ALADDIN’S ROAD

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is ‘ROAD

The word ‘Road’ brought two thoughts to mind and showed me the connection between them both. The first thought was the title of a book, the content of which once had a large influence on me, called ‘A Road Less Traveled’, by M Scott Peck.

The second thought was the Indian proverb, ‘Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.’

The connection to me was that our roads – our journey, our lives – are in many ways so foreign to each other and that to understand the heart and mind of another, we have to share much of the road with them and listen to their thoughts, behaviour and heart in the ways that they dare to express themselves.

To that end, I want to share the mind of another with you, a glimpse into the mind and heart of a dear acquaintance of mine, Michael Gardner.

He wrote this poem to describe his experience of life through the lens of “autism, O.C.D. and other mental illness.”

I asked if I might share his poem with you, to let you see something of his road, his life wearing ‘his moccasins’.

I am privileged to present his poem, ‘Is Aladdin Out There?’

Is Aladdin Out There?

(Thoughts on Autism, O.C.D and Mental Illness)

My world is insufferably insular.

I am trapped in a room so compact,

Thirty paces from North wall to South wall,

Twenty-two East to West, that’s a fact.

Enclosed in a concrete jungle,

In a suburb in a city near you,

Observing a complex labyrinth of mind-games,

My universe, a tomb with a view.

An existence of cluttered neurosis,

Order’d chaos inexorably ensues,

“RADIO TIMES” is my window, an oracle,

Television delivers my news.

Correspondence that’s filed and collated,

Each codex so meticulously placed

Alphabetical, numerical employment for one,

An environment hermetically chaste.

A germ-free haven to the human condition,

The scrunch of a newsprint floor,

Opinions one-sided, from the man in the mirror

The fear from a knock at the door.

Every day is an endless beginning

Countless dominoes toppling in haste,

Every echo a constant reminder

Of the time that I waste in this space.

I am the “Genie” inside of his bottle,

With the face peering ominously in,

I’m a prisoner to all my aversions

And the demons that scream from within.

By Michael Gardner

to ‘dot hi ‘i’ with a butterfly’ is Michael’s trademark.

Michael’s artistic trademark is to “dot his ‘i’ with a butterfly”, which I cannot do, so I said I would include an image of a butterfly and the request was for a Red Admiral.

Thank you Michael for sharing this with us.

(I will share any comments with him, if he would like me to, so feel free to comment.)

To Be Like Jesus

Christ Pantocrator: I love this portrait as I was privileged to see this mosaic in person in 1988 in the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul

FMF: To be like Jesus

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is: Represent

‘Your home may be the only church she ever sets foot in.

Your life may be the only Bible he ever reads’.

These are paraphrased versions of a very significant thought that has always kept me very aware of my de-facto responsibility, as a follower of Jesus, to also represent Jesus to the world.

I am to be His hands, His feet, His words, but, above all, I am to represent the heart of God to a world that has lost sight of its heart.

If I am known as ‘a Christian’, I will be being observed, even sub-consciously, by others who may not call themselves Christians (and those who do) and my actions and words, and my silence and lack of action, will be weighed up.

Unfortunately I have many times been humbled by someone saying, ‘Gosh, I thought you were a Christian!’

People watch Christians and, by their lives, they judge and decide whether or not they want to know Jesus.

Oh that we would be daily transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.

Oh that our presence would be the fragrance of Christ wherever we go.

Oh that ours is the heart of Jesus that our lives represent to the world.

One of the first songs I learned as a Christian was,

To be like Jesus,

To be like Jesus,

all I ask,

to be like Him

all through life’s journey,

from earth to glory,

all I ask

to be like Him.

Amen

August Abundance

I can hardly believe that I still haven’t publicly given thanks for all of the answered prayers and blessings for August. And August already seems so long away!

I am surrounded by September’s special flavour, fragrance and occupations…

Also, of course, last week there came such a shift in the carpet of Britain. Our long-serving, gracious and dignified Queen went home to the glorious rest she deserves and our new King has taken on the responsibility of the throne of Britain.

Within less than two weeks we have a new Prime Minister and a new Monarch.

I pray for them all.

And I thank God that He is ever on the throne – glorious in power forever.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

The everlasting God, the Lord,

the Creator of the ends of the earth

does not become weary or tired.

His understanding is inscrutable.

Isaiah 40:28

And He hears our prayers and works all things for good for those who love Him.

I want to thank God for these answered prayers during August:

That at the end of last month you answered R’s prayers and took the faithful lady home.

For the work You have done in me to forgive, repent, release and resurrect relationships in my life and for the healing this is bringing.

For time to catch up and prepare for the course.

For keeping S’s luggage safe and giving good homes for her to stay in.

For the service I was privileged to do and renewed connections.

For S’s smooth and blessed journeys there and back.

For over 400 lunches served in our small community over the 3 August weeks – for meeting the needs and showing Your tremendous love.

For bringing S back to the group.

For C’s MRI results being good.

For use of the car an extra day to accomplish many extra tasks

For good new tyres on my bike.

For inspiration to invite J to Alpha and his acceptance.

For another glorious family picnic in the park.

For R’s increased fitness and signs of growth.

For both T. and A’s hospital test results showing complete absence of cancer.

For immediately answering my prayer for help with trains- in such a blessed way.

That M is getting stronger and responding well to treatment.

That R had a successful operation and is recovering well.

For perfectly smooth journeys and connections for my trip to Ayr and back and for the special opportunity for quality time with my sister and her wonderful family.

For a safe, quality camping trip for the boys.

For a second blessed week with S.

For teaching me how to balance my desire to be hospitable, sociable and available, with my need for alone-time.

For the opportunity to bless K.

For the engagement and blessings on Z and H.

For working in J to answer his prayer.

For so many transforming, healing revelations of acceptance and abundant provision in the spiritual realm.

Grateful for abundant provision of delicious harvest in the natural world too.

Lord, like a child, I notice only those gifts in ribbons – especially the ones I have asked for – but I want to thank you for all the ways that you answered my prayers and the desires of my heart that I hardly even noticed. Daily I pray protection, safety and blessing on all my beloveds and I thank you for all the ways that You do that, for all the miraculous interventions along the way of which I am blissfully unaware.

Once You showed me and my children that, on the bus to the party in the park – You showed me the bus that we had missed 10 minutes earlier (and I had been cross about), but which was now emptied and the place where we always sat (and were sitting in that spot on the next bus) it was all mangled and bashed in by a tree. I remember that lesson with such gratitude for Your great love and plans for Your children.

Thank You for abundance!!

Bitter Fruits?

axe carefully laid to the offending root of bitterness

Take an Axe to the Root

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is ‘ROOT’

I was excited to see this prompt-word last night, as I had just returned from a weekend of a prayer ministry course, which is focussed on eradicating ‘bitter fruit’ by identifying the ‘bitter root’ and laying an axe to that root.

The person seeking prayer ministry recognises some ‘bitter fruit’ in their life – issues that they wish were not there, aspects of behaviour that are problematic. These may be very obvious ‘bitter fruit’ like addictions and uncontrollable behaviour, or more subtle weaknesses which they may even consider to be ‘just the way I am’. It is something we want to change, but seem unable to change – it has become a ‘stronghold’.

The presence of the bitter fruit indicates the presence of the bitter root, whence it sprang, and the crux of the ministry is to lay the axe to the root, in repentance, and then bring all the habits of resultant behaviour to the cross.

The bitter roots are our sinful responses to the painful things that usually happen in our early life. The root is not the event or trauma itself, but my response to it. bitter roots (sinful responses) always cause ‘bitter fruit’ in our lives. God wants us to bring these to death on the cross.

The most common sinful response is to make judgments on the person we perceive to have caused our hurt (usually parents, siblings, family when we are so young). We also believe lies about ourself, the world or God, and we make vows to ‘always’ or ‘never’… in order to protect ourselves from further pain. In our young hearts, we create the expectancy that others will do this same thing.

This weekend I enjoyed the incredible (but slightly scary) power of this.

I wanted to receive this ministry to finally deal with some bitter fruit in my life.

One ‘fruit’ was never knowing what I need or want – decisions were treacherously difficult.

Another was being tired and resentful – sick and tired – of always striving to meet the needs of others to justify my existence. If you asked me why I said yes to everything, my answer would be ‘Why not? I see no reason why I shouldn’t. They need this and I have time.’

I didn’t think this was wrong. I thought it was good; that I was being a good girl.

I thought I was pleasing God by serving Him, because ‘inasmuch as you do this to the least of these, you do it for me.’

But I was feeling very tired, sometimes a little sad, sometimes resentful, lonely and weary. I was tired from constant striving to please, and striving to justify my existence, in order to deserve to breathe and live.

All my ‘service’ was coming out of duty. It was a sense of ‘I’ve got to do this today’, instead of ‘I get to do this today’.

In ministry I got to the roots – to judgments I made of my parents, lies I believed about myself and my worth, vows I made not to need or ask for anything. Therefore this is what I reaped all my life. True to my vow, I kept my needs and wants hidden from all, even myself. True to my judgments and expectations, my intimate experiences confirmed that my needs would not be met.

I felt exhilarated seeing this sure recipe for suffering as a direct result of my own responses to a child’s broken heart. I experienced the relief of repenting for my sinful judgments and responses, forgiving my parents, forgiving myself and God. I renounced my vow not to need or want and I confronted all of the lies with the truth.

Moving forward will not be quick and easy. The lies ran deep and no matter what my head told me, despite the word of God, my heart now needs to relearn how to operate and feel in truth.

I know that I cannot earn God’s love. I know that Jesus is my only justification. I know that Jesus forgives all the sins I bring to the cross. I know that He came to bring life to the full and that He is my provider and He gives us the deepest desires of our hearts. This is the truth and it is the truth that sets us free and brings joy.

I know this in my head, but it is not what my heart believed, nor was it the motivation behind my behaviour.

I came out of ministry feeling like my operating system had been wiped clean and all the functions need reprogramming.

But I am also so incredibly grateful and relieved, excited and full of joy.

I shall take it easy for a while. I want to learn what His will for me is.

I really don’t want to reach the end of my days saying ‘Phew! Are you happy, God?’ And to hear my heavenly Father reply, ‘Well, you were very busy, Dawn, but you didn’t do any of the wonderful things I had in mind for you. You missed out on freedom and joy and on your true calling.’

The word says in Ephesians –

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10.

I want to be vigilant to take contrary thoughts captive and watch for automatic patterns kicking back in, as I don’t want my healing to be snatched away by my own carelessness.

To be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

My first task is to meditate on this verse and spend some time allowing Father God to let me rest as a human-being and not as a human-doing.

Views and perspectives

FMF:View.

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday.

We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is VIEW.

I’ve gone on a little holiday.

I took a train up to Ayr, to join my sister and her family for a week, staying in a couple of caravans right next to the beach.

This is Scotland and this week the weather is cool, with dramatic shifts of sunshine, showers, storms and sun-bursts again and again. The children love it despite the weather, as there are many activities to enjoy.

But the beach – that is what I love!

I took two of the children off to explore the coastline, believing there to be a castle somewhere nearby, but not knowing if we could reach it along the beach, or if it was in walking distance. But the children were game for the adventure.

Armed with sunglasses, raincoats and carrier bags for treasure, we set off towards the beach and our adventure…

It was slow going towards the first headland, because they decided to hunt and collect ‘sea-glass’.

As soon as I was drafted into the search, I got distracted by my own passion for pretty coloured stones… My focus moved from dancing under the wide expanse of sky, to scouring the sands and drifts for treasure.

Looking for treasure during the first part of the adventure. Reaching the first headland…

Finally we rounded the headland and whooped, as there in the distance, at the next headland, was the ‘castle’ we’d hoped to find. There were still several minor obstacles and a whole load of beached jelly-fish, but we reached the castle rock and imagined the possible stories told through the generations of history of 16th Century Greenan Castle.

Delighted to have our hoped-for destination in sight!

Pushing them to their limits, I persuaded them it was good to climb up to get a closer look, since we had come so far; brambles and nettles tried to deter us, reminiscent of the tale of ‘sleeping beauty’, but we reached the top and were immediately silenced by the beautiful views.

views looking back to the whole length of our journey from the far headland

The view made the destination more than worthwhile, though the adventure itself was such fun and a memorable afternoon out.

There’s more than one lesson in that!

The journey of life itself can be explored as an exciting adventure.

Push through to your destination, despite the obstacles and don’t give up.

The nearer you lean towards God’s heart, the closer you get to His perspective – and from heaven’s perspective, the view is amazingly all-encompassing and glorious.

I want to enjoy all of my life’s adventure from a heavenly perspective. Do you?

Don’t forget July thanksgivings!

FMF:Forget.

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is: Forget

There were so many things jostling for position in my thoughts when considering the word ‘forget’:-

all my experiences and understanding of dementia; the call to ‘forget not’ the wonders and commands of the Lord; and my own clumsy stories of forgetfulness; but the subject that won my attention, to consider for these five minutes, is ‘forget’-fulness as the reason for my monthly gratitude blog.

About 18 months ago, in the space of about 48 hours, I witnessed three wonderful, miraculous and diverse answers to prayer. Of course this was tremendously encouraging to my own faith and prayer life – I saw what an enormous privilege and honour it was, to pray and see the power of prayer changing lives.

But what struck me most was that I so often pray about things and then completely forget about them. When the emergency has passed and all is well, I forget about the sweat, anxiousness and concern of those moments and I slip so easily into taking for granted the healings, the protection and the countless blessings that have taken place. Sometimes I didn’t remember to even ask the person how the situation had progressed, for which I had been praying.

The emergencies capture my attention and I pray, but then I forget.

So I began not only writing down my prayers, which helps me to focus intentionally in prayer, but also every couple of days to reflect on what I was praying for and check in to see if those prayers were already answered, or need revising.

Those answered prayers are then recorded in a little thanksgiving book.

The practice of reflecting allows me to see the miracles, blessings and answers to prayer all the time and to constantly encourage me to pray more.

More importantly for me, it reminds me to stop and say ‘Thank You’. I always have this image of the ten lepers who begged Jesus for healing and were cleansed as they went on their way… but the one who came back to thank Jesus, he was made whole!

I want to always remember to acknowledge, notice, recall, remember and praise and thank my God for all the prayers He has answered every day and to never forget all of His benefits.

I like to do this publicly each month, to praise God publicly and to encourage you to not give up praying, and to keep looking for those answers to prayer in your every-day life.

My five minutes are over now, but I will take this opportunity to now include my heartfelt gratitude for all the prayers answered during the month of July – those specific prayer intentions, as well as all of those general heartfelt longings for loved ones and the groans of the Spirit, that I know He hears.

(I had not forgotten to do my monthly thanksgiving, but I have been extra-specially busy these past Summer weeks. It is too easy to let it slip and allow busy-ness to become an excuse to forget again.)

So specifically I thank and praise God for:

For help, ideas and blessings during the two Sunday School lessons

For the kindness, prayers and support of friends and church family during some difficult weeks

For the prayers for me for freedom

For your many promises to me, especially psalm 103

For the safe travel connections for my sons and for the opportunity for them to holiday together

For another powerful EH weekend training and for all the work You did in and through us

For a blessed visit and couple of days with J and V

For the dedication of the refurbished building, and for the dedication of K, and the blessed fellowship connections and gatherings for each

For showing me images and memories, and guiding me in my own healing journey with You

For a blessed trip to Cheltenham and laying to rest of R’s ashes and for the smooth arrangements and renewed relationships and contacts.

For precious times with grandchildren

For breaking strongholds and revealing truth

For J and J and their willingness to help professionally

For your Peace in the storms and for financial help

For a lovely party for J and S and all the precious guests

For a precious family day out together

For a blessed time of fellowship and connection with S

For faith, peace, hope in you

Glory to God in the Highest Heaven and Glory to God deep in my heart.

Don’t forget to say thank you.

Please be the one leper who comes back daily to say thank you.

I am a Prisoner

When we do not work together in love of God and our neighbours, this kind of division, oppression and injustice is allowed.
Love our enemies and allow no division, no ignorance and fear of the other.
Don’t be afraid to surrender control to God and allow and encourage FREEDOM in the hearts, minds and lives of all we meet.
Pray for our family members who suffer division, persecution, and unjust hardships that they may be comforted by the God of all comfort and be strengthened and emboldened to STAND.
Thank you Sonam for sharing this powerful poem and photographs.

Silent Songs of Sonsnow

I am a Prisoner
A Prisoner of someone
So strong and powerful,
They hold back my hand
When I raise my fist for freedom,
They twist my tongue
When I tweet for Truth and Justice,

I am a Prisoner
A Prisoner of someone
So Strong and powerful
They took me far off
When I choose to write for Rights,
They tied me and trialed
When I hold to Truth too tight,

I am a prisoner
A Prisoner of someone
So strong and powerful,
They looted my home
When I own the Truth and Justice,
They put me in Prison
When the world sold them Humanity.
By Sonsnow

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Building together

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is Together

Our language is full of expressions and idioms promoting the benefits of working together:

  • Two heads are better than one
  • Many hands make light work.
  • Coming together is a beginning.
  • Keeping together is progress.
  • Working together is success.
  • Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.
  • Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.

On the other hand, we also know expressions warning of division:

  • A house divided against itself will fall
  • Divide and conquer
  • No man is an island

The conclusion is that if we work together on common goals, we can together achieve great things, or at least can make great progress towards the goal, but if we are divided, then progress is severely restricted on both sides.

Of course living together in harmony, though it sounds idyllic in theory, it is extremely difficult.

It requires enormous love to live in harmony with other human beings.

Most of us struggle to love even a few human beings well.

We are most often judgmental, critical, lazy, greedy, irritable, resentful, impatient, controlling, self-willed, ungrateful and self-centred. We are unskilled in resolving disputes and disagreements… at least I am!

But there is hope, because God created us and He loves us. In Jesus He will recreate us and teach us to live in His divine love.

He will teach and equip us to be forgiving, patient, generous, encouraging, kind, persevering, preferring others. He will teach us to go the extra mile and to love as He loves.

Without the love of God in us, true harmonious love is all-but impossible.

We love because He first loved us.

When we love each other, even our enemies, with the love of Jesus, we can transform ourselves and our communities into havens of safety, growth, healing and transformation. We can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. And others will be attracted to our loving communities and want to come alongside us, because:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

For this reason Jesus builds His church, and He calls us to help Him to build. As we invite others, by our acceptance and love, to be willing to grapple with each other to build our community of those who love Jesus and love each other.

He never meant for us to be alone in the world. He puts us in families. He puts us in His family. And He wants us to encourage, support and persevere in love in our family, so

let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10: 24-25

family and friends gathering for food and fun together

Can you think of any more idioms and common expressions promoting working together and warning of division and isolation.

Book Review: THE CAPTIVE’S CROWN by Olusola Sophia Anyanwu

Eliana has lost her identity through a series of broken relationships, dreams and heart-ache and has now perfected the status of a high-class prostitute.

But things are changing in and around Jerusalem! There’s a ‘new man in town’ and he is turning over the tables. This man is a miracle-worker – he is healing people of illnesses, making the lame walk and, even more miraculously, he is giving people new hearts full of love and hope.

Many of her friends in the trade are giving up their professions, helping each other and learning ‘respectable’ trades. Not just her friends, but many other out-casts, tax-collectors and undesirables as well.

She is desirable, of course, but only in secret places; she cannot hold her head up high in public. But Miriam would not wish to give up her life, except maybe to quench the longing in her heart for love, for family…

She is curious…

Should she meet this miracle-man who fed thousands with five loaves?

This man who loves the unlovable?

What would he make of her?

Sophia Anyanwu takes the reader into Eliana’s captive life as Miriam and cleverly introduces her past story, weaving past pain and future hope into this creative tale of human betrayal, struggle, redemption and transformation.

She invites the reader into the fragrance of Jesus’ presence, through those he has already touched, and with them the reader witnesses the life-giving restoration of all who encounter him.

I cried, yearned and empathised with Miriam; I hoped tentatively and courageously with Eliana; and I rejoiced with all the relationships that flourished under the touch of the Kingdom of Heaven.

More importantly I experienced a re-awakening of hope in my own relationships, sensing again the real, life-giving possibilities under the miraculous power of radical love and of forgiveness.

Thank you, Sophia.

The Captive’s Crown can be bought from Amazon, or via Olusola Sophia Anyanwu’s website, where you will see all her other amazing written work.

www.olusolasophiaanyanwuauthor.com

Second Chances

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes.

The prompt this week is ‘Chance’

21:44

I work in a charity shop called Second Chance. People donate their clothing, books, music, film, toys, ornaments – anything that has outlived its usefulness to the owner, but could still be useful to another.

Some of these second-hand donated items are deemed ‘not good enough’ to sell from our shelves, so these, which still deserve to be more useful than landfill, are donated on for other companies to recycle and reuse in other ways. For example, some coats we donate on to a local homeless shelter and towels and blankets go to PDSA and similar uses. Others may be sold on as rags and metal is also recycled.

We all have different ideas about what is good enough to sell, what is worth buying – and of course, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Sometimes what is old is worth more than what is new. An item’s worth is not always of monetary equivalence either – many of us have objects that are of enormous sentimental value to a family or individual, that another would consider ‘old tat’.

But for many varied reasons, our shop is blessed with a great many bags of donations every week and it is our privilege to sell these items on, to bless new homes for a fraction of their original price, and to give the items themselves a second chance to be valuable. They may go on to have a third, fourth or more chances too.

For those who know the film ‘Toy Story’, I often feel that same panic and nostalgia that Woody feels for himself and the other toys, for these donated items moving on to be loved again, rather than rotting in an attic.

front of Second Chance Charity Shop
image from inside the shop from a year ago

How much more valuable are we? Jesus told us not to worry about what to eat, drink and wear etc, because our loving Father cares for us. He said we are more valuable than the sparrows. We are also more valuable than the clothes and furniture that we care so much about. We are more valuable than money itself. How much is a life worth?

God loves us so much that He gave us His Son – surely that is the most treasured and valuable possession that He had – He gave Him up so that whoever believes in Him, and His death and resurrection – so that that little me or you – could have eternal, abundant life.

What is more valuable than life?

Abundant, eternal life.

He gave the most valuable of His own to save the most valuable of your own.

By this He forgave you, not once, but, if you are anything like me, He forgives you again and again and again. I have had multiples of second chances!

How often do I give others even one second chance?

Do I ever give another?

May He teach me to hold lightly not only to the material things around me, but to not hold on to resentments and unforgiveness at all.

Let me be one who is willing to give as many second chances to others, as God is giving to me.

Stop