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Archive for the ‘Psalms’ Category

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you, one like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.

How painful are the blows from a friend!

Want to know how you behave like a miserable comforter without meaning to be one?

Norman Wright tells us that we adopt three well-meaning but unhelpful behaviours when we support friends:

  • We have difficulty accepting bad news ourselves: This can be for lots of reasons (we may be overwhelmed with our own sorrows), but the result is the same. While we may say words of comfort, we physically distance ourselves from our friend who is hurting. Our friend will see this as us rejecting them and their problem.
  • We give advice that is not wanted or needed: We want to help and we can see some obvious ways forward for our friend, and so we tell them what they need to do. Our friend becomes a pupil as we adopt the role of their teacher. They will react in the variety of ways that children react to being told what to do – and with the added creativity gleaned over the years.
  • We overwhelm them with help: If we really, really care this is the trap for us. We smother them with kindness. Our friend becomes a child as we adopt the role of their parent. And we know how complex parent-child relationships can become. Sooner of later they will want to break free.

Can you see yourself in any of these behaviours?

Being aware that the patterns exist gives us a helpful starting point.

Being open in our communication and giving up the need to be in control, to be right or to fix things will take the pressure away from us all as we negotiate the maze of hurting emotions.

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If you think of humbling yourself before God you might imagine lying prostrate or covering yourself in sackcloth and ashes.

I can testify that lying on your back, bare-chested, arms stretched above your head, feels pretty humbling. Add some strangers to the scene and the feeling intensifies.

Mark Twain was right

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society

You will not be surprised to hear I have been thinking a lot about this.

In the brief minutes on the rack while I have my treatment I feel vulnerable, powerless and naked before God.

Here I am, God,

No pretence

Flesh and bones

And the part that is me

No secrets

You knew me before I was born

You know me from start to finish

. . and I am not finished yet

Just as I am dependent on BC’s attributes when we have a disagreement, I reflect on how dependent I am on God’s attributes.

Lying naked and vulnerable, not knowing the future, I am dependent on God who tells me he is . . .

accessible creator eternal faithful father good gracious guide holy impartial immutable incomprehensible infinite jealous just long-suffering love merciful omnipotent omnipresent omniscient perfect preserver provider righteous saviour sovereign wise

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

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My decision is made – I signed the papers yesterday and will go forward for radiotherapy next month.

My dilemma was about moving off protocol to opt for mastectomy rather than radiotherapy.

I have acknowledged the needs of the doctor within me and am back on protocol as a patient. I have moved out of the fog of information overload and calmed the voice that screamed for more understanding and clear answers.  I have a path ahead and I can see along it and beyond it.

My decision means I submit to treatment and trust God for my future.

On my way home from signing the forms I called in to the garden centre – a good sign that I needed a treat! And I paid attention to a conversation with myself in my head about how I can make the most of the rest of my life. I heard myself reflecting on “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”.

I bought this planter – it speaks to me of enjoying the Creator of life, colour, and variety.

In the afternoon I called in to the Post Office. The man behind the counter gave me a big smile, leaned forward and asked me what I had done with the mustard seed. Turns out he thought I was someone who had spoken at his church two years ago and given out some mustard seeds as a visual aid. He wanted me to know he still had the seeds in his bible. His parting comment to me was to “remember the mustard seeds!”

This man has served me in the Post Office many times and never mentioned the mustard seeds before. His words yesterday came as if from God.

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Now I am not sure about moving mountains, but I certainly respond to the encouragement not to limit my thinking about the future.

Psalm 16 is about enjoying God

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge . . .

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

You have made  known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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. . . a morning like this morning.

I am riding home on my bike, the warm wind blowing in my face and the sun shining overhead. I am breathing deeply and I realise this feels good.

Hey, if anyone asked me I would tell them: “You know what – I am happy“.

So I get curious and ask myself

How do I know I am happy? –  What am I doing and thinking and feeling that lets me know I am happy?

Well, first thing I recognise is that I feel . . the caress of the wind ,  the warmth of the sun, my heart pounding in my chest.

I am breathing very deeply.

I taste . . the chocolate brazil nuts I ate – an indulgence for me as I bought a gift for another.

I hear . . my breathing, people talking, birds singing, cars passing.

I listen inside my head – and it is peaceful. There is no chatter.  So I do a double-check, yes there is something. I see . . a picture – a movie picture and I am inside it looking around.

I am reliving the time I have just spent with my lovely friend. There is softness, and love, and warmth, and acceptance, and sharing. All that we have shared in the past is around us as an unspoken cocoon.

There are no words – just a deep silent bond. The picture is glowing in my head and I feel contentment deep in my belly.

We chatted for two hours. The words will replay over the next hours and days.  For this moment, I am savouring the experience.

This is a ‘good to be alive moment’.

A young woman wrote about how she had changed after a year of treatment for breast cancer. She said:

I want to live in the world, not in my head

Experiencing and enjoying the richness of each moment had become precious to her.

I go to the book of Psalms –  the language of relationship between God and humans, for words to express what I feel.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed are those who take refuge in him.

So what does this mean to me?

I know that true friendship blesses me.

I know that the more I tune into my senses the less attention I will give to chatter in my head. If I feel low, the best thing to do is to tune into a sensory experience – music, walking, swimming, being with a friend.

I know that the more I tune into my senses the more I will be alert to the blessing of taking refuge in God.

And for me there is something significant about breathing very deeply and feeling very alive.

I would love to hear what verses from the Psalms express a ‘good to be alive’ feeling for you.

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. . . a day like one I had this week.

I felt unhappy. In fact I WAS unhappy – all day.

So I got curious and asked myself

How do I know I am unhappy? –  What am I doing and thinking and feeling that lets me know I am unhappy?

Well, first thing I recognise is that I feel a weight on my shoulders that has been there since I got up.  This was going to be a bad day.

And there is chatter in my head . . .

I have scars on my body from all the procedures I have gone through – I don’t like them. I don’t like the bruise on my hand from the blood test – why can’t folk be more careful.  I am tired – I don’t like it.  I cannot work – I don’t like it. I miss my colleagues. My nails are damaged by the drugs – I don’t like it.

I am making a list of reasons to feel sorry for myself. I feel hard done by and disappointed with my lot in life . And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

There is more . . .

Why did I get breast cancer – it’s not fair.  I miss my work – it’s not fair. I wish * * * had not said that to me – it hurt.

I am looking back at everything that has gone wrong in the past months.  I feel angry and resentful. And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

There is even more . . .

What if the cancer comes back? What if I never work again? What if my brain has been damaged by the chemotherapy!?  What if my eyesight is damaged?

I am looking forward and seeing trouble ahead. I feel hopeless and helpless. And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

I look outside and the sun is shining, the birds are singing – and I don’t care because the chatter in my head is so compelling.

I am like Tam O’Shanter’s wife:

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame. Gathering her brows like a gathering storm. Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

Do you recognise yourself in this too . . . ?

I go to the book of Psalms. If this is the language of relationship between God and humans, then there must be something there to help.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

So where did this unhappiness come from? No-one made me unhappy – I did it all by myself!

And what can I do with it . . . ?

I dared to suggest a bad day is a good day in disguise. So, if I want to be radiant and be delivered from all my fears, then I had better find out what it means to seek the Lord.

Any suggestions from your own experience . . ?

p.s. This story is true. I discovered I have a bladder infection. Being physically low makes us vulnerable to negative thoughts. As I get better I can 🙂 and give thanks for what that unhappy day is teaching me.

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