Grieving and trusting!

Easter Garden

Holy Saturday is often seen as an in between kind of a day, a day of trying to process what had happened to Jesus on Good Friday, and wondering what the future might hold. Some of Jesus’s family and friends had stood at the cross, and had witnessed his death. They were numb- had all the miracles and wise teachings resulted only in a cruel and unjust death? It didn’t seem to make any sense.

If we are honest, I wonder if we often question if life is making sense. People suffer unexpected losses and bereavements that turn their world upside down, and we go though long periods of lament. We often reexamine details of events again and again, and think if only……..

The Easter story feels very raw and very real. We think of Mary having witnessed the death of her son, Jesus’s friends sharing his last hours of life, watching in disbelief and horror. And for Jesus to say the words ‘Father, forgive’. In the midst of the emotional, physical and spiritual anguish, his heart was still full of forgiveness and love.

And so on the Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, there was a sense of shock and bewilderment. Some of Jesus’s disciples hid because they were afraid that they too might be arrested. Others met in small groups, and went over the details- the betrayal, the arrest, the trial before the Sanhedrin, and then Pontius Pilate, the scorn and beatings from the soldiers, the crown of thorns. How cruel. What good could ever come from such a dark day?

Whatever place we are at today, if we are questioning or upset, heartbroken by loss or bewildered by injustice, may God draw us near, and remind us of His loving presence. Sometimes we don’t find the answers we seek, as to why something has happened, but even if we can find the healing and strength to live with it, maybe that is enough. There are so many in between days of turmoil and sadness, but Jesus understands, and He reassures us and brings hope.

Eternal God, You reveal that there is a loving purpose for this world, but sometimes there are so many challenging and painful things, we question what is happening. The pain can seem unbearable. Even your precious Son, although he had done nothing wrong, faced bullying and scorn, violence and an unjust and painful death. We believe that somehow through the mystery of the cross, our sins are forgiven, and that we are given the gifts of peace and of eternal life. Yet meantime, day to day, life can still be a struggle. Thankyou that it us ok to question, to he honest. Risen Lord, when you appeared in the garden on that third day, You had tender words of love for Mary. Help us also to know these words are also for us, and may your holy spirit help us to trust, even in the most difficult of days, Amen.

From chrysalis to butterfly!

Learning to fly!

Today is the 4th anniversary of Colin’s death. I relive old memories, poignant memories of suffering and sadness, mixed with moments of humour and even peace.

In many ways, the last four years feel like chrysalis years, a time of darkness and questioning and lamenting. God has granted me time in His presence, to tend my woundedness with His balm, to speak His words of love, to remind me of my identity in Him. By grace, I have lived a beautiful and rich interior life, but have also had to engage with outward reality too, which has often been deeply challenging.

I know that I cannot live in the chrysalis forever, for one day I need to emerge more fully. There are cracks emerging, and cold air is coming in, and it feels uncomfortable. In some ways, I want to emerge into being a more healed, congruent self, but a little while longer in the safety and familiarity of the chrysalis is tempting.

I love the vision of flying, of drying off my wings, and learning to soar. To do so, I need to get go of some of my burdens and sorrows, and to find new ways of thinking and being. This is such hard work. I rely on the Holy spirit to change me, so I don’t keep returning to a default position, especially when I am under pressure.

I remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘ if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.’

For all struggling to find a path through loss and bereavement, we don’t want to get stuck in our suffering and bleakness ( although at times, that feels like what is happening). There are many times, when it feels interminable, and that the pain is unending. Yet when we stop, and take stock, often something has shifted, or there had been a recognition of a negative pattern of thinking, or a new insight. A new way of being is coming, but it cannot be hurried, we have to wait patiently, but attentively before God, waiting for His healing. May we have patience, and a deeper trust as we wait.

Gracious God, in this Holy week, we thank you that You bring forgiveness out of a wooden cross, a morning of hope after a time of depair and mourning. At times, the darkness becomes so familiar, it seems comforting. Lord Jesus, you know when we are ready to start emerging from the shadows, into the warmth of your light, to explore the world beyond. May we be patient, until the healing process allows us to let go of the burdens and sorrows of the past, and to learn to fly, with beautiful coloured wings. Holy spirit, in your perfect timing, enable us to have the courage to explore our freedom and to learn to fly, Amen

Rays of light in times of heartache.

Sitting with the dying.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of my husband’s death. Somehow I thought that things would be easier. I have so much to be thankful for, but it is still a time of deep sorrow and difficult memories.

My husband was invalided out of military service because of a blow to the head which resulted in epilepsy. As the years went on, the seizures became more poorly controlled, and this brought degenerative damage to his brain. He was defiantly independent, and tried his best to work through traumatic memories from his service, but as the years went on,  he became less able. When he needed 24 hour care, he was admitted to a care home, where they took excellent care of him.

My son, myself and the dog visited regularly, as did other family and friends. However after another 4 years, and a broken hip, he was very weak, and had infection after infection.

And so many times I sat by his bed, with the doctor telling me there was nothing more they could do. All that was left, was to make him comfortable.

So many people sit by the bed of a dying loved one. And we know it is a privilege, time to play beautiful music, to express the things most needing to be said. But is is also exhausting and distressing, watching them gradually become weaker, less able to swallow, the morphine level having to be increased.

At times Colin was restless and agitated, at other times more subdued. At times he knew what you were saying and could respond, with a smile or wave. At times you could give him a little raspberry ripple ice cream- a favourite, and you were rewarded with a wan smile.

It was heartbreaking watching him becoming weaker, shrinking in front of me. On some days, there were rays of light through the window that landed on the bed, bringing him warmth and comfort.

And these rays of light spoke of many things. I was thankful that he was comfortable, and well cared for. I was thankful for family able to visit. I was thankful of the presence of Jesus in the room, ready to take him to be with God, in that moment Colin was ready.

Yet is still hurts- not just Colin’s death, but all the years of suffering he experienced, recounting traumatic stories, and having seizures. All the times when he was frustrated and despondent because of his limitations and disabilities. All the years of behavioral issues, of carers and hospital admissions, and the toll it took on his loved ones.

In the last two years, both Colin’s parents have died, and that just adds more layers to the trauma and grief.

I pray for all carers looking after a loved one, but especially those sitting at the bedside of a dying relative. I pray for the person not to be in pain, for loving and attentive care, for words of love to be shared, and for a peaceful passing.

And I am thankful for loving family and friends, who prayed for us and supported us, and for moments of humour in the midst of sadness. I am grateful that I have been able to honour Colin’s memory by telling his story, and to raise awareness of the plight of veterans. I am glad we could raise money for charity- for the Coming Home centre in Govan, and for Epilepsy Connections in Glasgow. I am thankful for all these rays of light, and hope and love. But it still hurts….

Eternal Father, You know what it felt like for your precious Son to die on the cross. You know what we humans go through, when we sit with a loved one who is dying. We are anguished and sorrowful. Lord Jesus, thankyou that You are there too, with an invitation for people to place their trust in You, and find their eternal home. And that your holy spirit enables us to say our goodbyes, and to find peace. Help us as mourn, to honour our loved ones, and then when we are ready, to find our healing, and new direction. May rays of light always fall across our path, 🙏Amen.

The book about Colin’s writings and poems, and the story of his life is called ‘Loved song for a wounded warrior” and can be purchased by contacting this website or on Amazon. All proceeds go to the two charities mentioned above. Thankyou.

Broken, beloved and blessed!

Resurrection in the garden!

I adore Easter Sunday! I used to get stuck at Good Friday, as I contemplated Jesus on the cross dying for my wrongdoing, saying ‘Father, forgive’ even in the darkness and pain. The love and amazing grace of our Lord still humbles and astonishes me every day.

However, I have also learned to appreciate the difference resurrection makes, as I think of the women at the tomb, and the words of the angel ‘ He is not here, he is Risen’ Luke 24:6. The power of these words are breathtaking.

I am going to focus on Mary Magdalene, someone who knew Jesus well, who was described as having ‘ seven demons’ in Luke chapter 8. It is difficult to interpret exactly what that means, but at the very least it means she was troubled or even disturbed. But Jesus healed her, and she became his devoted follower.

So in many ways, Mary went through a time of brokenness, when she was upset, mixed up, distressed. And Jesus helped her find peace. But when she watched her beloved Lord be treated so cruelly, mocked, whipped and beaten, she must have felt so distressed once more, for it seemed that their dream of working for the kingdom of God on earth had died, and their hopes were in smithereens.

In John chapter 20, we have a narrative where the Risen Jesus speaks directly to Mary, and calls her tenderly by her name. And she tries to cling to Him, but he says it is not the time, for he must ascend to His heavenly Father. The whole encounter between them however, speaks of Mary being beloved to her Lord. She is loved and cherished by Him. There is such a depth of beauty in these words, that reminds us that this woman, who was once troubled and seen as an outcast in society, was now accepted and valued.

So Mary was broken, beloved and then blessed. She went to speak to the others, with reverent excitement and enthusiasm saying ‘ I have seen the Lord’s. She has witnessed a miracle, and feels blessed and ready to share what she has seen with the whole world.

This spiritual journey is so relevant to all of us, for we are all struggling or broken without God, but then spending time with Jesus brings healing and an experience of the depth of God’s love, that is life changing. And we are blessed so richly, that we are motivated to go out and share our story.

In these days of resurrection, and reflection on the Easter story, may we all find hope and healing and love, so we can travel from brokenness to wholeness, from estrangement to belovedness, from alienation to being blessed. God desires the best for our lives, so may we be open to all He has for us to receive.

May we pray ‘ Risen Lord, as you appeared to Mary, please come to each of us, call us by our name, remind us of your healing power and purpose for our lives. We may have gone though dark days of illness, trauma or grief, but You are still here for us. Speak tenderly to us in our brokenness and tears, and remind us that we are beloved, treasured by You, and that You want to bless us. Holy spirit, may we be healed and blessed, so we in turn might be a blessing to others. Empower us to do your will, and be a channel of your peace in this world, Amen.

A dark day of weeping.

A cascade of tears.

Yesterday was Good Friday, always an emotional day. To think that some one could love me enough to give their life for me is so much to take in, never mind that that person is the Son of God.

To read the narratives of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the garden, of his trial in front of the high priest, Herod and then Pontius Pilate, and then the crowds shouting ‘crucify’ is heartbreaking. And then it gets worse, the taunting and mocking of the soldiers, the spitting and jeering and beating, the crown of thorns, Jesus carring his cross, and then dying on that blood soaked wood.

And the words that Jesus said ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ Luke 23: 46, and then breathed his last. I was just so moved by the scene, with his mum Mary, the women, his disciple John all present. Jesus was surrounded by love and prayerful tears, even in the midst of his agony. They watched him commit his spirit to God and breath his last.

And something of the meaning of these words struck home, as I remembered the memory of my late husband breathing his last. The sacredness of that moment, the events leading up to it, the helplessness all came back into focus. And I wept hot tears for Jesus, for Colin, and all with those remembrances of sitting at the bed of a loved one. These moments of eternal significance  stay with you for a life time.

It is so hard to finish preparing Good Friday worship, when you cannot see the page in front of you because of your tears. Sometimes the flood gates open, unasked for, as you catch a glimpse of the rawness of grief once again, and that collective grief of the world, sorrowing over loss and pain and sin and violence. It gives a deep sense of the love that motivated Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and to open the way to eternally for all who place their trust in Him. And it brings clarity to that sense of the depth of sorrow of those round the cross, accompanying Jesus in that last journey.

Grief is like this, you are thinking that you are getting stronger, and then out of the blue that wave of pain and sorrow overwhelms. It is also a sense of loss that connects with the losses in all humanity, and is so very dark.

The idea that we grieve so much, because we have the privilege of experiencing the richness and fullness of love makes sense. In many ways to feel such pain, is the cost of love, and so it is a privilege. And after tears in the night, eventually comes the comfort of the dawn.

Gracious Father God, we cannot begin to understand your distress at seeing your precious and beautiful Son so cruely mistreated at the hands of others. Lord Jesus, even in your darkest moment, You demonstrated love and grace, and trusted your spirit into the hands of your Father. May we know too that sacred moments of life and death are held in Your loving and compassionate hands. Even in the midst of our tears, Holy spirit, help us not to fear, but to trust and find peace, for You are faithful. Thankyou Jesus, the Lover of our souls, Amen.