Home shrines

1. Welcome

Hello! A warm welcome to everyone who visits “Seeking God’s face”, and to all who follow here regularly. I pray for you all each day.

2. Home shrines

This blog brings a very simple message: to suggest that many people could find joy, comfort, support and self-expression through having a home shrine, especially those of us who are sick or disabled, and can no longer go to church.

3. My shrine 

My shrine is in my bedroom, on the chest of drawers. In this room, I can close the door, and pray in private. The shrine has developed slowly over several years, having started with the large wall cross, a few flowers, a candle, and an incense burner. 

Whenever I want to, I make changes to it, removing items that have served their purpose, and introducing others which are particularly significant for me at the time. As my faith becomes increasingly universal, I plan to incorporate relics from other faiths. Nothing is included out of a sense of obligation or pressure.

4. Personal spiritual practices

A home shrine offers an opportunity for the daily expression of personally meaningful spiritual practices. For example, I stoop to kiss the small wooden cross at the front, just as a priest kisses the altar before saying mass. Then I dip my fingers in the small bowl of holy water, blessing myself with the sign of the cross. Sometimes I do this in the Roman Catholic way, sometimes in the Russian Orthodox style, just as I wish. 

Occasionally I light a candle or an incense stick, though I never leave these burning in my absence or whilst I’m asleep, in case of fire.

5. Prayers

My shrine includes two framed prayers which mean a lot to me. Their presence enables me to include them in my daily worship whenever I want to, and reminds me of the words, if I forget them.

The first is about the “little way” of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux, whose name I took at confirmation (https://wp.me/p45bCr-acZ), whilst the second is a prayer for world peace (https://wp.me/p45bCr-aCa).

Sometimes I am able to stand in front my shrine to pray for a minute or two. However, when I’m too tired, unwell, cold, or lightheaded to do this, I simply begin praying there, then get into bed to continue whilst lying down. Last thing at night, it’s a pleasure to thank God for all my day has brought, both good and bad. Then I say goodnight, and settle down to sleep.

6. Icons

Whether I’m just passing my shrine, or staying a little longer, I often touch each icon with love before I move on. My room also includes three large wall icons, hanging at just the right height to touch, hold gently with both hands, and kiss, as I whisper my prayers.

7. A very private place 

Some people might scoff at these  practices, judging them to be sentimental, foolish, pointless, or even idolatrous. However, for me the beauty of my home shrine is that it is a very private place where I can be honest with God without any kind of  formality, using my own words, however few or many they may be. It’s also a very good place to “be still and silent” before God, for a few, precious moments. 

8. A safe place….

Furthermore, my shrine gives me a “safe place” to return to in my imagination when I need extra support in the outside world. This grounding effect is enhanced by a holding cross, made in Bethlehem from the prunings of olive trees. When I received it, I blessed it at my shrine, then left it there overnight to absorb the essence of its peace and beauty.

9. …coupled with a holding cross 

During the daytime, I wear this cross around my neck on a long cord, hanging beneath my clothes. When I need it, I discretely retrieve it with the cord. Visualising my shrine whilst holding my cross hidden in the palm of one hand, or clasped between both, is a great source of help, strength and comfort. I do this when I face traumatic events, flashbacks, unpleasant medical treatments, pain, strong emotions, interpersonal conflict, or feared situations. Despite its small size, this little cross powerfully re-connects me to the peace and safety of my shrine. 

At night, I have a similar cross, but on a much shorter cord. Secured around my wrist, it stays in my hand whilst I am asleep. This cross is a tangible, comforting reminder of God’s presence each time I wake up.

10. Final words 

It feels strange to share these very personal, central aspects of my life with you, yet it seems important to do so. The opportunities offered by home shrines for spiritual nourishment, and for direct, free self-expression before God are far too valuable to keep to myself.

May God bless you all each day.
With much love from Ruth xxxxx

 

References

1. Welcome

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). 

3. My shrine

When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private (Matthew 6:6; NLT).

5. Prayers 

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

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

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).

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

Be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT).

7. A very private place 

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

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

Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge (Psalm 62:8; NLT).

Be still and know that I am God! (Psalm 46:10; NLT).

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity (Zechariah 2:13; NLT).

8. A safe place…

You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress (Psalm 59:16; NLT). 

This I declare about the Lord: he alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him (Psalm 91:2; NLT). 

9. …coupled with a holding cross

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18; NLT).

When I wake up, you are still with me! (Psalm 139:18; NLT).

10. Final words

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

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).

A life

Greetings to everyone who reads this short article, which describes some of the life experiences underpinning the prayers I post each day on this website.

I was born in the UK, soon after the end of the Second World War, and was the youngest of 3 children. My mother was unpredictable, given to destructive outbursts of rage, emotionally abusive and controlling. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I lived with constant anxiety and fear, and had very little sense of who I was.

When I left home to go to university, I was ill-prepared to cope with independence. I began having panic attacks, though at the time I had no idea what they were. At the beginning of the third year I had a breakdown, abandoned my studies, and returned home. 

After a period of unemployment, I worked in an office, then in a day centre, where I helped to care for people with physical and learning disabilities. One day a client accidentally set fire to the cushion of his wheelchair with a dropped cigarette. In lifting him up, I tore a tendon in my back, leaving me in constant pain.

The only treatment for back pain in those days was bed-rest. After about 18 months of this, I decided to try walking to the shops. Just a short distance from home I had a major panic attack. Although I didn’t understand this at the time, I had become agoraphobic. As with all phobias, the more I tried to avoid my fears, the worse they became.

Despite my constant pack pain and mental illness, my partner and I got married, and I became pregnant. When I went into labour, serious complications necessitated an emergency admission to hospital. The whole experience was traumatic. Afterwards, I developed multiple phobias, and found it hard to cope with the normal stresses of caring for my baby. 

A year later I became pregnant again, but had a miscarriage at about fifteen weeks, leading to emergency surgery. Afterwards, I developed severe anxiety and depression, so my toddler had to go into daycare. 

At this point, I learned that I was agoraphobic. From the local library, I borrowed a copy of “Agoraphobia – simple effective treatment”, by Claire Weekes. Slowly, I began to fight back, despite my mental and physical fragility.

There were further breakdowns along the way, and endless struggles with depression, anxiety, panic and dread. When my son was about seven, I began studying for a degree in psychology, but this time only managed the first year, before the panic attacks became so intense that I was forced to give up.

Along the way, though this seems astonishing as I look back, I did my best to contribute to my family’s finances whenever I was well enough. Without any qualifications, I did the best I could with the skills I had picked up earlier in my life. Over the years I worked as a student landlady, cleaner, and barmaid. I organised children’s parties, ran a dance band, and taught music informally.

Later, I joined a five-piece band, travelling to gigs all around the UK. I quickly learned never to mention my fears, and somehow got through. It was hard, but I did the best I could to have a life. I suppose I unconsciously assumed it was the same for everyone.

Throughout this time, I read all I could about anxiety, depression, panic disorders and the factors underpinning them. I made daily efforts to face my fears in a graded way, building up my tolerance until I could walk to the centre of my home-town, visit a supermarket, and drive a few miles alone.

Realising I would never be able to cope with the stresses of full-time study, I began attending an adult education centre. Slowly, over a period of seven years, I  worked to gain a certificate in counselling, an advanced certificate, then a diploma. During this time I also entered therapy, worked as a volunteer counsellor, and tried to gain insight until the origins of my mental issues. Meanwhile, I continued to push against my boundaries by starting to travel on trains. Essentially, I managed to live with my fears through dogged efforts to confront them.

Once qualified, I began work in the National Health Service as a counsellor, later beginning a part-time master’s degree. My academic results were good, but the stress of achieving them was very high. 

Unfortunately, half-way through the two-year course, I developed Grave’s Disease. Too ill to work, and deteriorating rapidly, I had emergency surgery to remove my thyroid. It took me a year to recover enough to go back to work, and to continue my degree, but somehow I managed it, even coming top in my year-group. However, the illness left me dependent on medication for the rest of my life, and with the collateral damage of daily headaches and frequent migraines.

The migraines eventually made work impossible, so I retired. Not long afterwards, a bout of influenza left me with chronic fatigue (M.E.). For the first few years, I was unable to walk more than a few paces around the house, and relied on a mobility scooter. Eventually, I learned about pacing as a possible way forwards. It took me a year of building up through slow, daily practice to be able to walk about five hundred yards up a gentle slope. Despite this improvement, I have lived with chronic fatigue ever since. The limitations it imposes have increased with each illness, and as I’ve got older.

Unable to make music  any more, I slowly developed other methods of creative expression, including textile art, writing, and editing. In 2013 I began a website (www.ruthkirk.org), and have posted a daily, original, spiritual poem there ever since. I also enjoyed helping in a charity shop for a few hours each week until three and a half years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was swiftly followed by a mastectomy, then by lengthy attempts to cope with various drugs, whose side effects eventually proved intolerable. This time, the collateral damage was losing the ability to regulate my temperature, so I now cycle constantly between sweating and shivering, day and night. There is no treatment for this condition, which doesn’t even seem to have a name, though it has a significant impact on my quality of life. 

Nowadays, my limited energy is spent on hospital appointments, occasional short walks, and a few social contacts. Church is too hard to manage, but I have made a shrine in my bedroom, which I find very helpful.

As I slowly become more accepting of my overall condition, my faith grows ever stronger. When I was confirmed, very recently, I took the name of Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux. Her “little way” of doing everything, however small, with love, has become my daily aim. Accordingly, I would like to finish this article with a prayer I wrote some years ago. Each morning, I say it soon after waking up:

Your little way 

Thank you, Lord,
For this new day.
Please keep me
On your little way,

Then I will feel, think,
Say, and do
Everything with love,
For you.

No matter what
You give or take,
May I accept it
For your sake,

And strive to feel, think,
Say, and do
Everything with love –
Like you.

To those who have read this brief summary of my life-story, I send my thanks, praying that one day it will help someone, somewhere. May God bless you all.

✝️ Ruth Kirk (22.2.22.)


 

Praying for others

Never stop praying, especially for others (Ephesians 6:18; CEV). 

Every day, when I post my blog, I pray for those who will read it, for those who will only glance at it, for those who won’t be exposed to any prayers, and for those who don’t believe in God. This can sometimes feel like a heavy task, because of my ongoing illness and fatigue, so I’m wondering if any readers might like to share it. 

One way to do this would be to develop the habit of praying briefly for others just before, or after, reading each new blog.

Here is a short, lighthearted poem that could be used:

Praying for others 

Bless all those who read this prayer,
And all those, Lord, who don’t.

Bless those who will pray today,
And all those, Lord, who won’t.

Bless those who can grasp your love,
And all those, Lord, who can’t.

Bless those who are seeking you,
And all those, Lord, who aren’t.

Alternatively, some readers might prefer to use their own words:

  • Pray for those who visit this website. Ask God to bless them, and to enable them to find something here that helps them.
  • Pray for those who glance at the day’s prayer, but dismiss it immediately.
  • Pray for those who never pray, and for all who don’t believe in God. Ask him to bring back those who have strayed, and to draw many new believers to himself each day.

Whatever the approach, I would deeply appreciate any prayers said for those who visit this website, and for the countless millions who don’t.

 


 

Dying

Image: Abdullah Ahmed, Pixabay


🖤

Though I walk through 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).

Lord,

1. Hold me gently
In your arms,
For I am weak, and ill.

2. Join my drifting thoughts
With yours,
And let me hear you, still.

3. Keep my heart, Lord,
Safe in yours,
So love is all I know.

4. Then take my spirit
In your hands,
And let my body go.

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


References

1. I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:29; NLT).

The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you (Deuteronomy 33:27; NLT).

He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11; NLT).

Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak (Psalm 6:2; NLT).

I am dying (Genesis 48:21; NKJV).

2. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5; NKJV).

We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; NLT).

After the fire [he heard] a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12; KJV).

3. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them (1 John 4:16; NLT).

4. Into your hands I commit my spirit (Psalm 31:5; NIV).

Yes, my soul, find rest in God (Psalm 62:5; NIV).

Breakdown


We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him

(Romans 8:28; NIV).

1. Every breakdown
Is a breakthrough
When I face it, Lord,
With you.

2. Every illness
Is a blessing –
Lord, your saints show
This is true.

3. Every struggle
Is a call
To follow you
Along life’s way –

4. To change and grow,
So I may serve
In all I feel, think, do,
And say.


References

1. 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).

2. When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10; NLT).

3. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21; NIV).

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

4. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17; NLT).

I pray for all

Pray continually 
(1 Thessalonians 5:17; NIV).

1. Lord,
I pray for all the sick,
For those who tend and care;
For all the dying, all the dead,
And those left 
In despair.

2. Lord,
I pray for all who search
For your beloved Son;
And those who don’t believe in you,
Though you love everyone.


References

1. Pray for one another (James 5:16; NLT).

My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken (Jeremiah 8:18; NLT).

2. Keep on seeking, and you will find (Matthew 7:7; NLT).

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

Every illness

Image: Christine Kugel, Pixabay

A wise person thinks a lot about death (Ecclesiastes 7:4; NLT).

1. Every illness helps us
To prepare ourselves
For death.

2. Working to accept each loss
Will help us give up life
And breath.

3. May we welcome all our trials
With courage, thanks, Lord,
Joy and grace,

4. For each one brings us ever closer
To your kiss,
And your embrace.


References

1. A wise person thinks a lot about death (Ecclesiastes 7:4; NLT).

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

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

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).

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

A day full of shadows


1. A day full of shadows,
A night full of pain;

2. A dawning in darkness
To suffer again.

3. A mountain of torment,
A torrent of fears –

4. Where did my freedom go?
Melting in tears.

5. An infinite sentence
Of chronic ill-health

6. And the loss of life’s riches –
But God is my wealth.


References

1. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me (Psalm 23:4; KJV).

He was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44; NLT).

2. At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock (Mark 15:33; NLT).

3. Days of suffering torment me (Job 30:27; NLT).

4. When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go (John 21:18; NIV).

5. Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those that long for death that does not come, who search for it more than hidden treasure? (Job3:20-2; NIV).

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

How great are God’s riches of wisdom and knowledge! (Romans 11:33; NLT).

Ash Wednesday 2019

On Ash Wednesday 2019, I had a very unusual experience. I’d been unwell with a virus for several days, although I had still been able to potter around the house.

At about 9.30 in the morning that day, I was suddenly overtaken by a sharp, stabbing pain in my right side, just below the ribcage. It came again and again, with growing intensity, until, within a minute or two, it was continuous, and I couldn’t speak or move. My breathing became very shallow, and my lips, face, hands and arms began to tingle.

My husband immediately phoned for an ambulance, while I wailed and panted. I wasn’t afraid, just utterly overwhelmed by the intensity of the pain. I was sitting down, bent over the kitchen table, and with my head turned to one side, so I could see the shopping bag he put beside me, into which he was quickly throwing everything I might need in hospital. I was fully aware that I could be dying, and saw vividly how my soul would simply slip away, leaving behind the bag, my husband, the room, and everything I had ever imagined would make me happy.

The ambulance arrived quickly, and the staff were wonderful. They helped me to slow my breathing, and ran through various tests. All my vital signs were completely normal, although my pulse and respiration rates had been very high when they first arrived.

Gradually, the pain retreated, and I could speak again. They said it was a panic attack, but this didn’t ring true for me at all, as I have had countless panic attacks, and none of them in any way resembled what happened that day. After some discussion, we all agreed I could stay at home, as long as I saw my doctor in the afternoon.

The GP diagnosed an acute attack of pleurodynia (also known as Bornholm Syndrome, or Devil’s Grip), a chronic condition I have had for the last 25 years. Acute attacks are generally triggered by respiratory infections. However, even at its very worst, it has never remotely resembled what happened that morning. A second doctor thought it sounded more like a pleural rub, highly characteristic of pleurisy.

After two weeks of rest, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and steroids, I slowly started to resume my normal activities. However, a troubling question persisted at the back of my mind, though I hardly dared to express it at the time. The strange attack, which lasted three hours, felt exactly as if I were experiencing the moment when the spear pierced Christ’s side to ensure he was dead. So, was it a symptom of a physical illness, a spiritual experience, or perhaps a combination of both?

References

The soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out (John 19:32-4; NLT).

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

Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often (Luke 2:19; NLT).