Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’

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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A good ending

We all need good endings . .

. . . the final chapter of a story; leaving your job; separating from a marriage partner. And hardest of all – a last farewell before death.

A good ending for one chapter of life lays a strong foundation for the next. We can look back without regret and forward with courage.

Recently a colleague mentioned he had hung up his stethoscope – the metaphor doctors use for ending their clinical career.

An ache rumbled in my heart.

When I left my full-time clinical post I parachuted out – to safety. No gentle metaphor for me.

A few months before I left someone gave a word of knowledge in our church service about “getting off the bus – God has somewhere else for you to go“.  The words hit my heart. I knew my position at work was unsustainable – I could no longer thrive in the environment. And yet part of me was reluctant to let go of all that I had built.

These words gave me the focus I needed and eased the pain.

Within months I was going somewhere else. God opened the door for me to join a team of doctors who coach colleagues – a generative, collaborative, delightful team in which I thrive.

And yet there remained a niggling ache about my clinical role . . until this week.

For the second time I went with friends to a service for prayer and healing. The leader spoke about the story of Gideon and the consequences of holding on to what is not for us – worshipping false gods. The chaplain handed round a basket of stones – large, small, rough or smooth. She invited us to take a stone that would represent something we needed to let go. We could then lay the stone at the foot of the Cross – an outward sign of the inner change as we laid our ‘burden’ down.

I laid down my stethoscope  . . .  the good ending I needed.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

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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 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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Going back to seeking God’s presence in our everyday life – last night was significant for me.

We pray the Teflon Prayer – for healing and protection overnight.  I am troubled because I still feel very unwell – and my natural immunity is falling daily. I have a viral infection on top of the side effects of my treatment.

Then comes a long disturbed night with sleep  in short episodes. Each time I waken I am aware of a phrase from the bible going through my head.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

I have no idea where the verse is in the bible, but I recognise each time that I am praying as I sleep and I am beginning to feel better.

Morning comes and I open my daily bible notes for today –  Sunday 21st March: Psalm 143

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.

God shows me his presence and the significance of the Psalms – I am deeply moved.

Praying the Psalms was part of the teaching day on seeking God’s presence. More than any other book in the Bible, Psalms reveals the intimacy and honesty of what a single-minded relationship with God looks like.

Life is full of paradoxes; bad things happen to good people – and good things happen to bad people. We know this is true and we struggle to make sense of it.  Reading the Psalms gives us insight into the thoughts and prayers of those who have struggled with these issues long before us.

Philip Yancey’s book The Bible Jesus Read contains a very helpful chapter on the psalms

Somehow, David and the other poets managed to make God the gravitational center of their lives so that everything related to God. . . The New Testament writers did this, quoting Psalms more than any other book. The Son of God on earth did likewise, relying on them as the language of relationship between a human being and God.

Today I experience the value of  using the Psalms in my relationship with God.

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