23.1.23: It’s easy

Yesterday was a day without appointments of any kind – a blessed day of complete rest. No fresh inspiration arrived, so I was very happy to dip into my treasure-chest, bringing out a poem written a short while ago:

Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29; NLT). 

It’s easy to have feelings, Lord,
But harder to have faith.

It’s easy to complain, Lord,
But far harder to say, “Yes”.

It’s easy to hate strangers, Lord,
But harder to love all.

It’s easy to condemn, Lord,
But instead, help me to bless.

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Mark 5:44; NKJV).


References 

Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: 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. Throughout all this Job did not sin or blame God for anything (Job 1:20-22; CSB). 

I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT). 

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

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37; NLT).


The Rosary Hospital

I’ve now made an experimental prayer circlet with a holding-cross half-way round. It’s a delight to wear, as the cross rests so close to my heart.

6.11.22: Love (#2)

Context: After writing yesterday’s prayer (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cJf), I was looking back through my diary and, to my great surprise, found some lines written long ago, on a blessed day when I experienced a profound sense of God’s enduring love:

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

Even though I’m nothing, Lord,
You love me.

There’s nothing I can think,
Or feel, or say,

And nothing I can do
To make you stop, Lord:

You simply love me –
Now, and every day.

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


References 

We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19; TIB).

Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough (2 Corinthians 8:15; NLT).

28.9.22: Honest prayer

Context: This blog had a rather unusual start in life. It began to arrive just as I was about to leave my hotel room early yesterday morning to walk the short distance to London City Airport. The words I was given were clearly an ending, so I hastily jotted them down, then set off, thinking no more about them.

At the airport, I had a very welcome breakfast, went to my gate and boarded the plane. Just as we were taking off, the beginning of this blog arrived, so I had to repeat it in my mind until the plane levelled out and I could reach for my iPad. By the time we landed, the first draft was largely complete. This is what I received: 

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

Introduction

I often find it impossible to say “Amen” to other people’s prayers, to join in with printed responses during services, and to sing congregational hymns. This is because:

  • I don’t agree with what is being asked for, or said.
  • A prayer or hymn doesn’t speak for me, or doesn’t express what is in my heart at the time.
  • The language used is formal, grand or flowery: that’s not how I talk to God.
  • The prayers or hymns are too long for me to take in, or to make my own.
  • The person leading the prayers speaks so quietly that I can’t tell what they are saying.
  • The prayers are said so impersonally, or so quickly, that they seem devoid of meaning.

My aims

Reflecting on these reservations helped me to draw up a list of personal aims:

  • To pray because I want to, rather than because I think I ought to.
  • To pray for those who come to mind, rather than working my way through a list of those I feel I should include.
  • Not saying “Amen” to prayers I don’t agree with, instead quietly sharing with God that I don’t concur.
  • Not joining in with hymns whose words don’t speak for me.
  • Not ignoring, overriding, hiding, or suppressing my hurts, irritations, disappointments, anger, judgements, fears etc. Rather, I aim to be honest about them, facing their truth squarely with God, who knows exactly what is in my mind and heart.
  • Not pretending to feel other than how I actually feel. Rather, I aim pray about how I’m really feeling, and what I’m really thinking.
  • Not saying what I think God wants to hear.
  • Facing up to things I’ve got wrong and asking God to help me put them right.
  • Avoiding grand or flowery language, instead praying simply and honestly, like a child.
  • Not worrying about how short or long my prayers are, as long as they’re honest, genuine and heartfelt.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I aim to follow my golden rule:

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


References 

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me (Psalm 139:1; NLT). 

As for me, Lord, you know my heart. You see me and test my thoughts (Jeremiah 12:3; NLT). 

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord (Psalm 139:4; NLT).


Today’s reading: Matthew 6:7-13; NLT

When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles. They think God will hear them if they use a lot of words. Don’t imitate them. Your God knows what you need before you ask it.

This is how you are to pray: ‘Abba God in heaven, hallowed be your name! May your reign come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: give us today the bread of Tomorrow.

And forgive us our debts, as we hereby forgive those who are indebted to us. Don’t put us to the test, but free us from evil.’

NB: I can say “Amen” to this without reservation, apart from disliking some of the punctuation!

A dream: 13.8.22.

Context: A few nights ago I had a vivid, strange and disturbing dream:

I saw a group of very young children who had just been separated from those whose task it was to take care of them. The children weren’t old enough to walk, so they were having to crawl along a rough, narrow, dirty street, moving away from their carers, and towards an unknown destination.

All of them were wailing. It was a heartbreaking sound. In his distress, perhaps blinded by tears, one little boy blundered head-first into a stone wall. He slumped to the ground, and I was shocked to hear him cry out, “They don’t love us any more”, in utter despair, hopelessness and desolation. After that he stopped moving. It was clear that he had given up the will to survive.

My heart went out to him. I jumped up and ran to him, putting my arms round his small body to comfort him. At that moment, I woke up with my arms clasped around my pillow. Instantly, even before I could begin to pray, several realisations struck me hard: 

What I realised

Everything I experienced during my childhood laid the foundations of my mental health during adult life.

This includes how I was treated by those who brought me up, as well as by those I was exposed to at school, in churches, clubs, hospitals and all other settings.

Thus, for good or ill, I have been influenced and affected by all the relationships and events I experienced during my formative years.

Comments

From my dream, and from the realisations which followed immediately afterwards, I understood even more clearly than before that the damage done to me in childhood caused the wounds and scars I have carried into adulthood.

These wounds shaped the person I have become, including all I feel, think, say and do. They affect how I behave, relate to others, cope with suffering, treat the world, understand God, and even whether or not I want to live. They also affected how I brought up my son, and how I reacted to having a miscarriage.

My dream showed me the mechanism by which so much of my psychological distress and mental illness has been caused. Only God can fully heal the inner damage I sustained, and the consequences with which I have had to live.

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

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
(Psalm 147:3; NLT). 

Wherever I go

Context: After yesterday’s very concentrated writing effort, today I’m posting a much shorter blog I prepared a little while ago. At present, my energy for writing is in very short supply. However, since I started this website in 2013, I have always had some unpublished pieces set aside, ready to use during the periods when I can’t write. Here is one I’m glad to have the opportunity to share with you:

Be sure of this: I am with you always.
(Matthew 28:20; NLT).

Wherever I go, we go there together.
However I feel, we share it, as one.
Whenever I fail, we mourn it together,
For you never leave me,
My Saviour, God’s Son.

Whatever I lose, we face it together.
Wherever I am, you’re close by my side.
Whatever I bear, we bear it together,
For you never leave me,
Good Shepherd, my Guide.

Whatever you ask, we face it together.
Whatever you take, *I give with a smile.
Whenever I fear, I turn to you swiftly,
For you never leave me
Throughout every trial.

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

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4; NLT).

Love

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

May I treat all I feel with love,
With understanding, Lord, and care.

May I check all my thoughts with love,
Correcting them, through instant prayer.

May I speak every word with love,
Say sorry, when I get this wrong.

May I do everything with love,
And serve you gladly, all day long.

May I rejoice, and praise your name,
Commune with you, Lord, all the time.

May I accept both good and bad,
Until our spirits intertwine.

May I treat everyone with love,
No matter what they say, or do,

And trust our Father constantly –
Then I will be like you.

🖤

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).

 


 

Every breath


The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
(Romans 8:26; RSV).

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.
(Ephesians 6:18; NLT).

Let every breath
Become a prayer:
Feelings, thoughts, words, deeds –
The same.

Let every sigh
Become a prayer,
As we hold fast
To Jesus’ name.

Let every stress
Become a prayer:
Pain, sickness, sorrow,
Sins and fears.

Let every test
Become a prayer –
Because our Father
Always hears.

🖤

The angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son.
You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’),
for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.”
(Genesis 16:11; NLT).

We are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for (1 John 5:14; NLT).


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.

You always know

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
(Psalm 139:1; NIV). 

Whatever I say, Lord, when I pray,
You know the truth.

Whatever I do in privacy,
You know, for sure.

Whatever I think, Lord, every day,
You know the facts.

Whatever I feel, but don’t admit,
You know the score.

✝️

God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:20; NLT).

 


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).