Struggling Grace

StFrancis_part

No one can acquire any virtue unless he begins by dying to himself  ~ St. Francis of Assisi

…regarding your previous way of life, you put off your old self… and be continually renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh, untarnished mental and spiritual attitude], and put on the new self [the regenerated and renewed nature], created in God’s image, [godlike] in the righteousness and holiness of the truth [living in a way that expresses to God your gratitude for your salvation].

~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (AMP)

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God…

~ Galatians 2:20

PTSD? Depression? Grief? PMT? Who knows? All I know for sure is that I have been struggling lately. I know the death of my mother-in-law shook me up (actually, not her death – because she was a woman of faith – so much as the suffering that preceded it) and I know that the flashbacks have returned (PTSD: such fun!) but in a different form, and I know that hormones are a right bugger at certain times of the month (‘scuse me, gentlemen), but I don’t think I’m depressed. Just floundering a bit. Feeling a bit overwhelmed. Even though it’s mostly my own brain that’s doing the whelming. Mind you, Prince is poorly again and that breaks my heart because he is in pain and there’s nothing I can do and I can’t explain it to him – it’s difficult enough to explain to a neuro-typical child, let alone a young man with autism :-/ Then there’s my dear husband who is struggling with grief at the loss of his mother. I am quite inadequate at offering comfort. He hurts so I hurt. That’s what having a strong sense of empathy does. You feel other people’s feelings, especially the bad feelings. It’s good because it begets a deep compassion, but it can have a down side. I feel too much, sometimes. Other times I feel nothing at all.

So I go back to the bible, back to the words of people who followed Jesus with their whole being. The death of self that St. Francis is talking about in that first quote, above, is not just dying to the old selfish, sinful ways, it’s also about dying to the old negative thinking patterns – that I am useless, unworthy, a waste of space. These are all the feelings that have been floating around my head and the worst bit is that they stop me from being able to think straight. I have the desire to be caring for my family and looking after the house, but my head gets stuck and I can’t figure out what to do and then all I want to do (all I feel able to do) is to curl up in bed and do nothing. But then I feel bad because really I do want to be caring for my family and curating a loving, organised, fruitful family home.

Oh, sweet Jesus! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Bring me once again to my knees as I wholly and completely put my trust in You to accomplish even the smallest of small things for Your dear name’s sake. I am quite useless without You, yet quite marvellous with You. Use me. Give me the awareness of grace – five minutes at a time if need be – and help me to share Your grace with everyone I meet. Help my poor boy to feel better. Show me what I can do for him and to encourage him. Help me to be whatever my husband needs as he comes to terms with his loss.

In Your name I pray. Thank you for this gift of prayer.

Amen.

I write all this here not as a way of seeking attention. I don’t want attention, although kindly thoughts and prayer would be an encouragement. I hope that this might help someone else going through the same sort of thing to not feel so alone, but the main reason I write this is because true testimony begins with honesty – and that includes the bad… all the while knowing that God is always good.

Lessons from History

Parliamentary government was breaking down at a moment when the economic crisis made strong government imperative… Hitler realised that his own opportunity had come sooner than he expected. The hard-pressed people were demanding a way out of their sorry predicament… To all the millions of discontented, Hitler, in a whirlwind campaign, offered what seemed to them in their misery some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again…

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

There are many places around the world that seem to echo the Germany of the early 1930s. A perceived lack – be it of food, of uncorrupted leadership, of employment, of morals, of religious observance, of effective criminal law – creates a vacuum. A vacuum creates tension. Tension leads to conflict. I pray we can work together for good, in humility, for Christ’s sake.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another. “

John 13:35 (NRSVA)

Heaven Sings Hallelujah (Epiphany)

Most of religion is ideological: it defines reality from the top down. It begins with a transcendent God up there in heaven, and then we try to explain everything down here in relationship to that transcendent God. But what Jesus actually taught was something much more akin to “from the bottom up.”

… This perspective… turns everything on its head. That is why today we celebrate three kings paying homage to a poor baby in a feed trough.

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations

An epiphany is when you learn to see something that you had not seen before. God gives us daily epiphanies, if only we pay attention, and sometimes despite our lack of attention, too. ‘Heaven sings hallelujah! Hallelujah the earth replies.’

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Let it Go

If you have daughters of a certain age you will no doubt have repeatedly heard the dulcet refrain from Disney’s ‘Frozen’. In our house it has been less dulcet and more, shall we say, decibels, when my two giggling beauties belt out, “Let it go! Let it goooooo!”

That was the refrain that came to mind as I read Richard Rohr’s words this morning. My brain assigns a song to pretty much everything I do. Musical insanity. My husband says it never happens to him. Perhaps he’s the sane spouse. Anyway…

[The] spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic West we keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success… We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room… for God… 

~ Richard Rohr (highlighting my own, for emphasis)

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Going up? Or down? Image from idpinthat.com

Like a good little baptist I immediately wanted to locate a relevant biblical comparison, and this is the first one that came to mind:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

It also brings to mind the Beatitudes, in which Jesus says we are blessed when we are low. Maybe that’s not just a way to bring comfort to those who are suffering, which seems to be the usual (perhaps rather shallow) interpretation, maybe He was telling us that the whole point is to go lower, to be less, to welcome dishonour and unglory, because only when there’s less of me can there be room – any room – for our beautiful Saviour.

Emmanuel: God with us.

Prayer in Practice

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from idpinthat.com

And this is the confidence that we have toward [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have [received] the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:14,15 (ESV)

Prayer is the deliberate act of the soul. It is true, full of grace and lasting, for it is united with and fixed into the will of our Lord by the inner working of the Holy Spirit.

~ from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

God delights in our prayer. Do not be discouraged. He hears you and knows your heart and your deepest desire. Shine, then, as His light in the darkness of the world. Be your brother’s hands and feet, be your sister’s pillow. God knows and will give you the desires of your heart because your will is aligned with His.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

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

 

Unashamed: Christine Caine

Shame… prompts us to toss away the good gifts we are given…

Hiding my feelings had already become a way of life for me [as a child]. Shame does that. It teaches us to hide ourselves… Shame… pushes you down and prevents you from becoming all you could be…

When you are abused, at first you are ashamed of what is happening to you. Over time, though, you begin to think it is because of you that it is happening…

…I thought, there must be something very wrong with me. I must be at fault. I must be a bad person. I am not worth protecting. God must not love me. I guess I’m not worth His attention. Shame does that: it whispers lies to your soul…

I had no concept of the difference between the shame of what was being done to me and the shame of my own actions… I worked hard to be sure that all those frightening feelings were locked away and invisible… 

I was a child damaged by shame, shackled to it, and I dragged it with me from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood. Most likely, you have done the same…

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

This is a rather large set of quotes to put in a single blog post, but I do hope Christine Caine will forgive me(!). I bought this audiobook last week. I sensed that I needed to read it. In just one chapter I have recognised so much of the broken parts of myself that I am in awe. Christine does not share the exact same past as me. Our stories are different, yet everything that I’ve quoted above was so descriptive of my situation that I felt I could have written it. Much of it consists of things I never knew how to put into words. Even now, with all the hard work I’ve done as part of my recovery, I also realise that some of these things – well, I thought it was just me who thought like that. Shame does that: makes you think you’re the only one because you’re somehow responsible, even when you know that, logically, you’re not. Which shows I still have a way to go, because I thought I had changed these negative beliefs.

This is what I think God is trying to tell me (and who knows – maybe He’s needing you to know it, too): humility is good. Humility looks like Jesus. Humility is not the same as feeling worthless or useless. That’s not humility; that’s shame. Shame has no place on the shoulders of one who belongs to the King of Kings.

God be praised for His perfect timing.  I can’t wait to hear more!

Reblog: Self – Justification/Humility

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Humility: the most overlooked virtue? Humility should be our starting point.

Excellent post from A Pastor’s Thoughts:

A Pastor's Thoughts

Abba John said, ‘We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say, self-accusation, and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to say, self-justification.’

He also said, ‘Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.’

Abba John gave this advice, ‘Watching means to sit in the cell and be always mindful of God. This is what is meant by, “I was on the watch and God came to me.” (Matt. 25:36)One of the Fathers said of him, ‘Who is this John, who by his humility has all Scetis hanging from his little finger?’

—-ABBA JOHN THE DWARF


The two competing margins of any man are self-justification and humility. We all have a great drive to be the controllers of our own destiny. To achieve that destiny we must find ways to justify our actions. There are many people that are…

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Weary

Shuttling back and forwards to the city hospital has been hard. My own illness is – er – making itself known. Prince has an operation tomorrow. Today we have to go back so he can get a blood test done. Yesterday there wasn’t time to wait because I had to get home for when Chip finished school. My body is protesting.  I have a cup of coffee by my side but although it will help me get through today, it won’t change the fact that I will somehow have to ‘borrow spoons’ (google ‘spoon theory’ if you’re baffled by the phrase!) against tomorrow. But I borrowed spoons yesterday already and if I’m not careful I’ll be flat on my back for weeks. What do I do? I have to put my family first. There’s no other way around it. Prince has to go to the hospital today and he has to go to the hospital tomorrow and then I can rest. I hope.

I said, “I have worked but how hopeless it is! I have used up my strength, but have accomplished nothing.” 

Yet I can trust the Lord to defend my cause; he will reward me for what I do.

Isaiah 49:4 (GNT)

“Come to me, all of you who are tired… and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

Maybe it’s a blessing to be always weary? Maybe it keeps me ‘low’ so that I stay low, and ever reaching out to my dear Jesus. I don’t have the energy to figure it out. Pray for us, please?