Day 31- Lent challenge – Retreat.
This blog is to author Paul Young.
2017 Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday I went on a personal unplanned retreat into a virtual world. An absorbing journey that seeks to provide answers to the question ” Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?”
A journey that confirmed what I already knew. A journey that gave story to my pain. A journey into the pages of a novel. Deep into the pages of a book.
“The Shack” by Paul Young.
I know this book has it critics. It’s said not to be theological sound, incorrect in its teachings even a danger to the christian faith.
To me “The Shack” is a powerful novel telling a story of grief and pain. God’s love giving comfort to those who have been overwhelmed by tragedy. It does not try to be anything else. It tells a story; a story that tells us nothing new. A story that tells us God is good. A story that added depth and understanding to the questions that played on my mind.
The story brings the issues of forgiveness and places them in a modern world. It gives a voice to frustration and anger caused by pain, heart felt pain. Theirs real understanding that when bad things happen it hurts.The shack shows us, walks with us through our emotions to a place of forgiveness.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean we forget or accept someone’s actions. It’s forgiveness that releases angry burdens that we carry. In that letting go of angry we heal slowly, we heal in love.
God is always their in our deepest hurts, regrets, and longings.
One of my deepest hurts was a short car journey to say goodbye to a special little person.
I could feel God was with us on that short journey. It was obvious and powerful.
The shack made me think more about the three people in the car that day. Seeing us as three individuals traveling together, each of us having a deep personal individual relationship with Jesus .
We were on the same journey in the same car, all with our own different emotional needs.
These needs were acknowledged and meet by God. Intimate conversations lovingly whispered. Our own taylor made personal emotional survival kit. Through the pain God did not leave us.
Taylor made support surrounded by love.
I knew all this all before reading “The Shack “. But it was not until reading the book did I realise how comforting that was to me. How important it was to me that the little person that I loved so much was not alone. Jesus her special friend was with her. Never leaving her, being where I could not.
As this little person told me herself so many times. “Jesus is my friend he’s always with me. He’s with me in the playground, he’s with me at bed time, he never leaves me”.
It’s strange how obvious some things are. How we deeply know them to the point that knowing becomes a feeling. We read listen, are told over and over again; We understand .Yet it took a trip to “ The Shack “ for me to realise the depth, vastness, greatness, wholeness and the comfort of what it means to know you are never alone.
Isaiah 49:16 Good News Translation (GNT)
Jerusalem, I can never forget you!
I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
Day 30 – Lent challenge – Friendship
This poem is for a friend. It tells of our journey together.
Love – Faith – Friendship.
Friendship of colours painted on faces.
Blended with glitter and sparkly dust.
Henna flowers on the backs of our hands
Hugs of glitter crafted in love.
Friendship, painted, splattered.
Bold colours blossomed.
So we grow.
Journeying as families
Through tears we said our goodbyes
Anchoring our hearts in pain.
Holding firm you kept us secure.
You understand our pain.
Quietly empty our hearts longing.
Stopped and stunned empty silence .
Intertwined with leaves of children’s laughter
Families standing together.
New beginnings -fresh laughter.
Breakfasts cooked- films watched
Sunrise blocking out our pains.
Nourished by just being.
Nurtured by prayer.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Good News Translation (GNT)
4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.
Day 25 – Lent Challenge – live.
My Mother’s day stall has reminded how much I still need to cry out to God. Reminded me of how far I have come.
Mothering Sunday ended in tears. Emotions were high after the Sunday evening church service. The mother’s day run away service was a place to lay bare my pain, placing it in front of God. It was painful and exhausting; a place to just be, to cry out surrounded by friends, to fall apart in the warmth of the church, a place to be held, a safe place to ask why?
No need to pretend, no false smiles. A whole precious peaceful hour to just be. A hour carved out of a busy day to acknowledge it hurts. To lament and invite the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.
Today’s blog is to my great auntie. A lady that faced grief alone, she settled for simply surviving the pain and challenges that come her way. Her life stopped she turned away from her faith, she bottled it up. She refused to even enter the church. Angry she set herself a path in life that God was no longer a part of. Going it alone she had no one to share her pain with. No one shout out to. When we we turn away from God and those that support us our lives change as does the way we live.
This blog is also a thank you for those that understand our grief, come to us in our pain. For those that acknowledge life is hard. For those that plan and organise services that give us the space to safely fall apart.
On remembrance Sunday last year in the church where auntie was baptised, I shared Auntie and Jacks story. I am going to share it with you too.
Each year I trace the bronze words spelling out your name on the war memorial. It’s tracing the letters that connects me with you and your story. You were aunties first husband and her one true love.
You worked as a farm labourer and married my Auntie in the December of 1939.
I don’t how long you had together before you were enlisted but I guess not long.
Auntie was a war time bride, widowed within 5 years.
Gunner 1086881 172 field reg royal artillery was killed in action on the 20th January 1943 age 32.
Your story is also aunties story – you see Auntie was never the same after losing you.
She remarried in 1946. She never removed your wedding ring, placing the 2nd wedding ring on top of yours.
As a child I would sit on her lap and be fascinated by the two rings how they sat together. The rings had become almost one but with my small fingers I could separate them into two.
Even as a child I understood the questions I wanted to ask were to two painful for her to answer .
She never talked about the pain and the loss, it was all locked away unspoken like so many.
I grew up knowing the story of you going of to war and never coming back.
I would look at your photo framed in the front room. The room that was never used. The strange blue sofa that was never sat on. In the room that you never came back to.
Auntie just she carried on, remarried and had a different life. She longed for the children which never came and a husband that never came back from the war.
Auntie carried the scars of war with her for the rest of her life.
Matthew 11:28-30 The Message (MSG)
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Day 24 – Lent Challenge – Refine.
Trying to find a person that fits the word refine is not easy. The more time I give to this the more I realise the refining that is beyond the human. Refining comes from God.
It’s the hollowing out, the deepness and deaths being refined by God takes us. The tears that flow and keep flowing as God hollows out our hearts.
I’m writing this blog the morning after mother’s day. Feeling totally exhausted by the whole day. My heart is crying and confused.
Mother’s day reminds me the that the pain has a purpose. God uses the pain.
It’s the pain that shapes and moulds us. Theirs no hiding from it, nothing is hidden from God.
It’s a change to the core. God tells us he will take us through the fire to refine us like silver and purify us like Gold. The melting point of silver is 1761 degrees. the melting point of pure gold is 1945 degrees. Pain is that hot temperature that causes pain, melts our hearts.
I am angry and struggling with myself today. Angry that it took pain for me to find God not Joy. That’s why the tears that don’t want to stop today.
Tears full of why. It’s almost as if the tears stop the refining fire getting to hot. Gods way of stopping me boiling over. Allowing me to stay held in the crucible that is Gods love. The crucible that holds my heart in the fire.
Psalm 56:8 The Message (MSG)
You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.
Day 19– Lent challenge – Forgive.
Finding faith though the actions of others is powerful.
Today’s blog is for the lady that shared her faith with me: She showed me forgiveness.
A forgiveness that comes from God not us. A forgiveness that does not nag, does not say I remember when. It’s a wholeness a newness that I had never experienced before.
With that forgiveness came friendship and trust. Without her honestly and openness we could have never moved forward together.
In that moving forwarding I gave myself permission to painfully let go .To accept the role of the foster carer was to let go. To facilitate the moving of our foster son to his forever home.
I realised he was never mine to keep. He was a gift that I held and loved. He was someone else’s hopes and dreams.
Adoption is about love and a transfer of trust. The trust came from forgiveness. My pain of letting go was understood. My love acknowledged. Joy and happiness was my pain and grief. Forgiveness allowed me to be part of the joy in welcoming a very special boy into his new family.
I never expected adoption would be a gift for me too.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Day 13 – Lent challenge 2018 – refresh .
My Auntie K keeps coming to mind when I think about faith and the word refresh.
I think it has something to do with how real she was to herself and God.
She recorded her thoughts and prayers in dairies. The two diaries in my possession record the wars years 1939 -1940. She records air raids, birthdays, the church services she attended with her mum (my great grandmother).
She also tells her another story. Her brief encounter with love. Her life becomes increasingly complicated because of falling in love with a man that was not hers to love. They meet secretly, fell in love, bringing about unexpected consequences.
Her scribbles telling of the conflict in her mind. Concerned about the pain that she would or could cause others. She battles with her faith. She knows it must end.
She acknowledged the pain love caused. She worried her writings might be found. One diary entry tells how she must stop scribbling.
She wrote out prayers that asked for strength, she turned to scripture for guidance.
The old lady I loved struggled with life “messed up”. When we mess up, which we do and will, God loves us just the same.
Her scribbling provided her with a place to of load her thoughts and feelings. I treasure these diaries as her gift to me.
She tells me that when things go wrong it’s God we turn to. She tells me we mess up.
Theirs something in all of this about not denying who we are being real with God. In that realism we form a closer relationship with God.
When we give voice to our complaints, our worries, our bitterness, or our fears, we aren’t telling God anything he doesn’t already know. We are laying ourselves bare before him, holding nothing back, and asking him into our lives.
Psalm 73 – Good News Translation
26 My mind and my body may grow weak,
but God is my strength;
he is all I ever need.
Day Ten – Lent Challenge 2018 – Joy.
Thank you God for our beautiful daughter.
The joy of holding her in my arms for the first time. That magical connection and a out pouring of unconditional love.
It’s a joy that I took for granted. A joy that I believed was mine to own and to hold onto.
I never could have imagined the life that laid in front of me.
The children I carried and never held. The children I held and than let go.
I could have never imagined a life when joy would have a different meaning.
In the last 3 years 10 months and 9 days God has transformed my life.
A transformation that enabled me to find joy in the midst of pain.
Even in the darkest days when sadness, grief, and loss threatened to overwhelm me Gods joy never left me.
It’s a deep joy that has allowed me to cry and grieve but stopped me from drowning.
It’s a joy that’s hard to explain- A joy that comes from God.
James 1:2-4 The Message
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.