Summer, Age 12

We waved off our middle child today,

All pink and rosy and full

Of bounce.

Or, not so much bounce, what with carrying a backpack

Cram-jammed full for a week of fun

In the sun and the dirt and the green.

And in

A week we’ll pick her up again,

Sunburned, dirt-scarred,

Still, no doubt, rosy

And smiling.

Seven nights under canvas,

Seven days filled end-to-end

And top to bottom

With climbing trees,

Building rafts and making friends.

This is the stuff lifetimes are made of

In the height of summer,

Aged 12.

Just a poem I wrote after Fluff went off to camp this morning. It’s not a great poem, but it has within it what I wanted to say and it’s a start on the road back to writing 🙂

Reblog: An artist’s view of trash, a God-perspective of damaged people

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Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Laura Droege's blog

Saturday morning my daughter had a soccer game. Pollen permeated the air, my need for caffeine consumed me, and the urge to write itched in my fingers, so I sought refuge at a nearby fast food restaurant. This is an expensive area of town, and, predictably, even the local Chick-fil-A was tastefully decorated.

A large wooden table stood in the middle of the dining area. It was about waist-high and long enough for ten or more people to gather. The wooden legs were rough-looking: discolorations, nail holes, paint streaks. Yet they were polished smooth, their ends capped with steel. The ends of the wood tabletop were painted, emphasizing the grain.

A plaque at the end of the table reads,

This table was built by artisans from A Better Way Ministries. The materials used were salvaged from unwanted and abandoned homes. The hands that built it belong to a person who…

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I ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW AM FOUND; WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE

I LOVE the story from the gospel of John of the healing of the man who was blind from birth. The unnamed man has such a simplicity and purity of spirit, even when faced with the ‘important’ men and their clever questioning. I’m quite certain Jesus loved this about him too! But what struck me in listening to this story are the words at the very beginning:

As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents; but, that the works of God might be revealed in him…”

John 9:1-3 (WEB)

Jesus’ words, often overlooked because of the rest of the amazing story, are vitally important. We can add nothing to our salvation, nor can we take it away. Even if we follow all the ‘rules’ and worship God, it doesn’t mean our lives will be ok (often rendered as ‘blessed’ but I would question this definition of ‘blessed’ – post on this subject to follow). If we don’t follow the rules, it doesn’t mean our lives will be miserable. This is false teaching, although one that is easy to fall into. I fell into this trap myself a few years ago, thinking that if I did everything ‘right’ then life would be ok. Hurrah! No more bad stuff! God quickly and sharply brought me out of that one.

We latch onto ‘if only I can do it right’ because we’re scared and we want to be in control. Some people spend their whole lives trying to discover what ‘the rules’ are because they think if they follow the rules, everything will be ok, which really means ‘if I follow the rules, I’ll stay in control’. Life is scary. It is not under our control and we can’t do anything to make it under our control. Only yesterday my dear son told me of the death of a boy at school who was only a year older than him. The young man had been fit and healthy until September last year. Now he’s gone. I pray for his family.

Conversely, the most difficult lesson to learn for me (as for many people who have been abused) was that I didn’t do anything to cause any of it. I am not a freak. I am not ‘different’ in some indefinable way. I was not destined for abuse. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with me. God has been gently, carefully and lovingly bringing me out of that one.

God did not and does not cause the bad stuff, although He did allow it to happen. That God allows abuse and evil is a difficult doctrine to swallow, but when we love God, when we become part of His family, God can and does use our suffering for His glory – and it is a truly awesome thing to be a vessel for the glory of God. If I have known what it is to be unloved, to believe myself horrible and worthless and unlovable, how much more is the effect when I realise that not only am I lovable, but that I am loved by the Creator of the universe? And when I do see how much He loves me, what can I do but offer my life, my whole self in return?

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been brought to your knees in despair by your own sin, or whether it has been the sins of others, or a combination of the two: when you’re at your lowest is when God can bless you the most.

Less me = more God:

“You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

Hallelujah: Hebrew for YIPPEE!**

**It’s not really, literally ‘yippee’, of course. Literally, ‘hallelujah’ means ‘praise God!

The Kingdom of God Expressed Through Community

As I was listening to Luke 14, I was thinking about the means by which the representation of love expresses itself. In other words how we, as followers of Jesus, manifest His presence to those around us. What does this look like? Then I came to this part:

‘When [Jesus] went into the house of one of the rulers… to eat bread, they were watching him… when he noticed how they chose the best seats, [he] said to them, “When you are invited by anyone… don’t sit in the best seat, since perhaps someone more honourable than you might be invited… and he who invited both of you would come and tell you [to move]… Then you would begin, with shame, to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ 

…He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbours, or perhaps they might also return the favour, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.”

When one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who will feast in God’s Kingdom!”

extract from Luke 14:1-15 (WEB)

Blessed indeed. Aren’t we, as followers of Jesus, literally those who have ‘invited’ Jesus? Isn’t this what we profess as the root of our faith? How many times have you invited your friends round for dinner, or similar? How many times have you invited the poor, the maimed, the lame… or whatever might be the 21st century equivalent? I can’t think of a single time when I have done the latter. Can you? I bow my head knowing how far I fall short.

I am also struck by the idea of the concurrence of humility, kindness and generosity. One doesn’t stand on its own, not when we know Jesus. They are all part of the same, part of the great language of agape, as Brother Andrew puts it.

It seems to me that everything in the Kingdom of God is expressed through community, and that one of the greatest lies of our times is that the world revolves around ‘me’.

Quiet Sunday in the Rain: A Little Bit of Heaven

Despite the rain, we have had an enjoyable family weekend. We took Grandma out for lunch at a lovely English country pub with home-cooked food. Afterwards, we drove through little villages filled with chocolate box cottages, past fields whose edges were scattered with perky daisies and nodding poppies. I couldn’t help but marvel, even in all the rain, even under the greyest of grey English skies, how incredibly beautiful the landscape is. It feels more like home than anywhere else. I don’t mean that any particular stretch of countryside, or any particular place feels like home, I just mean the act of being in the wandering lanes feels like home, especially in the rain, passing fields and hedgerows and elegant cypresses. The grey skies and the rain seem to make the green even greener; even the air is scented with a fresh, full-bodied scent that one can only find on an English summer’s afternoon in the rain. It’s the type of smell that makes me think of scones and jam and teapots and camping and gentle chatter and… well, home. I wonder if heaven will be a little bit like that? I hope so.

Rain, Steam and Speed by J.M.W. Turner, 1844 (wonderful painting – so ahead of its time!)

Anyway, now we’re home. Grandma is back at the care home. My dear MIL becomes distressed and very confused if she’s still out by late afternoon so nowadays we make sure she’s back in time for tea. She was tiring by the end anyway. Fluff and Chip are at their swimming lesson and I’m about to pop a cake in the oven for tea. What could be better than this?

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
    and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
    as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
    I will not be afraid, Lord,
    for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

You prepare a banquet for me,
    where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honoured guest
    and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
    and your house will be my home as long as I live.

Psalm 23 (GNT).

I couldn’t have said it better myself. A perfect psalm for today. Thank you, Jesus.

Reblog: The Joy of Forgiveness, Oh Happy Day

Sometimes when people are worshipping with their whole hearts I get the sense the angels in heaven, surrounding the throne of God, are rejoicing too (people tend to think I’m a bit crazy when I actually say these things out loud, but… so what? 😉 )

In the West, in our often comfortable, sanitised lives we become complacent and forget the real sky-falling-down, truly reborn nature of forgiveness. Hallelujah! I’m loved by the King of Kings. Oh happy, happy day 😀

NB. I’m writing this a day after a particularly gruelling EMDR session which left me exhausted (who am I kidding? Every session is gruelling!). It is easy to feel weary, burned out and discouraged. After reading Tim’s post (below), and listening to the wonderful music, I still feel exhausted, but I am encouraged by the reminder of the glorious freedom found in Christ. May it all be for His glory.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

When the Bible says your sins are forgiven, it means forgiven:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14.)

Look at all the past tense in that passage. God has made you alive. He forgave all your sins. He took what had stood against you and condemned you and canceled it by nailing it to the cross.

All your sin is forgiven and hanging on the cross.

The sins you’ve committed in the past?

All forgiven.

The sin you might be committing right now?

All forgiven.

The sins you’ll commit in the future?

ALL FORGIVEN.

Hard to fathom, isn’t it? Edwin Hawkins wrote a song…

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It’s Not About You; It’s All About God

Which is the more important, the gift or the altar which makes the gift holy?

Matthew 23:19 (GNT)

Clean what is inside the cup first, and then the outside will be clean too!

Matthew 23:26

Your life, if you are a follower of Jesus, is your gift of thanks to God. Jesus is the ‘altar’ which makes our gifts holy. However noble or good your life may be, it is not good or noble on its own merit. Christ alone makes your life a gift, makes it holy, by grace.

Live small. Say ‘yes’.

Wholly Holy

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the holy spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Don’t ever feel discouraged
For Jesus is your friend,
And if you lack for knowledge
He’ll ne’er refuse to lend

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

A song from the days of slavery.

EMDR stirs up memories and I often find random memories appearing in my mind. It also stirs up dreams. By act of will I can attempt to ignore the memories during the day, but when they attack at night I often wake up anxious and uneasy. Praise God for His healing balm. Praise God for His holiness in all the ugliness. He gives me strength in my weakness. May the glory and honour always be His, forever and ever.

‘Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.’

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (The Message)

‘Mummy, Sometimes I Feel Like Killing Myself’

Frank is away this week in London on business. It’s been a surreal time. I miss him terribly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, but I’m making the most of the time with just me and the children. Also, it has proved the EMDR is working because I am no longer panicking and paranoid when I’m alone in the house. I am coping. Yay!

Anyway, yesterday evening, Fluff was at gymnastics. Chip had lost this privilege earlier in the week through bad behaviour so at 6 o’clock she and I were eating soup with Prince, all nice and calm, like.

“Mummy,” Prince said matter-of-factly while munching toast, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself.”

If your child said this to you at the dinner table, how would you react? 

I took it in my stride… we are used to brutal honesty in this house, and we are used to a young man who often says things that are completely unexpected, especially at the dinner table for some reason! He may have autism and learning disabilities, but he’s a very deep thinker (can’t think where he gets that from, can you?). So, despite the seemingly terrible tea time conversation-starter in front of his 9-year-old sister, I asked dear Prince what made him say that. I wasn’t shocked or horrified or… anything, really. I just wanted to understand what he was thinking and why.

“Because sometimes,” Prince replied, “the world just seems like such a horrible place full of horrible things and I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Bless his beautiful black-and-white thinking. He doesn’t have the social skills to recognise why saying exactly what you think might be socially unacceptable. e.g. when we were in the supermarket and he said, horrified (and within earshot), “Mummy, why does that lady stink?!”

So we had a conversation about a world full of sin and sorrow, and a caring, loving God whose heart was breaking seeing all the misery. We talked about how He sent His Son, who willingly gave Himself to be killed in the most horrible way, to experience for Himself the very worst suffering, so that the bridge between us and God could be mended. Eventually I promised to get him a notebook so that he can write down all of his feelings and show them to his counsellor, whom he sees monthly. Then the conversation took a slightly different turn.

“I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, Mummy.” He said, “I don’t want to be like you and Daddy. It’s too hard. I just want to be able to pray sometimes.”

We talked about love and what happens when God is your friend and constant companion. We talked about how love is the only thing to make a difference in the world, how love is the only thing worth living for, and how God is love. These conversations are always challenging, because Prince’s vocabulary is limited and his comprehension is very literal. I have to keep my language very simple and straightforward, and this is quite difficult!

I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to my son about Jesus on his terms. Church and Sunday School are pitched way over Prince’s head, so he’s never going to learn from there, even if he does recognise that church people are generally kind and friendly to one another. We’ve had some conversations around the dinner table, but that one was a corker.

What about you? Have you ever had stunning questions from your offspring? How have you dealt with it?

Reblog: Confidence through Weakness

‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me’ gets bandied around a lot by well-meaning-but-naive types. Trouble is that it often gets interpreted as ‘I can do all things because I am strong’ rather than ‘my weakness is huge, but grace gives me strength’ (which is what Paul is actually saying in the rest of the chapter – he’s talking about suffering). In the face of ‘I can do all things because I am strong’ I just want to run away and hide, appalled at my weakness, but given the other interpretation… as long as I say ‘yes’, I am strengthened beyond what I ever imagined. God has been showing me this, lately, as I go through EMDR – this strength that He bestows. It is a somewhat fearful thing, but it is nonetheless beautiful.

Philippians is one of my favourite books of the bible. In particular this end section of the letter to the church at Philippi:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

Philippians 4:8-14 (NRSVA)

Contemplative in the Mud

So now, since you want to belong entirely to God, why should you be afraid of your weakness – on which, in any case, you shouldn’t be relying.
Saint Francis de Sales

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