Acceptance

Context: Yesterday was interesting, but truly exhausting. The long, slow journey across London from my hotel to the hospital in very heavy traffic was followed by about five hours of continual medical tests. Then it was time for the journey back to the hotel, and some much-needed food and drink, as I had been fasting for many hours.

Some of you will know that I’ve been having therapy for severe lifelong claustrophobia, so I’m delighted to report that I coped with the automatic door-locking systems in two taxis, used the hospital lift twice, locked myself in the disabled loo several times, and dealt well with being strapped down for some of my investigations.

Today I have to get up very early for my flight home, so there’s no time for writing. Instead, in the middle of the night, I’m posting a little prayer which came to me a few days ago.

Introduction
As I get older, I see more and more clearly that God really does bring good out of everything, no matter how disastrous it may seem.

However, we too, have an important part to play in this process, through our acceptance, faith, hope, love, trust and prayers. God can only help us if we co-operate!

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

Accepting the rough with the smooth, Lord,
Accepting the grief with the bliss,

Accepting the hate with the love, Lord,
Accepting the strike with the kiss;

Accepting the cold with the heat, Lord,
Accepting the dark with the light,

Accepting the bad with the good, Lord:
I give thanks for all of my life.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).


References

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

No test has overtaken you but what is common to all people. You can be confident that God is faithful and will not let you be tested beyond your means. And with any trial God will provide you with a way out of it, as well as the strength to bear the trial (1 Corinthians 10:13; TIB).

He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10; NLT).

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33; NLT).

We know that God makes everything work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to God’s purpose (Romans 8:28; TIB).

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).

The flood

Context: Recently, I’ve been thinking about the flood narrative in Genesis, which illustrates the disastrous consequences of sinful, human behaviour:

YHWH saw the great wickedness of the people of the earth, that the thoughts in their hearts fashioned nothing but evil. YHWH was sorry that humankind had been created on earth; it pained God’s heart. YHWH said, “I will wipe this human race that I have created from the face of the earth – not only the humans, but also the animals, the reptiles, and the birds of the heavens. I am sorry I ever made them” (Genesis 6:5-7; TIB). 

So God sent a great flood to wipe out all living things:

For forty days the flood continued… The waters rose so high over the earth that all the high mountains under heaven were covered… All life on the earth perished – birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures, and all humankind (Genesis 7:17-21; TIB).

The TIB translation includes an interesting scholarly footnote for this passage:

“Some commentators feel the story of the Flood speaks of the ending of the last ice age, when the melt from the receding glaciers raised the sea level high enough to submerge much of what had before been dry land.”

The Biblical flood story is usually seen as being safely in the past, but it recently occurred to me that it can also be understood as a prophecy, for as global warming melts the polar ice-caps, similarly catastrophic flooding is becoming inevitable.

Of course, some readers may rightly point out that after the flood God promised never to cause such terrible destruction again (Genesis 8:21; TIB). However, modern climate change is not an act of God. Rather, it is caused by human over-exploitation of finite earthly resources. The causes and consequences of global warming are therefore ours alone, as we move ever further from our original commission to, “cultivate and care for the land” (Genesis 2:15; TIB). 

So, flowing from these reflections, here is today’s prayer:

From the least to the greatest, their lives are ruled by greed.
(Jeremiah 6:13; NLT). 

Lord,

How can you bear our wastefulness?
How can you bear our greed?
How can you bear our selfishness?
How can you bear our hate?

How can you bear our ignorance?
How can you bear our pride?
How can you bear our foolishness?
You weep in us all, and wait. 

How can you bear our bitterness?
How can you bear our strife?
How can you bear our wickedness?
How can you bear our sin?

How can you bear our cruelty?
How can you bear our wars?
How can you bear our lovelessness?
You weep, Lord, and wait within. 

The LORD must wait for you to come to him
so he can show you his love and compassion.
(Isaiah 30:18; NLT).

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

Light in darkness

Context: When I was praying, I saw a light shining in a vast vault of darkness. Instantly, the first line of this prayer-poem came into my mind. As always, I knew I had to write it down immediately, without thinking about anything else at all. Long experience has taught me that inspiration fades within just a few seconds if I don’t grasp it straight away. Subsequent lines usually come into my mind as I’m noting down the line before, so I just keep on writing until the sequence comes to a natural end.  

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it
(John 1:5; NLT). 

For what other great nation has a god so near to it
as YHWH is to us when we call? (Deuteronomy 4:7; TIV). 

Light in darkness,
Joy in pain,
Peace in anguish:
God is near.

Strength in weakness,
Love in hate:
All is well,
For God is here.

All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well
(Revelations of divine love, Julian of Norwich). 

God is with us (Isaiah 7:14; NLT).


References

My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; NKJV). 

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). 

If you love me and obey the command I give you, I will ask the One who sent me to give you another Paraclete, another Helper to be with you always – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept since the world neither sees her nor recognises her; but you can recognise the Spirit because she remains with you and will be within you (John 14:15-17; TIV). 

Totality in One

Context: A quiet day today. I made breakfast and took it back to bed, which is something I very rarely do. The morning brought the reflective verses below, whilst part of the afternoon was spent gardening in breezy sunshine under a beautiful blue sky.


God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh – ‘the LORD'”
(Exodus 6:2; NLT).

God,
Totality in One,
More brilliant than the rising sun;
No time, beginning, limit, end:
I love you.

God,
Eternity within,
No hate, or fear; no greed, or sin;
Pure love, light, fire; pure truth and peace:
I praise you.

God,
The mystery in all,
Concealed by darkness, yet you call
On me to worship, learn, and grow
Like you.

Put on your new nature, and be renewed
as you learn to know your Creator
and become like him (Colossians 3:10; NLT). 

Through judging (#1 of 3)

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

You will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged (Matthew 7:2; NLT). 

Through judging others, Lord,
We judge ourselves.

Condemning others,
We condemn ourselves;

For when we criticise
And sneer,

We never stop to think,
Or fear

That, hating them,
We also hate ourselves.

You are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).

At last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins (Ezekiel 6:9; NLT). 

Looking at others

No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven
(John 3:27; NLT).

Father,
Fill us with your truth;
Flood us all with hope and faith –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
We will always see Christ’s face.

Father,
Fill us with your love;
Deluge us with grace and peace –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
All our fear and hate will cease.

Father,
Fill us with your light
Until we shine, just like your Son –
Then, Lord, when we look at others,
We will know that all are one.

You are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).


References 

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

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18; NIV). 

Before their eyes, Jesus was transfigured – his face becoming as dazzling as the sun and his clothes as radiant as light (Matthew 17:2; TIB).

We will be like him (1 John 3:2; NLT). 

Heal our unbelief

We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28; GNT).

“Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-4; NLT).

Father,
You bring good from bad,
And peace from every fear we have;
Truth from lies,
And gain from loss –
Help us to overcome our unbelief.

Father,
You bring light from dark.
For growth from pain, you hit the mark;
Love from hate,
And faith from doubt –
Bring gain from all our troubles, Great High Priest. 

Father,
You bring life from death,
And comfort from each final breath;
Hope from grief,
And joy from woe –
Your resurrection, Lord our God, is sweet.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25; NLT).

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies (Psalm 103:2-4; NLT).

Sad and angry

The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord (Psalm 14:2-4; NIV).

How sad and angry
You must be
To witness
All our cruelty,
Our hate,
And inhumanity –
Our lack of love,
Lord God.

I beg you
For a halt to strife,
Respect
For every human life,
Forgiveness,
And an end to war –
Then peace will reign
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).  

His government and its peace will never end (Isaiah 9:7; NLT).


 

Good Friday

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).

Beyond all torment, come what may,
Is Christ,
Who tells us how to pray.

Beyond all darkness and distress
Is Christ,
Who teaches us to bless.

Beyond all anguish, hate, and blood
Is Christ,
Who shows us how to love.

Beyond all hunger, thirst, and pain
Is Christ,
Who died, and rose again.

Beyond all terror, grief, and war
Is Christ,
Who lives for evermore.

I died, and behold I am alive for evermore.
(Revelation 1:18; RSV).