You live in my darkness

Context: Greetings to everyone who follows, or visits, this website. Some of you will be aware that my health, energy and mobility are steadily deteriorating. This makes producing a fully-referenced poem or article every day more tiring than I can manage nowadays. I’ve been struggling badly for the last few months, as this task has gradually become more and more of a challenge.

Tomorrow is my 70th birthday, so from that day onwards, for a trial period of a month, I’m going to share what God shows me each day much more directly, just as I experience it and note it down at the time. This might take the form of a short prayer, or a set of reflections. I don’t know yet exactly what will happen, but I trust God to help me.

This new approach should greatly reduce my daily work-load, but will still enable me to share with you what I’m given. After a month, I’ll review how I’m coping, and let you know how it has felt.

You might smile to know that a few days ago, in desperation, I had decided to keep on writing as before, but only to post on alternate days. However, this didn’t feel right, and I knew it wasn’t exactly what God wanted. Then today, about an hour ago, I was given the new approach described above, which means I can still post every day. It’s a great relief to have received this guidance, and to have a way forward that feels right. My only desire is to do God’s will.

Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
(Exodus 20:21; NLT).

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
(Psalm 89:15; NLT). 

1. You live in my darkness;
I walk in your light.

2. You cannot be seen,
But I dwell in your sight.

3. You bear all my burdens;
I lean on your might.

4. In love and rejoicing,
Complete: we unite. 

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


References 

1. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12; NIV). 

2. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (1 John 4:12; NLT). 

We shall live in his sight (Hosea 6:2; KJV). 

3. Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; NIV). 

In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years (Isaiah 63:9; NLT). 

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

4. I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love (Psalm 31:7; NLT). 

We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

A crash course on suffering (for J.C.)

Context: While I was praying for a friend who recently asked me some significant questions about suffering, I was given the inspiration for the following article:

Introduction 

This crash course addresses ten questions about suffering. Immediately below each answer there is a series of Biblical quotes. These are offered as an aid to reflection, perhaps over a period of several days.

1. Where do we come from?

All human beings are part of God, who makes us, breathes life into us, cares for us, and loves us unfailingly. 

YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life. And the earth creature became a living being (Genesis 2:7; TIB). 

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

I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you (Isaiah 46:4; NLT). 

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

2. What is life?

Life is the period during which we are exiled from heaven, though not from God’s constant, invisible, loving presence. We come from God, spend time on earth, then return to God.

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5; NLT).

You will soon return from exile (Lamentations 4:22; NLT).

3. Why are we here?

Our task is to get to know God. We do this by seeking God, and by praying constantly, thanking God in all circumstances, and rejoicing, no matter what we face.

His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27; NLT).

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV). 

4. What does life offer us?

Life offers us the chance to learn how to live in God, to grow more like Christ, and, astonishingly, even to become more like God.

We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; 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).

Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; 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).

5. Why do we suffer?

Trials and sorrows are an inevitable part of our time on earth because our bodies, minds and hearts are fragile and mortal, though our souls are immortal. Life here is essentially a training-ground. It offers us the opportunity to make our own choices, reach out to God and grow in faith. This developmental process helps us to love God, all people and the world, until we eventually discover our oneness with God, and with all. 

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

How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! (Job 14:1; NLT). 

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me (Jeremiah 29:13; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (Leviticus 19:18; NLT).

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

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

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NLT). 

6. Where does suffering come from?

Everything comes from God, both good and bad, though some people would prefer to see good things as coming from God, and suffering as being inflicted by “the devil”. However, the concept of the devil as an external being arises from a combination of mistranslation and the human desire to disown the temptations and terrible impulses which well up spontaneously from our unconscious minds (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-bPK). When we act these out, evil occurs in truly shocking and horrific ways, but the impulse, the decision and the action always come from within.

Learning to accept suffering as God’s will, and to make the best of it whilst still loving and serving God in others, is one of the major challenges and opportunities of our lives.

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other (Ecclesiastes 7:14; NIV).

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).

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

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

7. Why does suffering exist?

Suffering has much to teach us. Without it, we might not grow in trust and faith. Christ’s example is particularly helpful here, for even as he begged God to spare him from extreme suffering, he maintained his resolution to accept God’s will rather than his own. God suffers with us and helps us to learn through all we face. This is how we grow in endurance, patience, inner strength, hope and love.

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).

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

Blessed be the Lord! Day after day he bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19; 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).

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever (Psalm 73:26; NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5; NLT). 

8. How can good come out of suffering? 

As we grow in love and trust by facing and sharing our suffering with God, God brings good from it all. This is something we can ask for when we pray for others, as well as for ourselves.

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28; NLT). 

Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan (Ephesians 1:11; NLT). 

9. What is the purpose of life?

The purpose of life is to recognise, love and serve God in ourselves, in others, and in all things. This means becoming aware of our constant oneness with the Divine. To live like this, no matter what happens, is to live joyfully in heaven on earth.

You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NKJV). 

There is one Lord …who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:5; NLT). 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV). 

So, my dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God (Romans 7:4; NLT). 

10. Where do we go when we die?

As mentioned briefly in #2 above, when we die, we return immediately to God, who welcomes, kisses and embraces us. Completely healed, forgiven and restored, we are absorbed back into God’s infinite peace, bliss and love – and this time, it’s forever.

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

I came from Abba God and have come into the world, and now I leave the world to go to Abba God (John 16:28; TIB). 

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.” But his father said to the servants, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found” (Luke 15:20-24; TIB).

Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23:66; KJV).

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


Conclusion

In this article I’ve addressed ten questions about suffering. I hope very much that you have found something here that interests or helps you. Remember that I pray for you all every day.

We keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do (2 Thessalonians 1:11; NLT).

✝️ With love from Ruth.
14.8.22.

Like Martha

Context: I noted down the essence of today’s prayer a day or two ago, but didn’t have enough time to work on it. However, yesterday morning I woke early, which gave me the space to finish it before starting the long journey back to Liverpool (the magnificent Lime Street Station is pictured above). Although I was nervous before setting off, it was a really good day for several reasons.

Firstly, I made a wonderful new friend on the train, and I’m hoping we will stay in touch.

Secondly, a kind friend came to visit me at my hotel, bringing the blessings of conversation, anointing, and Holy Communion.

Thirdly, remember my lifelong claustrophobia? Well, I twice used the train loo, even though it had electronic doors. I’ve avoided this type of toilet ever since they were invented. Admittedly I didn’t engage the electronic lock (my friend kindly guarded the door whilst I was inside), but shutting myself in there was the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I managed it!

Today, I’ll be catching a ferry for the final leg of my journey. I already want to visit the UK again, and especially to visit Liverpool Catholic Cathedral. So, with a heart full of prayerful thanks and rejoicing, here is today’s blog:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
(Luke 10:38-9; NIV). 

1. Jesus, may I be like Martha,
Serving you in all each day,
And, Lord, may I be like Mary,
Learning at your feet each day.

2. Jesus, may I be like Peter,
Walking by your side, each day,
And, Lord, may I be like Thomas,
Touching your poor hands, each day.

3. Then, no matter what life brings,
I’ll know your presence, choose your way,
And never cease, Lord, to rejoice,
Give thanks for everything, and pray.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; NIV).


References 

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

2. One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him (Matthew 4:18-20; NLT). 

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed (John 20:27-8; NLT). 

3. Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20; NLT). 

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

Gifts

Always rejoice. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NIV).

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).

Thank you, God, for all your gifts –
The ‘good’ ones, and the ‘bad’,

The gifts that make my heart rejoice;
The gifts which make me sad;

The gifts that bring me pleasure,
And the gifts which bring me pain –

For you bring good from everything
For those who love your name.

Should we accept only good things from the hand of God, and never anything bad? (Job 2:10; NLT).

We know that God make everything work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28; TIV).

God’s presence

I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth.
(Psalm 116:9; NLT). 

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

🌺 To live in God’s presence is rejoice all the time, and to rejoice all the time is to live in his presence. Nothing in life or death can ever separate us from his love, which is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

🌺 To live in God’s presence is to pray constantly, and to pray constantly is to live in his presence. There is nothing we can ever feel, think, say, or do that we don’t share with him, and that he doesn’t share with us.

🌺 To live in God’s presence is to give thanks in all circumstances, and to give thanks in all circumstances is to live in him. There is nothing we can ever experience that he doesn’t send, and from which he will not bring good.

In all things God works for the good of those who love him.
(Romans 8:28; NIV).


References

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts, fully trusting him (Hebrews 10:20-22; NLT).

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence (Ephesians 3:12; NLT).

Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, 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 8:38-9; NLT).

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).

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).

Celtic Christianity (#2 of 2)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world (Psalm 19:1-4; NIV).

The sun rides high
In the silent sky;
The heavens stream
With your light.

The planets shine
Beyond space and time;
Your moon reigns
Over the night.

Lord, they rejoice
To express your voice,
But we only fear
And grieve,

For we hide in shame 
When you call our name,
As you walk in the cool
Of the eve.

They heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself (Genesis 3:8-10; KJV). 

Celtic Christianity (#1 of 2)

Pray about everything (Philippians 4:6; NLT).

Pray throughout each task you do:
Ask the Lord to strengthen you.
Extol his name both night and day,
And glorify him, come what may.

Care for everyone you meet.
Welcome sickness and defeat.
Adore creation, sing, rejoice,
And listen for his still, small voice.

Grasp how life and death combine:
Play your part in God’s design.
Accept that everything must cease,
And revel in his perfect peace.

Worship; value all he sends.
Thank him when your time here ends,
Then leave your body far behind –
Return to God: bliss unconfined!

Into your hands I commit my spirit (Psalm 31:5; NIV).

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

Please help me

Serve the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT).

1. Please help me, Lord,
To serve, not sin,
To follow Christ,
Your Shepherd King,
Love everyone
Like kith and kin,
And bear my cross
Each day

2. Please help me
To grow more like him,
Obey his quiet voice
Within,
Rejoice, give thanks
For everything,
And never cease
To pray.

Never stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17; NLT).


References 

1. Do not sin (Psalm 4:4; NIV). 

Follow me and be my disciple (Matthew 9:9; NLT). 

I am the good shepherd (John 10:14; NLT).

He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14; NIV). 

Love your neighbour as yourself (James 2:8; NLT).

Love ye therefore the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19; KJV).

You, too, must show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19; NLT).

Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44; NIV).

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).

2. We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him (Deuteronomy 13:4; NLT). 

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

Rejoice always (1 Thessalonians 5:16; NIV). 

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

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).