What is success and failure in God’s upside down Kingdom? (2)

Blessings from Failure:

 

Back in 2011 and prior to my discovery of dyspraxia, my boss tried to help me rectify my overloaded caseload. We worked together and I tried hard to please my manager. I never could. I fell down constantly. He was trying to manage me better. In the end the chronic stress was too great and I was signed off work for 5months with severe anxiety and medium/severe depression. It all happened at the beginning of Holy week.

 

This was not the first time I had been off work with stress. The first time was March 2002. This is when I had asked a previous manager whether I could change my hours to work part time. Even then the reason for my wanting to go part time was that work and the chronic stress surrounding it was taking over my life. On this occasion the manager had set up a meeting to confront me as to how I would manage my outstanding list of final reports, especially when working part time. The stress and inability to perform had made me ill. On this occasion I was signed off with work related stress but managed to return after three weeks. The stress I had suffered was not mentioned again in that work place.

 

This second time in 2011 was even more damaging than the first because a series of life events also had added to the mix and my depression was more entrenched. Still unknown to me was the real cause for work related difficulties. This was dyspraxia and a poor working memory and slowing than average ability to process information.

 

It was a picture of Jesus that rescued me. Literally!

 

In 2011, I had been avoiding Church services. We had moved house to the town where I had been born and brought up and I had never settled back into Church life. Despite this I was still loosely affiliated. Later that year there was a prayer day on a Saturday at the Methodist Church I had attended as a child. I decided to drop in. I came across the picture at a point of the prayer walk. It is a picture of Jesus crouching on the ground looking directly the person viewing the picture. His eyes are gentle and he is reaching out his hand. Behind Jesus people are standing. They stare with a mixture of expressions, some hard judgmental, openly hostile; others curious; some indifferent. The picture was placed above a bowl of water in which you could place stones symbolizing the burdens you were carrying. I placed my burden to be washed by Jesus in the water. This helped. The picture helped even more.

 

A few days later I asked the Methodist Minister if I could borrow the picture. She let me keep it. Over several weeks I found myself gazing into the eyes of Jesus, quiet and on my own at home. The picture reminded me of the story of the woman caught in adultery, naked and exposed. I was that woman. The shame I felt was a physical feeling in the gut. Yet Jesus’s eyes did not condemn me. I learnt to look at Jesus and forget the rest. If he did not condemn me, no other person’s views mattered.

 

Today, I know that our Divine Three- in- One God loves me. I know that deep down. Yet old habits die hard, and old worries and feelings of inadequacy get in the way, especially as my failings are found out yet again. I don’t want to fail, and let people down. I suffer from a stricken conscience when I fail.

 

Despite this I recognise blessing in failure. I have learnt worthwhile lessons because I fall down. It has taught me a measure of humility. It is hard to be proud and self-righteous when you know that you make mistakes and could be wrong. Failure teaches me to accept other people’s mistakes. Sometimes I think I accept other people’s mistakes more easily than I accept my own. I have discovered that being merciful and forgiving is an on-going process, especially if you have emotional scars. These scars, though unseen, are as real as physical ones and hurt when touched. Falling down has taught me empathy. Because I know what it is like to struggle I think I am a better therapist as it helps me to relate to my clients and their struggles. Finally, when I am less stressed and in a happier place, I have plenty of laughs at the daft things that have happened to me because of my dyspraxia.

 

I will end with the treasured words of Brother Lawrence in conversation and published back in 1692:

 

That he had no qualms; for said he, when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so; I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself.

 

If I fail not, then I give God thanks, acknowledging that success comes from Him.”

 

 

Posted in Christianity, Meditation, Reflections, Solitude, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

What is success and failure in God’s upside down kingdom?

Six months ago I wrote a blog about success and failure. Here is a resume and an update.

 

Success and failure: I struggle with these two close cousins. You might be on the cusp of success, moments later it can turn into failure.

 

Three years ago I discovered I have a specific learning disability related to dyspraxia. It was January 2013 and I was aged 51. It is a complicated story. When I made the discovery, I was in trouble at work and on a capability procedure. The dyspraxia has a history; getting bogged down taking A levels; staying in the library over nights to make deadlines when doing a degree; after starting paid work, using my own time to keep on top of things. I am lazy, chaotic, easily distracted, my own worst enemy. I am also conscientious, well organised, focused, and a problem solver. The latter takes a considerable effort and time I haven’t got. My dyspraxia causes a poor working memory, and slower than average ability to process information.

 

The diagnosis came as a revelation. Suddenly I understood what was going on. It gave me back some power. Dyspraxia does not go away. It is how I am made. My managers were not easily won over. I had lost faith and confidence in myself. The struggle continued. I gained support of people who coached and mentored me, and I found strategies that worked. Over a couple of years, I persevered, step by painful step, and perhaps for the first time, I gained control.

 

Was it chance or serendipity that caused me to discover the dyspraxia or was it God’s gentle grace?

 

Yet this hard won control can easily slip. Something can change the equilibrium and again failure can be knocking on the door. Change is a risk factor for me.

 

In July 2015 everything changed. We were taken over by a new employer. I like the change of emphasis away from the medical model of care to social care. It is a subtle change. The employer is keen to make us as a team of excellence and is aware of my difficulties. Yet, I feared being in trouble again. I requested a new mentor to help me learn new computer systems and short cuts through technology.

 

Yet from July to November I had struggled on my own, knowing that I had let things slip. It was hard to catch up with the backlog and face fresh demands. There was respite when I talked to our Divine Mentor.  Despite those conversations, I lurched from one anxious moment to the next as I made mistake after mistake.

 

I tried to stay light, mask the rising panic and smile through the pain. I was like a duck, gliding on a flooding river, appearing effortless, only under the water; webbed feet paddled furiously in the torrent, in the effort to keep afloat.

 

In the words of Stevie Smith:

 

“I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.”

 

I finally fell down, the week before Holy week. I failed. My Manager discovered my plight and work incomplete. Then came my “dark night of the soul”. Have you ever experienced this? Sleep is elusive. In the wee small hours I got up and came downstairs to read or think or pray. I prayed aloud in whispers. Willow thought I was talking to him and purred. At least someone was awake. I trusted that God too was awake. I thought of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. I felt nothing but agony and failure. I wrote things down. I had so much to do the following day. I could not afford to remain wakeful. I went back to bed at 5:30am and fell into a dream filled sleep.

 

The next day, exhausted, I tried to concentrate in the open plan office. I was so distracted it took me an hour to do nothing. Close to tears, I went to my Manager, and again whispering because I could hardly speak I pleaded with her to let me work in a small office used for meetings. Fortunately it was free. Away from the rest, she talked to me and listened. My tears flowed. Then, I spent the day in my quiet space until the caretaker kicked me out at 7pm

 

After that I was on annual leave for two weeks. Initially the trauma was so great I could not talk about it. I wanted and needed respite. My Manager told me that when I return to work, she would have written a support plan to combat my stress and to include their expectations of my new role.

 

I felt embarrassed, grateful, ashamed, relieved, hopeful, and afraid.

 

Would I remain a failure or achieve success?

 

And this is my question to you: in God’s upside down kingdom what is the nature of success and what is failure? When we look at the people of the Bible, who is successful and who fails? Did Moses fail because he was unable to enter the Promised Land? It was said of Joseph, the dreamer that “success was with him”, and he nearly lost his life at the hands of his brothers and was thrown into prison through a false accusation. If that were success, what would failure look like? And what about Jesus? His life was taken by public execution. On a human perspective, surely that looks like failure?

 

I am still struggling. I would be grateful for your prayers, thoughts and constructive comments…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christianity, Epiphany, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Success and Failure

I have struggled with these two visitors over the last few months.

It stems from change.

Change at work; change in my position in the community; personal change following the death of my Dad.

Today I want to focus on the struggles due to the change at work.

My Uncle (my Mum’s younger brother) worked as a vet. He said:

“ You’re as good or bad as your last client consultation. If it goes well, you can feel on top of the world; if it goes badly, you can feel a complete impostor and not worthy of your profession.”

Our cat Willow is the known thug on our block, even though he’s neutered. During the summer we took him twice to the vet with infected bites following  a cat fight. Both times, as we waited outside the examination room, we realised the vet was having to put down an animal too poorly to survive. When it came to our turn, Willow was a kitten in that he responded well to treatment. The vet experienced failure and success in a matter of minutes.

Three years ago I discovered I have a specific learning disability related to dyspraxia. It is a complicated story which I won’t go into except to say I was in trouble at work and on a capability procedure. However hard I tried, in fact “trying” made it worse, I couldn’t get on top of my caseload.

For years I had struggled, getting bogged down when taking my A levels; working in the library days and nights to hand in an essay for a deadline when doing a degree; and at work I worked in my own time to compensate  and try to keep on top of things. I thought I was lazy, chaotic, easily distracted, my own worst enemy. I am all of these.I am also conscientious, well organised, focused, and a problem solver. It takes a considerable effort. For years I suffered work related stress, which affected my sleep patterns. Then a series of difficult life events  tipped me over the edge into severe anxiety and moderate to severe depression.

By pure fluke I discovered that dyspraxia was the cause of my difficulty at work due to a poor working memory, and slower than average ability to process information. It was January 2013 and I was aged 51. Was it a moment of serendipity that led me to that discovery or was it God’s gentle grace nudging me by putting me in the right place at the right time and then helping me to face my demons?

The diagnosis of dyspraxia came as a revelation. Suddenly I understood what was going on. It gave me back some power. Dyspraxia does not go away. It is how I am made. The struggles continued. My managers were not easily won over. And I had lost faith and confidence in myself. How it helped me was that I was able to gain the support of people who had my back, who coached and mentored me, and I together with them found strategies that worked. I began to win back my own self respect. Through months  which turned into a couple of years, I persevered, step by painful step, and I regained control of my caseload.

In July everything changed. We were taken over by a new employer. In many ways everything is good. I like the change in emphasis. The employer is understanding and keen to make us as a team of excellence. And they are aware of my difficulties. Time of change is a risk factor for me. I requested a new mentor to help me learn the new computer systems and guide me towards short cuts through the use of technology. I feared that if I get behind  I will be in trouble again.

The difficulty is that I still have not received the help. And like it or not, my caseload is creeping up. Like a circus clown, I have jumped through the necessary hoops. I asked my line manager; I applied to the coaching service; I waited for a suitable appointment. We met once and I signed a contract. We were due to meet again. Then I self sabotaged.

I was ten minutes late, classic for me, when floundering, even when highly motivated. My mentor did not wait,(I had broken the contract) and then did not return my calls for two weeks.This inexplicable lack of contact was when my stress levels were at their peak. Last week contact was regained and I am due to receive help the second week in December.

So far I have been struggling on my own. I know that I am not on my own. I have respite when I talk and listen to God  Despite those conversations, I lurch from one anxious moment to the next as I make mistake after mistake.

I have tried to stay light, tried to mask the rising panic and smile through the pain. I am like a duck, gliding on a flooding river, appearing to be effortless, only under the water, my webbed feet are paddling furiously, in the effort to keep afloat. As usual it is me and my nearest and dearest who suffer for my stress.

Not Waving but Drowning 

By Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

 

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

 

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

 

And yet, I am well off. I know that I am and I feel ashamed. My troubles are small compared to the people crossing the Mediterranean in their search for a safe haven. They too are searching for help and making a journey, step by painful step. They are at risk from the deep waters, the frailty of the boats and the enemy travelling among them.

I am well off compared to my clients. They seek help and have to jump through hoops of referrals, assessment, systems, money constraints, time, and sometimes things just not being possible.

I dedicate this post to all those struggling to find help, safety and success in their lives.

Posted in Reflections, Spirituality | Tagged | 4 Comments

What is Love? (Part of the Secret Santa Blog-yet not so secret as this is still me)

 “We often write about love? Yet what is this love we talk about so effortlessly?”

The Sunday of the week of the general, district and parish elections in the UK, I arrived in Church, as usual, 10 minutes late. I hurried through the cafe area where it struck me: “It’s my turn to do coffee”.  A friend had asked me to swap coffee duty, days earlier. I agreed and then instantly forgot; until; that moment, when I saw the hatch firmly closed and no sign of mugs and biscuits.

As I arrived there was a lull in the service with everyone looking at grafted jars. I bundled myself into my seat at the back next to my Mum. The service was about the Vine and being grafted or pruned or both. There was a festival going on outside which also caused a slight stir as someone had come inside to use the toilet. I whispered to my Mum regarding my plight. During the service I decided what to do. In the last hymn, I dashed out to buy milk from the One Stop shop. I ran back, hot and breathless, in the hope that no-one would notice.

It might have worked. Except unfortunately the boiler had not been turned on. My Mum tried to defend me. “The boiler just isn’t working” she cried. Except it was, it was just slow to heat up. So the people began standing in a queue and I had to accept defeat and usher them back to their seats to wait for the water to become hot.

The boiler is the site of a previous misdemeanour. Once, when I was new to the coffee rota I had forgotten to switch the boiler on before the service. On this occasion I did not realise the mistake until I had served the first person with a completely cold coffee which she whisked away before I could stop her. It was only after she had gone that I realised there was something odd about the way the water and milk had settled in the mug. It hadn’t looked right. Then I discovered the water was cold. With all the people milling about I couldn’t quite place who the first person was and so never rectified her cold coffee.

Again in that instance, there was a delay in serving out the coffee while the boiler warmed up. The efficient and organised Church stewards looked aghast. However, they spared my blushes, and ever since had ensured that they turn the boiler on as soon as they arrive. It just so happened that the day of my bad memory, was the very day that the person who is usually there to switch on the boiler, was out marshalling a boundary walk.

Finally the water was heated. So there I was, my 86-year-old mum standing beside me, stoical and loyal and helping out by putting the coffee grains into mugs; another kind person from the coffee rota was placing biscuits on the plate; and all the folks were chatty and friendly as they queued up again. I, still flustered as eventually I served them, and racing to make up time, splashed hot water about and spilt milk on the worktop,  apologising profusely to all and sundry. This time the organised and  highly efficient folk  who are always early or on time, hardly turned a hair. They asked how my husband was doing with finding employment and even sympathised with me saying; “We know you’ve got a lot on!”

“ Let love be real, in giving and receiving, without the need to manage and to own; a haven free from posing and pretending, where every weakness may be safely known. Give me your hand, along the desert pathway, give me your love wherever we may go.

As God loves us, so let us love each other; with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

(Michael Forster (1946-) Copyright 1995 Kevin Mayhew Ltd

How does this fit in with the Secret Santa Blog day? Well, I acknowledge, I have had a lot on, so I couldn’t guarantee that I could write a post in time to email secretly to someone-else. Yet I longed to be part of it. So I asked Paul at

https://wordpress.com/read/blog/id/40277979/

as to whether I could join in, if I had time, by posting my post at exactly the same time as all the others and seeing whether it fitted in with the theme of everyone-else. This was his reply:

Not only OK, but quite inspirational!! Thank you!! You (again) broaden my mind: working within this “Secret Santa” structure? Not even relevant. Connected in our Lord? Oh yes – always!! Your words (again) touch in a very special way. To be part of this in a way that works for you, is right for you – but still be a part of this …. ? Kind of is the essence I was drawn to – before my “logistic brain” took over! 🙂 So, dear Julia, thank you!!

Is this answer and all the above reactions, an experience of Love? I will let you, dear Reader, be the judge of that.

Posted in Christianity, Reflections, Spirituality | Tagged | 11 Comments

Happy New Year

Hi, why Happy New Year you ask? You have guessed it. It is the beginning of a new year for my Blog. I dislike New Year in January. I am not full of joy or anticipation as I find it an anti-climax after Christmas with nothing immediate to look forward to except long nights and cold dark winter days. I decided this year that I would celebrate New Year with my Blog in April (Well, strictly March,  please forgive three or four more weeks.)

A year on I remember what caused me to start a Blog. There were couple of main reasons that prompted me to give it a go.

Our Minister at Church was going on Sabbatical and in her absence I had volunteered to lead a series of reflections each Sunday through Lent. The format I devised was 20 minutes with a “thought to ponder on”, a piece of music on which to reflect and a blessing at the end. Each reflection took place after the morning service and was open to anyone-Church attendee or not.  The themes were from a Lent poetry book called “the heart’s time”  compiled and commented on by Janet Morley.

It occurred to me that if I set to up a blog I might reach a wider audience. I thought if I am going to do this, I might as well see if I can talk to a few more people than will turn up on the day.This was the second reason for starting the blog.

The first reason and the seed for branching out onto Social media and writing a Blog had been sown much earlier. During a work based crisis I had been appointed an external mentor to help me overcome difficulties and practise new strategies. His help had been provided during spring/early summer of 2013. My mentor discovered my love of writing and it was he who suggested I start a blog

I am not a native to the Internet. I still remember when mobile phones were first introduced, the size of house bricks which I had to shout down hanging out of a window to get a signal. Computers were equally clunky and slow and a mystery as to why it was such a palaver to turn them on and off. When my mentor first suggested setting up a Blog I was appalled.

I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or any of the usual suspects. I thought I would find it too intrusive as I like my privacy and anonymity. All I knew of social media was what I had heard on the news.  Death threats on Twitter to a woman who dared to suggest that a woman appear on our £5notes; bullying on teenage websites with tragic results of a teenage suicide; personal videos going viral (how alarming and exciting!); the danger of identity fraud.

“No,” I said, in my purist way. “I am perfectly content to write for myself in scrappy notebooks in my usual chaotic manner. Think of the intrusion of privacy. If I write on the Internet it stays out there in Cyberspace as a memento for all time.”

The seed planted began to sprout. When I heard a daily service on the radio in which the Minister spoke about the gulf between the generations on how they approach the Internet, I pricked up my ears. He mentioned how the younger generation at his church had talked about the benefits of social media to the crabby older generation like me. They found it a place of Spiritual support. It is not all bullying and criminal activity.

Another thought that had run through my head was what if I have no followers? What if I put myself out there and nobody cares? What if I feel more isolated and alone, the classic  “Billy No Mates.”

I struggled to set up the blog. What a headache! I needed help and advice and I sought it. I was put in touch with a very patient person who didn’t know me from Adam. He didn’t have a blog himself, but he was an expert in Information Technology and he talked me through it by setting up a blog to show me how its done. Even with his help I almost gave up. Yet here I am, a year later, still a novice and yet content with how far I have come.

And what have I discovered from my year with Social media?

I will mention the negatives first:

  • Post envy: The content of the post was never meant to be all about me and yet I discovered I had an ego. There was a fellow blogger who started a Blog at the same time as me. She was published in Freshly Pressed and she had so many Likes and Comments it blew me away. I was jealous. How come she had so many people looking at her blog? What about me, “Billy no mates” who struggled to get a single Like and certainly no comments for ages?
  • Spam: I decided early on to be strict about Spam. I am a sensitive soul and I knew that a lot of negativity would be destructive to me. And so I just don’t allow it. I sometimes note with mild amusement that I have far more spam comments than real comments. Other than that I ignore it and I have begun to care less about its presence.
  • Addiction: my husband says that I have become addicted to the blogging world. He notes that I turn the computer on when I first get up in the morning and I take a peek at it just before I go to bed. I must admit the thought of checking the Reader gets me out of bed in the morning. I worry that I am neglecting friends in the real world who I haven’t written to for ages.
  • Time goes too fast: The blogging world goes too fast for me. I cannot keep up. I notice a post I want to read and by the time I get chance to look it is lost in the backlog of a sea of posts.

Now for the flip side -the positives.

  • Lesson in humility to combat my post envy: I have come to admire my fellow bloggers who continue to blog day in day out regardless of how many Likes or comments you receive. I find myself deliberately seeking you out. Frankly it is less disheartening than following those who receive a zillion comments every time. Apologies to all of you who have numerous comments. I still follow you from a discreet distance. It amazes me if you do find my blog, become a follower, or give a Like or comment. I appreciate every follower, every Like and every comment even if I fail to follow back or seem lame in my acknowledgement and reply. (To be truthful I would become overwhelmed with too much information if I attempted to follow everyone at once.)
  • Comments and connections/the opposite of Spam: I love receiving true comments. I am amazed at the depth of conversation and connections with my fellow bloggers when I comment on your blog and you comment on mine. The kindness, the courtesy even when we disagree is more uplifting  than some of the disjointed chats I have in the real world. I often feel awed by the depth of the discussion and the kindness within the connection, so much so that I have shared personal stuff I never dreamt I would be sharing when I set out on this journey.
  • Invaluable friendships: I have come to depend on you, my few friends I have met here in the blogging world. I hope you know who you are. If you think it might be you, it definitely is. Sometimes I reach out in pure need, and with gentle love and affection your words are a balm to my soul. At other times you give me cause to reflect anew and I want to toss about the idea with you. (This dependency, or perhaps interdependency, is this the opposite of addiction or part of it?) I prefer to think that I am drawn by the stirrings of the Spirit of God. When I am being nudged by the Holy Spirit, I often have a restlessness about me until I have taken the action/ made the communication I am drawn towards. After the action, decision, connection has been made the serenity I experience is beyond my power.
  • Time slows down: Yes, I miss a lot of posts. Sometimes I come back to you days or even weeks later. And if I comment, you reply. I am so glad that you reply and we can have an in-depth chat even weeks later. Even though it is in front of the world, sometimes it can feel like it is just you and me. Time slows down because I find myself reflecting on the posts I do read, for a long time afterwards. And sometimes I reply with my own post on the same subject. The pebble dropped in the middle of the still water continues a ripple to the far edges of the deep lake. (Now who is it who talks about pebbles being dropped?)

Finally, dear fellow bloggers, I want to thank you for sharing this experience of my first year of writing a Blog. When I set out I wanted to reach more people with my words of wisdom. I never dreamt that you would reach me with yours.

On Monday when I was still trying to compose the end of this post, I heard on the radio that in the UK there is a higher incidence of teenage girls reporting depression and anxiety. Social media was given as part of the reason for this and the instant score of popularity with the number of likes we receive when we post something on the internet. When we receive 100 plus, euphoria; when we receive fewer than 6, a cloud of gloom.

Well, this old woman of  too can also be affected by it. And I am supposed to be mature. I will pass on the words that came into my mind when I first set up the blog.

In the words of Eva Perron on her death-bed as written in the musical Evita:

I thought the more that loved me, the more loved I’d be; but these things cannot be multiplied.

All I want to do is connect with a few others and share my experience and understanding of Divine Love despite or perhaps because of my human blundering as I journey on.

Posted in Reflections, Spirituality | Tagged | 13 Comments

Resurrection (Easter: a year on)


Resurrection

In the garden before sunrise

Kind love met Mary Magdalene

Who had no expectation of seeing

This dead man walking

Fully Alive

After his recent encounter with death.

Sightless with grief

Joyfully she knew him

Only when in tenderness

He whispered her name.

Behind locked doors they cowered

Frightened for their lives

And in his final hours

Filled with shame

For not being there for him

Love that keeps no record of wrongs

Appeared

Within the midst of them

And with his greeting:

“Peace be with you”

Perfect love

Cast out all their fear.

Thomas who missed out on the encounter

Proclaimed physical touch

Was the only way he could believe.

Patient Love,

 Not easily angered;

Respectfully offered Thomas

To touch His scars

So recently made,

Most recently healed.

Perplexed companions travelled on a journey

Away from the horror of that Passover week.

Love, that rejoices with the truth

And does not delight in evil

Walked with them.

And when invited

To sup with them

Gracious love blessed them

With the breaking of the bread.

Rudderless, directionless

On the lake all night without a bite

They headed back for shore

Love,

That celebrates success of the other

Shouted a suggestion

Guiding them to water

Where a shoal of fish awaits.

Thrilled and astonished

They turned with recognition

To waiting, silent Love

Preparing a fire

To grill their catch of fish.

Impulsive Peter

Enthusiastic as ever

Splashed out ahead of them

Abandoning the boat

In his excitement to greet.

Love, closer to us than we are to ourselves,

Took Peter aside

Removing his failure

In the morning sunlight;

Merciful Love

Ate with him, talked with him

Three times forgave him;

Empowering love named him

The Rock for all time.

And what are our stories

Of the Love of the Resurrection?

Our stories of the Love

Who protects, trusts,

hopes, and perseveres;

Simply He states

I will be with you

To the very end of the Age

Forever and ever,

Always

Amen

(Julia Coughlan)

( My poem/prayer is inspired by the risen encounters in the gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It was also inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV):

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”)

What then is your encounter with the love of the risen Lord?

IMG_0022aAs I travel through life, sometimes I am walking or skipping, sometimes I stumble and fall, occasionally I am tripped. I have my own stories of Resurrection, often realising in hindsight that the person of Love has met me, a moment that if I blinked I would miss it. Love meets me in my individual need, both in the trivial and the terrible. Love is gentle, not intrusive and the fleeting moment may seem unremarkable to anyone but me. Here are a few of my examples. Please tell me some of yours.

Specific moments:

Broken hearted in a forest after a relationship break up, love , silent and patient, lifted my gaze and my spirits when a fox trotted by me unaware of my presence and delighted me that he was there.

After making a public fool of myself while on holiday having lost and found my purse for the tenth time that week; scolded by words of a companion for wasting so much time; I waited behind. Patient love was a small bird singing strongly in a bush beside me, chasing my tears away.

The glory of a beautiful sunset which turned my head with delight and I found the key we had lost.

Anguish on a Saturday night, alone and lonely, feeling less than lovely and no-one at home to my telephone call.(This was a time before mobile phone use; texting and social media) The next morning a passage from the Bible spoke directly to me in my distress. No-one-else knew but the presence behind Love heard my cry.

Screaming at Love with confusion and dashed dreams of a child, yet finding comfort from words on a website when I discover its ok to grieve even at the beginning of lives lost in early miscarriage.

An ongoing situation:

There is always an ongoing situation where I need to trust in the Resurrection Love who always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Me with Him and He with me.

In day-to-day life:

An uplifting walk amongst my beloved nature;

A word spoken on pause for thought or thought for the day;

A random encounter with just the right person at just the right time.

Knowledge that I am Loved and the prayers and friendship of those closest to me.

Resurrection Love is not an instant quick fix:

I experience sadness too, dreams shattered, silence sometimes to my desperate prayers and confusion as to why things do or don’t happen. This is life in a broken world and I am not immune to that too. I have scars deep and penetrating which sometimes can be scratched open.

We are blest and we are wounded, as we walk alongside each other. We learn and help each other when we are able to reach out and share our thoughts, aspirations, fun and sadness as companions on the way.

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“If love should count you worthy, and should deign

One day to seek your door and be your guest,

Pause! ere you draw the bolt and bid him rest,

If in your old content you would remain,

For not alone he enters;…

He wakes desires you never may forget,

He shows you stars you never saw before.

He makes you share with him, for evermore,

The burden of the world’s divine regret.

How wise you were to open not! and yet,

How poor if you should turn him from the door!”

(Second half of The Penalty of Love by Sidney Royse Lysaght)

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Blessing

Deep peace of the running wave to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you

Amen

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An Imaginative retelling of the anointing at Bethany

Which came first-the thought or the feeling, the chicken or the egg? Like that eternal riddle, I will never know the answer as I became aware of both at the same time.
It was early morning, already bright, and the hens were clucking and strutting around me as I scattered the seed for them. I scoured the yard checking all the nooks and crannies where they like to roost. While gathering eggs I was reflecting on the previous few days. Then, simultaneously, both a realisation and fear entered me. Suddenly careless, I dropped the egg I had just picked up and the yolk spilt out over the dusty ground. I stared at it already whitening as it congealed and half-baked in the dazzling sunshine. Despite the heat I shivered, as if a cloud had passed over the sun creating shadows. The sky was blue and clear.

The sound of Martha humming as she worked in the house broke into my reverie. Already the aromas of rich and varied spices reached my nostrils. My older sister starts cooking early when she is preparing for guests. Usually by now I would have joined her, excited in the anticipation of the evening to come. Today I lingered, the apprehension and dread wrapping me in stillness, freezing my blood to inertia. I must go in. She will call me soon. I must act normal. With one glance back at the two hens still scratching at the stony ground, I turned to go in. A sparrow darted from the wall nearby to land next to the forgotten grain. An idea had formed in my mind. Would I have the courage to carry it through?

Tonight after supper, I brought down the perfume that I had reserved for my burial. My parents had given us a gift of a bottle each before they died. It was the only precious item that I had in my possession. Lazarus of course had already used the myrrh given to him, so there was only mine and my sister’s left. I smiled at the thought of Lazarus. It was as if he had never been ill. I remembered my despair, my sadness, my resentment that Jesus had not come to us earlier. It was Martha who had faith on that occasion. I grimaced at the thought of my own poor behaviour. I must make it up to him, show my gratitude. A new determination quickened my step.

I usually sit quietly in the background listening to the men talk. Tonight I was impelled forward. My eyes glistening with unshed tears, I opened the pungent smelling lotion and began to pour it on the feet of my Lord. His feet were dusty and sore from the day’s walking. I noticed a blister on his little toe and redness where the strap of his sandal had rubbed on his shin.

I heard a commotion beside me. Head bowed and kneeling at Jesus’ feet I stopped in mid action. The Judaean, that financial whiz-kid was complaining in his high whining voice “Why waste that expensive perfume? Its criminal. We could sell that to make money for the poor! How extravagant you are? Do you have money to burn?”
I couldn’t reply. Silent tears now flowed down my flushed cheeks. I had no power to stop them. I could not look up. I could not move. Was Jesus angry with me likewise?

I saw the movement before I heard the gentle sigh as Jesus reached forward and gently cupped his hand under my chin. He tilted my face towards him. His eyes met mine. He continued to gaze into my eyes as he spoke to Judas “Stop bothering this woman. Tonight she is doing a beautiful thing for me. The poor will always be with you. You won’t always have me.” I felt an involuntary shudder. For a moment the fear was back.

There had been a stillness around us, almost as if the whole room was holding its breath. Gradually the men began to start-up their conversations again. They accepted the spoken words easily, respecting my action because Jesus did. Did they not wonder at his words? Judas glowered in my direction. I knew the sophisticated city dweller was angry at being rebuffed in favour of a mere woman.

I ponder on what Jesus has said. A surge of love and appreciation thrills through me. Yet there is something else – a growing foreboding too. With trembling fingers I continue with my self allotted task. I grow bolder. With gentle strength I massage the oil into his feet.The action is bringing me a sense of peace. My hair has become uncovered and dishevelled falling over his toes. I hear a light sound and I know my hair has tickled him. I feel light-headed with the musky fragrance. His skin is warm and firm under my touch. He is so fully alive. Yet tonight I am anticipating his death.

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