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!”

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). 

Wrapped

Context: This song of praise began to form whilst I was dancing for joy in the shower. When I got out to wrap myself in a large, homely towel, I was able to note it down. It was a pleasure to work on it during a completely unstructured day of rest following my long journey.

Don’t be afraid. Just have faith (Mark 5:36; NLT). 

1. I’m wrapped in faith, in hope and truth;
In praise and peace that never end.

2. I’m wrapped in joy, in thanks and prayer;
In all you give, and take and lend.

3. I’m wrapped in weakness and in strength;
In everything you make and send.

4. I’m wrapped in sickness, life and death;
In all you wound, and break and mend.

5. I’m wrapped in ecstasy and light;
In shadow, and the love of Christ.

I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 63:7; NLT). 

May you experience the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19; NLT).


References 

1. Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love  (1 Corinthians 13:13; NLT). 

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

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

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

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

3. My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; NLT). 

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

He created the earth and everything in it (Isaiah 42:5; NLT).

Everything you have is from God (1 Corinthians 4:7; NLT).

4. He himself sent this sickness (Isaiah 38:15; NLT). 

The LORD gives both death and life (1 Samuel 2:6; NLT).

He breaks the bow and snaps the spear (Psalm 46:9; NLT). 

He breaks the pride of princes (Psalm 76:12; NLT). 

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

5. I became in ecstasy (Acts 22:17; DBY).

Then she was in ecstasy (2 Chronicles 9:4; BST).

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

In his shadow have I rapture (Song of Songs 2:3; DBY). 

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

Chant

Context: This simple chant of praise flowed spontaneously in the early morning a couple of days ago. It goes with a swing, and is the perfect blog for today, because my heart is overflowing with joy.

Some of you will know that I am currently facing up to my life-long, severe claustrophobia. Today, with my husband, I successfully tackled the busy, windowless lift in a major department store – one I never imagined myself using under any circumstances.

Then, for the first time in my whole life, I went in a lift on my own. Admittedly it was made of glass, but it was still a very significant achievement for me. In fact, I can hardly believe I’m even writing this, let alone that I did it!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
(Genesis 1:1; NLT). 

1. Yahweh fashions all there is,
Living, dying, rising –
Lord, I praise you.

2. Jesus comes to set me free,
Living, dying, rising –
Lord, I serve you.

3. Rucha* prays on my behalf,
Living, dying, rising –
Lord, I thank you.

4. I in you, and you in me,
Living, dying, rising –
Lord, I love you.

Nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us
from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord
(Romans 8:39; NLT).


References 

1. He himself gives life and breath to everything (Acts 17:25; NLT). 

2.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Luke 4:18-19; NIV). 

3. *Rucha means ‘spirit’ in Aramaic. It is a feminine noun (Wikibooks).

The Spirit, too, comes to help us in our weakness. For we don’t know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit expresses our plea with groanings too deep for words. And God, who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what the Spirit is saying, because her intercessions for God’s holy people are made according to the mind of God (Romans 8:26-7; TIV). 

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

Totality in One

Context: A quiet day today. I made breakfast and took it back to bed, which is something I very rarely do. The morning brought the reflective verses below, whilst part of the afternoon was spent gardening in breezy sunshine under a beautiful blue sky.


God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh – ‘the LORD'”
(Exodus 6:2; NLT).

God,
Totality in One,
More brilliant than the rising sun;
No time, beginning, limit, end:
I love you.

God,
Eternity within,
No hate, or fear; no greed, or sin;
Pure love, light, fire; pure truth and peace:
I praise you.

God,
The mystery in all,
Concealed by darkness, yet you call
On me to worship, learn, and grow
Like you.

Put on your new nature, and be renewed
as you learn to know your Creator
and become like him (Colossians 3:10; NLT). 

I turn to you

Introduction

Hello to all readers. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m learning  to make my writing more inclusive. Hopefully, as I improve, every blog  will incorporate a fuller understanding of God.

However, whilst I’m learning how to do this, I may sometimes need to post two versions of the same prayer, because I don’t yet have sufficient skill to amalgamate them into one. On these occasions, the first will use traditional language, whilst the second will attempt a more inclusive expression of the same basic inspiration.

Please bear with me as I work to develop the highly challenging art of more inclusive writing. God willing, in time my skills will improve. Then, posting two different versions will no longer be necessary, as I will be incorporating a fuller understanding of God into all my writing.

Today, I could have posted just one version of the prayer below, but I wanted to share with you a sense of the challenges involved in inclusive writing. If you find all this irritating, please be as patient, tolerant and understanding towards me as you can. It’s a very big step of healing for me to begin embracing a broader understanding of God, who includes all that is both masculine and feminine, whilst transcending all divisions, such as gender, race and creed (thank you to K.B. for your tremendous help and guidance in this matter). Because of the emotional abuse I suffered throughout my childhood, I have always found it very difficult to embrace the femininity of God.

Please pray for me, as I pray for you, remembering that we are all at different stages of our spiritual development, as we strive to reach the fullest possible understanding of God, within our human limitations.


Version 1: using traditional language

When I awake, I will find you nearby (Psalm 139:18; CEV).

Lift up your hands to him in prayer (Job 11:13; NLT). 

1. I turn to you each morning, Lord,
And lift my hands
In prayer.

2. I turn to you each afternoon,
And lift my hands
In love.

3. I turn to you each evening, Lord,
And lift my hands
In praise.

4. I turn to you; I lift my hands;
I close my eyes –
And gaze.

We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:18; NLT).

Notes

Please scroll down for references, below version 2

Here is a link to my recent article on lifting the hands to pray: https://wp.me/p45bCr-bb8


Version 2: using more inclusive language

When I awake, I will find you nearby (Psalm 139:18; CEV).

Lift up your hands to him in prayer (Job 11:13; NLT). 

1. I turn to God each morning,
And lift my hands
In prayer.

2. I turn to God each afternoon,
And lift my hands
In love.

3. I turn to God each evening,
And lift my hands
In praise.

4. I turn to God; I lift my hands;
I close my eyes –
And gaze.

We fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:18; NLT).

Note

Here is a link to my recent article on lifting the hands to pray: https://wp.me/p45bCr-bb8


References

2. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven (Lamentations 3:41; NLT).

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

3. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice (Psalm 55:17; NKJV).

Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord (Psalm 134:2; NLT).   

4. I think about you, God, before I go to sleep, and my thoughts turn to you during the night (Psalm 63:6; CEV). 

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4; NIV). 

Faith

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1; NLT).

The Apostles said to the Lord, “Give us faith” (Luke 17:5; WNT). 

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To talk with you both night and day,
To listen, learn, and grow like you,
By following your way.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To pray for others day and night,
And serve you in all humankind,
By walking in your light.

Please give me, Lord, the faith I need
To worship you unceasingly,
To praise your name, and seek your face,
By trusting you implicitly.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; NIV).

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory (1 Peter 1:21; 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).

Worship (#2 of 2)


Moses pleaded with the Lord,
“O Lord, I’m not very good with words”
(Exodus 4:10; NLT). 

1. How I wish I had the words
To praise the Father I adore,
But I can only whisper:
Lord,
You love me evermore. 

2. How I wish I had the words
To thank the Saviour I revere,
But I can only murmur:
Lord,
You listen; you are here. 

3. How I wish I had the words
To worship God, my heart’s desire,
But I can only stammer:
Lord,
You set my heart on fire.

Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us?
(Luke 24:32; NLT).


References 

1. Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord (Psalm 134:2; NLT).

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

2. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

The Lord listens (Psalm 69:33; CSB). 

God is with us (2 Chronicles 13:12; NIV). 

You make me glad by being near to me (Psalm 16:11; CEV). 

3. Bow down and worship the Lord (Ezekiel 46:3; NLT).

The Lord your God is a raging fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; GWT).  

Worship (#1 of 2)

Moses pleaded with the Lord,
“O Lord, I’m not very good with words”
(Exodus 4:10; NLT). 

1. How I wish I had the words
To praise the Father I adore,
But I can only whisper:
Lord,
I love you evermore.

2. How I wish I had the words
To thank the Saviour I revere,
But I can only murmur:
Lord,
I’m glad that you are here.

3. How I wish I had the words
To worship God, my heart’s desire,
But I can only stammer:
Lord,
I fear your raging fire. 

The Lord your God is a raging fire
(Deuteronomy 4:24; GWT).


References 

1. Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the Lord (Psalm 134:2; NLT).

 I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

2. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).

 I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me (Psalm 16:6; NLT).

You make me glad by being near to me (Psalm 16:11; CEV). 

3. Bow down and worship the Lord (Ezekiel 46:3; NLT).

I tremble in fear of you (Psalm 119:120; NLT).