21.9.22: God’s presence

Context: I woke, began to pray, and saw afresh that God is constantly present in us all.

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth! (Psalm 116:9; NLT).

Practicing awareness

Once we recognise this, we can begin to practice remaining consciously aware of God’s presence, until our awareness becomes continuous. This is easy to say, but extremely difficult to put into practice. In fact, it can seem like an impossible task, for we have many distractions each day. Attempting it quickly reveals how easy it is to forget about God’s presence altogether for hours at a time.

Tangible reminders
However, tangible, meaningful reminders of God’s presence can be a useful aid. Those chosen will be different for everyone, depending on our faith and circumstances. Personally, I like to wear an olive-wood cross day and night, always available for me to kiss and hold. There are also a few pictures, icons and wall-crosses strategically placed around my home. Plus, as soon as I open my iPad, my favourite icon is there on the screen, as well.

Living in God’s presence
Slowly, usually through many years of practice, we can learn not just to remember God’s presence all the time, but to live in it. This means communing with God, whilst expressing God’s love as best we can, in all we think, say and do.

Becoming more Christ-like
Through constant contact with God, we become increasingly aware of our oneness with the Divine. This helps us to become more Christ-like, and even, astonishingly, a little more like God.

Constant oneness
In fact, of course, our oneness with God is unchanging, whether or not we are aware of it. This applies before birth, during our time on earth, and after death. So, if we want to live in the joy of God’s presence, all we have to do is to consciously practice remaining aware of, and communicating with, God, who lives within us.

18.9.22: The healing process


Context: Yesterday I woke very early, and saw that God lives in my unconscious mind, waiting and longing to heal me.

Healing is a lifelong process. It means slowly becoming conscious of all that is hidden in the darkness of my unconscious mind, so I can change and grow.

I can encourage this process by:

  • Seeking God
  • Waiting on God 
  • Praying constantly 
  • Listening to God
  • Learning from God
  • Practicing God’s presence

Slowly, slowly, God reveals to me all the damage that lives on in my inner darkness, bringing it into the light of consciousness, so it can be healed. This includes the psychological consequences of the trauma, bullying, coercive control and abuse I suffered throughout my childhood, and far beyond.

I can share in this process by:

  • Opening myself to all God uncovers and reveals to me
  • Facing what I am shown
  • Accepting it
  • Cooperating with God’s healing
  • Learning from from what God tells me
  • Working to change how I feel, think, speak and behave

As God helps me to change and grow, I become more whole as a person, and therefore just a tiny bit more like Christ.

There is no deeper or more complete healing than God’s inner healing.

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).


References 

Let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4:23; NLT). 

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

I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you (Ezekiel 36:26; NLT). 

He renews my strength (Psalm 23:3; NLT). 

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

As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world (1 John 4:17; NLT). 

This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ (Ephesians 4:13; NLT).

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). 

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

God must wait

Context: “The Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion” (Isaiah 30:18; NLT). For me, this is one of the most remarkable verses in the Bible.

God longs for a two-way relationship with us, suffers with us through all our trials and sorrows, and is always ready to help: “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years” (Isaiah 63:9; NLT).

YHWH longs to be gracious to you (Isaiah 30:18; TIB). 

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to live,
You have been waiting
To help me forgive.

During my time here, Lord,
Each time I wept,
You have been longing
To help me accept.

During my time here, Lord,
Learning to care,
You have been eager
To help me in prayer.

After my time here, Lord,
Learning to love,
You will be ready
To greet me, above.

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NLT). 

God in each atom (#2 of 3)

Context: This is the second of three blogs which arrived in quick succession while I was praying a few days ago. It’s very short, but it had a big impact on me.

God in each atom
Overwhelmed by light, I saw afresh that God is present in everyone and everything. However, this time I grasped that this is true right down to the level of the smallest atom (see reference 1 below).

Splitting atoms
Then I understood why atomic bombs have such devastating consequences: they split God within each atom. God is one, so this splitting releases God’s awesome, unimaginable power, resulting in terrible destruction (2-5).  Truly, the consequences of atomic warfare are a perfect example of “the abomination that causes desolation” (6).

The future
If humanity continues on its present course, we must all live with the constant risk that an exchange of atomic bombs will make the world uninhabitable. This is the very opposite of our original, God-given commission to take care of the earth on which we all depend (7).

My prayer
So my prayer today is that those with political and military power will ask God to help them change this situation before it’s too late. Unless we all learn to live in peace with one another there will be no need for God to bring the world to an end: we will already have achieved this, entirely of our own volition.

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers (1 Peter 4:7; NLT).

References

1. There is …one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all (Ephesians 4:5-6; TIB).

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

3. Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve (Psalm 90:11; NLT).

4. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power (Job 37:5; NLT).

5. You don’t know the power of God Matthew 22:29; NLT).

6. When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now – and never to be equaled again (Mark 13:14-19; NIV).

7. Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, to be like us. Let them be stewards of the fish in the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, the wild animals, and everything that crawls on the ground.” Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them; female and male, God made them. God blessed them and said, “Bear fruit, increase your numbers, and fill the earth – and be responsible for it!” (Genesis 1: 26-8; TIB).

Writing blogs

Context: Today’s blog arose from two lines which came to me recently:

Out of my darkness
Comes radiant light…

This phrase describes the sudden upwelling of inspiration which generates my writing. I have never been able to put it into words before.

Because of its rhythm, I expected the couplet to become the start of a poem. However, this task soon proved to be beyond me, so instead I resorted to making notes about what I needed to express. To my surprise, these jottings became a short article outlining five distinct stages through which most of my blogs come into being. After some prayer and reflection, I feel fairly comfortable about sharing it:

In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, there is a pool with five porticoes; its Hebrew name is Bethesda. The place was crowded with sick people – those who were blind, lame or paralyzed – lying there waiting for the water to move. An angel of God would come down to the pool from time to time, to stir up the water; the first one to step into the water after it had been stirred up would be completely healed  (John 5:2-4; TIB). 

1. Worshipping without words
When worshipping without words, I rest in a womb-like space at the threshold between my conscious and unconscious minds. It’s warm, still, peaceful and dimly-lit, so I feel safe and comfortable there.

2. Light and movement 
Then, without warning, a brilliant light bubbles up from the total darkness of my unconscious mind, stirring the previously still surface of my consciousness. Intense brightness, warmth and love overwhelm me. I don’t know how long this moment lasts, because I’m not aware of anything beyond it, though I suspect it’s just a few seconds.

3. Inspiration, insight and words
This light brings a spiritual insight that is new to me, though it wouldn’t necessarily be new to others. I experience a moment of intense personal learning and inner healing. Discernible words quickly follow, rising up out of the darkness, though I neither hear nor see them. They simply take shape in my mind. Usually these words form the opening lines of a prayer; occasionally, an ending. They nearly always set the theme and rhythm for the whole piece.

4. Starting to write
Revelling in God’s light and warmth, I’m often reluctant to break off in order to catch hold of what I’ve been shown. However, long experience has taught me that if I don’t write it down immediately, it will disappear from my memory. The moment for seeing and grasping each insight comes only once.

So I reach for my iPad or notebook, quickly scribbling the words, then sketching out the shape of the whole piece. Sometimes, as I’m writing down each line, the next appears from nowhere, then the next, and I simply write them down. This takes just a few minutes. Once the bare bones of the piece are safely on the page, I begin the much longer process of working to express exactly what I learned as clearly and briefly as possible.

Gradually, the whole piece takes shape. If possible, I prefer to finalise it on the day it arrives. However, this stage can sometimes takes longer, depending on how difficult it is to put what I experienced into words. 

5. Finishing
There is always a strong sense of relief and fulfilment when I finish encapsulating each experience securely, in writing. Along the way I will have searched out numerous Biblical quotations, so all that remains is to select a few of the most helpful, tag some key words, and choose an illustration. This completes the process of preparing to share the light which comes out of my inner darkness.

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name (Isiah 45:3; LSB). 


References

He uncovers deep things out of darkness (Job 12:22; NKJV).

Darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2; KJV).

Beautiful words stir my heart (Psalm 45:1; NLT). 

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14; NLT). 

Trust

Context: This prayer started to arrive just before the appointment with my consultant, and (to my great surprise), continued to arrive after it! My doctor couldn’t give me any definite news, though some conditions have now been ruled out. It’s looking more and more likely that I have Autonomic Neuropathy, so the next step will be a trip to London for more detailed tests. These should lead to a conclusive diagnosis. Meanwhile, here is today’s prayer:

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

Lord,

1. I put my trust in you
To help me face each test.
Depression and anxiety?
Well, all you send is blest.

2. Sorrow, fear and suffering?
Your will is my command.
Darkness, panic, grief and tears?
I place them in your hand.

3. For these have now become my “pearls”,
My pearls beyond all price.
Through them, Lord, I learn to grasp
Your perfect sacrifice.

4. My trials are now my offerings:
I share them all with you,
While you, Lord, share them all with me,
And love to help me, too.

5. Thus, you show me how to live,
To learn, and grow, and care
For others, while you help me face
The burdens I must bear.

6. My faith, my pain, my love, my life:
I lay them at your feet.
My Lord, my God, my All-In-All,
Your healing is complete.

Those who suffer he delivers in their suffering;
he speaks to them in their affliction (Job 36:15; NIV).

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly
we are wasting away, yet inwardly
we are being renewed day by day.
(2 Corinthians 4:16; NIV).


References 

1. I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (Psalm 143:8; NIV). 

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

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal (Job: 5:17-18; NIV).

2. He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! 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). 

 3. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant’s search for fine pearls. When one pearl of great value was found, the merchant went back and sold everything else and bought it (Matthew 13:45-6; TIV). 

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).

4. When Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer” (Hebrews 10:5; NLT).

God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time (Hebrews 10:10; NLT). 

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

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

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:15-16; NLT). 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30; NLT).

5. Then he said to the crowd, “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). 

His command is that you walk in love (2 John 1:6; NIV).

The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving (Psalm 28:7; NLT). 

6. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:28; NLT). 

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28; NKJV). 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again (Psalm 71:20; NIV).

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:4; NLT). 

Take life as it comes (for J.C.)

Context: When I woke up today, this prayer was already arriving. I began writing it down immediately, without even a moment to pray. As I have a migraine, which started yesterday, eye ulcers and a corneal abrasion, I was deeply grateful for the way this poem came together over the following hours.

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

1. I want to take life as it comes,
To praise, as it unfolds;
Accept your will,
And love you still,
Be faithful, brave and bold.

2. I’d like to take life as it comes,
For you send bad and good;
To hear your voice,
And learn, by choice,
Until I’ve understood.

3. I need to take life as it comes,
For you both wound and heal;
To do my best,
And face each test,
Until you are revealed.

4. I’ll try to take life as it comes,
For you bring good from bad;
To value both,
Delight in growth,
And let my heart be glad.

5. I choose to take life as it comes,
Right here; right now; today;
Face everything
With you, my King:
My life, my truth, my way.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6; NLT).


References

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

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

3. I am the one who wounds and heals (Deuteronomy 32:39; NLT).

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

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

5. Choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19; NLT).

Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34; NLT). 

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). 

You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall (Psalm 18:28-9; NLT).

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God (Psalm 84:3; NLT). 

Like Martha

Context: I noted down the essence of today’s prayer a day or two ago, but didn’t have enough time to work on it. However, yesterday morning I woke early, which gave me the space to finish it before starting the long journey back to Liverpool (the magnificent Lime Street Station is pictured above). Although I was nervous before setting off, it was a really good day for several reasons.

Firstly, I made a wonderful new friend on the train, and I’m hoping we will stay in touch.

Secondly, a kind friend came to visit me at my hotel, bringing the blessings of conversation, anointing, and Holy Communion.

Thirdly, remember my lifelong claustrophobia? Well, I twice used the train loo, even though it had electronic doors. I’ve avoided this type of toilet ever since they were invented. Admittedly I didn’t engage the electronic lock (my friend kindly guarded the door whilst I was inside), but shutting myself in there was the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I managed it!

Today, I’ll be catching a ferry for the final leg of my journey. I already want to visit the UK again, and especially to visit Liverpool Catholic Cathedral. So, with a heart full of prayerful thanks and rejoicing, here is today’s blog:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
(Luke 10:38-9; NIV). 

1. Jesus, may I be like Martha,
Serving you in all each day,
And, Lord, may I be like Mary,
Learning at your feet each day.

2. Jesus, may I be like Peter,
Walking by your side, each day,
And, Lord, may I be like Thomas,
Touching your poor hands, each day.

3. Then, no matter what life brings,
I’ll know your presence, choose your way,
And never cease, Lord, to rejoice,
Give thanks for everything, and pray.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; NIV).


References 

1. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40; NIV).

2. One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him (Matthew 4:18-20; NLT). 

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:27-8; NLT). 

3. Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20; NLT). 

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; NLT). 

In darkness

Context: Today’s poem came to me this morning. For once, I had lots of time to pray and to enjoy God’s presence, so I was relived to have a day off, with no writing. However, just as I was getting out of bed, the following arrived in a flash. It was easy to catch hold of, but much harder to write! 

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12; NLT). 

I live in darkness lit by Christ,
And walk here, guided by his steps.
I serve here, aided by his strength,
And weep here, solaced by his kiss.

I feast in darkness on his bread,
And share his water, meat and wine.
I rest here, settled by his peace,
And sleep here, cradled by his bliss.

I wake in darkness at his call,
And pray here, kindled by his fire.
I learn here, nurtured by his truth,
And thirst, like him, for God above.

Thus, I spend my life in darkness,
Hid with Christ, my Risen Lord,
And, dwelling here in paradise,
I sing in darkness, lit by love.

Each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
(Psalm 42:8; NLT).


References 

Yea, 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).

Your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3; KJV). 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6; NIV).

You have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God (1 Peter 1:23; NLT).

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43; NIV).