Saturday, 5 September 2015

Psalm 119

I read through Psalm 119 over the summer, paraphrasing each set of stanzas to begin with a different letter of the alphabet.  Not sure I really got the most benefit by doing so: perhaps I should just have followed the 'Love God Greatly' study, with its pretty memory verse cards.

Psalm 119

1 - 8
Amazingly blessed are those who stay on the tracks with God’s rules and laws.
Aiming for God’s best at all times, we strive to obey
Achieving, as we do so, near perfection.
Again and again you remind us to follow your regulations.
Abiding in your ways is my desire:
After all, thinking about your commands will help stop me from doing foolish things.
I applaud you for giving me a guide to follow for living a truthful life.
Acquiescing, I need you with me – I cannot do it alone.

9 - 1
By living according to your Word, God, I am helped to live purely.
Besieging you wholeheartedly, I don’t want to stray away from what you have told me to do.
By treasuring your words, I’m kept from sinning against you.
Be praised, Lord, and teach me what you want.
Bragging about everything you have said
Brings me to rejoicing, as if I’d suddenly inherited a great deal of money.
Brooding over your guidelines for a good life
Blesses me: I am so happy and so I determine NOT to neglect what you have told me to do.

17 - 24
Care for me kindly, Lord, so that I can live well, doing what you say.
Clear my vision so that I can see
Communicate your commands, as I am a stranger here
Consumed with longing for your laws all the time, I know those who
Contradict you, you rebuke.
Care for me when others scorn me for trying to obey your rules, for I
Concentrate on keeping your commands,
Considering your laws to be delightful, for they
Counsel me with great wisdom.

25 – 32

Dusty death is what my soul clings to, so give me life according to your word!
Declaring my troubles, you answered my prayers: now teach me your laws.
Don’t let me fail to understand what you teach; I want to ponder the marvellous things you have done.
Downcast with sorrow is my soul: please strengthen and encourage me!
Deceitful ways need to be kept away from me – be gracious to me, teach me what to do right.
Deciding on being faithful, I have set my heart on your law.
Determinedly following your ways, Lord, don’t let me be ashamed.
Dedicated to learn what you want me to do, help me understand more.

33 - 40
Educate me, Lord, to understand your law, and I will treasure it.
Enlighten my heart so that I can follow and obey wholeheartedly.
Encourage me to keep on keeping on, because that is my pleasure
Enable me to focus on your words and not to selfish gain
Enlarge my vision from worthless things and give me life in your ways
Confirm to your servant your promise that you may be feared
Excuse me from there reproach I am afraid of, for your rules are good
I am enchanted with your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!

41 – 48

Fill me with your steadfast love, your salvation, as you have promised,
For I trust your word and will have an answer for the person who torments me.
For my hope is in your rules, don’t take the word of truth out of my mouth.
Forever I will keep your law, continually, no stopping,
Finding your commands so that I can live freely, and, in
Front of those in authority, speaking about what you have done without shame,
For I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.
Facing toward your commandments, I WILL lift up my hands and I WILL meditate on what you have laid down in law.

49 - 56
Graciously remember the hopeful words you have given me, your servant.
Given life in your promise, I am comforted in my troubles.
Great is the derision I receive from the insolent, but I don’t turn away from your law.
Good is the encouragement I get from your rules, Lord.
Greedy, wicked people who disregard you fill me with indignation.
Going anywhere, your God songs – your words – sing in my heart.
Getting through the night, I remember your name: your character and identity, and keep your law.
Gracious blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.

57 - 64

Having God is enough for me: I promise to keep your words.
Heartfelt, I beg for your favour; be gracious to me according to your promise.
Having paid careful attention as you lead me, I follow closely.
Hastening, I don’t delay to keep your commandments,
Holding on to your law, even as evil people try to trap me.
How fair your laws are! They make me wake up and praise you in the middle of the night.
Happy am I to choose as my friends, everyone who worships you and follows your teachings.
How amazing that your love is seen all over the world – teach me to follow your wisdom.

65 – 72 It sounds like it’s all about me...but really, it’s all about You, Lord.

I am your servant, Lord, and you have kept your promise to treat me with kindness.
I trust your commands, so give me wisdom and good sense.
I obey now, though once you corrected me for not obeying you.
I want you to teach me your laws, for you are kindhearted, and you do good things.
 I follow your teachings wholeheartedly, though my reputation is being ruined by conceited liars.
 I find happiness in your law, but those liars have no sense.
 It did me good when you corrected me, because it taught me to study your laws.
 I would rather obey you than to have a thousand pieces of silver and gold.

73 – 80
Just make me wise enough to learn what you have commanded, because I am made by you.
Joyfully I trust your word, so may others who also believe rejoice in you.
Justice was yours when you punished me: I know, Lord, that your decisions are correct.
Just comfort me with your love, as you have promised, because I serve you!
Joy is my desire when I obey your law; have mercy and let me live.
Judge the arrogant and put them to shame for wronging me without cause, because I have chosen to study your teaching.
Enjoin those who fear you to turn to me for evidence of your wise guidance, so they will learn to obey your rules.
Journeying on with my head held high and not be shamed, I want to be whole and holy, soul and body.

81 – 88
Keenly my soul faints with longing for your salvation,  but I have put my hope in your word.
Keenly my eyes look for your promise, almost failing:  I say, “When will you comfort me?”
I know your word, even though I am worn out from waiting.    When will you punish my persecutors?
he arrogant dig pits to trap me,
    contrary to your law.
Keep me safe, for I am being persecuted without cause: all your commands are trustworthy;
Killing me was their desire, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
Kindly, in your unfailing love preserve my life, that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

89 - 96
Long-lasting as the heavens is your word, God: it lasts as long as the heavens.
Lasting through all generations is your faithfulness, just as you created the earth to stand firm.
Laws you have made are still in effect today, for all things serve you.
Loving your law brought me joy and helped me not to give up.
Life-saving are your wise words, and I will never forget the advice you gave me.
Let me belong to you: I have respected your laws, so keep me safe.
Licentious people lie in ambush to destroy me, but I’m only concerned with your plans for me.
Limits exist to everything because nothing is completely perfect except your teachings.

97 -  104
Meditating on your law all day, because I love what you have shown me.
Mulling over your words makes me wiser than my enemies.
Musing upon and absorbing your advice has made me become even smarter than my teachers
More understanding than those older than I are comes through doing what you tell me.
Minding your word is what I do, instead of following a way that leads to trouble.
Making detours from the route you laid out would be foolish, for you gave me such good directions.
Mouthwateringly sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth,
Making me understand your laws and so I hate lies.

105 – 112
Now your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
Needing to make sure I follow your righteous laws, I solemnly promise to do so.
Needled with pain, I ask you to save me, Lord, according to your word.
Now accept my praise of you and teach me your laws.
Night and day I take my life in my hands, but I will not forget your law.
Nasty people try to trap me, but I do not turn my back on your teachings.
Never do I want to lose what you have taught me, for your laws are my treasure and source of joy.
Now and for ever, I set my heart on keeping your decrees.

113 – 120
Oh, how I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
Only you are my place of safety and my shield.  Your word is my only hope.
Out of here, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
 Outstretch your arm to hold me up, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
 Orders from you,  I will always have regard for: uphold me, and I will be delivered;
Overall, you reject all who stray from your decrees. They are only fooling themselves.
Obeying your laws is my passion: for you skim off the wicked of the earth like scum.
Over my whole body are shivers of fear, as I think of you and the way you judge.

121 – 128
Pursuing your law is what I have done: don’t hand me over to those who want to mistreat me.
Preserve me, and don’t let me be harmed by those conceited people.
Pursuing your promise to rescue me, my eyes are strained and weary, 
Please show me your love and teach me your decrees.
Perspicacity is what I, your servant, need, so that I can understand your statutes.
Present is the time for you to act, Lord, because your law is being broken.
Precious are your commands  more than gold, more than pure gold,
Perfect are your precepts: so I hate every wrong path.

129 – 136
Quite wonderful are your laws, and so I obey them.
Quick understanding is given to ordinary people by the teaching of your word.
Quenching my thirst with your commands, I open my mouth wide with expectation.
Quiet my heart with your mercy, as you are kind to everyone who loves your name.
Quickly guide my steps so I will not be overcome with evil.
Quell the oppression of evil people so that I can obey your commands.
Quietly smile at me and teach me your decrees.
Quickly, I break out into a storm of weeping when anyone disobeys you.

137 – 144
Righteous are you, Lord, and your laws are right,
Reliable and trustworthy in the extreme.
Reaching for your word, I am frustrated when my enemies neglect your teachings.
Reliable are your promises: that is why I love them,
Remembering your laws,  although I am lowly and despised.
Right, true and everlasting is your law.
Reacting under pressure and stress, your commands nevertheless delight me.
Rules made by you are always fair; help me understand them so that I may live.

145 – 152
Seeking you, Lord, I pray; please answer me.  I promise to obey your laws.
Save me,  so I can follow your rules.
Sunrise comes, but I have already prayed for your help, and I put my hope in what you have said.
Staying awake through the night, I think about your promise.
Show that you love me, Lord, and answer my prayer. Please do the right thing and save my life.
Schemes devised by the wicked, who are far from your law, are near.
 Still, you are near, Lord, and all your commands are trusted and TRUE.   
Studying your laws, I found out long ago  that you made them to last forever.

153 -  160
Turn your eyes to my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
Take my side! Argue my case! Protect my life as you promised.
The wicked are far from rescue, for they do not bother with your decrees.
Trusting in your rules and laws for my life, I ask for your great mercy on me.
Troubled and persecuted by many, I still keep your laws unswervingly.
Those unfaithful people who refuse to obey you are disgusting to me.
Turn you memory to how I love your laws,  and show your love for me  by keeping me safe.

True and trusted are all your words; all your teachings will last forever.

161 – 168
Unfounded are the reasons that powerful people harass me,  but my heart trembles only at your word.
Unswervingly, I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure.
Unchanging, I hate and detest falsehood  but I love your law.
Unendingly I praise you for your righteous laws.
Uncountable peace have those who love your law,  and nothing can make them stumble.
Unfailingly, I follow your commands, for you are my only hope.
Unfailingly, I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly.
Unfailingly, I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you.

169 – 176
Well may my cry be heard by you: give me the discerning mind you promised.
Well may you listen to my prayer; rescue me as you promised.
Willingly will praise flow from my lips, for you have taught me your decrees.
Willingly will my tongue sing about your word, for all your commands are right.
Wish to protect me, because I have chosen to obey your laws.
Waiting for you to save me, Lord, I am happy because of your Law.

Yet you will keep me alive, so I can praise you, and let me find help in your teachings.
Yes, I AM your servant, but I have wandered away like a lost sheep. Please come after me, because I have not forgotten your teachings.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Too much...refocus

There has been too much going on in my head and heart for so long that I am really becoming

So some good reminders of who I am and what I am here for today: to glorify God through prayer and purpose.

This song has been running through my head, as I try, intentionally, to take Sabbath rest.

Take time to be holy,
speak oft with thy Lord;
abide in him always,
and feed on his word.
Make friends of God's children,
help those who are weak,
forgetting in nothing
his blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy,
the world rushes on;
spend much time in secret
with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus,
like him thou shalt be;
thy friends in thy conduct
his likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy,
let him be thy guide,
and run not before him,
whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow,
still follow the Lord,
and, looking to Jesus,
still trust in his word.

Take time to be holy,
be calm in thy soul,
each thought and each motive
beneath his control.
Thus led by his spirit
to fountains of love,
thou soon shalt be fitted
for service above.

To be holy. To be other, to be set apart, to be focused.  These notes are from Louie Giglio's talk: 
Louie Giglio                    

We all need direction and confidence. We all need to rest and consider what God has done.

God wants to fill me and send me out for a purpose for HIS glory. This is the mission of God, the BIG dream, for my life.

Before God wants to send me to the ends of the earth, he wants me to look back at what God has done.  GOD CAME THROUGH!  Remember the old ways... the things God has done.

Remembering gives confidence that God HAS done it and will do in the future: prevents arrogance (I can do it myself) and fear (I can’t do it).

God is amazing. He neither slumbers nor sleeps – he is working in the background while we sleep.  We need to take a Sabbath: rest, trust, cease... to put the dream in Jesus’ hands.  Be still and know that I am God..

If God gives me a dream, he will give me what I need to accomplish it.  What God calls me to, God provides for...what God plans for, God pays for...

I just need to remember. Remember WHO God is, WHAT his purposes are. Remember To be holy. To be other, to be set apart, to be focused. Remember to take Sabbath rest and to refocus.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Waiting - helpful notes

Waiting : Alie Stibbe Day by Day With God 7th December 2014

Psalm 27                                              Seek His face
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord: be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Wanting things done quickly – out of a deep-seated sense of insecurity... if everything was ordered, in control and sorted out, then nothing could hurt.  BUT The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?...  If the Lord makes me wait, it si because he is working on thins ehind the scenes that I don’t need to know about:  BE STRONG: SEEK HIS FACE; WAIT.

Isaiah 40:27 – 31                               Latent strength
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings of eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.
Wait = ‘qavah’ – connations of strength and the tension felt during endurance. A rope has latent strength, not seen until it is used.
Mounting up, running and walking are like the three strands of a rope in action: accessing spiritual power, physical and mental stamina from God.

Psalm 130:1 – 5                                 There is waiting...and waiting  
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord: Lord, hear my voice...I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
Wait = ‘qavah’ – endurance through an extended period of soul-felt anguish.
v 5 ‘wait’ = ‘yachal’= hope, wait expectantly, trust... for God, to keep his word and be true to his character.
While we wait/endure in the Lord’s strength, we wait’trust that he will come through for us.

Psalm 130:6 -8                                   As sure as the sunrise
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning...
Hold on in there and watch in wonder: the darkenss will lighten in God’s good time.

Psalm 33                                              Timely delays
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope (yachal) is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope (chakah) for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Expectant waiting (yachal) needs the added knowledge of how to ‘tarry’ (chakah). To wait for God’s timing.

Psalm 37:1 – 9                                    Waiting in silence
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Wait = damam’ = be still, be silent.  Tarry silently, without grumbling...
Putting our concerns into the Lord’s hands and renewing our hope in him frees us up to live our day with our hearts and minds at rest, so that we can do the tasks that need our immediate attention positively and constructively.
Exodus 14:13 – 14  (at the Red Sea) do not be afraid..stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will brin g you today.. The Lord will fight for you: you need only to be still.

Psalm 38:9 – 16                                 The God who answers
All my longings lie open before you, Lord: my sighing is not hidden from you... Lord, I wait for You: you will answer, lord my God.
Put it all down in a journal...wait in loaded silence for the Lord...wait for his whisper.

Lamentations 3:24 – 33                  What are you waiting for?
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance: therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
Are my longings God’s intentions or my own? The human heart is ‘deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9)...nothing about the future is certain. The only certainties we have as we await are the promises in God’s word that pertain to his person and character.
When all is stripped away... the Lord is enough. He is sufficient and everything else is secondary.. So when you do not know what you are waiting for, wait for the Lord: he is and has eerything we need. We can be expectant about our future without knowing the details if we seek to stay close to him, and quietly trust that he has everything in hand.

Numbers 9:1 – 14                          Hold your horses
Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”
Wait = ‘amad’ = physically stand still.  “Stop right there!” – policeman with his hand up!
By waiting, the solution to our indignant complaint becomes clearer and the Lord’s will in the situation can be done.

Joshua 18:1 – 10                             Caught in the headlights
So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the god of your ancestors, has given you?”
Waiting can turn from being a spiritual discipline into an aspect of fear.  The Israelites were frightened to go into the promised land.
The reasons most people fail to take a course of action is fear: fear of failure, fear of being rejected, fear that something might not live up to what we expected, or fear of making the wrong decision.
If we don’t decide to make a move one way or another, like the rabbit sitting in the headlights, we are going to get squashed. It took courage for the spies to go into the promised land and surey what lay ahead.... Is the Lord encouraging you to look ahead and see what he has waiting for you if you had the courage at least to take a look?

Ruth 3                                                 Bottleneck moments
Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens.”
Remember this verse, when part of waiting on the Lord has involved depending on other people to make a decision or do something.
Wait = ‘yashab’ = to sit down, to dwell/have one’s abode.   We need to ‘dwell’, to set up camp in the presence of the Lord...abide in the Lord’s love, not in anxious thoughts.

Psalm 106:1 – 18                               Don’t have a goldfish brain
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them. They soon forgot his works: they waited not for his counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness...And (God) gave them their request: but sent leanness into their soul.
We forget... what God has already done and that the Lord kows the plans he has foer us and has promised us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)
If the Lord calls you to wait, do not hasten to drag the perceived endpoint to the place where you are: the result will almost certainly be leanness of soul or a degree of spiritual death. Tarry instead for the Lord’s blessing.

Isaiah 26:1 – 9                                  Obey while you wait
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
While waiting, be obedient: just keep on doing the right thing, one small step at a time, one day at a time.  Stay rested and concentrate – make sure I stay within his ways by doing the right thing while I wait.

Psalm 5                                              Wait deliberately
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice: in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Wait = ‘tsaphah’ like  a watchman from a tower, or like a prophet who looks out across time and sees the future as God revewals it to him. Also used of the noble wife who watches over the affairs of her household (Proverbs 31:27)
Meet with the Lord in the morning, not vacantly or routinely but to survey the day with eyes enlightened by his Holy Spirit, so that we can pray, be open to the Lord’s leading and plan effectively.

Intentional waiting prepares us for what the Lord has prepared for us so that everything we do ushers in his kingdom a little bit more.

Sunday, 16 August 2015


Bob Rasmussen shared this powerful image of grief....

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Words of wisdom to remember

Some words of wisdom - oh, to remember this when I need it!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Not being perfect

Just come across a promo for this book:
Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You by Amy Carroll

Looks good.

Trying to be perfect is the biggest lie there is: only God is perfect, and we try to be God! I find this perfectionism rears its ugly head in so many areas of my life, in subtle, seemingly insignificant ways. One of the worst is in any kind of conflict, whether with people, ideas of how I look, how I spend my time...deep inside is a desire to 'get it right' and that colours my choices and responses.

The ONLY remedy I have found for this is to recognise this desire to be perfect for the ugliness it is and remind myself that I can only 'be' perfect because of Jesus. He sees me for who I am and loves me anyway: I don't have to DO or BE anything except the best I can. And that, though definitely not perfect, is definitely Good Enough. If I'm Good Enough for God, I can be Good Enough for me!

And, when paralysed by an attack of perfectionism, I rather like this advice.

Everything Is Awful and I'm Not Okay: questions to ask myself when I'm down.

Are you hydrated? If not, have a glass of water. 

Have you eaten in the past three hours? If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs. Perhaps some nuts or hummus? 

Have you showered in the past day? If not, take a shower right now. 

Have you stretched your legs in the past day? If not, do so right now. If you don’t have the energy for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please. If the weather’s bad, drive to a big store  and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip. 

Have you said something nice to someone in the past day? Do so, whether online or in person. Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it. 

Have you moved your body to music in the past day? If not, dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song. 

Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days? If not, do so. Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets. Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them. 

If daytime: are you dressed? If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas. Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress. 

If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep? Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed. If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure. 

Do you feel ineffective? Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip. Good job! 

Do you feel unattractive? Take a goddamn selfie. Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll help fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like. 

Do you feel paralyzed by indecision? Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day. If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable. Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial. 

Have you over-exerted yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually? That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment. 

Have you waited a week? Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause. It happens. Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then. You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through. You are stronger than you think. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Is this all? NO!

An old school friend died recently. She was just a few months older than I am and would have celebrated her 61st birthday just two weeks after her death. It wasn't totally unexpected - she had been battling breast cancer for nearly 18 months - but it WAS sudden. She was taken ill and died just 17 hours later.

I knew she had cancer: her Christmas letter had mentioned it in amusing detail; but I thought, from the tone of the letter, that she was in the clear.

Evidently, she wasn't.

I didn't contact her. We were, by now, only on Christmas letter terms. That doesn't stop me from contacting other friends who I only hear from every year, should the news warrant it, but this time I didn't.

One ugly reason played a part in this. A small part - the main part was busyness and no sense of urgency. We weren't close - hadn't met, in fact, for 15 years. We lived far apart - to meet would have entailed planning and travelling and intention, and neither of us pushed to do any of those things. We still kept in touch, as old friends often do, but few of our group of friends ever met up.

The unspoken reason - for not meeting and for not writing - is the immense spiritual division between us. I am a Christian, trying hard to follow Jesus as closely as I can; she was an avowed atheist/agnostic. I had the conversation years ago and I knew that spiritual questions did not figure largely in her life.

The 'Order of Proceedings' at her funeral hammered this home to me. There were tributes; a poem; a song to listen to; a welcome. But no encouraging Bible reading, let alone the sign of a hymn or a prayer. Nothing. No sense of hope. No sense that there is more to this life than just the eating and drinking and merry-making. No glimmer that Jesus is standing beyond the grave, longing to welcome us to his home. Just a sense of emptiness and sadness and a focus on what was not, rather than what would be. A focus on the empty space rather than anticipation for the future.

This sadness has reflected the uneasiness in my soul every time I have thought of my dear friend. A knowledge that there was a huge gap in belief between us.

While a sense of spirituality, of seeking meaning to life beyond the here and now, was absent, what did feature in her life was fun. I have just received a copy of the loving tributes which her two daughters paid to their mother. She was a warm, friendly, colourful, creative fun-loving woman who was highly intelligent, a marvellous cook, a dedicated gardener and a determined education-seeker. She had several degrees, learned the piano as an adult and took up teaching late - she must have been well into her fifties when she did so. She had travelled all over the world. Her leaving this life will undoubtedly leave a large, large gap.

Much that happened in my friend's life was owed to her husband's high salary and a comfortable lifestyle which gave them many adventures and luxuries. Often, she was not able to work, so pursued studying and socialising, learning to make friends easily. There were no money worries, the children went to private school and were privileged - though not, I think, spoilt - in many ways. Life was for living and she was able to squeeze the last drops out of it.

Over the years, I sensed she thought me foolish in my beliefs. After all, giving money away - a core tenet of Christianity, which teaches us to hold our possessions lightly - is counter-intuitive to the world and means a lower standard of living, however you interpret that. But above all, my focus was so different from hers. It put a huge wedge between us.

And so I look at her life - so full, so rich in friends and family and the pleasures of this earth. I think of many other lives, not least friends in Africa, whose lives are full too. Full of friends and family and of struggling to care for themselves and others. Who is to say that hers was a 'better' life? It was the only one she had and she lived it to the full as best she could.

But is that really the best? I think of another friend who died a year ago; who managed her death so beautifully, thinking only of her sons and husband and family, so giving and cheerful to the end. I think of her funeral - fiercely humanistic, as she had lived for so much of her life. Many of the songs and readings - meant to be uplifting, I am sure  - were anything but, serving only to highlight her absence and the sorrow she left behind.

Yet in her last weeks and days, she turned to God. She had conversations with the curate, a friend whose daughter was a her son's classmate. She received anointing some hours before she died. And so in that service, led by the curate of our parish church, were many glimpses of true hope: the prayers, the readings...and every time the name of Jesus was mentioned, my spirits lightened as his name touched me,  reminding me that there is indeed life beyond this life, that Jesus the man was Jesus God who demonstrated that he has power over death, that he has the whole world in his hands and that in his company there will be no sorrow or mourning or tears or death.

So...I am sad that my friend appears to have rejected Jesus, to have lived her life for herself, her friends and her family, commendable though that is. I feel sad that I do not know how to talk to her husband about this hope we have within us, a hope that would transform his grief, his life...

And I am sad that, in the end, it is our wrong choices which determine our destiny. I determine to pray for my friends and colleagues, wonderful people though they are, who seem determined to squeeze the cloth of life dry. And I ask for strength and courage to speak, to write, to love in the way that Jesus would.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Not looking, but...

Not looking (at the moment, anyway) but found some good articles on what to look for in a church: one by Kenny Silva "How to Find a Church: Seven Things to Look for in a Good Church (Acts 2:42–47)"
"Exercise some discernment in evaluating whether that is a faithful community in which you would like to be a member.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. — Acts 2:42–47"

This helps me, when I find myself becoming frustrated with lack of commitment from the other church 'members' - because, actually, they may not be 'members' but 'attenders'. Different.
"The local church should be a place that loves and serves the community regardless of whether they profess Christianity or not.

That said, when we talk about a believing membership in the local church, we’re not talking about the people who attend that specific church or are served by its ministries. The people we’re talking about are the covenant members of that church. These are the people who have sacrificially, emotionally, financially, and spiritually “bought in” to that church and what it’s doing for the kingdom.

Wise advice, worth coming back to.

Biblical Literacy

Just come across a brilliant website resource - Biblical Literacy.  Here is just one of the resources: looking at JB Phillips' book Your God is Too Small in our modern world.

"...the basic ideas that are worthy of greater reflection and contemplation. They set forward God as great and grand, a God who is not simply a port where we hide in a storm, but a God who teaches us how to endure the storms around us with confidence and joy in his ability to quell those storms in his good time."

  • "As a man, God showed himself in ways we would never see otherwise. God (Jesus) was not a super-mystic holy man who seemed ethereal and otherworldly. Nor was Jesus the same run-of-the-mill person we find on the street. He was a real man, but one of truth, goodness, and beauty (not beauty of appearance, but of character). Jesus exhibited the actions that correspond to those traits: 
  •  He challenged the current values of those around him. 
  • He probed for people’s motives over simple focus on their actions. 
  • He insisted on real human values in the ways we treat each other. 
  • He endorsed the search for truth. 
  • He endorsed a love for all people. 
  • He suffered conflict with stale and false religion. 
  • He called people to God

Friday, 5 June 2015 time of grief

I don't know this lady - she is the friend of a friend on facebook - but this is what shes writes, after the death of her husband: "Sheryl Sandberg with Dave Goldberg
Today is the end of sheloshim for my beloved husband—the first thirty days. Judaism calls for a period of intense mourning known as shiva that lasts seven days after a loved one is buried. After shiva, most normal activities can be resumed, but it is the end of sheloshim that marks the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.
A childhood friend of mine who is now a rabbi recently told me that the most powerful one-line prayer he has ever read is: “Let me not die while I am still alive.” I would have never understood that prayer before losing Dave. Now I do.
I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well.
But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.
And this is why I am writing: to mark the end of sheloshim and to give back some of what others have given to me. While the experience of grief is profoundly personal, the bravery of those who have shared their own experiences has helped pull me through. Some who opened their hearts were my closest friends. Others were total strangers who have shared wisdom and advice publicly. So I am sharing what I have learned in the hope that it helps someone else. In the hope that there can be some meaning from this tragedy.
I have lived thirty years in these thirty days. I am thirty years sadder. I feel like I am thirty years wiser.
I have gained a more profound understanding of what it is to be a mother, both through the depth of the agony I feel when my children scream and cry and from the connection my mother has to my pain. She has tried to fill the empty space in my bed, holding me each night until I cry myself to sleep. She has fought to hold back her own tears to make room for mine. She has explained to me that the anguish I am feeling is both my own and my children’s, and I understood that she was right as I saw the pain in her own eyes.
I have learned that I never really knew what to say to others in need. I think I got this all wrong before; I tried to assure people that it would be okay, thinking that hope was the most comforting thing I could offer. A friend of mine with late-stage cancer told me that the worst thing people could say to him was “It is going to be okay.” That voice in his head would scream, How do you know it is going to be okay? Do you not understand that I might die? I learned this past month what he was trying to teach me. Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, “You and your children will find happiness again,” my heart tells me, Yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, “You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good” comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple “How are you?”—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with “How are you today?” When I am asked “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am? When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.
I have learned some practical stuff that matters. Although we now know that Dave died immediately, I didn’t know that in the ambulance. The trip to the hospital was unbearably slow. I still hate every car that did not move to the side, every person who cared more about arriving at their destination a few minutes earlier than making room for us to pass. I have noticed this while driving in many countries and cities. Let’s all move out of the way. Someone’s parent or partner or child might depend on it.
I have learned how ephemeral everything can feel—and maybe everything is. That whatever rug you are standing on can be pulled right out from under you with absolutely no warning. In the last thirty days, I have heard from too many women who lost a spouse and then had multiple rugs pulled out from under them. Some lack support networks and struggle alone as they face emotional distress and financial insecurity. It seems so wrong to me that we abandon these women and their families when they are in greatest need.
I have learned to ask for help—and I have learned how much help I need. Until now, I have been the older sister, the COO, the doer and the planner. I did not plan this, and when it happened, I was not capable of doing much of anything. Those closest to me took over. They planned. They arranged. They told me where to sit and reminded me to eat. They are still doing so much to support me and my children.
I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.
For me, starting the transition back to work has been a savior, a chance to feel useful and connected. But I quickly discovered that even those connections had changed. Many of my co-workers had a look of fear in their eyes as I approached. I knew why—they wanted to help but weren’t sure how. Should I mention it? Should I not mention it? If I mention it, what the hell do I say? I realized that to restore that closeness with my colleagues that has always been so important to me, I needed to let them in. And that meant being more open and vulnerable than I ever wanted to be. I told those I work with most closely that they could ask me their honest questions and I would answer. I also said it was okay for them to talk about how they felt. One colleague admitted she’d been driving by my house frequently, not sure if she should come in. Another said he was paralyzed when I was around, worried he might say the wrong thing. Speaking openly replaced the fear of doing and saying the wrong thing. One of my favorite cartoons of all time has an elephant in a room answering the phone, saying, “It’s the elephant.” Once I addressed the elephant, we were able to kick him out of the room.
At the same time, there are moments when I can’t let people in. I went to Portfolio Night at school where kids show their parents around the classroom to look at their work hung on the walls. So many of the parents—all of whom have been so kind—tried to make eye contact or say something they thought would be comforting. I looked down the entire time so no one could catch my eye for fear of breaking down. I hope they understood.
I have learned gratitude. Real gratitude for the things I took for granted before—like life. As heartbroken as I am, I look at my children each day and rejoice that they are alive. I appreciate every smile, every hug. I no longer take each day for granted. When a friend told me that he hates birthdays and so he was not celebrating his, I looked at him and said through tears, “Celebrate your birthday, goddammit. You are lucky to have each one.” My next birthday will be depressing as hell, but I am determined to celebrate it in my heart more than I have ever celebrated a birthday before.
I am truly grateful to the many who have offered their sympathy. A colleague told me that his wife, whom I have never met, decided to show her support by going back to school to get her degree—something she had been putting off for years. Yes! When the circumstances allow, I believe as much as ever in leaning in. And so many men—from those I know well to those I will likely never know—are honoring Dave’s life by spending more time with their families.
I can’t even express the gratitude I feel to my family and friends who have done so much and reassured me that they will continue to be there. In the brutal moments when I am overtaken by the void, when the months and years stretch out in front of me endless and empty, only their faces pull me out of the isolation and fear. My appreciation for them knows no bounds.
I was talking to one of these friends about a father-child activity that Dave is not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave. I want option A.” He put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”
Dave, to honor your memory and raise your children as they deserve to be raised, I promise to do all I can to kick the shit out of option B. And even though sheloshim has ended, I still mourn for option A. I will always mourn for option A. As Bono sang, “There is no end to grief . . . and there is no end to love.” I love you, Dave."
Sheryl Sandberg with Dave Goldberg