Come with Nothing

 

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Come to the table. Come, sit at His feet.

Come if you’re able, come if you’re meek.

Come if you’re broken, come if you’re lost.

Come, come touch the heavenly cloth

Of His robe,

And feel Him breathe into your soul –

All your discarded shards

Made whole.

 

It’s not glue that binds shards together,

It’s grace;

Grace for the humble,

Grace for the race

You thought you had lost,

Grace for the weary and scrap-heap tossed.

 

His yoke is easy and His burden is light,

His words are joy and His love a delight,

You won’t find Him in comfort

Or in success,

You’ll find Him when you’re sure you’re the last to be blessed.

 

He was there in your past, He’s here in the mess,

Come join the raggedy-taggledy fest!

Come to the table. Come, sit at His feet,

And learn from the Master the Way of the Least.

~ Sandyfaithking, 2016

 

I think it’s a bit too close to doggerel for my liking, but sometimes you have to write and be done with it, I reckon. This poem was inspired by these words from Laura Martin’s book ‘Positively Powerless’:

Isaiah 57:15 states:

For this is what the high and exalted one says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

It almost seems a contradiction: God dwells in a high and holy place, but He also dwells with the contrite and lowly. It is a startling contrast: we get close to God by realising how far we are from Him… Jesus taught similar principles… The ‘blessed’ are those who are poor in spirit, mournful and meek – those  who realise they come to the spiritual table with nothing to offer.

Highlighting is my own, not Laura’s. You can read more intelligent, interesting insights over at Laura’s blog: lightenough.WordPress.com

 

Courage isn’t courage unless you’re afraid

Courage is not courage unless you’re afraid. Courage is being afraid, but trying anyway. Have you ever been afraid? I have. A lot. It left me scarred.

Ann Voskamp has a post today entitled ‘When loving your enemies, the stranger & your neighbor feels way too risky‘ (it is an excellent post; please click to read it). What could be riskier, when you’ve been betrayed in the worst possible ways by those you loved? Never mind loving your enemies, what could be riskier than loving your friends? Especially when it was those who were supposed to love you, to protect you, who hurt you most. They took advantage of your vulnerability so that in every small thing your loss was their gain. If you can call it gain. In the end it’s torture for them, too. That I can see, now. Healing brings clarity. It doesn’t make it any better, though, and it doesn’t stop the past from jumping up and shouting ‘”BOO!” even though, praise God, EMDR lessens the intensity.

And yet, by grace, five years ago, pre-EMDR, I stood at the front of the church and said “I do” to this other man – this man who would be my rescuer, my lover, my surest friend. Friendships are risky, whatever form they take, especially if you’ve been hurt too often to count.

Count. I like counting. That’s why I love maths – because it has no emotions. It’s a relief. We played Countdown last night. I bought the DVD version from the charity shop and four of us, Frank, Fluff, Chip and I, we sat and we made words from letters and sums from numbers. It was good. We made sense out of nonsense, a workable whole from the fractured parts. Isn’t that what following Christ is all about?

 

‘Everything we do in life either brings us closer to God or takes us further away; there are no neutral activities.’

Longing for God, Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe

 

Relationships, friendships: what I most desire… in some ways. And what scares me, in many ways. How do you let someone in without letting too much of yourself out? How do you love without hurting?

I don’t suppose you do – seeing as they’re human. Seeing as I’m human. By grace, we do it anyway.

*’As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.’

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

*The above verse is also, incidentally, my baptismal verse. I get goosebumps thinking about it. There is not one other verse in the whole of God’s wonderful Word that is more ‘for me’ and my life. I remember looking at the pastor as he gave it to me. He seemed surprised. I wasn’t. It seemed perfectly right. The whole moment seemed ‘right’, as if we were fulfilling a beautiful, divinely conceived idea. Providence indeed. Thank you, Lord.

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!

Reblog: “Ain’t I a Woman?” (video)

‘Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.’ (wikipedia)

I have read a lot about slavery and the history of slavery. William Wilberforce is a personal hero, someone whom I find inspiring as an abolitionist and as a Christian.

I know less about Sojourner Truth, but you can hear what an incredible woman she was in her own words as spoken here by Nkechi.

Thank you, Laura, for posting this.

Laura Droege's blog

This was too awesome not to share. Actress Nkechi reenacts Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech for a TEDx talk.

(I’m hoping that I’m not violating copyright. The video gave the option to share on various social media sites, including Blogger; so hopefully I’m in the clear.) 

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EMDR, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Illness

My doctor psychologist lady tells me I’m holding back. She tells me I’m ‘blocking’: I am not letting the EMDR process move forward at anything other than a snail’s pace. Which is ok, she says, but I only have 18 sessions and then I have to go back on the waiting list if I need it again. So if I want to be seeing real improvements I have to allow her in, as it were… No, I don’t have to allow her in. I have to allow me out – the me that stays hidden, locked inside the vault. This tomb was created so that I could survive. If I hadn’t, I would have lost my sanity or, worse, lost my children.

It is the existence of the vault that causes the PTSD, because occasionally the vault is shaken, and occasionally, outside of my control, one of the terrible things hidden inside escapes and wreaks havoc, even if only temporarily. It happens often enough that they give it a name and call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is quite a polite-sounding name for what happens when your own head screams danger! danger! danger! because the man walking by looks vaguely like your ex-husband, or emergency! emergency! emergency! when you hear a certain type of sound that sounds a bit like something far worse. Mind you, I’m very good at hiding it. Abuse teaches you to hide your thoughts and feelings because they make you more vulnerable, so you become a master of disguise.

I think PTSD occurs because human beings are wired for survival. It took me time to figure that out. I thought I was weak and that that’s why it affected only some people. I don’t now. PTSD occurs when you have to push your emotions down in a hostile, sometimes life-threatening situation, in order to think rationally and clearly – in order to survive. It’s a great survival technique. The trouble is that you then have to be able to process the memories of those terrible events, because that’s what the brain does every night as you sleep, but if you’ve had to push it down far enough, and if you’ve had to push it down over and over and over in order to survive and continue to survive… well, then you end up with PTSD, because we’re not made for intense and unrelenting distress.

The past two days I have been giving what the psychologist said a lot of thought. She’s right and I know she’s right. I have talked it through with my dear Frank. I have talked, in less detail of course, with each of my children. It occurred to me that if I was diagnosed with a different kind of serious illness, I would allow myself the time and space for the treatment to work, and I would explain to the children what was happening (because they’re all old enough to understand) so that we could muddle through together because that’s what families do. So why had it not really occurred to me to do this for EMDR? Why did I think that my treatment and its effects were not ‘worthy’ enough to be given consideration?

I don’t think the fault lies solely within me. I don’t think it’s just me wanting to push through and just get on with it, because, as St. Teresa of Avila says in The Interior Castle, ‘getting on with it’ is just common sense. No, I think that our culture looks upon mental illness and its treatment with cynicism. Sufferers are often perceived as weak-minded or morally deficient, as malingerers or somehow less human. Our culture subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) degrades those with mental illness. They become objects of fear, scorn or pity, as if they’re no longer worthy of the same respect and dignity as someone with a ‘physical’ illness. Yet even Jesus experienced mental anguish:

‘In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient. When he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him…’

Hebrews 5:7-9 (GNT)

Mental illness is a physical illness. If my brain doesn’t work properly because the neurons got screwed up by too much adrenaline, or if the brain’s hormones are too high or too low, how is that not physical? Who in this world can look into my malfunctioning brain and know what I am thinking or feeling? No one. Yet still the fear within ourselves makes us view the mentally ill at arms’ length. In the 21st century that is nothing short of a disgrace.

I read an excellent post from Ann Voskamp today. She could have written it just for me at this exact time. Praise God for His provision! How can I be anything but thankful for today? Here’s an excerpt. I pray it blesses you as it did me:

Dear Thriver

I once held a bird in my hand.

No one else could see it, but I felt it. I felt it’s heart thumping hard and afraid.

It happens– there are ways to look fine on the outside…. and no one knows what you’ve really survived.

But honestly? You didn’t just survive, so let’s toss that myth right at the outset.

The way you keep walking? You may be wounded. You may be hurting. You may be limping. You may feel alone and overwhelmed and an unspoken broken — but you’re no victim. And you’re not just a survivor. You’re a Thriver.

You may bleed but you rise.

Yeah, it may not feel like it — but you are seen… how you just keep keeping your chin up and living brave through the hurt and how you keep taking one step out of bed and another step through the door — and how you keep scaling mountains by relentlessly taking steps forward.

But I wanted you to know — your wounds are seen and it’s okay… 

To read more click here, it will open in a new tab.

LENT DAYS THREE & FOUR: BE STILL; BE READY

Apologies for the lateness of this post – yesterday we were travelling back from a short city break and, after losing two children for a panicky 20 minutes in the hustle and bustle of a big city station, we missed our train, so we didn’t get home until gone 9 o’clock, after which we went straight to bed.

Peter is one of my all-time biblical favourites. Right from the beginning, right from when Jesus intrigued him by saying that he could be a ‘fisher of men’, Peter was wholeheartedly eager. That’s why I love him – because he so desperately wanted to do the right thing, he so desperately wanted to follow Jesus. When he first met Jesus, Peter was in awe of Him, and drawn to Him in a way he probably couldn’t have explained. Later, it was Peter who realised the significance of Jesus, realised Who He was, and wanted to please Him. It was also Peter who, when the time came for Jesus to meet His great sorrow, promised to never betray Him… and it was Peter who, when the chips were down, denied that he even knew Jesus.

What sorrow he must have felt in the days between Jesus’ arrest and resurrection. Peter didn’t know what would happen. He didn’t know about the resurrection. All he knew was the bleak emptiness of grief. Utter despair. I imagine he was racked with guilt and self-loathing. After all, he’d said he was willing to die for Jesus, that he loved Him with his whole heart, and instead he ran away!

Peter was, without doubt, very human, fallen and broken just like the rest of us. He’d sensed the greatness of Jesus’ life, been in awe and wonder over His mission. He just hadn’t had the strength to be who he really wanted to be. Later… my word! What happened later was phenomenal. But at first, in the early years, Peter just wanted to be with Jesus, and that was all that Jesus required – for Peter to just be Peter. That’s all any of us are asked to do: just be.

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.’

Lemmel, 1922

In time, things do change, if I stay focused on His face. But things do not change in my own strength. The strength required to change comes only from Him. It cannot be bought, or earned, or won. It is freely given. I just have to be willing.

…Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home. And when he had sent them away he went up the hill-side quite alone, to pray. When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a long way from the shore at the mercy of the waves, for the wind was dead against them. In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the water of the lake. When the disciples caught sight of him walking on the water they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. But at once Jesus spoke to them. “It’s all right! It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!”

“Lord, if it’s really you,” said Peter, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

 “Come on, then,” replied Jesus.

Peter stepped down from the boat and did walk on the water, making for Jesus. But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out, “Lord save me!” At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying, “You little-faith! What made you lose your nerve like that?” Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped. The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying, “You are indeed the Son of God!”

Matthew 14:22-33  (JB Philliips)

Lent Day Two: Captivating

He calls and He calls and despite the hustle and bustle and busyness, despite the tug and sway and grasping of the world, despite the instinct to tunnel deep under the ground, to hide in the cool, moist dark, despite even myself, I come. No, I not only come, I run as if my life depended on it. Because it’s Him. When I sometimes have thoughts – you know – doubts, wondering if I can follow God through the storms, I always end up back in the same place, with the same result:

The question is not ‘how can I?‘,

but ‘how can I not?’

My husband said to me the other day, when I told him how broken and screwed up I was, and how I felt useless and as if life had passed me by, he said to me that what made me special was that I had been deep into the abyss… and although battered and damaged, I came out again. I survived; I didn’t become part of the abyss myself. My core remained intact. He’s right. But, of course, this was not done in my own strength. When I say, or when I write the words ‘only by grace’ I mean

only

by

grace.

And when I say ‘only by grace’, what I mean is

only

with

Christ.

That’s why I’m not dead, or sunk in evil or panic or anger or despair. I’m damaged, yes! And bruised and battered and thrown about by the storm. But I’m still here.

Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

…for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 42:7,11 (NIVUK)

Inner Critic?

Excellent post from Pam Hogeweide this morning. Really hit the nail on the head for me!

As I said over on Pam’s blog, my inner critic points fingers at me. She is very worldly. She says I’m broken and useless. Didn’t have a normal childhood or teenage years so must be worthless. Illness and abusive marriage must have somehow made me ‘less than’. Inner critic (Inga Crittick?) says the world laughs at me because I didn’t get my A-levels (the exams one takes at 18), didn’t go to university like my peers, never had boyfriends, first-ever boyfriend became abusive first husband, stuck with him for 10 miserable years because I didn’t have the common sense to leave, haven’t had a job since I was 21…

She’s very worldly, isn’t she? God says I’m His precious child (hallelujah!!!) but sometimes I listen to her without even realising it. She’s so sneaky… She says that nothing I do is good enough unless I’m the best or unless I do it perfectly or unless it will ‘get me somewhere’. What kind of a screwed up b***h is she? I don’t like her! Why on earth do I listen to her?

 

Jeremiah’s inner critic said he wasn’t ‘enough’, but God said:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you…”

Then said I, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am only a youth.”

But the Lord said to me, “Say not, ‘I am only a youth’; for you shall go to all to whom I shall send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak…”

from Jeremiah 1:5-7 (Amplified)

Mary, Jesus’ mother, thought she wasn’t ‘enough’, yet:

‘…the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth…

But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled and disturbed and confused at what he said and kept revolving in her mind what such a greeting might mean.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace (free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving-kindness) with God…”

from Luke 1:26-30 (Amplified)

And Jesus Himself said:

“…if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.

“We are intimately linked in this harvest work… Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”

from Matthew 10:39-43 (The Message)

What does your inner critic say to you? When he or she tries to tell you you’re not good enough, remember Jeremiah, remember Mary, and remember Jesus’ own words: start small. You’re always good enough because He made you. God doesn’t make mistakes. You won’t lose out on a thing. 😀

Reblog: When Women Speak, Men Ought to Listen (a guest post for Tim Fall’s blog)

This happens in all arenas, from school to the workplace. Church should be different from the world, not the same. I sat through a service recently and at the end the minister said we were going to watch a video about how God uses ordinary people. The youtube video was about eight to ten biblical characters. It was very slick, as many of these videos are, but it had two flaws, as I saw it: 1. Each person was an ordinary person, yes, but not one of them was called to ordinary things. We don’t remember Joshua’s mate Bob who was perhaps a bit clumsy so he was given the job of counting the sheep, we just remember Joshua. And 2: They were all male! The minister might as well have said you’re no good to God unless you’re male and are called to do something extraordinary. It’s often not even deliberate, but patriarchy (as in ‘men are implicitly better than women’) is alive and well even in denominations where women are allowed to be ordained.
My own opinion on this subject is this: if God has called you to do xyz, then do xyz. If God has not called you to do xyz, then don’t do it. God used unexpected people all the time throughout the bible, young and old, male and female, Jew and gentile, slave and free. Am I called to be submissive to my husband? Yes. Am I to serve my husband? Yes. Is he to submit to me? Yes. Is he, in imitating Christ, to serve me? Yes. Does that not cancel out any complementarian/egalitarian argument? Imho, yes.

I’ve spent my whole life feeling somehow ‘less than’ because of abuse. I felt ‘less than’ because I was female and because I was physically smaller. In my abuse-warped head, might equalled right. Jesus set me free from that destructive thinking and I’m not about to let anyone shackle me again (hallelujah!), nor my special needs son (his innocence and simplicity make him more Christ-like than the rest of us would care to admit) nor my wonderful daughters.
On the other hand, I would also like to see a cultural shift so that instead of denoting traditional women’s roles as ‘less than’, the traditional female roles of nurturing and organising are revered and valued for what they are. Sometimes these receive lip service, but often it is no more than that.

Excellent post!

Laura Droege's blog

Good morning, everyone! 

I’m honored to be writing for Tim Fall‘s blog today. It’s about my struggle with the complementarian doctrine in my new church and how it affects the worship service. But it’s also about my struggle to find a voice, my voice. For so many years, I believed that what I thought didn’t matter, that my gifts didn’t matter, that my opinions, no matter how intelligent or informed, didn’t matter. None of these were worth anything.

Why? Because I wasn’t a man. 

A week ago, I decided to confront the issue. In public. In church. In front of people who would disagree–strongly–with my beliefs. Here’s the story:

The Sunday school hour had just ended, and I sat in the church pew, seething.

After a year-and-a-half of searching, my family has landed in a conservative Presbyterian church. I like it—mostly. No church is perfect. But on this particular…

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Comfort Box

My very lovely doctor psychologist lady gave me some ‘tools’ to use before I began EMDR. One of these is a ‘comfort box’. The idea is that you have a box full of things that help you to feel ‘safe’, so that when you’re in the middle of a panic attack or feeling like you’re a slug, basically when you’re overwhelmed you can just go to your box and find something ‘comforting’. This might sound like common sense, but when you’re overwhelmed you can’t think straight so you need to be able to go to a single place to find ‘safety’. I have a playlist on Amazon also called ‘Comfort Box’. It features music from artists both secular and Christian. I just listened to the wonderful Laura Story singing I Think of You:

‘…it was You who paid the highest price
For broken jars of clay
And You still choose to use my life
For Your glory displayed.
And I think of You who shines with endless light
Through broken jars of clay
And I think of You redeeming every part of each day
That You’ve made…’

In honour of ‘Time to Talk Day’ (see reblog below), here’s a song from my comfort box which always makes me smile: