Contemplation

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love
(Romans 8:38; NLT).

1. To contemplation, Lord,
I bring my body –
My weakness, tiredness,
Restlessness and pain.

2. To contemplation, Lord,
I bring my thinking –
My hidden judgements,
Envy and disdain.

3. To contemplation, Lord,
I bring my feelings –
My sorrow, longing,
Anger, guilt, and fear.

4. To contemplation, Lord,
I bring my spirit –
My faith, and hope, and love,
For you are here.

References

1. The flesh is weak (Mark 14:38; NIV).

2. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away (Psalm 139:2; NLT).

3. The Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; NIV).

4. Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT).

God is with us (Matthew 1:23; NLT).

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).

Ever deeper

1. Jesus,
Draw me ever deeper –
Deep into your flesh,
So I may share your sorrow
And your reign.

2. Mary,
Draw me ever deeper –
Deep into your mind,
So I may share your gladness
And your pain.

3. Father,
Draw me ever deeper –
Deep into your heart,
So I may share your kingdom
And your feast.

4. Spirit,
Draw me ever deeper –
Deep into your soul,
So I may share your sighing
Without cease.

References

1. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe! (John 20:27; NLT).

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:34; NIV).

If we endure hardship, we will reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12; NLT).

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

How my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour! (Luke 1:47; NLT).

A sword will pierce your very soul (Luke 2:35; NLT).

3. The unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart (John 1:18; NLT).

He called you to share in his Kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:12; NLT).

You prepare a feast for me (Psalm 23:5; NLT).

4. God is Spirit (John 4:24; NLT).

We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26; RSV).

Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; RSV).

Compared to you

1. Lord,
Compared to you
We’re drops of rain;

2. Stars in the sky;
Fragments of sand,
Or dust.

3. And yet,
Your word is true:
You share our pain,

4. Hearing each sigh,
Holding each hand –
We trust.

References

1. “To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One (Isaiah 40:25; NLT).

God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! (Isaiah 40:22; NLT).

2. He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust (Psalm 103:14; NLT).

3. Every word of God proves true (Proverbs 30:5; NLT).

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

4. You hear my every sigh (Psalm 38:9; NLT).

I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God (Isaiah 41:13; NLT).

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Thank you for your fire

1. Thank you for your fire, Lord,
In my life;
My fears and failures;
All I have attained.

2. Thank you for your truth, Lord,
In my mind;
My pain and loss;
The wisdom I have gained.

3. Thank you for your peace, Lord,
In my heart;
My faith and hope;
The trust I place in you.

4. Thank you for your love, Lord,
In my soul;
My help in all I think,
And say, and do.

References

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

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

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

4. God is love (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Lent for life

1. Thank you for my body, Lord,
Lent by you, for life –
For all the pain and stress
It undergoes.

2. Thank you for my mind, Lord,
Lent by you, for life –
For all that’s shaped it,
Everything it knows.

3. Thank you for my heart, Lord,
Lent by you for life –
For all the love it’s given
And received.

4. Thank you for my soul, Lord,
For this alone is ‘me’
From long before my body
Was conceived.

References

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

4. I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; 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, whilst I wailed and panted like an animal. I wasn’t afraid, just utterly overwhelmed by the intensity of the pain. I was sitting down, bent over the kitchen table, 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 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’m slowly starting to resume my normal activities. However, a troubling question persists at the back of my mind, though I hardly dare express it. 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).

My small soul

1. In death, I’ll quit this body,
My mind and heart, Lord, too,
But my small soul will still be strong
For it will merge with you.

2. In death, I’ll quit this body,
With all its scars and pain,
But my small soul will rest in you,
When we unite again.

References

1. March on with courage, my soul! (Judges 5:21; NLT).

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

2. My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body (Psalm 38:7; NLT).

Return, O my soul, to your rest (Psalm 116:7: ESV).