Already Dead

‘In late 1944 conditions in Lunghua [internment camp] continued to worsen, not through deliberate neglect by the Japanese authorities, but because they had lost all interest in us… The huge Japanese armies in China were ready to defend the Emperor and the home islands to the last man.

Nowhere had Japanese soldiers surrendered in large numbers. Fatalism, fierce discipline and a profound patriotism shaped their warrior spirit. In some way, I think, the Japanese soldier assumed unconsciously that he had already died in battle, and the apparent life left to him was on a very short lease. This explained their vicious cruelty.’

from ‘Miracles of Life, Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography’ by J.G. Ballard

I wonder if this is a similar situation to that of today’s suicide bombers, or members of Islamic State? We’ve all seen the shocking news reports of beheadings, violence and rape of young girls. Do they believe there is no other choice and sooner or later they’ll be dead anyway? Is this nothing more than a bleak reflection of a life without hope? Here, perhaps, is how we learn to pray for our enemies.

So I am praying for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in war torn areas. May they be granted the grace and courage to truly be light in all that darkness.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14)

What a great commission. If you would like to know more about how to help our suffering family, please visit Open Doors .

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Faster than Grace?

‘The enclosed is an answer to that which I received from ____. Please deliver it to her. She is full of good will but she would go faster than grace! One does not become holy all at once.’

~ extract from the 9th letter to a friend, Brother Lawrence, as found in ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’

Wise words! I wonder how many of us (especially mothers?) try to ‘hurry’ grace? We’re so used to being competent, to looking after those around us (we’re so used to wondering how on earth they’d cope without us) that we lack patience when it comes to godly matters. But we can’t rush God.

Two extracts from the New Testament come to mind, from The Message. The first is from Romans, chapter 12 verses 1-2:

‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life… and place it before God as an offering… fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.’

Secondly, the words of our dear Saviour Himself in Matthew, chapter 11 verses 28-29:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”

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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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

Reblog: Encouragement

Hmm. I try to always be an encourager because I do truly believe that a little goes a long way when it comes to kind words. My psychologist the other day told me to stop being so hard on myself, to show myself some compassion. Why can I be an encourager so readily for other people but not for myself? I think I have had my heart broken too many times so I tell myself I don’t need dreams. In part that’s true, because faith in God means trusting in Him, not myself, but maybe it’s also an excuse – not an excuse, it’s reasonable to want to protect yourself when you’ve been hurt so much… but it’s a carefully constructed way of not getting hurt again, or being let down again. I don’t get hurt but I don’t find anything fulfilling either. Interesting.

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
February 26, 1995

With so many people in the world telling us we can’t succeed, we need to hear people telling us we can. I remember my high school English teacher telling me not to apply to Cornell University because they wouldn’t accept me and even if they did I wouldn’t be able to do the work. (It’s funny that I’m a writer now). I almost didn’t apply but a few days later I saw Ivan Goldfarb, a former teacher, in the hallway and asked him about Cornell. He said, “If you get in, then you go. You can do it.” His words made all the difference. I applied, was accepted and majored in Lacrosse :).

Too often we think it’s our role to inject a dose of “reality” into someone’s life. We think it’s our job to protect people from the pain of failure and defeat. We…

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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 Begins: Footsteps to the Cross

One step at a time. One day at a time. This is good advice, which I learned at Celebrate Recovery. It seems fitting for the beginning of Lent, as we journey to the cross over the next six weeks. Day one of The Gospel in the Willows: Forty Meditations for the Days of Lent speaks of ‘The Call’.

Walking along the beach… Jesus saw two brothers: Simon… and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

Matthew 4:18-20 (The Message)

“Come with me.” He still says, holding out his hand. Are you willing?

Enough

It snowed this morning, soft and silent. Made this urban landscape tranquil and beautiful. I was reminded of how God provided for the Israelites after they escaped Egypt.

The Lord said to Moses, “Now I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky for all of you. The people must go out every day and gather enough for that day…

…The Lord said to Moses, “…in the morning they will have all the bread they want. Then they will know that I, the Lord, am their God.”

In the… morning there was dew all around the camp. When the dew evaporated, there was something thin and flaky on the surface of the desert. It was as delicate as frost. When the Israelites saw it, they didn’t know what it was and asked each other, “What is it?”

Moses said to them, “This is the food that the Lord has given you to eat. The Lord has commanded that each of you is to gather as much of it as he needs…”

The Israelites did this, some gathering more, others less. When they measured it, those who gathered much did not have too much, and those who gathered less did not have too little. Each had gathered just what he needed.

extract from Exodus 16:4-18 (GNT)

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Snow in the garden of our lovely house.

Watching the snow, I was reminded of how God IS, in the good times and in the bad times, how He made Himself a man; a man who walked and talked and ate and slept and did everything like an ordinary man – and yet:

“I am telling you the truth,” Jesus replied.

“Before Abraham was born, ‘I Am’.”

John 8:58

God loved us so much that He became one of us. I find myself continually asking ‘why?’

After the ‘why’, just ‘thank you’.

After the ‘thank you’, ‘what must I do?’

‘I ask you, God… let me be neither rich nor poor… give me only as much food as I need. If I have more, I might say that I do not need you.’

from Proverbs 30:7-9

EMDR Diary

I have no idea whether anyone else has blogged about their experiences of EMDR. I had my first proper session this morning. The doctor (who is lovely) said it went well. I was left exhausted, frankly. I feel as if I have been hit by a ten tonne truck that hit me so hard it sent me careening into outer space. There’s a sadness, but mostly just a kind of blank tiredness.

I need to work on my ‘happy place’, I was told. It’s not some wishy-washy, fluffy bunny rubbish. It’s a genuine tool that has to go alongside the EMDR. In as much as the brain is stimulated to relive the traumatic events in order to reprocess them so that they’re no longer present in the form of crippling flashbacks, etc., so I have to choose a place which I can practice imagining being in as a way to combat the stress and distress of the treatment. It has to be somewhere where I am alone and it has to be somewhere safe.

My ‘safe place’ is St. Julian’s church in Norwich, or a version of it that exists in my memory. I don’t live close enough to go there physically, but I couldn’t think of anywhere more comforting than the place where Lady Julian lived, and where God has moved and breathed through the generations. Thinking of it makes me recall the famous quote from Julian: ‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.’

I hope to go back there in real life in the not too distant future. For now, God is leading me. He’s not carrying me, but I know He’s there. I know I am walking in His will and in His love. For this I am grateful. Forgive me if this is not a very coherent post. I really do feel like I’ve been knocked into next Christmas!