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Posts Tagged ‘guidance’

Someone to help you avoid painful mistakes?

Someone to lead you through the maze of life – decisions about your career, your relationships, even about who you are and what you want to change about yourself?

Who doesn’t?

This someone has to be very special if you are going to allow them to speak into your life. They need to have a track record of wisdom, honesty and integrity. And most of all you need to know they care enough about you to tell you the truth and to stick around for the long-term, because changing can take us a long time

If you say yes to this, and you want to get to know God better, have a look at The Divine Mentor. It is a great book and gives a different slant on the value of reading the bible regularly.

Wayne Cordeiro tells how he learned to hear God speak to him daily through scripture. And how he learned through the stories of the heroes and fools of the bible.

“By walking with David amid the smoldering ruins of Ziklag, I find help and strength for challenges that come my own way.

Jeremiah saved my life. Nehemiah buoyed my faltering ministry. Through his struggles with riches and greed, Solomon tutored me to be a person of excellence without opulence.” (p9)

“Abraham will mentor you on faith. You will learn from Samson about sexual self-control. Daniel will instruct you in how to influence your community. Ruth will teach you about love and loyalty.” (p11)

Click here to listen to Wayne Cordeiro tell how Jeremiah saved his life, and how God can speak into our lives through the lives of the people we read about in scripture.

And don’t we love to hear each other’s stories so that we can learn from them too?

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Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything” Abba Moses

I don’t know if the cell I sat in taught me everything, but it certainly taught me a lot.

To celebrate the day in my life when I reached the age my father was when he died I booked a day retreat at a Benedictine Monastery. As I saw it, the rest of my life would be ‘bonus time’ that my father never had. That felt significant – I had to do something significant to mark the transition.

When my father died he had 5 dependent children at home, rows of books he wanted to read, and hundreds of budgerigars he was breeding. No neat closure for him. I cannot presume that I have a right to a longer life than he had.

Brother Christopher, the guestmaster, met me at reception and showed me to my room for the day – a spartan bedroom, normally home to a monk. I could join the brothers to chant the psalms before lunch and sit with them in silence to eat. Guests on solitary retreat are expected to have coffee with the guestmaster after lunch.

I was the only guest for the day.

And so I sat at the small wooden desk with the sun streaming through the window, my bible, journal and a couple of books before me.

OK, God, here I am.  I am up for anything you want for me for the day – an angel would be fine, your voice in the room . . I want to hear what you have to say about the rest of my life

and what I heard was . .

. . . .  S   I   L   E   N   C   E  . . . .

I read, prayed, wrote, reflected, joined the monks as they chanted (like this), enjoyed lunch with them (breaking the silence by speaking a couple of times), and had a terrific time over coffee with Brother Christopher talking about silence and the Desert Fathers. He gave me a couple of his books to read.

The afternoon was too short. As I reached the final hour I gathered my thoughts and experiences of the day to reflect on what it meant to me and what I heard from God:

I planned this day for you – I came ahead of you – I have been with you through it all – and will I go ahead of you

What took place between God and me on that day was deeply significant. Two years later, almost to the day, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I know God is with me.

Jesus often withdrew to a quiet place to pray. His temptation in the wilderness was about the battleground of his heart.

He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from 3 wars; hearing, speaking and seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight, that is, his own heart

This comes from the Desert Fathers. They recognised the value of silence – do we?

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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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How can I know God’s voice?

I often hear people say “God said to me . . “, or “God told me to  . . ” and I am curious to know exactly what happened. What does God’s voice sound like and how do they know it is him speaking?

Is it about voices and words and speaking?

We use the metaphor of hearing his voice. And yet someone’s voice is so much more than the sound that comes out of their mouth.

I know my mother’s voice. We speak on the phone every day and I know it is her before she says anything – I recognise the sound of her breathing in before she speaks. We know each other very well.  There are no secrets and no surprises between us. I know what she likes to talk about, how she phrases things, how she is likely to react to things. I know what is important to her – her values and beliefs. Most of all I know that she loves me.

And she knows me. She knew me before I knew myself. The little girl who would never part with her hand-knitted cardigan has become the woman who hates being cold.

My mother’s voice is everything that she communicates to me. It comes from who she is, her knowledge of me and her heart of love towards me.

Our communication is a two-way thing based on our relationship.

The Bible tells us in many ways about the communication we can have with God and how the Holy Spirit helps us along the way.

Whoever belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47)

the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14:26)

I came across a list of practical suggestions for hearing from God on Bill Johnson’s website. He says that people often ask him how he receives revelations from God. He says “One of the greatest joys in life is hearing from God. There is no downside. But there is a cost that comes with the impartation.”

His list contains 8 suggestions, many of which are in line with the soul-training I have spoken about.

Much of it is about learning how to hear – and especially how to listen. They are not the same thing.

Listening involves active participation – it looks for the meaning of what is being said without prejudging it.

Have a look at the practical suggestions for hearing from God.  I especially like his comments about sleep, based on Song of Solomon 5:2 “I sleep, but my heart is awake.”

And so, as I look to be led by the Shepherd, I am paying attention to what I know of God’s character  and to what I am hearing and seeing and thinking – day and night.

Do you have experience of hearing God’s voice, day or night, that you can share with me?

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I am in an unpleasant place – a Valley of Decision.

I did not realise I was there until yesterday when BC and I were praying together. I heard myself talking about ‘this Valley of Decision‘.

We face tough decisions about my treatment and we both feel oppressed and exhausted. This is a dark place – we struggle to find a way out.

Many of you ask me if being a doctor makes it difficult to be a patient. I usually say the benefits outweigh the problems – but not this time. This valley experience is definitely a doctor-patient problem.

As my head clears from chemotherapy I have been curious to learn more about the pathology of my own cancer, once again challenging protocol and wanting to rebel against the cruelty of the treatment. I have been trying to make decisions based on knowledge I do not have. I am out of my depth.

What Albert Einstein said is so true:

The more I learn the more I realise I do not know

Breast cancer research is advancing rapidly – new treatments are just round the corner.  What we endure today will soon be replaced by much better, and more tolerable treatments. The pioneering work is in understanding the structure and behaviour of the cells. If we know the cells and can predict what they will do, then doctors can develop and use more targeted treatments.

But we are not there yet. I want to know what cannot be known.

Recognising that this place feels ‘like a valley’ has made it much easier to explore what is going on. I can look at WHY it feels so bad, and HOW I got there. I can even begin to FIND A WAY OUT!

To engage with cancer is usually to engage with thoughts of death. I reflect on the Valley of the Shadow of Death which John Bunyan described in Part 1 of Pilgrim’s Progress

It’s as black as pitch down there. The only sound is the howling of the Damned who, having entered there, have never been able to find their way out. In a word, it is every whit dreadful, and utterly without order. For we’d have you know, this is none other than the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

No wonder I feel so bad!

The 23rd Psalm comes to mind:

The LORD is my shepherd . . . Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me

The bible gives us four pictures to help us understand how we can expect to relate to God – one is of sheep to a shepherd. That metaphor is just what I need – to be looked after and guided to a place of safety. Psalm 23 has never had such profound meaning to me as it has today.

There is more about the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep that is helpful:

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

And so, as we pray about the decisions we have to make, we are listening for God’s voice, expecting to recognise it and expecting to be led out of the valley.

Do you recognise God’s voice and what is it like?



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Yesterday we met the oncologist to talk over the side effects from my second phase of chemotherapy and to plan ahead. On the scale of experiences I have had a rough time – needing antibiotics, sleeping tablets and an e.c.g. to check the effects on my heart. He was clear that the risks now outweigh the benefits for me and we should stop.

I was not surprised.

The amaryllis greeted us on the window-sill when we came home – blooming beautifully.

I bought it to pace me through the second three treatments. The day I reached rock bottom and called for sleeping tablets, the head of the amaryllis began to bulge and show red. The stalk was only 11 inches tall instead of the 20 inches I expected it to be.

This flower was stopping short and moving on to bloom early.

What can this mean?

Chemotherapy is treatment with chemicals that kill dividing cells. Whatever cells are dividing at the time will be destroyed – cancer cells, bone marrow, hair follicles, gut lining. The chemicals cannot tell the difference. And so it has benefits when it hits cancer cells and risks when it hits normal cells.

In breast cancer treatment chemotherapy is used before surgery to shrink the tumour, or after surgery to mop up any cells that might be left or that might have spread. There are many unknowns.

For me the treatment is addressed at might. No-one can answer questions about might and no-one can make the decisions for me.

And so, last November I went for prayer with two doctor colleagues who run a monthly prayer meeting for healing in their surgery. I shared my situation and my dilemma. As he prayed for me, one said with a twinkle in his eyes:

Well you know you are dealing with the God of the Universe here.  If he wants you to have chemotherapy, then he will make sure you get it

5 days later  I had another visit with the oncologist.  As I listened to him speak about might . . and maybe . . and perhaps . .  and in case . . I heard God speak through him and I signed the consent form.

Then I did a deal with God.

Okay – I get the message and I commit myself to this treatment – but please let me know me when I have had enough

It did not dawn on me at the time that, once I started the treatment, the only thing that would stop me completing it would be bad side effects.

This cycle I reached enough.

But who can say what enough is? I am relieved that this period of suffering is over. The specialist is cautious because I have had ‘less than optimal treatment’ – even though ‘optimal’ cannot be defined. We have drawn a line under the treatment of any cells that might already have spread and might have escaped 4 hits with chemotherapy.

Returning to what this means for me, I discover I bought an Amaryllis Ferrari – a type that blooms on stout short stems. It was never going to be full height. God knew what would happen. He planned my enough while I was committing to stay the course in obedience to him.

Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

And a verse given to me yesterday by a friend . . .

Now glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or dream of – infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes

I dared to pray for enough and I dare to trust God for what might or might not happen tomorrow . . .

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