Tag Archives: spiritual warfare

7 Days of Thankfulness – Day 6

Today my thankfulness has been grounded in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a book overflowing with thankfulness, care, kindness and joy. It was a balm to the eyes of my battle-wearied mind today; a mind that hated the sin it committed even as it committed it; sick of the mechanical pattern of being beaten down again and again by the same thought patterns and weakened and waylaid as if being battered repeatedly with the turning paddles of a water wheel; wasting hours of my time chasing the winds of some adolescent disappointment and lying there trapped in my fanciful, godless world of reanimated, decomposing dream-corpses.

Sin paralysed me and left me gasping for the Word today, and when I could remove myself from my stupor, he delivered – and what a balm; what a mind-freeing ointment to deliver me from my bonds. As I turned my eyes away from the text to search for a pen, and the footsteps pacing downstairs gathered speed and force, and the anxiety began to blossom in my mind once more, I wrote the following before the peace of Christ gave way to the banal, chilly dread, lest I should be walked in on with a Bible open instead of a job application by those who would mistake the divine doctor for the one who was keeping my mind in chains.

O love of Christ that keeps on giving, what should I offer to your name?

Yearning for us through and with your saints down the ages.

All you want is to see us grow and flourish in you.

That wasted body of Paul exulting in its throes, that they might prove the Son of their Father, holding very life as cheap, but that he might be your visage to us.

O Fount of Love, like a Mother Hen, you delight in your own little chicklings, hastening them in to grow that they might meet death with the same aplomb.

What can I give you for all that you gave? What can ransom the life of a man, even a God-man? Were I to give my deepest-seated loves, my shelves full of sin-records and old memories, it would still be a cheap offering for the blood and love of such a God.

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7 Days of Thankfulness – Day 5

Thank you God…
That you’re there helping me to say ‘no’ to the things I need to say no to.

Thank you God…
For libraries. When the surrounds of my room with its souvenirs, memoirs and shelves full of books that I can’t bear to get rid of lure me back to that cushy, imaginary, godless world which I built in my teens on nostaliga and broken dreams, I’m just so thankful that you provide libraries. I’m thankful that you’ve provided an alternative to that room, where nearly every other object I touch is an invitation to haunt and distort my own memories like a poltergeist. Thank you for these clear, functional, public spaces; ‘neutral’ worlds where nothing, neither the furniture, nor the books, nor the décor, nor the ambient aroma of the building, can serve as a cognitive hook onto my old, futile longings for the never-materialised past wants that were absorbed into my pillow, my bed, my books, my bedroom floor. No, the library is far removed from these ambiental triggers. These are houses of ‘otherness’ and unfamiliarity, where every object is a blank slate, an artefact without any history that could lock me back inside the dream-world that I haunt. In the library, hand-in-hand with you, I can try and pave a way for myself in your far less saccharine world of the real, the concrete and the social, which you intended me to inhabit. My brave new world is Planet Earth, which you made for me to live in with you. Though more savage, more prickly and more raw, the world of the Cross is a more beautiful place to be.

Thank you God…
That you gave me a job to go to tomorrow. After so long unemployed, it is such a privilege to be able to say that I do the humblest of things, even if only part-time. Please bless my work, and let my co-workers witness you through me.

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7 Days of Thankfulness – Day 4

Seeing through the brain fog is hard these days… I was on such a spiritual high earlier this summer, but now there’s this restlessness. Still delighting in things of a quasi-academic nature; still enjoying the exercise of what they taught me during my degree. Those things I can be thankful for – to the point where the perfectionism and the temptation to over-edit enslaves me; then I’d rather lay them to rest and get on with something more important.

1) Since yesterday’s ordeal I’ve fallen sick with a head cold. But I’d like to thank God for friends who care, and who pray for me. They are my hands and my feet right now. I was at my usual fortnightly Bible study tonight, and some of them were there. One of our friends who hasn’t been for a while had come too – I was really glad to see her. I can be thankful for that. There seemed to be a vibe of guilt, or of under-confidence about her. I wish I could have made her more comfortable and reassured her. Such a precious lady. I had wanted her to relax and feel at home.

2) What a joy it was three weeks ago when the Lord let me host my own Bible study for the first ever time in my own home. It remains fond in my memory even now. What a delight it was to have these men and women of God whom I so respect furnishing my living room with their presence, and our good friend leading the Bible study. How wonderful it was that my Christian seeker friend could come, and didn’t find the discussion too hard for him, and liked listening and contributing. May God enable me to have a gift of hospitality one day. It was such a joy to see their smiling faces, and to know that they found the surroundings comfortable and the company pleasant, and that they liked the cookies I had baked for them.  How happy I was that so many stayed for up to half an hour after the end, socializing contentedly and drinking my tea and coffee, just like my student friends had done in brighter days, when I was a final year Oxford student and had hosted prayer meetings in my room. My cup ran over. It had been such a frightening task, inviting them all to come. It went against my usual scripts. God knows I have a big enough voice for debate, or for explorations of ideas or concepts, or for talking about my life on verbal autopilot, but usually I’m assailed by too many doubts and fears to even attempt to make overt social gestures like inviting church friends around to my parents’ home. I’d been wanting to pluck up the courage to do it for so very, very long. It was just like the good old days. God of heaven, grant me the courage to do it again one day. It gave me so much joy.

3) I was really thankful towards the friend who hosted the Bible study tonight, as he gave me some of the tomatoes from his harvest to take home to cheer up my mum. It was wonderful to be able to lay them out on the table, and to say “At the Bible study tonight my friend gave me these for you to have in your lunch tomorrow”. What a witness that act of generosity enabled me to show when I got home. My friend was so kind for letting me do that.

I feel much better now. Meditating on lovely blessings and being thankful to God for them really does transform your mind. Even my headache has lifted slightly. The Apostle Paul’s exhortation is true wisdom from God:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Thank you, Jesus.

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7 Days of Thankfulness – A reprise

I’m writing now in defiance. I received some deep prayer at church this evening and all kinds of ugly things surfaced. The things I said, I couldn’t even believe were falling off my lips. Memories of scowling, clawing in this irrational rage and fear at my dear friend whom I love, who was on the prayer team that day. The words ‘I bind you’ hitting my insides like a sledgehammer, wrenching cries out of me and leaving me clutching at the pew in terror; the horrible sight of her cross necklace making me writhe, so that I had to push it away and cover it with my hand: “Get that thing away from me,” my voice cried. What came over me? What was I thinking? How could I do that, or think that, or even feel that way, about the Cross that I so love? When we were done I felt like I’d been dragged backwards through a hedge. My knees were so weak I could hardly stand up for a moment. Now I’m home. The freshmint ‘new penny’ feeling has faded and distressing intrusive images have been filling my head. With compulsive urges to do things when that still, small voice says ‘no’. So I’m writing in defiance. I’m going to be thankful to God in Christ Jesus tonight and I’m going to praise him even if it hurts.

I’m going to think of three things for which I’m going to thank God, and I’m not going to write them here. I’ve got prayer to do, and I generally do my prayer laptop-closed. Please pray for me, whoever you are reading this. I hadn’t thought that that sort of thing happened to believers, either.

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How to pray for something that you know you need but desperately don’t want.

Ever found yourself in a position where you have had to ask God for something you knew you should want, but actually didn’t want at all?  Like the ability to forgive someone who has deeply hurt you and refuses to repent?  Or the ability to repent for a sin that you aren’t quite sure was a sin, and had quite enjoyed committing?  Or the ability to respond respectfully to your parents or boss or teacher and submit to them when they give you a tough time over something you either didn’t do or hadn’t known you were doing, or at least, hadn’t thought was all that bad?

Admit it.  You’ve been there.  It’s the proverbial “OMG that’s soooo unfair!!!” moment.  You know you need to pray that God will help you to forgive, repent, submit – but you don’t want to.  You don’t feel like you should have to do those things.  In fact, you feel you have every right to hate those who have remorselessly wronged you, to do what makes you feel good, to stand up for yourself, to fight your corner, because you think you’re in the right, and it seems criminal to have to deny yourself the justice that’s due to you.  However, even if you can think of a million ways of justifying yourself, at the very least you know that the Bible says you ought to pray for repentance, forgiveness, submission and everything else that is required to love the Lord your God and your neighbour as yourself, and you know that if you don’t, you’ll have God to answer to.  Now, you might ask, how can I honestly get down on my knees and beg God to give me something that I not only don’t want, but vehemently hate the idea of having, and can’t see the justice in having to ask for?  One answer is: pray through the degrees of separation between you and the desire for the thing which you know you need, and one day you will cherish that thing as your own.

You might not want to forgive your selfish, thieving, ungrateful little liar of a sister, even though the Bible says that you have to forgive her.  But do you want to want to forgive her?  And if you can’t even bring yourself to desire to want to forgive your little sister, can you want to want to want to forgive her?  If even this is too much, can you want to want to want to want to forgive her?  And so on and so forth.  Carry on down the degrees of separation, and you will probably come up with a petition that accurately describes where you’re at.  God can then remove each degree of separation one by one, until you actually do desire the thing that you hadn’t originally wanted to have to ask for.

It might seem ridiculous, but no matter how many degrees of separation there are between you and the desire for that thing you know you need to pray for, you can always say, “Lord, help me to want to want to want to want to want to…”.  It’s an honest plea, and it’s something that God can work through with you step by step, until his sanctifying work in you eventually does enable you to forgive, repent, submit or do whatever else you need to do in order to honour God with your heart-attitude.  And as for the grievance done to you, the sin you don’t think you’ve committed, or the accusation you think has been unfairly levelled at you – be encouraged that God who sees all things and roots for those whom he loves knows whether you’re in the right or not, and will reward you for submitting to his Word regardless of how entitled you think the circumstances might make you to do otherwise.

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