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

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.

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.

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

Three score and ten?

FMF Writing prompt: Twenty

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 ‘TWENTY’

18:01

I am of the age when most of my life has been dated 19- something, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.

Twenty-something feels very recent!

I remember the sense of occasion vividly on the approach of the new millennium and of it becoming 2000.

Some called it the noughties. I felt quite old!

The noughties passed in a lot of personal changes, challenges, blessings and – well, LIFE, I guess.

I don’t know how it was called when we hit 2010 and that decade – was it the teenies maybe?

For me, twenty- twelve was a bit of a breakdown, leading to twenty-fifteen as the start of a proper recovery.

2015 I determined would be the best year of my life! It was!

Maybe it was/is all part of a process towards recovery, because I am so blind, deaf and stubborn in my heart! I thank God for his loving patience!

Then we got to 2020 – that excited me, because the nerdy part of me loves number patterns.

I expect I was particularly tickled to get to 20/02/2020, and even to 02/02/2020.

I remember folk posting prophetically about 20-20 vision and an air of expectation, but with the benefit of hindsight the twenty-twenties seem to have been swallowed up in a covid-19 aftermath of fear, chaos, mistrust and hardships.

But there was growth and many blessings amidst this time. There was great courage, trust, generosity and sacrifice too.

There is always hope.

God was not surprised by any of this, as we were.

It being 2022 already makes me realise that we are here for such a short time.

Even a general life-span is counted in 20s – three score years and ten, I remember often hearing. Whether I live that long or longer, God only knows, for He has numbered my days and my times are in His hands.

I will trust Him every day, with every hour and every breath.

With my ‘one-day-at-a-time’, may I honour my Father God and honour and cherish all of life that He has created, especially yours (whoever you are) and mine.

Life is a beautiful gift, however old you are.

Do I trust Him? Can He trust me?

This week’s FMF writing prompt is: TRUST

16:12

Words that occur to me in response to that loaded, elephant in the room five-letter word:

Trust = falling, insanity, sacrifice, disappointment, let-me-down…

Trust is almost a dirty word and terrifying, to me, yet simultaneously one of the sweetest and most precious of dreams.

It is currently being held right up there in my face, questioning, showing me how little of it I have, testing me now it is actually needed.

Now I need to walk the talk!

I see that it is the only thing left, if I am to obey the voice of God.

But all of me rebels, kicks and screams and asks for an easier way, a way I can control myself, a path I can see the outcome of and one which looks safe and ordinary…

(Of course my own way, the broad road, is never at all better, or smooth, or safer, or anything else I deceive myself with in my denial and resistance.)

How does one surrender, submit, let-go and let God?

How does one learn to trust? Except by doing it?

My only response, to self, is that if I am to trust that God loves me, as He says; to trust that God has forgiven me my sins, that He hears my prayers, that Jesus has purchased for me eternal life with Him, then I am going to have to prove to myself that I will trust and obey Him with this seemingly crazy, but relatively trivial, step right now.

Stop

I was looking for an image of that trust game we used to do at school where one fell back, hopefully to be caught be the ‘friend’ behind you… So grateful to have a real trustworthy friend in Jesus. Can He trust me?

FMF: Aware – Self-aware?

Go:

To be aware seems to me to imply being conscious or mindful of something, as against a strong and secure knowledge of a fact. It feels like a tenuous ‘holding’ – in the mind of the heart – of a concept, sensation, or even a theory, or possible truth, or untruth.

Awareness for me is the first stage of wisdom.

Unless I first become aware of something, I cannot even begin to acknowledge, explore, or know it.

This is particularly true in terms of self-knowledge and healing.

In my own therapeutic journey, I have been most conscious of those moments when I first become aware of something – either a memory, an emotion, a reaction, a trigger, or a response. When it is in my awareness, I can then examine it, test it, question it and try it out from different angles, to see what possible truth I can learn from it.

If what I recognise is a repeated negative pattern in the present, I know I have found another key to healing.

Then I can acknowledge what is true in the present and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can find the root cause of it (usually buried somewhere in early childhood) and then confess and repent of judgments, lies and sinful responses (to early hurts and disappointments) that have resulted in strongholds in my life.

Oh to be aware!

Oh merciful and patient Father, who seeks our healing and freedom more than we do!

Thank you Holy Spirit, communicator of wisdom and truth.

Stop.

The ‘four colours of Dawn, trapped in a cage, unable to fly or to sing’ – this was a sensation I was aware of this morning, so put onto paper.

Are you aware of something you feel nudged to deal with?