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When [the mind] is so full of thoughts and ideas about the way things are and the way things should be, the mind lacks the flexibility and openness to see the world in a new way. Perhaps it lacks the capacity to see the world at all, since its view is filtered through a rigid mass of beliefs and concepts.

~ from Insight: Clearing the Mind by Mark W. Muesse

(from The Great Courses lectures, this one included free for Audible members)

 

Life is filled with ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ – and you know what? I don’t think they come from God at all. Jesus never said ‘you ought to…’ Jesus said ‘do’. He warned against doing things for the wrong reasons and He didn’t trip people up with guilt. Ever.

C-PTSD thrives on guilt and shame and I’m not playing that game any longer. It’s never-ending, it’s pointless and it sucks the life out of you. Jesus said:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest(renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30 Amplified

or, as Eugene Peterson put it:

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Matthew 11:29 The Message

Speaking of which…

Does the wheel keep her going, or does she keep the wheel going? It’s like a dance between the moon and the tide. The perfect metaphor for the unforced rhythms of grace (because that’s the way my mind works. You’re welcome). 

 

‘A Guest,’ I Answered, ‘Worthy to be Here’

 

‘Miserere mei, Deus’ is based on Psalm 51. It was composed by Gregorio Allegri, transcribed by a young Mozart and sung here by the incomparable Tenebrae Choir.

 

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.

 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
    and blameless when you pass judgement.
 Indeed, I was born guilty,
    a sinner when my mother conceived me.

 You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and put a new and right spirit within me.
 Do not cast me away from your presence,
    and do not take your holy spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and sustain in me a willing spirit.

 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
 Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
 For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt-offering, you would not be pleased.
 The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
 then you will delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt-offerings and whole burnt-offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

                                                                ~ Psalm 51 NRSVA
   

 

The first step in becoming a follower of Christ is recognising my own depthless misery – my sin. I can’t turn back time. I can’t undo any of what I have done. I made the chasm between myself and God. Me. Why? Because I do stupid, hurtful things, selfish things. Christ alone was perfect, and He alone took the stain of sin upon Himself, so that I might not have to be separated from God. I deserve none of what He gave, yet because my Creator knows me, and loves me, He brings Himself to me. What love is this?

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning

If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear, I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”

“My dear, then I will serve.”

“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

~ Love by George Herbert, circa 1633

 

Reblog: The Spirit of Christ

‘Being Christ like is not a contest of holiness but a challenge to be the good news to those we encounter.’ Amen!

A Pastor's Thoughts

It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge.

—- C S Lewis

How many times have you been confronted with the question, are you a Christian? Our first response is obvious, yes! For some, that response requires a great many qualifiers. Have you had a dramatic “born again” experience or , like John Wesley, has your heart been strangely warmed ? C S Lewis in his writing warns us of such qualifiers. He asserts that the spirit of Christ is far more powerful than our words and expressions. Our place as Christians is to share the love and freedom that comes from knowing that spirit to all who come our way. Anything other than that would be judging, and we…

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Endings, Beginnings

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 

James 2:14-16 (NRSVA)

This was part of my bible reading for yesterday, 31st December 2018. It was particularly striking for me because it seems to be the summation of what God has been speaking into the lives of my family and I.

I’m beginning 2019 with Veganuary, for a combination of reasons. Going vegan is the single best action I can make for the environment. Countless studies have shown this. Here’s a recent one. I also wrote a blog post about climate change a few years back.

Climate change affects the poorest most, so addressing my contribution to this is something I can do that is concrete. I also don’t want to be party to the treatment of animals that takes place on farms and in abbatoirs. It’s violent whichever way you look at it and I can’t reconcile the compassion that I have learned through following Jesus with violence in whatever form. I also have health problems and veganism has been demonstrated time and again as the antidote to so many health problems that for someone like me, I can’t not do it.

We’re also developing a proper financial system for our family so that we can be more responsible and more accountable with our money. Not that we’re exactly irresponsible, but we’re not as mindful of all our assets as we could be. Our income has dropped rapidly in the past few years so it was necessary and long overdue. It’ll mean focusing on the important things.

So I prayed about what should be my phrase or word for 2019 and came up with this:

KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Seems obvious, but Complex PTSD can make things feel overwhelmingly complicated, so this is a real blessing just on its own. Be blessed, friends, in 2019. Lay down your life for Him so that He can pick it up. Shalom.

Reblog: Christian…what will you read?

There’s a really good book called ‘Positively Powerless: How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity’ by L.L. Martin which I can highly recommend.
Other books I can recommend: ‘God’s Smuggler’ by Brother Andrew, ‘A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power’ by Jimmy Carter, ‘Kisses from Katie’ and ‘Daring to Hope’ by Katie Davis Majors, ‘The Choice’ by Edith Eger (not a Christian book per se but one I would highly recommend), ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by Rachel Held Evans, ‘Streams of Living Water’ by Richard Foster, ‘William Wilberforce’ by William Hague (a secular biography of the devout abolitionist in which God’s presence shines through), ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence, ‘Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten’ by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn, ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ by Brennan Manning, ‘The Blue Parakeet’ by Scot McKnight, ‘A Life for Christ’ by Dwight L. Moody, ‘Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality’ by Richard Rohr, ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp and ‘Gospel Childhood’ by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard.

On my (Christian) to-read list: ‘The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola’, ‘Searching for Sunday’ by Rachel Held Evans, ‘The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul’ by Philip Doddridge, ‘Humility: the Beauty of Holiness’ by Andrew Murray, ‘The Bruised Reed’ by Richard Sibbes, ‘Man, the Dwelling Place of God’ by Tozer, ‘Sins of Omission: A Primer on Moral Indifference’ by S. Dennis Ford, ‘Eager to Love’ by Richard Rohr and ‘Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices’ by Thomas Brooks.

Enough Light

Will you read a book by an individual who had some type of near death experience and claims to have experienced heaven – But not a book that thoughtfully and carefully considers what the Bible says about heaven, such as this one: Heaven by Randy Alcorn?

Will you read a book by someone who dreamed they spent 23 minutes in hell and then wrote about it — But not a book that thoughtfully and carefully considers what the Bible says about hell, such as this one: Erasing Hell by Chan and Sprinkle?

Will you read a creative fiction book like The Shack –But not books that thoughtfully consider the biblical view of the Trinity or why bad things happen in life, such as these: Making Sense of the Trinity by Millard Erickson (only 108 pages!!) and If God is Good,Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil

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Old Wounds

Fluff just got in from her first ever 5km run. When she came through the door she staggered through into the office and said to Frank, “Dad, I feel a bit light headed.”
Frank, never one to miss an opportunity to tease his vehemently vegan daughter, said, “You should have had a cheeseburger beforehand, loaded up on some meat.”
Fluff replied, “Mmm, yes, shoulda got me some class 1 carcinogens.”
“Touche.” Said I.
“Indeed,” she said, smiling, “I should be a stand up comedian.”
She flopped onto the settee, “Actually, I think I’m more of a sit down comedian.”

********

That little anecdote aside, this post is more about my experience of going along to the local mental health theatre group, because I have been four times now. Each time has been very enjoyable, even though I’ve only been watching. I have learned so much. The professionalism of the actors and director is seriously impressive. Not your usual amateur dramatics. Yesterday, though… The PTSD came raging back. I tried to hide it. Complex PTSD is no bloody joke. My head was a warzone.

From every direction the missiles came, pounding one after another after another in a full-force PTSD blitzkrieg:

“You’re useless!”
“Pathetic!”
“Worthless b*tch.”
“Worm!”
“You can’t do anything without screwing it up, can you?”
“I’ll kill you.”
“They’re all looking at you… They all think you’re stupid and they can’t wait until you leave.”
“You should just run out that door and never come back.”
“What made you think you could possibly belong here? You don’t belong anywhere. Crawl back under the rock that you came from.”
“If they knew your story they’d hate you. It’s all your fault.”
“What you gonna do about it, c***?”

And of course there was the sense of imminent danger, which I imagine is akin to the feeling that bombs are dropping all around you. I knowingly use a military metaphor because I know that many people associate PTSD with combat veterans and I need to make the link with the experience and sensations of PTSD, especially when it’s related to abuse and violence.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hallucinate. I don’t hear voices. I don’t have an illness in that sense (not that I am casting aspersions on those who do; I’m just being clear). These are all thoughts in my head, but they’re accompanied by emotions that are as full-on as if I am experiencing the traumas all over again. And there were so many traumas that in the unwonted re-enactment they all run into one another. I was rational enough to recognise that these thoughts are – extremely loud – echoes of the past, but no amount of rationalising could make them stop. Discreet deep breaths helped me calm myself. After all, I reasoned, it will only make it worse if I do run out.
After a fantastic session for the cast, as we all headed out the door, I complimented a cast member on her genuinely lovely singing voice, and confessed (rather bravely, actually, because an admission that all is not well is making oneself vulnerable, but I had just witnessed a dozen people all making themselves vulnerable in the performance, so…) that although I hadn’t done anything, I felt extremely nervous. Understatement.
“Hug!” She said, “We do hugs here, at the end.” And she moved towards me with her arms open. I don’t generally do hugs, but she wasn’t threatening. I was able to briefly hug, accepting the kindness with which it was offered, and then walk with deep breaths to my car.
Couldn’t sleep, though, and when I did it was constant nightmares, punctuated by wakefulness. Sigh. “Stop the world, I want to get off.” I prayed. And then, eventually, in the wee hours, “Ok, God, this is Yours.” Because I know that the arms that spread wide in agony on the cross were the same arms that reached out and gave me a hug – one broken, beautiful human being to another.
Now it’s morning; time to get on with the day. I’m not giving up. I’m going back next week. I can rationalise where those ‘voices’ were coming from: they were all things the abusers used to say. I would stay reaction-less, because reaction could provoke. Sometimes my reaction-less state would mean the situation did not escalate. Usually it didn’t matter what I did, the sadistic humiliation and violence would follow.
They say the only way to face phobias is to be exposed to the cause of the phobia in a desensitisation process. Maybe the way to get over this THING is to experience it all again, but in a safe place. To become acclimatised.

I’ll keep trying. Thank God.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:12 NRSVA

…[We] have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 NRSVA

I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross… The men of the world do not comprehend these truths… They consider sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favour from GOD; and seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress…
I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health… Put, then, all your trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery…
Eleventh Letter, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing];
The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him,
And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5 (Amplified)

 

 

Keep Calm and Carry On

In memory of all who have died as the result of recent violence, wherever they may be:

Nothing is more certain than death and nothing is more uncertain than the day and hour of our death. The great folly of worldlings consists in putting the thought of death far from them, and acting as if they were to live forever.

~ Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

~ from In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

~ Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

 ~ John 3:17

“O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Picture by Manfred Heyde – Own work, GFDL 

No More

The killing of people enjoying a concert is unimaginable. I just can’t get into the mindset of someone who would do such a thing. What could they possibly hope to achieve? Manchester – such a great city, so vibrant and full of life. Death and destruction have no place here.

Violence begets violence and evil begets evil – the spiral descending. There is only one way out: say no. No more violence. In its place, compassion. No more hate. In its place, loving kindness. No more revenge. In its place, open-armed forgiveness. Hatred has no place here.

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…no more shall the sound of weeping be heard…
    or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime…

Before they call I will answer,
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox…

Isaiah 65:19,20,24,25 (NRSVA)

My thoughts and prayers, with deepest sympathy, are with the victims and families of the Manchester bombing. My prayers are also for the misguided souls on the path of destruction who think this is a ‘righteous’ thing to do. May they all know the love of the risen Christ, who overcame sin and in its place gives new life. May they know the peace that passes understanding. May those of us on the outside, looking in, find a role in repairing the damage done by this terrible tragedy – all the while knowing that the holes blown in families’ hearts are never going to be filled.

A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.

Jeremiah 31:15

 

 

Transitory

Two versions of the same thing:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (AMP)

With Christ it’s no longer a ‘this, too, shall pass’ – along the lines of Ecclesiastes – but a ‘this changes; I change’ by the grace of our dear Saviour. I’ve always loved the word ‘ephemeral’. It’s a cool word. It means that something is fleeting, changing, short-lived. But it always brings to mind the image of a butterfly, and then the word ‘ethereal’ seems to be intimately connected.

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How can I say no to this ephemeral, ethereal thing called Life?