23.9.22: A letter (with thanks to C.O.) 

Context: Yesterday I stayed in bed because of a migraine, and used the time to reply to a letter from a friend. Very unexpectedly, inspiration sprang from our correspondence, so I’d like to share with it you:

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but 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). 

Serious illness and ongoing deterioration change our lives in countless ways, but with God we can slowly face and accept this, learning to live within each fresh limitation.

There can still be joy in our hearts, but there can also be regret, sadness, frustration and even anger about all that has been lost. 

The Lord gives and takes away, but we can praise and thank God, no matter what happens. As Mother Theresa said: “Give whatever He takes, with a big smile.” Fortunately, loss and suffering can also bring good into our lives. For example, they can teach us patient endurance, and deepen our understanding, sympathy and love for others.

Speaking more personally now, Mother Theresa’s words have to be my watchword, because I have no control at all over what God chooses to take from me as I progressively lose my physical and mental capacities.

Work, whether paid or unpaid, used to give structure and meaning to my life. It also generated a sense of a separate selfhood, though this is of course, temporary, and, in the long term, illusory. However, as some of you will know, I have recently had to change the way I manage my website, because I no longer have enough energy to spend whole days writing each blog. At present, I can still post each day, but now in the form of a spiritual diary, rather than referenced poetry and articles. It’s not quite the same as before, though, and my sense of “self” is considerably diminished, as is my feeling that existence is meaningful. Gradually, illness and the limitations it imposes are taking over all aspects of my life.

In time, whether through my spiritual development, through dementia, or through death, I will lose my illusory sense of selfhood in God’s overwhelming greatness. Then I will be set free into eternal oneness with the Lord. 

Sometimes I hope this will happen soon, dreading a long future of increasing dependence and becoming a burden to others. However, my release from exile will come when God decides: not a moment too soon, and not a moment too late. Until then, the Lord will see me through whatever each day brings.


A reading: Ecclesiastes 12:1-8; TIB

  1. Remember your Creator while you are still young, while still innocent, before that time of life when you say, “There isn’t pleasure anymore”;

  2. before the sun dims, as well as the moon and the stars; before the clouds return once the rain stops;

  3. before the day when the house guards tremble, and the mighty are bowed low, and the millers stop for lack of help, for the day darkens at the windows;

  4. and the front doors are shut; when the sound of milling is faint; when the chirping of the birds vanishes, and the singers are silenced;

  5. when you become afraid of heights, and dread walking in the streets; when the almond trees bloom, the grasshoppers are sluggish with food, and you lose your appetite; when you go to your eternal reward, and the mourners go about the streets;

  6. before the silver cord – a sign of life – is snapped; or the golden bowl – a sign of life – is broken; or the pitcher at the well – a sign of life – is smashed, as well as the pulley;

  7. or before dust returns to the earth as it was at the beginning, and before God rescinds the breath of life.

  8. “Completely illusory” says Qoheleth. “Completely illusory! Everything is just an illusion!”

I’m walking (#2 of 2)

Context: Today’s prayer is linked to yesterday’s (https://wp.me/p45bCr-c0w), which divided itself in two, with the second part then taking on a life of its own. The process reminded me strongly of learning how an amoeba divides, in school biology! Here is the result: 

This is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
(2 John 1:6; NIV). 

1. I’m walking in your love, Lord God,
I’m walking in your love.
One with you before my birth,
One in exile, here on earth,
One with you in heaven, at last:
I’m walking in your love. 

2. I’m living in your love, Lord God,
I’m living in your love.
One with you in joys and tears,
One in troubles, tests and fears,
One with you in all you send:
I’m living in your love.

3. I’m resting in your love, Lord God,
I’m resting in your love.
One with you in loss and gain,
One in sickness, grief and pain,
One with you for evermore:
I’m resting in your love.

Truly my soul finds rest in God (Psalm 62:1; NIV).


References 

1. Show love to the LORD your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him (Deuteronomy 11:22; NLT). 

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4; NKJV).

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

Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NLT).

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again (Psalm 71:20; NRSV).

3. This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15; NLT).

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30; KJV).

I believe (#1 of 2)

Context: The stresses and strains of yesterday inevitably triggered a migraine, so today I’m being as still and quiet as possible. Whilst praying without words just after 6am, today’s blog arrived very easily and gently, for which I was very grateful. Then, to my astonishment, it divided in two, one part for today, and one for tomorrow. 

Believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God – there never has been, and there never will be.
(Isaiah 43:10; NLT).

1. I believe in you, Lord God,
Yes, I believe in you.
One with you before my birth,
One in exile, here on earth,
One with you in heaven, at last:
Lord, I believe in you.

2. I put my trust in you, Lord God,
I put my trust in you.
One with you in joys and tears,
One in troubles, tests and fears,
One with you in all you send:
I put my trust in you.

3. I live with you in love, Lord God,
I live with you in love.
One with you in loss and gain,
One in sickness, grief and pain,
One with you for evermore:
I live with you, in love. 

We live in fellowship with the true God.
(1 John 5:20; NLT).


References 

1. I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life (John 5:24; NLT). 

2. In you, LORD my God, I put my trust (Psalm 25:1; NIV). 

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

I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? (Psalm 56:4; NLT). 

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me (Psalm 138:7; NKJV).

3. I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people (2 Corinthians 6:16; NIV). 

Wherever I go

Context: After yesterday’s very concentrated writing effort, today I’m posting a much shorter blog I prepared a little while ago. At present, my energy for writing is in very short supply. However, since I started this website in 2013, I have always had some unpublished pieces set aside, ready to use during the periods when I can’t write. Here is one I’m glad to have the opportunity to share with you:

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

Wherever I go, we go there together.
However I feel, we share it, as one.
Whenever I fail, we mourn it together,
For you never leave me,
My Saviour, God’s Son.

Whatever I lose, we face it together.
Wherever I am, you’re close by my side.
Whatever I bear, we bear it together,
For you never leave me,
Good Shepherd, my Guide.

Whatever you ask, we face it together.
Whatever you take, *I give with a smile.
Whenever I fear, I turn to you swiftly,
For you never leave me
Throughout every trial.

*Give whatever he takes, with a big smile.
(Mother Theresa).

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).

Lord Jesus

Context: Today I will be setting out on my first long journey since before the start of the covid pandemic. It will take me two days to reach Ely, in the UK, where I will spend time with my family. This trip is going to be a huge physical and emotional challenge, as my health, energy, strength and mobility have deteriorated a lot since my last visit early in 2020, just before the arrival of covid and the first UK lockdown.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it;
but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
(Matthew 10:39; NLT).

My hope, my faith,
My light, my truth;
My joy unborn,
My sacred thorn:
Lord Jesus.

My pain, my grief,
My love, my life;
My gain, my loss,
My way, my cross:
Christ Jesus.

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). 

God’s presence

I will lie down and sleep peacefully,
for you, Lord,
make me safe and secure
(Psalm 4:8; NET). 

1. I sleep in your presence,
Absorbing your love,
Soothed by your peace, Lord,
And safe in your arms.

2. I wake in your presence,
Suffused by your light,
Hearing your voice, Lord,
And learning your truth.

3. I rise in your presence,
Accepting each loss,
And, trusting your strength, Lord,
I take up my cross.

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).


References 

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

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

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

I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 34:15; NLT).

The everlasting Gods is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms (Deuteronomy 33:27; NET).

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

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

God speaks time and again, but a person may not notice it (Job 33:14; CSB). 

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

Mary sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught (Luke 10:39; NLT).

3. Rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you (Acts 26:16; NKJV). 

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).

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

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 Jehovah is everlasting strength (Isaiah 26:4; KJV).

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy (Psalm 28:7; NLT). 

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall (Psalm 18:29; NLT). 

Gain and loss

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).

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

Lord,
You give me all I have,
And also take away:
May I welcome every loss
With praise and thanks, each day.

Lord,
You give me all I have,
And also take away:
May I learn from all you send,
Grow, serve you, and obey.

Lord,
You give me all I have,
And also take away:
May I trust you, cling, rejoice,
And never cease to pray.

Lord,
You give me all I have,
And also take away:
So, I beg you to bring good
From all things, come what may.

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).

More questions

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

1. What makes life on earth worth living?

Loving people, and forgiving;
Prayer, rejoicing, and thanksgiving –
Letting Jesus in.

2. What makes faith in Christ worth choosing? 

Peace, despite the world’s abusing;
Gain, in spite of all we’re losing –
Following our King.

3. What makes trouble worth enduring?

Learning, growing, and maturing;
Meeting others, helping – turning
Minds and souls to Him.

4. What makes Jesus’ way worth taking?  

Service, though our hearts are breaking –
So, choose Christ, all else forsaking,
And unite with Him.

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 3:9; NLT).


References 

1. My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God (Acts 20:24; NLT). 

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; RSV).

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

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends (Revelation 3:20; NLT).

2. Choose today whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15; 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).

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). 

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).

On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords (Revelation 19:16; NLT).

3. When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow (James 1:2-3; NLT).

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12; NLT).

Grow to maturity (2 Corinthians 13:11; NLT).

Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else (Mark 9:35; NLT).

Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15; NLT). 

Each of you must repent and turn to God, and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; NLT).

4. Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Luke 22:42; NLT). 

Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing (Luke 23:34; NLT).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

You also are complete through your union with Christ (Colossians 2:10; NLT). 

Heal our unbelief

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).

“Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-4; NLT).

Father,
You bring good from bad,
And peace from every fear we have;
Truth from lies,
And gain from loss –
Help us to overcome our unbelief.

Father,
You bring light from dark.
For growth from pain, you hit the mark;
Love from hate,
And faith from doubt –
Bring gain from all our troubles, Great High Priest. 

Father,
You bring life from death,
And comfort from each final breath;
Hope from grief,
And joy from woe –
Your resurrection, Lord our God, is sweet.

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25; NLT).

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies (Psalm 103:2-4; NLT).

Your light within

Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live (Psalm 43:3; NLT). 

1. Give me, Lord, your light within,
Then I’ll never go astray.

2. Grant me, Lord, your fire within,
Then my fears will melt away.

3. Give me, Lord, your peace within,
Then I’ll praise, despite my pain.

4. Grant me, Lord, your truth within,
Then each loss will be a gain.

5. Give me, Lord, your love within,
Then I’ll serve by doing good.

6. Grant me, Lord, your life within,
Then I’ll be your flesh and blood.

Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16; NLT).


References 

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

2. God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; NIV).

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

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

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

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