Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Out of darkness

I sense my soul leaning toward the light as I sit in situations of struggle.

Stretched yearningly like a plant desperate for its source of warmth and nourishment.

And I'm encouraged by things stirring in the muddy undergrowth, tentatively appearing as signs of life in dark places.

Sun's rays are starting to steal bright across azure-blue of sky and hope's fingers reach for better tomorrows.

Because we're built for this. To lean toward the light. Made for mercy and grace. Destined for different. 

Children of darkness weaving our wobbly way toward light-filled days.

Our souls seeking after salvation, resurrection and restoration.

Our inner needs lie dormant as seed, waiting for their moment to erupt and burst forth.

God sees. He hears the unspoken cries of hurting hearts and witnesses the fall of tears.

Our heavenly Father longs to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness we inhabit and scoop us eagerly into His Kingdom of Love and Light... if we're willing. 

There are days where I sit with one foot in the world and one in His kingdom.

Hover on the brink, fear-filled and uncertain, weary and wary. Knowing the way to proceed but still tempted by the deceptive lure of worldly riches.

I crave acceptance like an addict.

I desire to achieve. 

I want to leave a footprint of my passing.

I long to belong.

And I so often search for it in all the wrong places.

Think that the world's approval is a sign of arriving - when it signals my soul is dying.

I'm dying to be seen and heard, but above all I'm dying for God's word.

Being ignored feeds our insecurities, fans the fear.

Being side-lined reminds us how insignificant we think we are.

But being 'invisible' in the world doesn't make us invisible to God. Far from it.

Because we're always significant to Him.

Only God can fully nourish a hungry, hurting heart.

He alone will fill and flood an empty soul.

He alone has compassion to meet every human need.

He equips us to live well and to die well in the reassurance of His goodness and grace.

And He alone will enable us to leave a lasting legacy behind:
  • Gifts of grace
  • Cords of compassion
  • Deeds of mercy
  • Echoes of His love
  • Encouragement and hope
  • A witness to lost souls
  • A testimony of love overcoming against the odds
But we first have to be willing to ditch the darkness in our own souls.

Willing to face up to our need of God - His grace, forgiveness and mercy.

Willing to be made new, be born again.

Willing to move closer in dependency, in good times or bad, ever nearer to Him.

Willing to sacrifice our own agendas.

Willing to surrender to His plans.

Willing to live out our faith day by day.

Willing to make a difference in the lives of others.

Live as obedient children of God in a perverse world as He slowly transforms us into the likeness of His beloved Son, little by little, from the inside out.

It's a steep learning curve. The biggest one we ever negotiate. And it will take the rest of our lives to live it out.

But its rewards are exceptional and eternal. Its worth beyond compare.

Can you sense God calling you?

Are you ready to come into the Light of His presence?

If so, then here's a prayer to help you surrender and commit to Jesus anew, or for the first time perhaps:

Do let me know if you have prayed this type of surrender prayer for the first time and I will send you extra resources to guide you on your journey of faith in Christ.

It's a journey I've been on for all my adult life, and one where we really value and need the companionship of others to support and encourage one another along the way.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

I'm linking here with Holley, Jennifer, and like-minded friends as we seek to offer coffee for your heart while we tell His story. Come join us?

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

On holy ground

Evidence of life was springing up all around.

I breathed deep of scent and sight.

My heart cheered by colour and lively vibrancy growing root beside me.

And on reaching the entrance to our meeting room the atmosphere hung heady with incense.

A holy cloud seemed to hover in the air, signalling mystery and invitation, its message mingling with soft smoke-curls wafting out the window.

I hesitated in the doorway and was soon met with a warm, welcoming hug and friendly smile.

We were ushered into the room where preparations were already in hand.

Little did I know how participatory the service would be, or how much it would both exhaust and exhilarate me.

My eyes were drawn to an intriguing array of musical instruments on the floor, alongside books, sheets of paper, artwork, cup and bowl at the ready to play their part.

Anticipatory excitement and nerves shot through me.

It had been way too long since I'd met with other believers like this.

It had felt like grace abounding to be able to make it out to an evening talk (on Hildegard of Bingen)  held there two days previously.

Little did I expect to be blessed to attend this Eucharist service too, partly helped by my husband's gentle persistence and assistance, and a better sleep than usual.

Two years ago, I had been offered a quiet, individual holy communion in my room by a priest when I was on retreat at All Hallows, Ditchingham.

It's been longer still since having bread and wine at my home church, because having M.E means fellowship has become more of an on-line occurrence than being physically present with others gathering together in God's presence.

Here, we read together, learnt new songs, sang (I croaked) unaccompanied, hummed (out of tune), played an instrument of our choice (I picked maracas) to a sung poem, shared art work some had done the day before, served one another bread and wine, offered praise, gave responses and a concluding peace blessing.

I sat as usual, my limbs not up to the task of rising and standing, and the more able-bodied made sure I was included in everything.

These days, attempting singing alone (even while seated) leaves me worn-out and breathless, and to have so many different things to join in with left me flat-out with fatigue as things came to a close.

Tears pricked my eyes; I didn't try to hide them. They felt fitting and releasing somehow.

I cried because... it was so overwhelming to be part of a worshipping community again, to participate in holy communion, to feel loved and accepted by soul-sister relative strangers, to unleash creative expression.

I had no strength left for anything else, could barely speak for the effort. Needed time to drink some water, wait a while and recover before I could articulate what had made me emotional.

And I sensed a touch from God as words spoken in a reading resonated in my soul.

God reminded me that I was precious to Him just as I am, and although the locusts may have stolen years and health, my latter days could be more fruitful than the former - yes, even now, late as I am to pick up a pen, master a PC, open heart and life to offer hope and encouragement to others who are struggling.

As those who have walked a challenging, painful path before me could attest, these latter years can be our best yet because we finally think, "Why not?" instead of "Why me?"

Why not... write a blog, write poetry, belong to on-line communities, join in, get involved, stand up for something you feel passionate about, be generous, be compassionate, encourage, make a difference in the lives of others?

My outing revealed how little it actually takes to make me feel truly blessed (and weary), and how thankful I am for the rare occasions when I can leave the house and enjoy meeting up with people.

Just seeing the landscape unfurling before me on the drive there was a thing of wonder. Beauty wears many faces.

Holy ground is all around because God is everywhere in the normal, run-of-the-mill, prosaic and practical everyday.

Sometimes, all it takes is a special gift of grace for us to appreciate just how much He inhabits the mundane moments which we are all in danger of taking for granted.

My friend, I pray that you may sense Him in those times, hear His voice affirming His great, unconditional love for you, and open your heart to the holy ache of ordinary.

**NOTE** ~ As so often happens, first thoughts about this experience were poetic because that's my usual medium for quick expression. You can read my poem here on 'Poetry Joy'.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

You're not invisible

If someone told you you're not invisible would you cringe with embarrassment and look for the nearest hole to hide in, or sigh with relief?

Much depends on what you want known or what you desire to hide.

In this over-exposed world we live in, where every celebrity sneeze is recorded and all our achievements (and the lack thereof) are public property, it's hard to melt into the margins unless we work at being separate and seek ways to come apart from the crowd.

Although, from time to time all of us can feel like ghost-shadows passing in the street as we hover around with no discernible sign of our presence being found.

Social media works fine if you want to be sociable, although it's possible to feel more isolated than ever as we get snared in the comparison trap, checking our lifestyles with one another and seeing how we fall short of the perceived ideal.

Healthy interest can soon become snide comparison, envy and jealousy.

And many feel invisible, lost and alone with their shame, pain, illness and distress. They don't desire to be ignored, yet often are.

Society has a way of stigmatising and labelling people which fails to take into account their unique human perspective, struggles and challenges.

But they are human beings just like you and me - made in God's image, precious and beloved in His sight.

They actually want nothing more than the right kind of attention:understanding and appreciation, a friendly listening ear, consideration, thoughtful and loving care.

God sees, hears, witnesses all we go through, all we are and all we're in the process of becoming. He knows our life's end from its beginning.

He extends grace and mercy toward all, especially the down-trodden, disabled, despised, destitute, discouraged and depressed.

And that's good news, isn't it? It's gospel news - liberating, life-changing and transforming.

Each moment is an opportunity to begin again.

Every day is a fresh breathing space of grace.

Our situations may remain the same; life may be a tremendous struggle just to keep head above water - and we still have this to cling to.

We are outrageously, unconditionally and mercifully loved by One who knows us better than we know ourselves, whose Spirit lives and breathes within, whose mantle of righteousness covers every stain of sin, guilt and shame.

My friend, you are not invisible to Him. Every hair on your head is counted. He doesn't miss a thing about you.

I've clung to these truths in my daily battle with M.E and chronic illness, living a life overshadowed by childhood abuse and its repercussions, experiencing profound physical weakness, pain and fatigue.

I'm aware that many misunderstand my illness, fail to see how writing a blog post may be the only active thing I can do in a day and how a simple task like taking a shower can leave me pole-axed for hours.

They may also shrink away from the painful personal things I've shared and fail to see how God equips and inspires my words to help others feel less alone with their own struggles.

Because we're all too quick to judge one another rather than stepping inside their shoes with eyes of empathy and compassion, aren't we? 

I'm not exempt. Insecurity can make me cling to what's familiar and shy away from different.

What if we tried to see others as God sees them?

How would it be if we made an effort:

To listen closely without interruption or planning what we're going to say next.

To offer time and attention.

To withhold from judgement and criticism.

To be kind.

To notice their needs.

To offer grace, forgiveness and mercy.

To pray for them and with them.

To recognise that we're all in a battle and other people are not the real enemy.

To lean heavy on grace and lightly on guilt-tripping.

To be the voice, the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Maybe... just maybe... we will offer His visibility and help them see how He sees them too. It's worth a try, yes? 

And as we do so we will find how deep down, at soul level, we are more alike than we knew.