2.10.22: I’m nothing

Context: Since my hospital trip to London, I’ve been feeling drained and empty. Prayer is almost impossible. All I can do is to wait, resting in God’s hands, knowing I’m nothing, and placing all my trust in God. Yesterday morning, when I tried to pray, this is what came to me:

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

Lord God, I know I’m nothing.

The only thing that’s good about me is that your Spirit lives in my soul.

Without your help, I can do nothing, Lord; I can’t even pray. 

Without you, I’m spiritually dead, though my body lives on.

I’m in your hand. You alone give me life, breath and everything I need to stay alive. When you close your hand, I will die. 

No matter what happens, Lord, please help me to become more like your dear Son in everything I think, say and do.

I ask this in his holy name. Amen.


References

I am nothing (Job 49:4; NLT). 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16; NET).

Apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5; NLT).

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-7; NRSV).

I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead (Revelation 3:1; NLT).

The life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being (Job 12:10; NLT). 

When you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust (Psalm 104:28-9; NIV). 

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

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). 

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17; NIV).

24.9.22: Selfhood

Context: Yesterday I woke promptly to get ready for my yearly visit to the Breast Cancer Clinic. It seems astonishing that it’s already four years since my mastectomy. As I wasn’t able to tolerate the side-effects of the various treatments I tried, these appointments are a significant opportunity to check for recurrence and spread.

Whilst I was praying just before getting up, I saw again, a little more clearly than the day before, that the concept of “selfhood” is illusory. By “selfhood” I mean the belief that we have a permanent, individual identity which is separate from God, and from everyone and everything else.

At most, the illusion of separateness lasts no longer than our brief exile on earth – less if we develop dementia. In dementia we lose the illusion of selfhood progressively, before our physical death, until only the body is left behind. Eventually, the body also dies, the soul having already become one with God who gave it. I find this realisation very comforting, as I have always dreaded dementia far more than any other illness.

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


References 

Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8; NIV).

Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 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 3:8-9; NLT).

22.9.22: Loving everyone

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him (Luke 24:31; NLT). 

A few days ago I stood in front of my favourite icon of Jesus, and started to pray. Within seconds, I saw how much easier is to love everyone when I consciously recognise Christ’s presence within each individual, without exception.

Lord,
Please help me to recognise you in everyone, without exception.

I ask this in your holy name.
Amen.

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


References

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

May the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow (1 Thessalonians 3:12; NLT). 

20.9.22: The source of prayer

Context: Yesterday, I woke and began to pray, as usual. My list of people to pray for was at hand, but it is long, and I was weary of pushing myself to pray for each one in turn. So instead I just opened myself to being led in prayer.

Almost immediately, I received the first line of today’s blog, and wrote it down, then waited quietly, to see what would happen next. This is what I experienced:

The source of prayer is deep within. It comes from God, who lives in every soul (1).

God is our breath, our spirit, and our Saviour (2).

So I allowed God’s Spirit to guide my prayers (3). 

I prayed very simply for those who came to mind, feeling peaceful and unhurried (4).

To my considerable relief, no further insights arose from the dark depths of my unconscious mind. This meant I wouldn’t have to spend the day trying to express something that was difficult to put into words.

After praying for others until no more names appeared, I worshipped in silence until my prayer reached a comfortable, natural ending (5). 

It was bliss (6).


References 

1. You are the temple of the living God (Luke 17:21; NKJV).

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

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

2. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4; NLT). 

I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:3; NLT). 

3. The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-7; NRSV).

4. I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them (1 Timothy 2:1; NLT). 

5. YHWH is in the Holy Temple: let all the earth be silent in God’s presence (Habakkuk 2:20; TIB). 

6. Thou makest me to know the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy, in Thy right hand bliss for evermore (Psalm 16:11; JPS Tanakh 1917). 

19.9.22: The state of our world

  • Whilst praying this morning, I reflected on the severely unsettled, and unsettling, state of our world:

Those who hold power are taking their stand, gathering their forces against YHWH (Psalm 2:1; TIB).

  • But then I saw that God is just as unchanging, powerful and loving as ever:

I am the LORD, and I do not change (Malachi 3:6; NLT).

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all (1 Chronicles 29:11; KJV).

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

  • God waits for us to repent, so we can be forgiven, and start to change:

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

Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized 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).

  • So I prayed that we will all repent, turn to God, and start changing our lives before it’s too late: before we destroy the earth, our only home, and all her plants, creatures and people, through our foolish wars, hatred, selfishness, greed and ignorance:

Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the LORD’s forgiveness before it is too late. For the LORD has threatened them with his terrible anger (Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).


Reading: Psalm 2, The Inclusive Bible 

Why are the nations creating such an uproar?  Why all this commotion among the peoples? 

Those who hold power are taking their stand, gathering their forces against YHWH, against God’s Anointed One. “Let’s break their chains!” they say. “Let’s throw off their shackles!” 

But the One who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs; the Sovereign One derides them, then rebukes them in anger and, enraged, terrifies them: “It is I who installed my ruler on Zion, on the mountain of my holiness!” 

I will proclaim God’s decree – YHWH said to me: “You are my own; I’ve given birth to you today. Just ask – I’ll give you the nations as your inheritance! I’ll give you the ends of the earth as your possession! You’ll break them with an iron scepter; you’ll shatter them as easily as a clay pot.” 

So, you rulers, be wise! And you who hold power, stand warned! Serve YHWH and rejoice – but do so with fear and trembling. Pay homage to God’s Own lest you be destroyed on your way in a blaze of anger – for God’s passion can flare up without warning. 

Happiness comes to those who make God their refuge! 

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). 

17.9.22: God already knows

A few days ago I found it very hard to pray when I woke up, which is unusual for me. However, to my surprise, some insight still arrived. This what I saw:

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs (Matthew 6:32; NLT). 

Whenever I turn to you and ask for your help, Lord, I find that you already know what I need, and you’re already offering it. You’re pouring out love all the time, waiting patiently, and longing for me to accept your assistance:

  • When I ask you to forgive me, you’re already offering forgiveness
  • When I ask you to heal me, you’re already offering healing
  • When ask you to strengthen me, you’re already offering strength
  • When I ask you to help me pray, you’re already helping me to pray
  • When I ask you to hear my prayers, you’re already listening to them
  • When I ask you to comfort me, you’re already offering me your comfort

All I need to do is to accept with gratitude what you are already offering.

Lord, you anticipate my every need. May I continually turn to you with total confidence, knowing you will help me in all circumstances. Thank you for being so great, so good and so kind.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours (Mark 11:24; NLT). 

The Lord God helps me (Isaiah 50:7; RSV).


References 

The Lord who made you and helps you says: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, O dear Israel, my chosen one. For I will pour out water to quench your thirst and to irrigate your parched fields (Isaiah 44:3; NLT). 


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

Your Father knows exactly what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8; NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him (1 John 5:14-15; NIV).

11.9.22: Heaven on earth #2

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10; RSV). 

During an on-line conversation yesterday morning, a friend and I were discussing free will. I was praying in between reading and responding to their messages, and suddenly saw that when everyone freely chooses to do God’s will out of love, we will all live in heaven on earth.

Until that blessed day arrives, each of us can help the world to move towards it, by treating everyone with love, no matter how they behave towards us.

All this became much clearer in my mind when I was praying at bedtime: we can live in heaven on earth individually, and we can also live this way collectively. Free will means that the choice is ours.

When you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will (Leviticus 22:29; NKJV).

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ (Ephesians 5:2; NLT).


References

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind (Luke 10:27; NLT).

Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke 10:27; NLT).


Love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; NKJV).

Show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:28; NLT).

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

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (Romans 12:9; NLT). 

Do everything with love (1 Corinthians 16:14; NLT).

Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17; NLT).

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4; NLT).

We have all sinned against you (Jeremiah 14:20; NLT).

10.9.22: Heaven on earth #1

  • I woke very early and began to pray, longing to meet Jesus face to face in heaven. Then this little dialogue came into my mind, starting with a very familiar question:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42;2; NIV).


  • It crossed my mind that there would surely be so many people crowding around Jesus that my chance of even glimpsing him in heaven would be very small. However, I then saw that in heaven we will all be like Jesus:

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


  • This means there will always be more than enough of Jesus to go round, because he will be fully present within everyone in heaven, just as he is on earth:

The kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21; NLT).


  • So I don’t have to wait until after my death to meet Jesus, because I can already see him here, if I look with the eyes of love. This makes my life “heaven on earth”:

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


  • Living in heaven on earth means consciously recognising and loving Christ in everyone, without exception:

Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him (Luke 24:31; NLT).


  • Fortunately, living in heaven on earth doesn’t depend on my being well enough to serve in major ways that require lots of energy and strength:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9; NKJV).


  • Thus, whatever I do for others serves Christ within them. This includes, for example, every smile, greeting, chat, hug, encouragement, gift, prayer, or kindness, however small:

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). 

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).