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.

21.1.23: Understanding ourselves

Last Thursday, whilst praying for those who wage war on other people, I saw that whenever we harm or hurt someone else in any way, our behaviour reveals that we are unconsciously at war with some aspect of ourselves. Then today’s prayer started to flow:

We don’t understand (John 16:18; NLT). 

Lord, please help us to understand ourselves, because:

When we judge others,
We are are unconsciously judging ourselves.

When we don’t forgive others,
We are unconsciously unable to forgive ourselves.

When we hate others,
We unconsciously hate ourselves,

And when we wage war on others,
We are unconsciously at war with ourselves.

Lord, please help us to choose your perfect way, because:

When we learn to accept ourselves,
We will spontaneously accept others.

When we learn to care for ourselves,
We will spontaneously care for others.

When we learn to forgive ourselves,
We will spontaneously forgive others,

And when we learn to love ourselves,
We will spontaneously love others.

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


References 

God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; NLT). 

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2; NLT). 

Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV).

“You know the way to where I am going.”  “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:4-6; NLT). 

He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries. Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:19-21; NLT).


The Rosary Hospital 

Yesterday I enjoyed fulfilling a request for a smooth, comfortable Fiat Rosary. It is destined to be worn around the neck, always ready for use, and always ready to bring comfort:

17.1.23: Prayer #5

This will sound ridiculous, but whilst I was writing this blog yesterday morning, I didn’t realise that it followed on from the previous day. Rather, I had unconsciously assumed this short series on prayer had finished. However, it turned out that I was wrong, so here it is:

When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get (Matthew 6:5; NLT).

In prayer, there is no room at all
To boast, Lord, or to pose, 
For you are truth. 

In prayer, there is no place at all
To hide, Lord, or pretend,
For you are light. 

In prayer, there is no scope at all
To judge, Lord, or to scorn,
For you are peace. 

In prayer, there is no time at all
To hate, Lord, or despise,
For you are love.  

In prayer, there is no chance at all
To shun, Lord, or divide,
For you are One.

The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4; NKJV). 

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).


References 

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

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

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

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1; NLT). 

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

Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44; NLT). 

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

31.12.22: Lord, save us! (with thanks for the safe crossing of C.O.)

Context: Yesterday I woke to the sound of a roaring sea, knowing that my friend was crossing to the island at that time. As I prayed for him, today’s blog burst into my mind. It is my prayer for all people in 2023:

It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within (Mark 7:20-23; NLT). 

Lord,

Please calm
Our raging storm
Of greed, and hate,
And war.

Heal every mind,
And heart, and soul –
Lord, save us!
I implore.

Change us,
As you changed Saint Paul,
For we, too, hate, oppress,
And kill.

In every mind,
And heart, and soul
Please whisper:
Peace, be still.

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mark 4:39; NKJV).


References 

Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25; NKJV).

Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. …As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:1;3-6; NLT). 

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:11-12; NLT).

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! (Matthew 10:27; NLT).


The Rosary Hospital 

Yesterday, to my great joy, I received a package of beads and special Fiat rosary centrepieces, which I ordered several weeks ago from America. Having tracked their long journey, including the surprising information that delivery had been unsuccessfully attempted at 7am on Christmas morning, I was delighted to lay hands on them. In the evening I celebrated their arrival by making the first section of a Fiat rosary:

23.10.22: One word

Context: Today’s prayer arrived very soon after yesterday’s (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cFG). It recognises still further how incredibly fragile and vulnerable we all are:

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him (Mark 14; 45-6; NIV).

One word,
One kiss,
One cross,
One breath:

We’re just one step
Away from death.

One blow,
One shot,
One bomb,
One breath:

We’re all one step
Away from death.

When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust (Psalm 104:29; NLT).


References

How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT).

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone (James 4:14; NLT).

Then the soldiers nailed him to the cross (Mark 15:24; NLT).

Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last (Luke 23:46; NLT). 

You do not know the day or hour of my return (Matthew 25:13; NLT). 

We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear (Job 14:2; NLT). 

God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth (Isaiah 42:5; NLT).

I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” (Luke 12:19-20; NLT). 

He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him (Psalm 103:14-17; NLT).

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves (2 Corinthians 4:7; NLT).

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).