31.8.23: Things I used to do

Walking on the Isle of Man in 2009.
Collecting litter with my beloved electric bike in 2018.
Using my new electric wheelchair in 2023.

Yesterday I woke early, remembering immediately that I would be setting off on a journey today for a hospital trip to the United Kingdom. It will be my first time travelling alone for several years. I’ll be using a wheeled walking frame, so my packing has had to be pared down to the absolute minimum.

Despite feeling slightly anxious, I managed to pray for a while before today’s blog began to emerge. It puts into words the losses I experience as I get older, steadily becoming more limited by my health, energy and mobility issues. 

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

Lord,

1. Help me to give up gracefully
The things I used to do,
To offer thanks, and let them go,
Returning them to you.

2. One by one you take my joys,
The things I used to do,
Like walking, cycling, seeing friends –
I yield them all to you.

3. My energy, my health, my strength,
The things I used to do,
They fade and die, but faith remains,
Surrendering to you.

4. Day by day you take away
The things I used to do,
So we draw ever closer,
While I’m coming back to you.

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


References 

Verse 1:
*Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).
*Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17; NIV).

Verse 2:
*Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (Habakkuk 3:17; NLT).

Verse 3:
*I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go (John 21:18; NLT).
*Maryam said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of THE LORD JEHOVAH; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38; ABPE).

Verse 4:
*May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; NLT).
*I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).
*Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7; ESV).
*The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:24-5; NIV).

1.8.23: You take away my health

PublicDomainPictures: Pixabay.

This prayer took me by surprise as it arrived just after lunch last Sunday . It relates back to “Take my mind”, so here is a link in case you would like to check out that diary entry: https://wp.me/p45bCr-evh.

NB: Because I have so little energy, I now try hard to keep references to a minimum. However, they seemed so essential to today’s prayer that I’ve included them this time.

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

1. Lord,
You take away my health,
My pleasures, and my liberty;
My comfort, and autonomy –
Yet will I cling to Thee.

2. Lord,
You take away my friends,
My neighbours, and my family;
My church, and my security –
Yet will I worship Thee.

3. Lord,
You take away my choice,
My strength, and my mobility;
My self-esteem, and dignity –
Yet will I follow Thee.

4. In death,
You’ll take away my days,
My body, my identity;
My individuality
Yet will I trust in Thee.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.
(Job 13:15; KJV).


References 

Verse 1:
* When you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go (John 21:18; NLT).
* Cling to him (Deuteronomy 10:20; NLT).
* I cling to you (Psalm 63:8; NLT).

Verse 2:
* He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me (Job 19:13-14; KJV).
* You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).
* Worship the LORD your God (2 Chronicles 30:8; NLT).
* You alone are the one we worship (Isaiah 26:13; NLT).

Verse 3:
* He has taken away my strength (Psalm 102:23; NET).
* Jesus said to him, “Follow me” (Matthew 8:22; NET).
* Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).
* Let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:25; NLT).

Verse 4:
* Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (Habakkuk 3:17-18; NLT).
* The LORD gives both death and life (1 Samuel 2:6; NLT).
* The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).
* Trust in God, and trust also in me (John 14:1; NLT).
* I trust in God (Psalm 56:4; NLT). 

23.3.23: The shadow self

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=Shadow&title=Special:MediaSearch&go=Go&type=image

Introduction

Today’s blog is about the shadow self. This term encompasses all the aspects of ourselves we find so uncomfortable, shameful and unacceptable that we ignore, conceal, or deny them. However, it is essential to find ways of recognising and expressing these hidden aspects, so we can integrate them into a fuller understanding of ourselves (see “Owning your own shadow” by Robert A. Johnson; Harper One: 1991).

My shadow, for example, includes sin, guilt, shame, selfishness, self-pity, depression, irritability, judging, anxiety, fear, resentment, bitterness, anger, insecurity and feeling unwanted. For a long time, I have habitually taken captive my thoughts and feelings along these lines, saying sorry to God as soon as I become aware of them. I then replace them with something more loving, in accordance with Paul’s teaching (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV). However, until very recently, I have never considered choosing to express them in any other way.

Instead, I generally keep negative feelings and thoughts concealed in my shadow. Unfortunately, this is unhealthy, as these spontaneous aspects of myself are significant aspects of my whole being.

Being honest

Over the last few weeks I’ve begun to grasp the spiritual importance of maintaining a constant awareness of what is happening in my shadow. This enables me to be more honest with myself, with God, and, potentially, with other people.

Of course, I don’t want to simply “act out” the contents of my shadow through impulsive, uncontrolled behaviour. Rather, I want to be in touch with them, so I can choose how to respond. Moreover, if I decide to express them, I want to do so as safely and constructively as possible, for the sake of both others and myself.

Such expression doesn’t necessarily mean voicing my shadow self directly, though occasionally this may be appropriate. Instead, I choose to express my shadow through dance, writing and prayer. Art, music, sports and many other activities can also provide alternative creative outlets.

It won’t go away

Staying in touch with my shadow self and finding safe ways to express it is essential, because ignoring it does not make it go away. Trying to push challenging emotions such as anger, hatred and fear out of awareness leaves them free to create havoc in the unconscious mind. This is how sudden outbursts of exasperation, temper, violence and panic can seem to strike “out of the blue”.

The Psalms

The Psalms offer a healthy example of honouring the shadow by expressing it honestly in prayer, alongside more positive aspects of the self. The writer of Psalm Three, for example, begins by praising God for helping them in the face of their enemies’ threats. The tone remains positive until verse seven, when it changes dramatically, as the author gives vent to the pent-up fear, anger and vengefulness concealed in their shadow:

“Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!” (Psalm 3:7; NLT). 

Once these negative impulses have been fully voiced, the writer is able to finish on a more positive note:

“Victory comes from you, O LORD. May you bless your people” (Psalm 3:8; NLT).

If the writer had sanitised this psalm by omitting the thoughts and emotions hidden in their shadow, it would have been incomplete. This would have made it far less helpful to both themself and their future readers.

Conclusion

The raw, spontaneous truths hidden in our shadow are vital aspects of the self, treasures without which we cannot be complete. To reject them means being out of contact with essential aspects of ourselves.

Learning to integrate the contents of our shadow with our more positive thoughts and emotions is therefore vital for authentic spiritual growth and healing. As Johnson states: “These disowned parts are extremely valuable and cannot be disregarded… To honour and accept one’s shadow is a profound spiritual discipline. It is whole-making and thus holy and the most important experience of a lifetime” (Johnson; ibid, pp ix-x).


So now, after that long introduction, here is today’s prayer:

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

Lord, 

Thank you for my shadow –
May I face it,
Acknowledging its role
In all I do.

Thank you for my shadow –
May I own it,
So I can choose
To share it all with you.

Thank you for my shadow –
May I love it,
For you desire my honesty,
I know.

Thank you for my shadow –
I embrace it.
Lord, may these secret riches
Help me grow.

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches (Isaiah 45:3; NLT).

18.3.23: You know everything

Whilst I was slowly waking up yesterday, this prayer came straight to me. I wanted to enjoy being warm and sleepy for a while, but the words were very insistent. It begins and ends with direct quotations from Psalm 139, which I have incorporated into the wording. The full references are below, as always.

Lord, you know everything about me: everything I experience, feel, think, say and do.

You observe all that happens in my body, mind, heart and soul, including everything of which I’m not conscious.

You perceive what I reveal to others, and what I conceal. 

You discern all this whether I’m awake, asleep, or dreaming.

Sick or well, you are closer than my heartbeat and my breath. 

You hold my life in your hands, loving me, and helping me through all I must face.

Lord, point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.


References 

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

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

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT).

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139:24; NLT).  

10.2.23: A healing dream

The moment I began to pray before my icon of Mary yesterday morning, I saw the overall theme of the dream from which I had just woken. It was truly astonishing, because during this dream, I had liked my mother.

This may not sound very significant, but it was a first for me. During the dream, I wasn’t afraid of her. I was able to compliment her on her appearance, and give her some direct feedback. It was extraordinary to feel comfortable about being around her.

None of these things ever happened during her lifetime because I was afraid of her. I hated being with her, and loathed her touch and the sound of her voice. I took care to avoid her as far as possible.

Over the years I have had many nightmares about my mother – horrible dreams in which I’ve tried to stand up to her and woken up shouting. However, in last night’s dream I actually enjoyed her company.

In real life, I never loved or trusted my mother, but this dream gave me my first ever glimpse of what a much healthier mother/daughter relationship might feel like. So, I’m going to hold on to the mother I spent time with in my dream: a smart, trim, approachable woman in a fitted, green, woollen suit, wearing red lipstick; a woman who willingly contributed to a community event in an official capacity; chatty, relaxed, and able to accept honest feedback.

As I reflected on my dream, it felt strangely healing, as if a lifetime of emotional suffering and mental illness could somehow be redeemed by a single, brief, positive experience.

I thanked God for giving me this dream about what my mother could have become if her own life had been different, for having dreamed about having a good relationship with her, and especially for the brief, precious experience of liking her.

27.11.22: Better than life

Context: Today’s prayer arrived early yesterday morning when I woke at around 4am with a migraine. After taking my medications, I sat propped up in bed, alternately dozing and writing. These verses slowly emerged over the course of the day, finishing late in the evening:

What is sweeter than honey? (Judges 14:18; NLT). 

What’s sweeter than honey,
And choicer than wine?
Higher than knowledge,
And vaster than time?

What’s brighter than sunlight,
And greater than wealth?
Warmer than friendship,
And finer than health?

What’s stronger than sharing,
And deeper than love?
Kinder than giving,
And richer than blood?

What’s wiser than serving,
And dearer than breath?
Simpler than worship,
And closer than death?

What’s better than living,
And makes us all one?
It’s Christ, our salvation,
God’s dearly-loved Son.

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12; NLT).

This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy (2 Peter 1 17; NLT).


References

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Philippians 3:7; NLT).

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NLT).

Your unfailing love is better than life itself (Psalm 63:3; NLT).

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16; NLT).

20.11.22: Peace

Context: As I lay in bed yesterday, after praying, writing, and posting my blog, I picked up my night-cross again, wanting to pray for peace throughout the whole world. I asked God to fill every mind, heart and soul with peace, including:

  • All those who exercise any kind of power over others’ lives, for example: parents, partners, siblings, classmates, teachers, health staff, civil servants, social workers, priests, managers and supervisors
  • All those who hurt, criticise, insult, reject, exclude, dominate, bully, threaten, control, exploit, abuse and attack people weaker than themselves 
  • All those with political, military, civil, social, economic, religious and criminal power

Then this short, simple prayer emerged very gently into my mind, making me weep:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14; NIV). 

If you can’t be kind,
Be peaceful;
If you can’t be wise,
Seek peace.

If you can’t be fair,
Live peacefully –
Remember:
God is peace. 

If you can’t do good,
Be peaceful;
If you can’t give love,
Spread peace.

If you can’t be well,
Wait peacefully –
Remember:
God is peace. 

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


References 

Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace (Psalm 37:37; NIV).

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who proclaims peace (Isaiah 52:7; ABPE). 

Make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight (2 Peter 3:14; NLT).

Strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish, when you come into his presence (2 Peter 3:14; NET).

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14; ESV). 

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11; NIV).

Wait patiently for the LORD (Psalm 27:14; NLT). 

I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; NLT).

26.9.22: Emotional healing

Context: I’m in London today, facing a battery of specialised medical tests. It’s only 5am, but I’m having a very early breakfast, as I have to fast for several hours before arriving at the hospital.

This blog considers how free-will, honesty and forgiveness contribute to emotional healing. Each of these factors builds on the one before, until healing is complete. This completion can take place progressively, during life, or instantaneously, at death, when we meet Christ face to face.

He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18; NKJV). 

Introduction
Emotional healing is a lifelong process of personal growth in mind, heart and soul. It is brought about by revelation and personal insight, which gradually help us to change how we think, speak, behave and feel.

1. Free-will
Let’s begin with free-will. In order to be healthy, all personal change needs to be based on independent choice. Changes which are expected, required, demanded, imposed, or forced upon us by others can never bring about deep, inner healing.

2. Honesty
Similarly, if we try to make ourselves change in order to become an idealised version of ourselves, we are only suppressing how we honestly feel or think, and what we really want to say or do. This is a very unhealthy, incongruent and inauthentic way to live, which stores up further emotional problems for the future. There is no substitute for learning to speak the truth in love.

3. Forgiveness
Next comes forgiveness, another essential, inescapable aspect of inner healing. It can take years to feel forgiven for all the bad things we have thought, said and done. Furthermore, genuinely forgiving those who have hurt us can be equally difficult.

This process is facilitated by being honest with those who have hurt us, forgiving them, and working towards reconciliation, if possible. We can also apologise to those we have hurt, asking them to forgive us.

If those involved are no longer available, all this can still be done through honest prayer.

4. Emotional healing
Free-will, honesty and forgiveness help us to take responsibility for fostering the long-term healing God offers. We can do this by:

  • Being honest with ourselves, others and God
  • Developing insight into ourselves and our behaviour
  • Praying simply and honestly, as children do
  • Learning from experience
  • Learning from books
  • Learning from good role-models
  • Offering healthy, honest, equal, loving relationships to everyone

As we change and grow, we can slowly be healed in mind, heart and soul over the course of our lifetime. Gradually our thinking, speech and behaviour become more honest, more loving, and more genuinely aligned with God’s will for us, progressively promoting our emotional healing.

Conclusion
Through reflecting on the role of free-will, honesty and forgiveness in the process of emotional healing, I have come to see these four concepts as being essentially indivisible. Thus, as we freely choose to become more honest, more forgiving, and more Christ-like, we are slowly healed in mind, heart and soul.

I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT).


References

1. Accept, I beseech thee, the free-will offerings of my mouth, O Lord (Psalm 119:108; WEB).

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

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

3. Forgive us our sinsas we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT). 

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

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5; NIV).

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). 

8.9.22: Starting afresh

Today is my 70th birthday, and it marks a fresh start here on my blog, as outlined yesterday (https://wp.me/p45bCr-cbb). From today, until a review in one month’s time, I will be sharing much more directly what God gives me, without trying to shape it into poetry or articles. Instead, my blogs will take the form of an honest daily, spiritual diary.

Hopefully, this change will enable me to continue communicating with you, whilst reducing my workload appropriately as my health deteriorates. Introducing this change is exciting, and makes me feel much more optimistic about the future, no matter what it may hold. So, here is the first entry in my new spiritual diary.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” (Genesis 28:16; NLT).

Lord, please help me to remember that I live in your presence. I want to be conscious of your nearness, day and night.

As I get older, you’re slowly revealing the contents of my unconscious mind. Please help me to learn from all you show me. Thank you for everything you bring out of my inner darkness. By the time I die, I want to have discovered, faced and accepted as many as possible of the treasures hidden there, however challenging this process may be.

Help me to shine as a beacon of your love wherever I am and in all circumstances, confident that everything is just as you wish it to be. May I learn from all I experience.

Lord, my life here is an exile and a pilgrimage. Whatever happens, please help me to keep on heading back home to you, whilst doing what I can to serve those I encounter along the way. Thank you for taking care of everything else.

I ask all this in your dear Son’s name. Amen.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches from secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord (Isaiah 45:3; CSB).

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

What is the Kingdom of God like?

Context: After posting yesterday’s prayer (https://wp.me/p45bCr-c36), I saw that the image of the wolf lying down with the lamb is a wonderful way of representing the revolutionary quality of relationships in the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 11:6-9; NIV).

This radically new way of living is characterised by treating everyone with love, regardless of how they behave towards us. We all have the potential to live like this, because God’s Kingdom is present within everyone (Luke 17:20-21; NKJV). Jesus lived as a citizen of God’s Kingdom on earth, and we, too, as individuals, can work towards the same goal.

However, for the Kingdom of God to hold sway throughout the whole world, we must all overcome the temptation to judge, reject, hurt, hate and destroy others. This applies to every person, family, group, denomination, caste, sect, class, tribe, religion and nation.

Both individually and collectively, the human qualities we need to overcome include:

  • Behaving selfishly and callously towards others
  • Refusing to share what we have
  • Controlling, dominating, bullying and abusing those less powerful than ourselves
  • Taking what belongs to other people
  • Judging and rejecting others for being different from ourselves in any way
  • Rejecting those with different spiritual beliefs and practices from ourselves
  • Looking down on, or hating, those whose skin-colour, sexuality, or way of life, is different from our own
  • Pursuing cruel, destructive conflicts and wars
  • Overexploiting and destroying the earth, our only shared home

Using richly symbolic, visionary language, Isaiah vividly illustrates what it will be like when everyone lives in the Kingdom of God:

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9; NIV).

Following this train of reflection, today’s poem quickly came to me, though it was very difficult to put into words:

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough” (Luke 13:18-21; NLT). 

What is the Kingdom of God like?
The strong take good care of the weak,
Men treat all women as equals,
And wait for their sisters to speak.

What is the Kingdom of God like?
The rich share their wealth with the poor.
The healthy assist the disabled,
And all give up hatred and war.

What is the Kingdom of God like?
It’s heaven on earth and above,
For colour and creed make no difference
When all live in God, who is Love.

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


References 

When He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21; NKJV). 

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

I heard a loud voice calling from the throne,“Look! God’s Tabernacle is among humankind! God will live with them; they will be God’s people, and God will be fully present among them. The Most High will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And death, mourning, crying and pain will be no more, for the old order has fallen.” The One who sat on the throne said, “Look! I’m making everything new!” and added, “Write this, for what I am saying is trustworthy and true.” And that One continued, “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To those who are thirsty I will give drink freely from the spring of the water of life. This is the rightful inheritance of the overcomers. I will be their God and they will be my daughters and sons (Revelation 21:3-7; TIB).