT).

6. Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you (John 21:17; NLT).

I will cleanse them of their sins (Jeremiah 33:8; NLT).

7. He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:5; NLT).

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, [Comforter, Encourager, Counsellor] who will never leave you (John 14:16; NLT).

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

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