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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). 

 

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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A Reappraisal of Now

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One of our guinea pigs, wearing a crocheted Father Christmas hat. Because.

I caught a cold or somesuch. Even though it’s gone, I’m left exhausted and physically back where I was months ago. It’s frustrating. I had been making such progress! Who knows how long it will take to get back to where I was just a few weeks ago.

So I’m lying on the bed typing, cuddling a very cheeky little guinea pig and listening to audiobooks from Audible. Audiobooks are wonderful for people like me, people who tire on reading, people whose lives are (or can be) somewhat limited. Audible allows me to continue learning. I’m listening to a series of lectures on the development of language and another series of lectures on the Ignatian practice of discernment. In my years of Audible membership I have learnt about History, Economics, Linguistics, Theology, Physics, Neurology, Psychology… You name it. I’ve been able to begin to decipher Italian, French and Mandarin and I have revisited some of my childhood favourites, such as Enid Blyton and Joan Aiken. Of course, my forays into the world of adult fiction are also fairly constant. I am a fiction junkie. Through Audible I have fallen in love with the words of Lisa Gardner (supreme queen of crime thrillers), Liane Moriarty (and the narration of Caroline Lee), and have recently discovered the work of Amanda Prowse (who reads her own work). Audible also produce their own content, and the series of new audio plays (or ‘movies-in-the-mind’ as I call them) based on the Alien novels and films are brilliant – science fiction being my literary alma mater ❤ Thank you, Audible!

In another essential way Audible is a lifeline, too. I am listening to a dramatised version of the Old Testament, the New Testament read by David Suchet, Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God and Ann Voskamp reading her One Thousand Gifts Devotional. I listen to a chapter of each every day and it allows me to keep up with my spiritual learning, too (which is the most important). When I reach the end of the OT or the NT, I just begin again. Same for The Practice of the Presence of God. It is so very simple, yet so easy to forget, that I reckon I need to keep revisiting all the ideas until I can actually do them.

In listening to educational and spiritual material, Audible allows me to be disciplined even in the middle of what feels like chaos or exhaustion. My life seems to swing between chaos and exhaustion and doesn’t stop for very long in ‘order’ and ‘wellness’ – at least, that’s how it feels. Que sera sera. God is eternal. The eternal is now. Right now. ‘Now’ is all we ever have. Yet –

All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’ ~ Julian of Norwich

‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… or about your body… Is not life more…?Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value [to God] than they?And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? …Therefore do not worry… indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Extract from Matthew 6:25-33 (NRSVA)

In summary: you gotta do what you gotta do – and that’s all you gotta do.

Abiding

It has been well over a year since I last blogged. Is anyone still following my blog? I think of you all often! The sudden and unexpected death of a very dear friend left me reeling just over a year ago, and we also experienced great upheaval, more trauma… I didn’t want to write about any of it on my blog because some of it wasn’t my story to tell. The trauma involved family members rather than me directly and although it was bloody awful for me, it’s still not my story to tell. Perhaps one day those involved will desire to tell their stories. Perhaps not.

As for me, my illness has significantly improved. I was in a wheelchair every time I went out for about nine months. Now I can walk a mile or even two on a good day and I continue to get better. I am so grateful. I meditate (nearly) every day. Mindfulness meditation has become a wonderful tool to enable me to cope with everything that we have been through and to support family members who have needed it.

I’m now a home educator <gulp>. Fluff decided she had had enough of school so we’re doing Year 11 from home, which has been interesting to say the least. I am enjoying it, but it is also exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. Yesterday I felt quite unwell and stayed in bed for most of the day after dropping Prince off at school. He’s still at school, bless him. We have another year before we have to send him off to special needs college.

Our daughters have made some drastic changes – Fluff is now vegan and extremely vocal about it. As part of our homeschooling she is studying Music (clarinet and piano) and GCSEs in Maths, English Language, Double Science and Geography, along with ABRSM Music Theory. She is determined to study plant-based nutrition and environmental science at university. Chip has become vegetarian and sees herself as a social activist. She is excelling at school and loving her weekly theatre school. They are both involved in Girl Guides and Fluff has become a Young Leader with Rainbows. She’s also just completed her Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. My children make me smile.

My darling husband is still working hard for his family and enjoying his role-playing games. He’s also assisting with homeschooling, especially Maths as that’s his speciality.

Our guinea pig brood grew (and shrank, sadly). We now have three, two girls and a boy. Cookie is snuggled up under my chin as I type, making little snuffling noises to tell me she is happy. She’s a black and white squeaky fluff-ball and very cute with it. The piggies even came camping with us in August when we went up to see Hadrian’s wall. I fell head over heels in love with the Northumbrian National Park.

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Vindolanda © Simon Robinson, 2007 / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL-1.2.

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” – Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love

“This moment is as perfect as it can be.” – Richard Rohr, Letting Go

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” – John 15:9

How are you? How’s life been treating you? What is God doing with you in your life?

 

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.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

“Do you think you are a people pleaser?” He asks. I hesitate.

“I think abuse… makes you behave in a certain way. You always put your feelings last. It’s taken me a long time to not be like that, but I used to be, definitely.” I say.

Later, the words echo around my head. Do you think you are a people pleaser? Do you think you are a people pleaser?

I am puzzled. Why has this question stuck and no other? I know my motives are not based on approval from others. Not any more. In fact I’m quite indifferent, although I always do try to consider how someone is feeling. I’m hyper-aware of other people’s feelings. I hear a tiny voice in the back of my head, asking the same question over and over. Behind it is another question, but I don’t want to acknowledge it.

All day the question pops into my head. Finally, I talk to God about it, aware that I can’t hide from whatever is lurking behind it. It is as if God now asks me, “Do you think you are a people pleaser, Sandy?”

“Well, no.” I reply in my head, “Doing things because I want the approval of people is not right, not for a follower of Christ.”

Again the same question, “Do you think you are a people pleaser?”

I finally allow myself to look at what’s been hiding behind this repeated phrase, and give answer, “No, but I am a ‘God pleaser’.”

 Drat!

Is being a God pleaser a bad thing? No. Yes. It seems to be the best of motives. It can so easily be mistaken for the best of motives. The trouble is I know full well that nothing I do, and nothing you or I or anyone could ever do, can earn God’s love or even His attention. Not even Jesus earned His Father’s love. God doesn’t want a desperate-to-please puppy dog. That’s not relationship. That’s not love.

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Image from idpinthat.com

 

 

So what does love look like?

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve [got] nowhere. So no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

1 Corinthians 13:3 (The Message)

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)