Monday, 28 October 2013

When a cup feels too heavy to bear

Life has a deep well for us to drink from. We have cups of joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, hope and despair, health and sickness.

For more years than I care to remember (around 25 supplies my ever-helpful brain), I have drunk from the cup of sickness and found it a bitter one to swallow at times, especially as pain and infirmity are increasing.

Harder than the one of sorrow and shame? Maybe not, just different in its unrelenting nature. And human sorrows can be eclipsed by moments of joy and gladness. 

Shame often seeks to shroud and cloak me again, but I can shrug it off with greater success than before. I have a mantle of grace over me that is large enough to cover all. 

Jesus laid aside His divinity to take on the fullness of humanity in a body just like ours. He felt pain, weakness and fatigue. He thirsted, grew hungry, knew what it was to drink a cup of betrayal, rejection, pain and shame as He hung on the cross.

In the garden of Gethsemane He sought to have this cup pass by Him, aware of all it would cost to become the embodiment of sin for us.

He took the cup. He held it close and willingly drank every last drop. For you and for me. Jesus surrendered self in order to release us all from self-driven living.

I have not held a Communion cup for months. Nor drunk its contents. Nor fellowshipped with head bowed, bread crumbled, chewed and eaten, sharing life, sharing grace, sharing hope.

Being housebound has meant church is everywhere, and nowhere specific.

I fellowship by TV, by the Internet, by having only the companionship of my beloved beside me.

Joining in with TV church and missing being community with my home church.

And I feel I am needing to be reminded of that cup once more. Like one parched dry, I seek to gulp down every drop of Christian teaching I can get my hands on.

Soak in all the friendship and fellowship I crave.

But I need more. 

I need the life-blood. I need Christ poured out as drink offering brought to my conscious mind. I need to grasp with hand and heart the sweet communion of saints and all we share as His redeemed.

For Christ gave his life for me. He overcame the darkness so that I don't have to live swallowed up by it any more. I can embrace a life free from shame. Sickness and pain don't fit who I am either, but they will only be finally defeated as the kingdom comes in all its fullness when Christ returns.

We live with confusion. With mystery. With unanswered questions. 

With hope in the midst of helplessness. With light and grace to steer us through shadowlands.

For now, the cup of sorrow, shame and pain willingly swallowed by my Lord is one I want to recognise, hold to me, lift with others in unity, drink gratefully.

In the sharing of our stories, our sorrows and shame, in the voicing of our weaknesses, our frailty, our woundedness, there is a lifting up, carrying of weight, bearing of loads that lighten with many hands to hold and support. A body made stronger by each part being grace for the other for those times when a cup feels too heavy to bear.

There is joy in knowing we are not alone; we have help, we share life, we share pain.

"When you dig another out of their troubles, you will find a place to bury your own" ~ Anon

in time to come we will share the joy of all needs met in Christ.

This may have been a particularly trying phase with the M.E and allied chronic sickness that is my lot, the cup I have to endure, swallow down - yet, I would gladly go through it all again if it brings me a deeper heart awareness of my Saviour's sacrifice.

Our greatest trials have a surprising thread of joy running through them. Our needs drive us to greater dependence on God, and there is fullness of joy to be found in His presence as we rest and become refreshed once more.

I will have better days. I will write more fluently and eloquently. I will think more clearly.

"I won't give up, shut up, let up or slow up" ~ Robert Moorehead

I already have the best Companion of all to bring life to my hopes and dreams, endurance and perseverance through aches and pains, sweet communion of friendship beyond measure. For Jesus drank deep of sorrow, sin and shame so that the cup emptied became a cup of salvation, life eternal and resurrection joy for us all.

We come empty to Him for re-fuelling, dry for refreshing, hungry for the manna that feeds and satisfies, drained and weary for His life-giving energy and grace enabling us to go on for one more day.

So, battle-scarred and oh so weary as I am, I choose to hold my cup, lift it to my lips, breathe deep of His Spirit, imbibe great draughts of grace, and drink...willingly... at least for today.

"God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas, but for scars" ~ Anon


Have you had circumstances in your life that have been hard to swallow?

What enabled you to endure them?

Please feel free to share in the comments below. I love to read and reply to them.

Linking here with Joan for 'Sharing His Beauty' 

and with Jennifer for #TellHisStory

**NOTE** - I am delighted to announce that the winner of a free copy of 'The Wall Around Your Heart' by Mary de Muth is - Anne Peterson. A copy will be on its way to her as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone who took part.

Friday, 18 October 2013

When walls need to come down

Watching a light of recognition dawn in his eyes, I breathed easy for the first time in days, though I knew we still had a long way to go in our understanding of one another's perspectives.

Pictures from the past were drawn in varied shades and hues. Neither of us saw exactly the same image on the screens of our minds.

As streams emerging from the same Source, we had every expectation of converging together in a river of reflection; instead, we meandered tangentially into rivulets of our own making.

How had we arrived here? Barriers were breaking and walls crumbling before our very eyes.

Conversation crept into those private places where we feared to tread. And I heeded these words, "We tend to wall off our hearts in the aftermath of pain".

The prison we know can feel safer than freedom as its walls close round us with comforting familiarity.

After 38 years wedded and bedded, we were gradually becoming more emotionally intimate than ever before about our sexual intimacy.

While my beloved had viewed our courtship and surrender to one another through seemingly rosy-tinted lenses, I wore such dark glasses they had obscured all truth as he saw it.

Now, I had to refresh my vision and version of events as seen by one who had transferred much of the guilt from the childhood emotional and sexual abuse she received on to the very person she should have trusted most.

I was discovering more about how "we can live in reaction to a negative relational experience and eventually stagnate, or we can ask God to compel us forward to a kingdom goal".

Retreating into my own worldview wasn't helping me to see or accept my husband's. I had to dare risk being wrong, or misguided at least. "When we're hurt we tend to retreat, nurse wounds, or lash out" and I had done all three. 

How would it look to "turn to God in praise instead?" or is that too much to ask of a heart at war with itself? Maybe. Though "eventually we have to choose to move forward".

This marriage had been cluttered from the start. Perhaps now it was time to shift the luggage, send past thoughts and fears packing and begin with a lighter load?

For past relational baggage "should not define us, nor should the pain from it inform the way we interact with or withdraw from others" because it "strangles our ability to live freely today".

As I begin to embrace a fresh perspective, asking God to renew my mind by the light of His word, making a conscious choice to move forward rather than cling to familiar, He is giving me all the grace I need to see things as He sees them - and it is good.

I want to break free. I want to live an uncaged, open-hearted life. To live, love and give as God desires me to as wife and lover, mother (and grandma-to-be), friend and helper to others.

And in the process, "living without walls means becoming more proactive in the way we deal with hurt" which can only serve to aid with healing those broken places in our hearts and lives.

So what are we to do?

With all quotes given here coming from Mary de Muth's just released book, 'The Wall Around Your Heart', I will answer with her words of wisdom:

"If you have a wall firmly built around your heart, ask Jesus, the great gateway, to make a doorway through. He is the gate. He is the avenue leading toward a rich and satisfying life - not a stingy walled-off life".

I have been greatly helped in seeing walls beginning to crumble in my own life since I've read, digested and prayed over this book, asked God to come into the situations and make me willing to allow Him access to all areas.

I am still very much a work in progress, but some way on from where I used to be. My growing awareness of these walls can be found here.

And I long for you to be set free too, my friend. A walled-in life is one of misery and a walling-off from the liberty which Christ died to give us.
"If therefore the Son makes you free, you are free indeed" ~ John 8:36
Because I strongly believe in the reality of being set free in Christ, and the way Mary de Muth's message can aid in the process of becoming free and living a life without walls, I am giving away a free copy of 'The Wall Around Your Heart' here.

All you have to do to be in with a chance is to leave a comment below and your name will be put into a random draw, with the winner being announced here soon after.

To find out more about why Mary wrote 'The Wall Around Your Heart' (speaking from her own and the experiences of others) and why she desires us to live without walls, please click here.

**NOTE** - Having been privileged to read a pre-release copy of this book and be part of its launch team, I can wholeheartedly recommend it on a personal basis.

You can buy a copy here in the UK or if you live elsewhere you can buy it here. It is also available from Barnes & Noble.

Linking here with Laura at Missional Women Faith Filled Friday


Maybe there are walls in your own life that need to come down? They could be walls of:guilt, shame, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, resentment, or _____ (fill in the blank)

Could this be the time to co-operate with God and see those walls crumble brick by brick to release you into a more open-hearted way of life? 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A labour of love

I watch the Philosopher move rhythmically with his sleeves rolled up, hands kneading dough with practised movements, swaying and singing loud (considerately wearing his headphones due to my M.E hypersensitive hearing) as he listens to Dragonforce's 'Sonic Firestorm' album.

Faint whispers reach me of 'My spirit will go on' and 'Fury of the storm' blasting his ears, the two tracks conveniently serving as optimum stretching time.

And I marvel yet again at how relatively few minutes hard labour, coupled with several hours of waiting, of course, will give birth to a new rising of heavenly scented, mixed ochre-and-umber-tinged loaves bursting with goodness.

Bread-making is both art and science. A labour of love. A miracle of nature.

Even if he began the craft in an effort to economically appease the fussy particularity of his wife, it has become a real pleasure to him as anticipation mounts over how this batch will turn out.

For it isn't always the same. Much can disrupt the end result. 

On a bad mood day, the bread resists all efforts to come out well as it appears to absorb his feelings or fall victim to neglect and forgetfulness.

A happy day produces happy loaves rising smooth, high and steady, tasting as good as they look.

Isn't that the way things can be for us all?

We have days where our interest, concentration and focus are caught up effortlessly in attending to the Living Bread that is Christ. Such days flow with an ease and grace which feel restful.

And there are others where we are seemingly indifferent and life can treat us much the same.

Yet God's word is our daily food and sustenance,an essential part of a healthy spiritual diet. We grow weak without its nutritious nourishment filling our souls, appearing satiated on the outside yet dying of malnutrition within.

Where are we looking to be filled? Are we reliant on people approval, page views, comments, stats, followers, opinions that resound with our own, compliments, cheering and crowd pleasing?

Are we feeding ourselves on Facebook 'likes', twitter messages, Klout scores, our social media platforms? If so, then we risk facing alternate days of feasting and famine as attention is paid to us, or not as the case may be.

Or do we sit with open, receptive hearts, come empty to the throne of grace, shutting out all else and focusing on God alone as we await our daily supply?

Sadly, not always. I have been sleeping in many mornings lately as M.E and SAD contribute to make me lethargic and sleep heavy. And I was upset at first to miss my time with the Lord that had been carved out since January, 'Jesus Calling', bible, notepad and pen at the ready.

It was more than a habit. I craved and needed this space to feel sane in a world that soon spun me sideways. It didn't feel right to rush headlong into hurry.

And I was all the sweeter to be around for taking that time to spend with God. 

Irritability sits close with pain and fatigue for me.

Even so, God gave me special grace to see that His plan for me on those long slumber days included getting better rest and not to beat myself up over it. 

For I was in danger of making the routine a ritual not to be broken, an idol perhaps.

Then more days passed. I no longer worried if I missed my special mornings with God; after all, He wasn't giving me a hard time over it, was He?

Apathy is a close bedfellow to adaptation. How easily we fall prey to it.

Soon, it became clear... this wasn't about routine, habit, pleasing God or pleasing myself... this was about losing something infinitely precious.

In missing and not making up the shortfall, I was desperately hungry on the inside, hungry for God's companionship, hungry for His wisdom, hungry for His insight and inspiration, hungry most of all for His Love wrapping me close before other things caught attention and closed my mind to Him.

Now, my heart longs to chase after the staff of life as found in Christ. My soul craves Life.

Even as my natural heart's desire may be sleep, more sleep please.... as I seek after God's heart I know all my basic needs will be fully met in Him.

In spite of being able to read the Bible at other times of day, and pray whenever I want to, it can all fall flat for me if I haven't connected with Him before I connect with the rest of life.

Without daily ingestion, manna grows stale, mouldy, hard and crusty.

Our lives revolve around giving out to people and things. It can leave us empty vessels, dry husks of no help to ourselves or anyone else.

How can we give of our best if we lack vital communication with our Life-line, a daily supply of grace, moments spent resting on our Rock, leaning, being strengthened, being nourished in order to break off manna for others?

God will ensure that all is used for His purposes. Not a crumb is wasted.

Next to knowing Him in close friendship and intimacy, all else pales into insignificance and leaves us feeling famished again unless we feast at His table once more.

As yeast bubbles in the bowl signalling new life to come, may we bubble over with Holy Spirit anointing that spills over into the lives of others, and rise as living examples of God's grace and provision to feed, sustain and nourish in every good work.


Linking here (rather later than intended) with the lovely Kelli Woodford for #concretewords where we seek to write out spirit from the abstract. This week's prompt is:'Bread'

You are very welcome and warmly invited to join in.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The faceless ones

Sadly those who are too sick to work have to contend with issues of shame. 

In a society where we are "framed, boxed, categorised, sifted, found wanting in society's eyes" as I wrote about in the poem here, we experience deep frustration at being pigeon-holed and stigmatised.

It all impacts our lives adversely, affecting our relationships and connections with others.

For instance, on the rare occasions when I am alone downstairs in the house and have to answer the door during a late morning/afternoon/evening period in my nightclothes, wearing  bed-head hair, a dazed, sleepy expression and a veneer of embarrassment; I either say nothing (for such a state is normal to those who know me) or mumble something like, "Please excuse me, I'm unwell today" to those I don't.

Then I hasten to close the door as fast as possible to avoid curious stares from neighbours or passers-by who may wonder what they are seeing. I just want them to understand I am sick rather than lazy.

Does it always take a stick or wheelchair to convince people we are ill?......

I'd love you to come on over and read the rest at my friend Mia's blog where I am delighted to be guest posting today..She is a fellow M.E and chronic illness sufferer and a beautiful person with a heart to help others who are struggling.