31.1.23: When I ask

When praying with my circlet, I’m learning to wait in silence on each new bead. Once I can see what it holds, I pray with it until the prayer is complete. Then I let it go, and move on to the next, as described in today’s prayer:

The Spirit also helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what prayers to offer nor in what way to offer them (Romans 8:26; WNT). 

Jesus,

When I ask your help,
A prayer awaits me in each bead:
All I have to do is listen
For your Holy Spirit’s lead.

Some hold silence, inspiration,
Intercession, thanks, or praise;
Some are full of light and warmth,
Of our shared love’s united gaze.

So I say the words you offer,
See all I am meant to see:
What a joy it is to know
That every day you care for me.

May I speak the words you give,
And learn what I am meant to learn,
Living, walking in your Spirit
Here, on earth, till I return.

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


References 

I will put my Spirit in you and you will live (Ezekiel 37:14; NIV). 

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness – secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name (Isaiah 45:3; NLT). 

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion (Ephesians 6:18; NLT). 

Listen to God’s voice (Deuteronomy 26:17; TIB). 

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).

He cares for those who trust in him (Nahum 1:7; NIV). 

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? (1 Corinthians 6:19; NLT). 

God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us (1 John 4:13; NLT). 

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25; KJV).

29.1.23: Seeing Christ

Today’s blog builds on one of my very favourite prayers. I say it every morning, having come across it many years ago in “Pocket Prayers for Pilgrims”. This little book was compiled by John Pritchard (Church House Publishing; 2011; page 33). Here it is:

Lord God,
Whoever you bring into our path today,
May we see Christ in them,
And may they see Christ in us,
For your love’s sake.
Amen.

Over the years, without even realising it, I’ve made this prayer more personal. Then, when I was saying it with my circlet yesterday (on bead 1/4), I suddenly saw how it could be extended:

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

Lord God,
Whoever you bring into my path,
My mind,
And my prayers today,
May I see Christ in them,
And may they see Christ in me,
For Thy love’s sake,
Amen.

All of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And 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). 

Having written this down I began to pray again (still on 1/4), but a question immediately flashed into my mind:

Do you really think it makes any difference to God whether we are Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Evangelical, Lutheran, or any other denomination? 

The answer, of course, is No – it makes no difference at all, because what God wants is for us to be Christian in the fullest and truest sense of the word. So what does being a Christian actually mean?

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).

It means giving up our selfish ways,
Taking up our cross each day,
And following Jesus.

It means growing more like him
In all we think, say,
And do.

It means seeing, loving,
And serving him
In everyone,

Including those we disagree with,
Or disapprove of,
And those who hate or hurt us.

Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:44; NLT).

By the time I’d written this down, I hardly dared to continue praying, for fear of what might follow. However, I needn’t have worried, because I was able to let bead 1/4 go, and to move on, though of course I never know what will come next. In fact, bead 1/5 turned out to be full of heartfelt thanks and praise, for which I was very grateful.


References

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 19:19; NLT). 

We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5; NIV).

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:49; NIV). 


The Rosary Hospital 

Today I was able to begin trying out the new rosary-making method I stumbled upon yesterday. This means starting in the middle of the main circlet.

Apart from giving one decade 13 beads, and having to take back a couple of barrel knots to put this right, it worked out well. At the moment, I don’t really understand why it works, but that’s not important. What counts is that it enables me to make two identical knots at the places where the main circle joins the centrepiece, as shown in the photo below. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish making this rosary tomorrow.

14.1.23: Prayer #2

As I was  beginning to surface from a bad dream early yesterday morning, I heard a voice call out my name: “Ruth!” A few moments later it happened again: “Ruth!” I felt disorientated and confused, too sleepy to respond.

Sitting on the edge of my bed (I have to stand up slowly), I tried to pray about what had happened, but I don’t think I made much sense. 

Even once I began to move about, it took me several more minutes to realise that I could have answered: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9; NLT). I prayed about this, but felt sad that I had missed my chance to respond.

After breakfast it was hard to pray for others, as discussed yesterday (here is a link: https://wp.me/p45bCr-deo). Then a possible way forward suddenly came into my mind.

Introductory prayers
Using the first section of my five-decade rosary (the cross and the five beads which lead to the main circle), I kissed the cross, and used it to make the sign of the cross. Then I said five of my favourite morning prayers, one on each bead. Pausing at the centrepiece, I asked the Holy Spirit to direct my prayers, and to help me to pray.

First decade: Praying for others
Next, I held the first bead of the first decade whilst praying for the first person who came into my mind. After each bead, I moved on to the next, waiting to see who it was for, then praying for them, as described in the link above.

When I reached the fixed “Our Father” bead, I kissed it, and made the sign of the cross with it again, whilst saying: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then I rested for a moment with my arms crossed on my breast, wondering what would come next. 

Second decade: Giving thanks
Almost immediately, I saw that the next decade was for giving thanks, so that’s exactly what I did. On each bead, I waited to see what came into my mind, then gave thanks for it. I knew that this could include saying thank-you for “bad” things, as well as “good” ones.

Half-way through the second decade, I saw what needed to come next: asking God’s forgiveness. Pausing to write this down, I continued giving thanks, until the next “Glory be”, when I rested again.

Third decade: Saying sorry, and asking forgiveness 
On the next group of beads, I said I was sorry for ten different things I had got wrong, one at a time, including my long-standing flaws and weaknesses. I asked God’s forgiveness and help on each bead, as before.

Fourth decade: Forgiving others
By the time I reached this point, I was tiring, but could see that the next ten beads would be about forgiving others. In fact there was no one at all I needed to forgive, so I moved straight on to the last ten beads.

Fifth decade: Praising God
The final decade was devoted to praising ten different aspects of God, which was very easy to do.

Conclusion
I’m hoping that this way of using my rosary might be particularly helpful when praying with words feels like an unmanageable task, or I’m finding it hard to concentrate. Holding the beads one at a time will hopefully help to keep me centred and grounded. It also limits the number of prayers on each subject to ten, though obviously this shouldn’t be too rigid.

The prayer on each bead will be as short, honest and direct as I can make it, so it will hopefully be possible to develop a momentum that keeps me moving forwards to the next prayer, and the next, rather than getting bogged down, or feeling overwhelmed and giving up. Finally, I plan to try starting and ending my circle of prayer by holding the cross during a period of silence.

6.1.23: A circlet of prayer

Today’s blog came to me when I was praying yesterday morning. It links back to the day before, so if you want to refresh your memory, here is a link: https://wp.me/p45bCr-d9R.

Whilst writing the poem below, I saw in my mind’s eye a very simple circlet of beads to go with it. So, later in the day, I made a prototype, pictured above. Afterwards I realised it needs to have groups of eight beads, rather than 16.

It will have one bead per line, and will be said silently, in time with my breathing. A larger bead will mark the end of the last line. I will kiss each marker-bead as I come to it, before beginning the prayer again on the next eight beads. There will be enough beads in the circlet to say the prayer several times, making it a source of comfort and strength. Using it requires only one hand, so it can easily be said whilst lying down, sitting, standing, or walking.

Anyway, after this long introduction, here is today’s prayer. Of course, a circlet of beads is not necessary for praying this little meditation. You might like to try breathing in as you silently and slowly say the first line of each couplet, then out as you say the second. 

I love you, LORD; you are my strength (Psalm 18:1; NLT). 

Jesus, I love you.
Jesus, forgive me.

Jesus, I thank you,
My staff, and my rod.

Jesus, please help me.
Jesus, I praise you.

Jesus, you love me,
My Lord and my God.

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


References 

In Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body (Colossians 2:9; NLT).

Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11; NLT).

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:19; NLT).

God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ (Colossians 1:19; NLT).


The Rosary Hospital

Do you remember me saying that I’d been able to give up supergluing the final knots on my rosaries? Yesterday, to my horror, my own (unglued) rosary came apart. Now I’m imagining all the unglued rosaries I’ve sent out coming apart. There’s nothing I can do about this other than to start using glue again, and making sure people know that if they have a problem, I’ll be very happy to re-cord (and glue), their rosary.

23.12.22: Confidence (with thanks to M.I.)

Context: The moderator of a Facebook messenger group I follow used the phrase, “I will act  confidently and not be afraid”, in her daily message yesterday. These words from St. Francis’ Office of the Passion had a huge impact on me. Soon afterwards, as I was praying and reflecting on what she had written, the first line of today’s prayer arrived, then the rest quickly followed:

We have placed our confidence in him (2 Corinthians 1:10; NLT).

I’ve placed my confidence
In you:

I walk, Lord Jesus,
In your way,

And live forever
In your hand

To praise and serve:
With you, I stand.

Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the LORD (Psalm 26:12; NLT).


References 

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). 

He loves his people; all his holy ones are in his hands. They follow in his steps and accept his teaching (Deuteronomy 33:3; NLT). 

It is God who makes …you stand firm in Christ (2 Corinthians 1: 21; NLT).

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). 

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence (Jeremiah 17:7; NLT). 

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). 

We can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6; 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).


Rosary Hospital news: 

I’m so grateful for my new work-station:

And here is the first rosary made using it:


It’s for someone who practices the Russian Orthodox faith. The “Jesus prayer” is said fifty times whilst using this rosary.

25.11.22: Silence

Context: The days tend to blur into one with Covid, but there are signs of improvement. Yesterday, my husband made bread, we gratefully received our second batch of online grocery shopping, and I walked about 5o yards down the road, which was as much as I could manage. There was no traffic, and the light, waves and gulls gave a strange, dream-like quality to being out of doors. Afterwards, I was so tired that I fell asleep repeatedly.

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

In the silence of my mind,
I praise you, Lord,
Who sets me free.

In the stillness of my heart,
I worship you
Continually.

In the darkness of my soul,
I seek your face
Unceasingly.

In the dying of my flesh,
I thirst
For your eternity.

I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain (Psalm 143:6; NLT).

I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? (Psalm 42:2; NLT).


Rosary news:

Following help I was given on Wednesday by a religious Sister, I made my first rosary with a centrepiece, which proved to be a game-changer. It’s holding together so far, with cautious, gentle handling:

24.11.22: In my dreams

Context: In dreams, I very rarely say or do anything overtly Christian, which seems both surprising and sad.

Yesterday morning I woke from a complicated, stressful dream, longing to pray. However, even before I could begin, this blog started to arrive. I tried hard to ignore it, which was impossible. It quickly became so loud and insistent that I had to give in, and write it down, like this:

I want to be a Christian
In my dreams,
To turn to you, and pray, Lord,
In my dreams;
To ask for your forgiveness
In my dreams,
Love others, Lord, and serve you –
In my dreams. 

I want to be a Christian
In my dreams,
So I can praise and thank you
In my dreams;
To revel in your presence
In my dreams,
And welcome all that happens –
In my dreams.

I want to be a Christian
In my dreams,
Then I will see your face, Lord,
In my dreams.
I’ll worship without ceasing
In my dreams,
And live in heaven on earth, Lord –
In my dreams.


Rosary news:

Well, since my most recent failure I’ve thought hard about rosary-making, watched some more YouTube videos, talked with my friend in the UK, and had a Zoom consultation with a lovely consecrated Sister who knows her rosaries. Then I threw the (metaphorical) rule-book into the (metaphorical) bin, and put together my own way of doing it, with the following result:

It seems very strong, and I’m tempted to ask my husband to test its joints, but don’t yet feel quite tough enough to deal with the disappointment if it immediately comes apart like the last one. Maybe I’ll ask him tomorrow….

NB: In the end, I plucked up my courage, he tested it, and it’s still in one piece so far!

13.11.22: Jesus

Context: The evening before writing this prayer, I realised I was developing a respiratory infection. Next morning, after a rather strange and feverish night, this little blog came to me before I had even started to pray. It was surprisingly hard to put into words. NB: The infection turned out to be covid

When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:7-8; NIV). 

May my prayers be simple:
“Thank you, Jesus.”

“I love you, Jesus”:
May this be my praise.

May my words be plain:
“Forgive me, Jesus.”

May your Spirit
Set my heart ablaze.

May my prayer be:
“Jesus, I forgive them.”

May I do your will,
And serve your name.

May my conduct show
I follow you, Lord:

One with you in joy,
And grief, and pain.

The person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him (1 Corinthians 6:17; NLT).


Reading: Luke 11:2-4; NLT

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

28.10.22: The narrow gate

Context: This blog came to me a day or two ago, but I had neither the time nor the energy to work on it whilst I was in London. However, yesterday I had to get up early for another batch of tests, so I was able to prepare it at the hospital between half-hourly blood samples, which worked out surprisingly well.

Enter through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:13; NIV). 

Enter through
The narrow gate,

Then follow Jesus’
Narrow way

Of love for all.
Take up your cross

With thanks.
Rejoice!

And never cease
To praise and pray.

I will praise the Lord at all times (Psalm 34:1; NLT). 

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NLT).


References 

You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate (Matthew 7:14; NLT).

Small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:14; BSB). 

Follow the way of love (1 Corinthians 14:1; NIV). 

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). 

Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up (Luke 18:1; NLT). 

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!”