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Meditation on Psalm 23

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The Lord is my shepherd.…………….He is the one who cares for me and protects me from the dangers of life, warding off evil. He knows what is best for me and leads me on a safe path.  He searches for me when I am lost and brings me back to the fold, tending my wounds and nurturing me so I grow to follow Him.

I shall not want…………………………Just as he cares for His sheep and the birds of the air, making sure they are fed, so he cares for me.  If I trust in Him and follow Him, He will provide for my every need.  When I am secure in Him I do not want the things of this world, the fame and fortune, I am satisfied with His provision and thankful for His presence and abundant blessings.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures………………When the hustle and bustle of life seem to take over, He brings me to a place of rest.  He encourages me to lie down with Him, be still, take time out and experience the wonders of His creation.  The beautiful, lush grass feeds me, nourishes me and gives me the strength to carry on.

He leads me beside still waters………………….Waters where I can drink my fill of the water of life and emerge refreshed. Gently flowing waters where I can bath, be cleansed and feel energized with the cool water against my skin; where my sin can be washed away.

He restores my soul………………….With Him in the the stillness of creation I can feel the peace that passes all understanding. In solitude, with only Him as my companion I can be; be me. Restored in my relationship with Him, my heart unburdened, I can rest in Him, emerging from the silence with my soul restored and His peace within.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake……….He has a plan for me, to prosper me and not to harm me.  He wants what is best for me but I must follow His lead.  Only when I choose to turn away from temptation and follow Him where He leads will He bless me and use me for His glory.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…………….When the gloom of depression closes in, when the inner demons attack and drag me down, questioning my value, knocking my self-esteem, calling me unworthy. When there seems no way out or no way to carry on, I need not fear, for He is there protecting me.  He is battling with the demons of despair, disbelief and unworthiness, determined to win me to Himself.

For you are with me………………….Even in that place of darkness where I feel so alone, He is there.  He is walking with me in the shadows ready to guide me out of the valley and help me climb up the mountain to the summit, so I can get out of the fog and view clearly the abundant blessings He has prepared for me.

Your rod and your staff they comfort me……………Just knowing He is there, guiding me with His rod, protecting me with His staff, I can rest assured that I am safe.  I can take comfort in knowing that I am a child of the Almighty God and He cares for me so much that I need never be afraid.

You have laid a table before me in the presence of my enemies………………He has invited me to the feast, chosen me to dine at His table, provided me with fine food and wine in abundance. He has invited me to share in the bread and the wine, to accept the sacrifice that He made for me upon the cross, as my enemies watch on.  As they ridicule me and gaze at me looking for all opportunity to criticize me, He reassures me that He has invited me especially to join His feast.  But He wants me to share this abundance with others, not just my family and friends, but also those I don’t know and even my enemies who look on, so that they too may taste His bread and wine and come to know Him.

You have anointed my head with oil and my cup overflows……………..The High King of Heaven has anointed my head with holy oil, claiming me as His own and joining me to the priesthood of all believers.  As His child I can approach Him at all times without barriers. He has filled me with his strengthen, the power of the Holy Spirit, to the extent that my heart overflows with His love, allowing Him to touch the lives of others through me.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life……………As I continue to walk in His way, filled with His spirit, following His path and loving others, He will fulfill His purposes in me. I will be blessed, forgiven and experience the goodness and mercy of living in His kingdom surrounded by His love.

And I will live in the house of the Lord forever…………….This life of living in goodness and mercy provides just a taster of what is to come, a taster of what it feels like to be one with God. The time will eventually come when He calls me home. Death will not be a time of sadness, but rather as the challenges of this world are over, I can rejoice in the presence, peace and joy of the Almighty Creator God who made me, loves me and will care for me for eternity.

 

 

 

 
 

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Rain on me

I’m in Sri Lanka for a short time by the beach so I wanted to make the most of it and so had prayed for sunshine today. However we need to remember that prayer is not answered just when we get what we want. God can also answer prayer with a no, or at least a wait. He has his reasons and knows what’s best for us. That’s what happened today. God knew best and was determined to rain on me!

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Thinking of God

You know what it’s like when you get a song in your head, well today’s was the chorus “Reign in me, sovereign Lord reign in me” (click on the photo above to hear it in Sri Lankan style sung in English and Tamil). As I walked to sit under the umbrella on the beach it became rain on me, sovereign Lord rain on me. I pondered the discussions we have been having in work recently regarding God raining blessings upon us and realised that if we let God reign in our life – our work, family and relationships then he will rain on us the blessings of his love.

God is synonymous with love so we must let love reign in our life, being filled with compassion, servanthood, peace, a willingness to challenge injustice, to support those in need, to sacrifice ourselves for others. God sacrificed his Son for us, sacrificial love. As His disciples we are called to love sacrificially too, be that sacrificing our time to be with God, our desires to serve others, our wealth to bless others, our home to welcome others.

Practicing Mindfulness

In my mindfulness practice I’m starting to try to give my time as a sacrifice, to spend more time in the ‘now’ as a means of spending more time with God. So I sat under the umbrella in the rain on the beach experiencing the ‘now’. I heard the rain drops as they touched the umbrella and the roaring and crashing of the waves, felt the warm breeze blowing my hair and water droplets gently touching my skin in the breeze, the gritty sand on my feet. I rested there in stillness and felt the peace, power and love of God.

Mindfulness meditation

As I closed my eyes I was bathed in His light, the warmth of the breeze was like being enveloped in His embrace, the sound and power of the waves welled up inside me and I knew in my heart – not just my head – that if I let Him reign in me I could do all things through Him who gives me strength.

I stilled my mind and opened my heart by repeating over and over again the words ‘reign in me, sovereign Lord reign in me’.

Filled with His presence

Then in total abandonment in the Spirit I ran along the empty beach in the rain into the waves and sang at the top of my voice REIGN IN ME SOVEREIGN LORD REIGN IN ME. I was worshiping the Lord surrounded by water, both around me and with droplets bouncing off the surface of the sea, floating and being carried over the waves.

And God said, “Trust in me, I can a calm the storm but I want you to experience my love so sometimes I need to carry you over the waves of life, so you can trust in my power and strength and how much I care for you. Believe in me in your heart, love me and I will keep you afloat. Near the shore when you are just touched by my love the waves break and you find it difficult to cope. Trust in me, come deeper into my presences and I will raise you up so you can be carried over the waves and feel the joy of being surrounded by my love as I rain blessings upon you. Don’t struggle against the tide doing your own thing, ride the waves with me, live through my power and I will deliver you safely to shore. I am always with you, but when you come out of those times when you have bathed deeply in my presence don’t wash away the salt with which I have covered you. Go and be salt and light in My world.”

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Click on the picture above to hear ‘Reign on Me’ by Brenton Brown and below for Paul Baloche’s ‘Reign on Me’

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The meaning of life….

Why Why WHY???

Do you think about the injustice in the world and wonder why is this happening?  See the extreme wealth of some and the extreme material poverty of others and question why?  Do you wonder why despite having the things you have acquired you are not happy? Why others seem to be able to enjoy life and you feel you have to spend all your time working hard to help others and provide for your family?  Why the wicked seem to prosper and those who do good struggle?

Madelina 11 and Rebecca 7 by their house distance

What is the meaning of life?  What does a successful, fulfilling and happy life look like and how can we achieve it?

I read some wise words today that might help you to explore the answers. Here are the 12 Top Tips to a life worth living.

1) “If you love money and wealth you will never be satisfied with what you have…..I got whatever I wanted and did what made me happy. But most of all I enjoyed my work.  Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work and it was simply chasing the wind.”

Life is not just about doing what we want, getting what we want and working…. there is more to it!

2) “Everywhere on earth I saw violence and injustice instead of forgiveness.  So I told myself God has set a time and place for everything. He will judge everyone, both the wicked and the good.”

Yes, the world is full of injustice and it may seem that those striving for good are fighting a losing battle.  But this is not so.  Lead a life that walks the right path, that obeys God and rest assured that you will be blessed. Forgive those who hurt you, become reconciled with those who have offended you.  Not only will this bring you peace in your relationships and make your life happier, but you can also rest assured that the time will come when those who hurt others and are not sorry will be punished.

3) “Everything in earth has its own season…. God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can fully understand all he has done and he puts questions into our minds about the past and future.”

So don’t stress about life, things will happen in God’s timing. Worrying about the past and future won’t change things.  Put things in God’s hands and enjoy the present, make the most of the blessings you have, the people in your life and the experiences you find yourself in.

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4) “The best thing we can do is to enjoy eating and drinking and working,  I believe these are God’s gifts to us….if we please God he will make us wise, understanding and happy.”

So what about approaching life in a way that you become determined to enjoy the gifts God has given you; take pleasure in eating and drinking and do work that you enjoy.  But do this in a way that pleases and serves God and then you will be blessed, not necessarily with money, but with the things that really matter.

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5) “Yet a very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much earned from overwork and chasing the wind.”

Overwork is as much as a recipe for disaster than doing nothing. Getting a balance is what is important. Enjoy your work, do something where your gifts can be utilised; but remember that work is just one of God’s blessings that we have to enjoy.  By overworking we deprive ourselves of many of the others.

6) “Be cheerful and enjoy life.”

A smile brings warmth to others and is a gesture the world-over that cannot help but bring down barriers and generate a smiling response.  It usually instills happiness in yourself and others.  Smile more, be cheerful and show other how blessed you are. Happiness and joy is contagious, spread it!

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7) “You are better off having a friend than being alone.”

Developing friendships take time and investment, but having the love and support of a friend is without price.  It helps us get through the hard times and enables us to share the good times, making them extra special.  Spend time with your friends.

8) “Dress up, comb your hair and look your best. Life is short and you love your spouse, so enjoy being together.”

Marriage is not without its trials, but deep love is at the root of a successful relationship. Love without condition, love that forgives, love that shares the good times and supports each other through the difficult times, love that respects each other, is gentle and kind and that makes the most of being together. Turn your marriage into a place of love and you will be happy.

9) “It is better to enjoy what we have than always to want something else because that makes no more sense than chasing the wind……I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can…. a child born dead is better off than you unless you enjoy life and have a decent burial.”

Count your blessings, maximise the benefits of what God has given you.  Enjoy life! We are only here for a short time, as we get older time seems to pass more quickly. Don’t put of doing something you have been longing to do.  Don’t waste your life; set your mind to recognise the positive in your circumstances, to work towards building strong relationships, towards enjoying the things and people you have been blessed with and to putting God into the right place in your life.

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10) “Be generous and some day you will be rewarded.”

The more you give to others in terms of love, service, as well as money, the more you will be blessed and the more joy you will experience.  The saying goes that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Start giving and see the changes that it makes to your life, as well as the lives of others. Give at home, in your community and to those worldwide more in need. Your generosity will touch your heart and also the heart of others.

11) “Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the morning sun.”

Appreciate the wonder’s of God’s creation.  Take time to see the beauty of what he has made: the animals, butterflies, fish and birds, the mountains and the valleys, beaches and forests. Find peace in stillness as you feel of the grass under your feet, sand in your toes and the warmth of sun on your face. Listen to the wind blowing through the trees, the sound of the crashing waves and the birds singing. Smell the perfume of the flowers and ground after new rain. Watch the sun rise in the morning and the colours of the setting sun, and look in awe on the wonders of creation.

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12)  “God has done all this so that we will worship him.”

He has made the beauties of creation, given us people who care for us, provided for our basic needs. Think of all the blessings you have: a roof over your head, food to eat, clean water, electricity, living in a country free from war, freedom of speech, friends to share things with, family who love you, a spouse who cares, a welcome home from you pet, a job, times of stillness and peace, music, kind words said by others, a hug, the joys of nature, or your good health. God blesses us all in different ways, but our response should be to worship Him and give Him thanks.  For by praising Him for the gifts we have been given we begin to find our purpose and can enjoy life with Him at the centre.

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So the what is the purpose of life?

  • Keep your creator in mind, worship Him and enjoy life; work hard but make time to enjoy and share the blessings He has given you.

Lord help me to get a work-life balance. Help me to enjoy life, to serve you in my work, but not to over work. To take time to enjoy all that you have blessed me with…. family, friends, food and the beauties of your creation.

The words of wisdom in bold above are taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes – ancient wisdom that is so relevant today.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Church, Life, Reflections

 

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Experiencing Reality – Communion with God

As a Christian, it is one thing to promise to obey God, it’s yet another to understand clearly what He is saying so that you can be obedient. Evelyn Underhill’s book ‘Practical Mysticism’ has helped me to understand how to start to become more open to what God has to say and live my life accordingly.

To fulfill our purpose in the world we need to be open to God’s voice and guidance, and to live in communion with Him. Only then will we get a glimpse of the awe inspiring wonders of His reality, His will and His wisdom.

So how do we do this?

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Firstly we need to have a willingness to learn more about God, to be one with Him and ask Him to reveal His wisdom.

The next step towards experiencing Reality, which could also be described as have true communion with God, is Meditationwiping away our turmoil of thoughts and focusing on experiences of the senses, giving space for God to reveal his will to us. For example, focusing on an idea such as joy or an object such as a flower and being in awe of its beauty created by the hand of the Almighty….

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or meditating on a symbol of faith and letting God speak to us through it

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or a verse of scripture, spending at least a quarter of an hour, without distraction or invasion of other thoughts.

Thinkers and analysts may find this immensely difficult, whereas those with greater sensory appreciation such as artists may find it a little easier.  However, to begin on the road to communion with God we need to regularly practice mediation, i.e. holding concentration on a single idea or object without distraction. As our meditation becomes deeper it will help us defend against the assaults of the outside world.

The next stage is using times of quiet for Recollection, contemplating ourselves face to face, revealing our true motives – stripped and measured against eternal values, our unacknowledged indulgences and irrational loves and hates.  When we see who we really are in comparison to the model of Christ we will be compelled to remodel our existence.  The light dawns….

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We have been accustomed to the idea that we want or ought to want certain valueless things, status and power.  Our treasures have become material things and we are chained to longing for things of this world. But as we recollect we gain a glimpse of something other, something special, the land of peace, the heart of God and as we spend brief moments in communion we are enticed with every fibre of our being to be part of it. Yet to reach it we need to prise ourselves away from the old comfortable life of the material world, like a limpet being detached, we must sever old habits, old prejudices and self-interest. “Selfhood must be killed before Reality can be attained.”

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Meditating on scripture, God can use His Word to highlight what it wrong in our life, correcting our values and behaviour; He can work in us to break the bonds of sin and draw us to Himself. This remodelling of character is known as Purgation or Detachment, it’s a slow process that does not happen overnight, so we need persistence and patience. The chief ingredients of this new life are love, courage, singleness of heart and self-control.

So through meditation the mind is quietened from the buzz of the outside world and through recollection and purgation the heart is re-orientated. It can be a painful process, but as we gain brief visions of ‘beauty’ and ‘the land of peace’ we long for Communion with God, so our will becomes to do the will of God and we begin to develop a more intensively loving heart.

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This process changes two things in our attitude towards life. The first is that we become more observant, we perceive a truer universe and then, released from obsessions that have governed our heart, will and mind, we are able, in union with the spirit, to pour forth love.

Take the example of a homeless man on the street. Whereas before we may have made judgmental assumptions and walked on by, now we are struck with humble compassion. We are now observant and touched by the person in need, a person created by God in His image. We cannot walk passed without at least praying for this person through which we can then be open to what God has to say about how we respond.  Is it to give a friendly smile and pop some money in his pot? To stop and talk? To buy him a coffee or food? Or some other action of kindness?  Whichever way, whereas before we may not even have noticed the man or just given him a brief glance, now God has instilled in us His love for this person and a realisation that to be one with Him and to do His will means doing acts of compassion and being a blessing to others.

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James 2:14-16 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Because ultimately, following the will of God is walking with Him and showing His love in the world.

These are just the first few steps towards communion with God and understanding the ultimate Reality; but they are steps that will change our life and will bless others.

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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Church, Reflections

 

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Feeling their pain

How do you respond when you see an appeal on the TV or have a letter through your door asking you to give money to those in need?

Does the fact that these people are on often on the other side of the world make their suffering less real to us?

Is it that we are so engrossed in our life of relative luxury, with a house, electricity, running water, car, TV, computer, food in the cupboard, that we can’t comprehend that other people could really be suffering in the way being described?

As caring human beings, who I’m sure would feed a starving child who turned up on our doorstep, why do we not respond more generously when these appeals are made?  Are our hearts touched by their pain or do we have compassion fatigue?

In my work I am taken to many poverty stricken communities where I support the development of programmes to help transform people’s lives and bring them out of poverty.  Leprosy and disability are huge issues in the majority of these communities.

Leprosy is not a disease confined to biblical times, a quarter of a million new cases are diagnosed each year. Although easily treated with a course of Multi-Drug Therapy, if left untreated it can lead to nerve damage that results in severe disability. However, it is not just the physical effects of the disease that are a problem.  Leprosy is surrounded by such stigma that people are often thrown out of their communities, lose their job, are refused entrance to school or excluded from social gatherings.  Life becomes almost unbearable.

I meet so many people who have tragic stories to tell that I have used ‘focusing on the problem’ rather than ‘the person’ as a protection mechanism to enable me to cope with the challenges of working with communities in such abject poverty.

But God says:

Lamentations 2:18-19

18 Zion, deep in your heart
you cried out to the Lord.
Now let your tears overflow
your walls day and night.
Don’t ever lose hope
or let your tears stop.
19 Get up and pray for help
all through the night.
Pour out your feelings
to the Lord,
as you would pour water
out of a jug.
Beg him to save your people,
who are starving to death
at every street crossing.

God wants us to open our hearts and feel their pain.  When we see a picture of a child collecting leaves to eat as she has no other food, like in a leprosy community I visited recently in South Sudan……

Angeeth (8) collecting leaves for dinner

should our response be, oh that’s sad, or should we be moved to tears praying for that child and her community and giving as generously as we are able to bring life and hope to those in need?

These verses in Lamentations have certainly challenged me…. I must soften my heart, feel their pain and do all I can through prayer, voice and deed to make a difference.  Jesus was a radical who stood up against injustice, if we are to walk in his footsteps we can’t stay silent or do nothing.  We have to act. We are God’s hands and feet, He works through us, so we have to respond!

As we think about those affected by leprosy around the world, let us also meditate on what God says about giving, and pray that he will touch our hearts to give generously to those in need.

Rebecca Kiden Gotich and children (4)

Acts 20:35  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Leprosy affected feet (2)

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Mary Nidienga Chuck (3)

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Madelina 11 and Rebecca 7 by their house distance

1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Mary Nyandeya (3)

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Nyan Awor Dod Kurwell with baby Ayak (3)

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

To find out more about leprosy and the work of The Leprosy Mission visit: http://www.leprosymission.org.uk

Like them on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/TheLeprosyMissionEnglandandWales

and http://www.facebook.com/leprosyoutloud1

and follow on twitter http://twitter.com/leprosytalk

and http://twitter.com/H_R_Defender

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Leprosy, Reflections

 

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