Reblog: A Well Ordered Exterior

Beautiful post. May we all desire less ‘me’ and more ‘You’, and may we all become more fully ourselves in the process. When I was a child these were the people I called ‘the shiny people’. I want to be one of the shiny people.

You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 (WEB)

Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 (WEB)

Amen. Do read the post below from Ben over at Contemplative in the Mud. His quiet wisdom regularly floors me and lifts me up at the same time.

Contemplative in the Mud

Many of the effects of contemplation, like all Christian prayer, involve setting up storage in Heaven (Mt 6:20). They concern the Church and the world at large.

On the other hand, another of the effects of contemplation is to reorganize and reintegrate our whole person. The human being who prays becomes rooted more totally and absolutely in Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and these Three impart a new order and organization to everything about him or her.

That includes the body.

Contemplation is something that happens to persons who are, as we say today, embodied. Perhaps it would be more accurate to note that the body is in the soul (as Saint Hildegard says), but regardless of the way we phrase things, it is true that any reorganization, reintegrating, and reordering of our whole person will involve a reorganization, reintegrating, and reordering of our body

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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!

There’s a Spirit in the Air

There’s a spirit in the air

Telling Christians everywhere

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world…

When believers break the bread

When a hungry child is fed:

Praise the love that Christ revealed

Living, working in our world.

~ from ‘There’s a Spirit in the Air’ by Brian Wren, a lovely hymn I grew up singing. I am deliberately recalling good memories as EMDR leaves one bombarded with memories for days (weeks, even) after a session, and they’re often the ugliest kind :-/

Anyway, there are only a handful of videos of this joyful song on youtube. Despite its being embedded in my subconscious it’s obviously not as well-known as I’d thought, so I share it now for you to enjoy 😀

Reblog: Transfigured and a Source of Joy

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Knowing that this is enough is a huge relief. Knowing that this is enough is also a huge challenge. Too often it is tempting to want to be more, and often it is tempting to be discouraged because we know we are less. I like to think of it as like a pot, like the Romans would have had, an amphora: a vessel which is designed to be useful. The trouble is, we’re all broken. But God puts us together again and the Holy Spirit shines through the cracks. The more jagged the cracks are, the more He shines, and not only are we now useful, but the cracks are bursting with His light. Jesus shines through the cracks in a completely unexpected and unique way.

Contemplative in the Mud

antonio6In one of his sermons, Saint Anthony of Padua says of Christ,

His very physical appearance, on which the angels desire to look, is a source of joy.

This reminds me of Mount Tabor. Christ took James, John, and Peter up Mount Tabor and was transfigured before them. He shone in glory. His appearance was bright, visible, luminous, and pure. That must be how he is in Heaven. He was glorified, and it affected the visible features of his sacred body.

To some extent, this is what is supposed to happen to us here below. We are supposed to be, by our very physical appearance, a joy to others.

Now, of course, this joy isn’t merely carnal, it’s spiritual!

And of course, barring any miracle, we do not physically shine like Jesus on Mount Tabor!

But still, our very physical appearance is meant to be “a source a joy,” real…

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EMDR: Laughter, the Best Medicine

When I am low, not many things make sense. Music can be helpful, especially positive songs and praise music, but laughter is, as the old saying goes, the best of medicines. I find I need to keep away from anything negative at the moment (because my head has enough already), and instead try to put into practice the words of St. Paul:

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good.

Philippians 4:4-8 (Phillips)

Our family love Mr. Bean. He appeals across the ages and across the autism spectrum too, which is good because ASD children often don’t understand humour. Prince enjoys Mr. Bean, as does little Chip, and they both often find comedy… er… elusive. The number of times we’ve had conversations beginning “Mummy, is this a joke?” followed by something which is less a joke and more a random statement! And then they’ll try again with a hundred more random statements. No wonder poor Fluff rolls her eyes. Her big brother and little sister’s ‘jokes’ are funny for all the wrong reasons o_O But I’d not change a hair on any of their bonny heads and I am thankful for my family, and for Mr. Bean!

EMDR, LENT, TRAINING

I’ve had to take a break from my studies to focus on getting well. It was the right decision, but sometimes, if I compare myself to the world, I can’t help but see all that I missed. My peers went to school; I missed school. My peers did their A-levels and went off to university; I didn’t. My peers began jobs and careers; I didn’t.

It’s not that I resent the fact that I never had any of these things, because what difference does resentment make? None! So it’s a useless, destructive thing to hang onto. Nonetheless it would be so easy to feel ‘less than’. In the past few weeks of EMDR, I have had to face the extent and depth of my brokenness, but I have been strangely surprised by my strength too. Genuinely surprised. I may not have pieces of paper to prove my ‘qualifications’, but God has had me in training for years, just as today’s email from the Open Doors ‘Step of Yes’ series said. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, so God has said to all of us today:

‘…you don’t need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love… make it your ambition to have no ambition!’

1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 (JB Phillips)

EMDR: Fighting Monsters

EMDR always leaves me feeling like I’ve just come out of the boxing ring with the world heavyweight champion, and all the while I had my hands tied behind my back. I ache all over. I barely know which way is up. I’m like a doll who has had pins stuck in her all over and now they’re finally, painfully, being pulled out one by one.

‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.’

Nietzsche

I’m not a fan of Nietzsche, but he had moments of needlepoint insight and I think this quote is one of them. EMDR is fighting with monsters and gazing into the abyss, although I have been surprised by what I found there. Turns out this guilt complex is more deep-rooted than I thought. It’s a weed that will need to be dug up completely, roots and bulbs and all, and thrown on the fire, otherwise it will just pop up somewhere else (and that is a very good metaphor for PTSD too).

Today I looked into the abyss and, instead of fear and guilt and shame and anger and bitterness and remorse and self-loathing…

I found Jesus, sitting quietly. Waiting as He did for the sin-living Samaritan woman, to ask her for a drink.

He asked her.

He asks me.

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And then, instead of condemnation, the Messiah offers me living water; tells me I need never be thirsty again. Tells me the guilt is not mine, and never was. It was a lie, sown by the enemy, many, many years ago when I was too small to realise. I don’t know what I did expect to find as I looked into the abyss, but this I never expected.

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

…all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.’

Romans 8:1,2, 14-17

Reblog: All God Wants

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God just shook me by the shoulders, reading this! I needed to be reminded that uselessness and weakness can be – are – made beautiful in Him and I needed to be reminded to stop beating myself up. It never occurred to me before that one can do ‘penance’ without actual physical violence. One’s own head can be just as ‘violent’. But guilt and shame are not mine to carry. Hallelujah!

‘For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it…

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death… if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.’

Romans 7:18,8:1,2,13,14 (NRSVA)

Contemplative in the Mud

All God wants is our heart. And He is more pleased when we value our uselessness and weakness out of love and reverence for His holy will, than when we do violence to ourselves and perform great works of penance.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

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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

Do Not Touch

When the New Testament was first written, it was written in Greek (not quite the same Greek as Aristotle and Homer and Plato and that lot, that’s earlier). Later it was translated into Latin and of course Latin was used throughout the centuries as an international language, which was all very laudable and whatnot except that ordinary people couldn’t read or write it and were forbidden to read the bible and stuff… and then Martin Luther came along and set the cat among the pigeons and this other chap called Tyndale did the unthinkable by translating the bible into English and Henry VIII… well, he had a bit of a god complex. And problems with lust.

Anyway… when I was a little girl I used to write plays for my friends to perform. Once when I was about 11 I wrote a Christmas play with elements from various Christmas-themed stories, including Narnia. There were Narnian shields (cereal box card covered in tin foil) for which I designed a coat of arms: the lion rampant and the Latin words ‘noli me tangere’.  ‘Noli me tangere’ is the Latin version of what Jesus said to Mary after He appeared to her in the garden following the resurrection (John 20:17). In English it means ‘don’t touch me’. These words seemed to be almost magical in their power, especially when combined with a sword and shield: Do Not Touch Me.

Every abused child wishes they could say those words, I’m sure. After reliving some pretty horrendous stuff in my EMDR session today I feel a bit like that little girl again, with her cardboard shield with its paper lion and Latin words. I feel like I’m fighting a battle with toys. DO NOT TOUCH ME.

Noli Me Tangere by Fra Angelico, painted 1408-1455.

Then this evening I read the following, and I felt God giving me an answer. It’s not an easy answer. It doesn’t change the suffering. But it does give hope:

…our Lord would have all men know that this soul is His own and that none may molest it, for it is all His.

St. Teresa of Avila – The Interior Castle