Do you love Jesus?

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16; NLT).

Do you love Jesus
More than clothes,
Than how you look,
Good times, or clubs? 

Do you love Jesus
More than food,
Than sweets, or alcohol,
Or drugs?

Do you love Jesus
More than cars,
Than money, power,
Sex, or health?

If not, consider this:
His love
Is better far
Than life itself. 

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

Personal change 16.5.22.

1. Diagnosis

My health has been deteriorating for several years, but I have never had an explanation for this. However, last Thursday I was given a diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy (AN).

AN is an incurable degenerative disorder, in which the brain loses the ability to regulate processes that normally happen automatically. It affects the functioning of multiple body systems, including, for example, heart rate, blood pressure, temperature control, bladder, digestion, eyesight, balance and energy.

There are several sub-types of AN. Some are more severe than others. Some progress more quickly than others. A battery of tests over the next few weeks and months should eventually indicate which type I have, how quickly I can expect to deteriorate, and my anticipated life-expectancy.    

2. Realisation

About a year ago, as my health deteriorated, I reached a point where I could no longer go to church. Since then, I have hoped in vain that some of the people there who I thought of as friends might notice my absence and make contact with me. However, only one member of my local congregation has stayed in touch.

Over the last few days I have realised how deeply I lack sources of spiritual nourishment with like-minded people. This has made me see that I need to stop hoping for contact, understanding and support from church, where there is so little available. Instead, I want to accept, share, and develop, relationships that are available to me, for example, with spiritually-minded friends online.

So, it’s time for me to start afresh, to change, and to focus much more on some reciprocal relationships. This feels like a very positive realisation. Indeed, it’s already leading me to explore a much more universal faith than is possible within the narrow confines of a single, rule-based denomination. 

With this new-found approach, I can start putting my very limited energy into seeking and finding God in everyone and everything, a prospect which fills me with joy. God really does work in mysterious ways, bringing good even out of situations that can appear wholly negative.

3. Recognition

Accordingly, yesterday, as I prepared my blog for posting, I found great pleasure in illustrating it with a wonderful photo of a woman priest joyfully celebrating communion. This simply  doesn’t happen in my denomination, where all women are automatically excluded from the priesthood, simply because of their gender. 

Using the photo of the woman priest made me recognise that I could also include photos of older women and disabled people amongst my website headers, so I spent a very happy hour or two on this task. Until today, my thinking had always been so blinkered that it had never occurred to me to do this.

4. Freedom

Right now, I feel my diagnosis of Autonomic Neuropathy is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has made me realise that I’ve only got one life here, and that it might be a lot shorter, more limited, and more unpleasant than I had previously imagined. So, as my heath and mobility deteriorate, I want to make the most of whatever freedom and independence I have, at each stage of this disorder.

However, I’m not thinking of the conventional “bucket list” of places I want to go to, or things I want to do before I die. Rather, I’m already experiencing a deep, joyful sense of inner freedom to be myself. This gives me space and permission to think what I think, believe what I believe, feel how I feel, and be how I am. I am also working on my outward freedom, by speaking the truth in love, and taking pleasure in doing what I still can, however limited this may be. 

5. Future 

I’m sharing all this with you because as I deteriorate, I will probably need to change my approach to blogging. This might mean expending less energy on formal, disciplined poetic structures, instead describing whatever spiritual insights God gives me in simpler, more direct prose.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling optimistic, the future looks exciting, and I will continue to post here each day for as long as I can.

✝️ My greetings to every follower and visitor to this website. I appreciate every one of you, and pray for you all each day.

With love and blessings, from Ruth xxxx


References 

1. Diagnosis

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

No one can live forever; all will die. No one can escape the power of the grave (Psalm 89:48; NLT). 

2. Realisation

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you (Isaiah 30:20; NLT).

Truly, O God of Israel, our Saviour, you work in mysterious ways (Isaiah 45:15; NIV). 

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).

3. Recognition

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognised him (Luke 24:31; NLT).

God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27; NLT).

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; NIV).

The Almighty … blesses you with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb (Genesis 49:5; NIV). 

“As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our mother” (Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 59, Julian of Norwich).

4. Freedom 

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32; NLT). 

If the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36; NLT).  

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).

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

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

God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth (John 4:24; NIV).

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

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10; NIV).

5. Future

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts (Psalm 90:12; CSB).

Entrusted with suffering

1. Introduction

We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. Along the way, we experience many joys, trials and sorrows. God gives us everything we have, but he also takes things away from us. Thus, he tests us to see how we freely respond.  This process reveals whether or not we love him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength.

No one is exempt from being tested by suffering, including Christ. This is why he is able to suffer with us, whilst helping us to find and follow his way of love through every experience. Jesus’ life and death clearly demonstrate that God brings good out of even the most terrible suffering, and the same can also be true for us.

2. Suffering 

When others suffer, we pray that they will be strengthened, helped, and healed. Additionally, we can ask God to bring good from what they are undergoing, both for the sufferer, and for others.

However, when we ourselves must suffer, Jesus invites us to shoulder our cross and follow him. This means we have a choice about how to respond to our situation.

3. Responses to suffering 

A. We may respond to suffering with resentment, anger, bitterness or despair, blaming God for the troubles he has sent us. If suffering makes it impossible for us to maintain our previous understanding of God, we are likely to become disillusioned, rejecting him, and perhaps even losing our faith altogether. Yet such inner struggles can be healed, because God endlessly waits for us to turn to him, longing to help us reach a deeper understanding of him, and of our suffering.

B. Alternatively, we can respond to suffering by learning to face, accept and even welcome it, seeing it as a way of sharing in the redemptive suffering of Christ. By adopting this approach, we can focus on asking God to help us embrace what we must undergo, for it is useless to fight against his will. As above, we can also pray that God will bring good from our suffering, especially for others. Such an attitude might take many years to develop, but we have our whole lifetime to work on it, until our last breath.

4. Entrusted with suffering

Suffering is not imposed on us without purpose. Rather we are entrusted with a level of suffering that is commensurate to the strength of our faith. Like Jesus, our task is to face it in such as way as to be an example, an encouragement and an inspiration to others. This is how God brings good from it, often in very unexpected ways.

5. Suffering as an opportunity 

Suffering can therefore be understood as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth, a form of service, a privilege, a blessing, an honour and a glory. Such an approach gives rise to a much more positive attitude than seeing it as a random or unfair event, a judgement, or a punishment. We can thank God for it, doing our very best to endure and manage our suffering with patience and love. This approach brings peace of mind, for we can be confident that our approach to suffering will help others, and even ourselves. In this way, suffering is transformed and made meaningful, becoming easier live with, and to bear.

6. Conclusion

Whatever trials and sorrows we face, we can turn to God and ask for his help. Summoning all our courage, we can choose to trust in him, whilst being as joyful, prayerful, thankful and loving as possible. When we have faith that God will support and teach us through all we experience, we can be assured that our suffering will, in time, bear fruit.

God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering (Genesis 41:52; NIV).

References

1. Introduction

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).

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

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (John 16:33; NLT).

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

Whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free (James 2:12; NLT). 

He did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32; NLT). 

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).

I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6; NLT).

In all their suffering he also suffered (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood (Hebrews 13:12; NLT).

In all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28; NIV).

2. Suffering 

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). 

If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24; NLT).

3. Responses to suffering

A. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? (Psalm 22:1; NLT).

The Lord longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; NIV).

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

B. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble? (Job 2:10; NIV).

If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

It is useless for you to fight against my will (Acts 26:14; NLT).

You are hurting yourself by kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14; NET). 

It’s foolish to fight against me! (Acts 26:14; CEV). 

If we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:17; NLT).

Submit to God and be at peace with him (Job 22:21; NIV).

God teaches people through suffering and uses distress to open their eyes (Job 36:15; GNT). 

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

4. Entrusted with suffering

From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48; NIV). 

Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13; GNT).

God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you (1 Peter 2:21; CEV).

5. Suffering as an opportunity 

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation (James 1:12; NLT).

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:10; NIV). 

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more (John 15:2; NLT). 

We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4; NIV).

6. Conclusion 

Trust in God (John 14;1; NLT).

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NLT).

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).


 

May I greet my death

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (Luke 23:46; NIV).

1. May I greet my death
With open hands,
Leaving this troubled world
And life’s demands,
Quitting these lonely hills
And shining sands,
Ready to face
Your darkest shadowlands.

2. May I welcome death
Without dismay,
Leaving this worn-out body
To decay,
Longing to seek your presence
Straight away,
Closer to you, by far,
Than yesterday.

3. May I cross death’s sea
And step ashore
Into your waiting arms,
As you restore
My body, health, and strength.
Then I’ll explore
Our oneness, Lord, in love
For evermore.

🖤

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).


References

1. Yea, though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

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

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

3. God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself (Psalm 49:15; NIV).

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NIV).

When we die and leave this earthly body …we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself (2 Corinthians 5:1; NLT). 

His unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth (Psalm 103:11; NLT).

I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).

 


 

Trust

Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.
(John 14;1; NLT).

He knows everything (1 John 3:20; NIV).

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my joys,
My sorrows, too:

My loneliness,
My sins and fears –
You bear them all,
And share my tears.

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my health,
My sickness, too:

My suffering,
Each loss and strain –
You bear them all,
And share my pain. 

Lord,
I put my trust in you,
Who knows my strength,
My weakness, too:

In heart and soul,
In mind and flesh –
You bear them all,
And share my death.

🖤

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.
(Psalm 68:19; NIV). 

Through all that they suffered, he suffered too (Isaiah 63:9; NET).  

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested (Hebrews 2:18; NLT).

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


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).


Come back soon


O Lord, come back to us!
(Psalm 90:13; NLT).

Lord,
Come back soon
To make us whole,
For we are lost in pain.
Our lives are ruled
By suffering;
We long for health, in vain.

Lord,
Come back soon
To change our minds,
For we are lost in sin.
Our lives are ruled
By selfishness,
Forgetting you, our King.

Lord,
Come back soon
To heal our hearts,
For we are lost in hate.
Our lives are ruled
By prejudice;
We spurn your narrow gate.

Lord,
Come back soon
To save our souls,
For we must all repent;
Then trust in you,
Transform our lives,
And love the One you sent.

God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17; NLT).


You’ve made me weary

He hath made me weary
(Job 16:7; KJV). 

Lord,

You’ve made me weary
For reasons of your own.
You’ve swept my former life away.
My health and strength are gone.

And yet, you’ve not forsaken me:
I know your love is deep,
For you bring good from everything,
Whilst I, Lord, wait, and weep.

Please help me to accept my lot,
And say, just like your Son:
If I must drink this bitter cup, Lord God,
Thy will be done. 

At death, you’ll take my body home,
Transforming it again.
Then I will share your joy, with no more weariness
Or pain,

For you will heal my heart and mind,
My soul and spirit, too.
Then I’ll be weary, Lord, no more –
For I will be like you.


He will take our weak mortal bodies
and change them into glorious bodies like his own
(Philippians 3:21; NLT).


Failing

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever (Psalm 73:26; NLT).

Lord,
My health is failing:
I’m weary, slow, and lame.

Please help me still to walk with you,
Rejoice,
And praise your name. 

My spirit, Lord, is failing:
Forgetful, sad,
And weak.

Please help me still to wait for you,
To listen, pray,
And seek.

Yet, still, my heart is strong, Lord:
Forever,
We are one.

Please help me to accept my lot
With thanks:
Your will be done. 

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).

When you give me light (for A.K.)

I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord,
am the one who does these things
(Isaiah 45:7; NLT).

The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord
(Job 1:21; NLT).

Father,
When you give me light
I praise your holy name.

When you send me
Clouds and darkness,
May I do the same. 

Father,
When you grant me peace
I bless your sacred name.

When you send me
Fear and anguish,
May I do the same.

Father,
When you give me joy
I praise your holy name.

When you send me
Grief and sorrow,
May I do the same.

Father,
When you grant me health
I bless your sacred name.

When you send me
Pain and sickness,
May I do the same.

Father,
While you give me life
I’ll praise your holy name.

When you call me home
In death,
May I do just the same.

I will praise the Lord at all times
(Psalm 34:1; NLT).