Reblog: Don’t Make Yourself Into Anyone Other Than the One He Intended

I don’t know why, but I was drawn to the post below like a fish on a hook. My illness may or may not go away, but I can’t pretend it’s not there. I can’t pretend my life hasn’t left me a bit battered and bruised and broken (stubborn though I may be). All that is left for me, for the foreseeable future (which is never as far as we think) is to love my family and to write. It seems so very little. But this post puts into words what I’ve sensed God saying to me: just be you.
I protest, reminding God that I am a bit – er – eccentric, and God reminds me that He already knows, cos He made me that way, and that as long as I am being me for His sake, and not being me for my sake, then I’m doing what He made me for. One day at a time.

Contemplative in the Mud

Basilica at PaduaA couple of years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Padua, where Anthony of Padua and Lisbon is buried. It may not be obvious from this blog, but Anthony is one of my favourite saints. I had been to his birthplace is Lisbon before, and now I had the opportunity to visit his shrine and tomb in Padua. This was wonderful!

Now, what does all that have to do with contemplation? Anthony is not usually thought of in association with contemplation. We normally think of Anthony as someone to pray to to help us find lost items or to help us find our way. In reality, Anthony of Padua is the “Hammer of Heretics” and is a Doctor of the Church! He has a wide lists of talents.

padua2One thing I like about Anthony is his personal history. He seems to have had trouble with the idea of…

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Roots

[Jesus said] “…a farmer went out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds… fell on rocky ground, where they didn’t have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away.”

Matthew 13:3,5,6 (WEB)

As a parent, the most important thing I can give my child is roots. This is my God-given role. These roots consist of several things:

  • a loving, stable home
  • treating each child as an individual with unique, God-given talents**
  • encouragement and opportunity to make the most of their talents**
  • an experience of what it means to love both within and without our family
  • an experience of what it means to forgive and be forgiven
  • compassion for those who suffer, whether close at hand or far away
  • knowledge of the Word of God – a peg board on which to hang the ‘keys’ of all the above, providing each key with context, so that as the child grows they have ready-made tools, learned gently and softly through the years.

**As you’ll know if you’ve been reading for any length of time, we have a young man with special needs in our family. He may not ever live independently. He may never get a job. Even if he doesn’t, he is a Hand-crafted human being and has his own gifts and qualities that are worth celebrating. Jesus made sure He always esteemed the vulnerable. We should too.

Can you add any more to the list of ‘roots’? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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’.

Being a Good Mother

One of my biggest ‘issues’ which I have been addressing through EMDR is the sometimes crippling anxiety over being ‘a good mother’. There are many things that have led to this fear of being a bad mother, which I won’t go into now. I imagine that for those who have been abused, or have come from a dysfunctional family, the guilt and worry about not passing on the dysfunction can grow to huge proportions, and may end up having the opposite effect of the one we so desperately desire.

300px-Johannes_(Jan)_Vermeer_-_Christ_in_the_House_of_Martha_and_Mary_-_Google_Art_Project

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha by Johannes Vermeer

‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…

Luke 10:41, 42 (WEB)

Listening this morning to Luke chapter 10, I heard Jesus’ words to Martha in a new light. Martha was not married, and wasn’t looking after children, nevertheless it is often the female way to want to get the nurturing right, and this is what Martha was trying to do. She knew how important Jesus was, but she was trying too hard. Her words to her guest speak of frustration, of worry that she’s not good enough, or that what she has to give isn’t good enough. She even blames her sister for her own worries (in what might nowadays be called passive-aggressive behaviour).

Jesus sees past the blame of my sister’s not good enough and past the worry of I’ll never be good enough and instead gives Martha words that have been repeated through the centuries:

‘…Martha received [Jesus] into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to him, and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42 (WEB)

Do you have Martha moments? I do. Thanks to EMDR God has allowed me some perspective on where any blame really lies. He has also given me forgiveness and love instead of the harsh criticism of my own head. Jesus’ words to Martha tell us that blame has no place in His Kingdom. All that is required is to focus on Him. As He said elsewhere:

“…seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness…” Matthew 6:33

This is grace.

Genesis: Blueprint for the Dysfunctional Family

The stories in Genesis are mind-bogglingly sordid. They really are. The people are miserable and vile to one another, even those whom God ‘favoured’, e.g. Abraham and Sarah. Take the story of Hagar: first off, she’s a slave. Later, she is a sexual tool used and abused by both Abraham and Sarah, then she is physically abused by Sarah while Abraham doesn’t bat an eyelid.

Thankfully, God sees Hagar’s misery. He ‘sees her’, as she puts it, for who she is and takes her, the slave, the odd one out and not ostensibly part of His plan, and gives her life blessing and purpose.

Genesis 19. What the heck…? A father offers up his daughters to be gang raped:

…the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them out to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

Genesis 19:4-8 (GNT)

The man has to protect two strangers above his own daughters? What?! Later, Genesis tells us, the daughters seduce their own father, who doesn’t know what’s happening, so that they can have children. I remain unconvinced that it is possible for a man to be unaware of the sexual act. Either way this is seriously screwed up stuff. I am glad to be revisiting these passages with a fresh eye, but I never thought that the bible could give EastEnders a run for its money. It’s depressing.

Thank heaven I know what happens later! Thank heaven that ‘every story whispers His name’, as the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, even when the only whisper is the implication of the unequivocal and desperate need for a Redeemer.

With that in mind, have a listen to these lovely ladies from Tonga singing ‘Soon and Very Soon’

Reblog: What the Book of Job Really Means

Excellent post from Tim Fall about the book of Job.

I remember a well-meaning friend saying to me, when I was talking about the horribleness that I was experiencing at that time, if I had read about Job. I looked at him, frowned, and asked if Job had read about me.

Laura is absolutely right. No matter how much one might end up with, it can never take away the deep and lasting sorrows. But having gone through those sorrows and surviving and still loving God brings about a faith of a different kind – a spiritual maturity maybe? It means you’re not dependent on life being good to thank God for His blessings. You know that God is always good. God is always. God is.

I’m struggling right now. Had my EMDR session this morning and it was a bit like being hit by a tidal wave. It’s inexpressible, frankly. But I do know that God is good, and that God has always been good, even through every sad or bad or mad or terrible experience. God was never remote and distant – He was with me. I know that. And my sorrow, my sorrows, *all* of our sorrows, He shares. He gives us beauty for ashes. This is why we mourn on Good Friday and celebrate come Easter Sunday. Hallelujah!

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

I can’t say I know all about the Book of Job, but I think I know a bit about it and here’s one thing I know:

The Book of Job reveals God’s grace.

Some will dispute this, saying the book instead reveals a cruel God who uses Job as a pawn in a game played between God and Satan. Here’s how they might characterize the opening scenes: God asks Satan where he’s been lately, Satan says he’s been out cruising through the world here and there, and God asks if Satan has happened upon Job.

Satan Before the Lord, Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765) (Wikimedia) Satan Before the Lord,
Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765)
(Wikimedia)

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8.)

Job is described as a man who cared for his…

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Thankful

I drove to get her at midday. She was there, waiting with a smile.

“Someone’s just gone to get me coat.” My mother-in-law said, in her strong local accent. I was glad the staff had remembered that we were taking her out. Usually I have to find her outdoor clothes. Not that I mind; she’s always so surprised and so glad to see us that any service we offer seems but small.

They say Mothers’ Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants. I think it’s the busiest day of the year for care homes, too. I’d never seen so many visitors! The sight made me smile, yet I was more than a little sad for those whose visitors only turned up because it was a special occasion. Sadder still for those with no visitors at all. Is this what these elderly men and women deserve? Mind you, my MIL is lovely and her nature makes her easy to love. I’m not sure it’s as easy to love some of the other residents, especially the ones who shout a lot or spend all their time moaning. Who knows whether that’s their natural temperament or the result of some form of dementia? After all, they’re in a care home for a reason.

We got in the car, MIL and I, and drove to the pub, where we met the rest of them. Seven of us in an English pub on this dreary grey day, though the smiles all round made it seem warmer. It’s not been a bright spring day today at all. It was cold, for a start, and rainy. February cold. Brrrrr. On days like these it’s not so much England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ as England’s grey and dreary land. Still, the warmth of the company more than made up for the weather and the cheerful, obliging service from the local chef turned a very good pub lunch into an excellent pub lunch. Have you ever noticed how much a friendly face and a cheerful disposition can change an entire encounter?

After lunch we headed off to the Garden Centre. You know you’re getting old hurtling towards middle age when spending Sunday afternoon at the Garden Centre sounds appealing. Not for the first time was I glad we have the two extra seats in the back, so that we could all fit in the car. This car is so versatile and so cheap to maintain it really is a godsend (that’s another marker of middle age, I think, being pragmatic).

Home for a warming mug of tea when the queue in the cafe looked too daunting. The two girls snuggled up with Nanna on the sofa bed watching a DVD (one of the benefits of not having a free-for-all with TV is that when they do watch it they think it’s a treat). I’m just about to pop the kettle on for a proper Sunday tea, complete with wedding-gift tea set and cake stand with dainty treats sausage rolls.

EMDR again tomorrow. Not looking forward to it. Daniel facing the lions’ den? Yes, pretty much. But more so, because I know those lions will be roaring in my face tomorrow morning and I’ll just be sitting there, clutching my Bagpuss (part of my comfort box) and clinging to hope.

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.

Psalm 39:7 (Amplified)

Yet I can’t help but just be so very, incredibly, overwhelmingly thankful.

Happy Mothers’ Day x

Reblog: But Mozart was a prodigy! (& other myths that might make you throw in the towel)

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God loves you because He made you. God knows your heart. He knows your dreams and your wishes. Before we can have any desire, our first desire *has* to be for Him. Because ultimately, as Julian of Norwich said, we are created “from love, of love, for love.”

The word Logos (which is translated as ‘The Word’ in the gospel of John) is relates to the word locus. Locus is the centre of something, e.g. a wheel, around which other things move. Jesus is both the utterance of God and the centre around which we all spin. He speaks us into existence and He pulls us together.

I am so tired today. My brain is having to work hard reshuffling all these memories. I don’t want to think ‘what if’ any more. It hurts. I just want to belong to Him.

Some of us are given heavy loads, aren’t we? I think one’s own head being awry is one of the hardest burdens. But Jesus calls us blessed! 😀

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Matthew 5:3-5 (The Message)

Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι, ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν

Laura Droege's blog

Has this cat gotten 10,000 hours of singing practice yet?  (Photo: Jonraguine1999, morgueFile) Has this kitten gotten 10,000 hours of singing practice yet? (Photo: Jonraguine1999, morgueFile)

If you’re like me and you’ve been working at developing a skill (such as writing) for any length of time, you’re bound to look up and see all the people who are highly accomplished at this skill, and feel envious.

I walk into bookstores and it’s almost more than I can bear. All those books! Written by someone else! Not a single title with your name on the cover.

(For a while, when I was racking up rejections for The Cruelest Month, I didn’t go to bookstores at all. It was too painful.)

. . . And if you’re like me, you read a masterpieceand feel tempted to bang your head on the table because you simply know that you’ll never, ever, in a hundred million, billion years, be able to write something that marvelous. Marvelous?

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Lent: Being

God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!

Genesis 2:7 (The Message)

Spring is in the air, like God breathed and the whole world burst into life. Garden daffodils wave their bonny heads. The wood pigeon coos from the branch of a still-bare silver birch. The sky is blue, well there are at least blue patches amidst the grey (in England the sky is more often grey than blue). Tiny green buds have appeared on the baby cherry tree that Frank planted last year. For the first time this year I have hung washing on the line. I love the way the wind moves through the trees and idly spins the rotary airer. The clothes almost take on a life and energy of their own.

I suppose we’re a bit like that. It is God’s breath that makes us move, and His spirit that makes us move with purpose. Sometimes when I think of the Holy Spirit I hear a soft wind blowing. In the God-breathed blowing there is life – life in all its fullness. God is around us and in us, just as the air is around us and in us. I am not the air and the air is not me. I am not God and God is not me; but God is part of me and I am part of Him.

“…God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth… has created every race of men to live over the face of the whole earth. He has determined the times of their existence and the limits of their habitation, so that they might search for God, in the hope that they might feel for him and find him—yes, even though he is not far from any one of us. Indeed, it is in him that we live and move and have our being…”

Acts 17:28