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.

Recovering my own Memory Lane

As I child I always wanted to ask and know about our story, though information was rarely forthcoming.

“Mammy, Did you and Aunty Ju fight a lot?

How naughty was I?

Tell me about me and Debbie?”

I wanted to know the details and the why/ how much/ why not? My own children were the same in adolescence – they wanted to hear about themselves as young children: Mammy, tell me about the time we…

When my Mammy came to live with us in 2006, I still wanted her to tell me the stories. She told me the same few stories that she’d always told about her own childhood. And good that she did, because before long, I was having to prop her up with those same stories that she was beginning to forget. As her short term memory lost it’s grip altogether, the deeper, older memories became stronger and more significant. It was like the roof had blown off and she had moved downstairs. As she forgot the recent and latter parts of her life upstairs, she also lost some of the show – the inhibitions, the secrets, the niceties and reserve were blown away like the loose fittings and the stories she told and the way that she spoke felt as real and profound as a fairy-tale. I learned so much about this beloved woman in those months. She was clinging to the old furnishings and we described them together over and over. Sometimes she would venture upstairs with me, but it was windy and precarious up there and there was little left, but sometimes she would like me to describe what it had been like before.

This was our special journey together down ‘Memory Lane’. It was important for my own processing and growth. Mammy also showed me surprising hidden closets from my infancy and before I was part of her story. There were times I felt lost in her world and times when we were both felt ‘lost down memory lane’.

It was those hidden closets and those Bogeymen in the cellar, that I knew I would have to have the courage to meet in my own life. I had spent a lifetime barricading the doors and papering over the cracks, pretending that I was sorted and healed, but it was not true at an emotional level and I could see that it was futile at best. I was not living the promised ‘life to the full’ because I was still afraid of the Bogeymen!

Burying my head in the sand, anaesthetising the pain, ‘not knowing’ and ‘forgetting’ were all coping mechanisms to avoid facing the fear of being afraid. I was ready to be sober and to look my Bogeymen, secrets and myself – square in the face. Well, I thought it was time I tried! I would make sure I did things differently and let go of the fears that were strangling my life and my voice. And so it began with a plan on New Year’s Eve, 2015…

The next few years were an exploration of Suzie’s stories as she told them to me and I wrote them down. A journey of getting to know and learning to love her by going down her secret Memory Lane.

This beautiful and courageous adventure into young Suzie’s life is the subject of my current writing project and the book coming soon…

In honour of this, I wrote a poem:

Free to be me, at fifty

At fifty, she’d had to confess,

that her life was really a mess;

She needed a chance to learn a new dance

and to heal, to grow and to bless.

But a word from the wise, whispered, “Open your eyes,

for the door of your cage,

(Prophesied the old sage)

Is unlocked!”

Unlocked?

She’d been trapped in the cage, this is true,

But at least it was space that she knew.

Could she survive, even thrive, in the open,

if she finally let go and flew?

Her heart was abused and her wings still unused –

What if she fell, couldn’t fly?

To make such a change felt fearfully strange,

Was she even too old now to try?

Unlocked?

She pushed open the door and stepped out,

surrendered her will and her doubt.

She screamed and roared as she tumbled and soared,

but her Saviour never let go!

For He who transforms and renews the mind

taught her to trust, forgive and be kind.

He gave her a choice, gave her a voice

and courage to leave the old cage behind.

So she flew, she flapped, she served and dared –

whether feeling strong, brave or scared;

She was free to fly, free to be;

finally free

– to be me

– at fifty.

I was to make it the best year of my life! And I did.

Remembering Jesus in Advent.

Remembrance Blog 4 New Testament

In the last post, we looked at God’s word which was written on tablets of stone and memorised in festivals, but the prophets foretold a closer intimacy that God desired with His people. Celebrating the first week of Advent, this weekend, is a perfect time to reflect on the fulfilment of the promise, even though, despite the prophesies, it did not come about in the way the people hoped or expected. This part of God’s plan was revealed through the coming of God’s Son – Emmanuel and with Him, the revelation of the Kingdom of God. God wanted us to not just know about Him, but to know Him personally. We ‘remember’ (remind and encourage ourselves with the truth) that God came down to earth and we ‘remember’ that He WILL come again for the complete fulfilment of His Kingdom.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us

Jeremiah 31:33-34

But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbour and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Though God does not remember our sins, and though we have His law in our hearts, we are still commanded to remember God in the Eucharist and to remember His words and everything that Jesus taught and did – because we are forgetful and easily distracted.

Remembering Who He is and His love

1 Corinthians 11:24-25

…and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.’

Revelation 3:3

So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.’

In our new birth into this New Covenant through the blood of Jesus, God helps us to remember, by giving us the Holy Spirit to be our helper, our guide and our ‘reminder’. –

John 14:26

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.’

John 2:22

So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.’

Acts 11:15-18

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

Just as in the days of old, we are still encouraged to teach, to remember and pass on the words and deeds of God and His love for us. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.

We are to remember, teach, inspire, honour, instruct and pass-on what we have learned from our Lord. The apostles do this in their written encouragements to the early church and we are exhorted to continue to strengthen one another with the truths and hope that we have through Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:12

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.’

2 Peter 3:1-10

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Saviour spoken by your apostles.’

Isn’t it wonderful how Jesus assured us of how God still remembers His Covenant with us – even the New Covenant in His blood. God honours and remembers our faithfulness, our sacrifices, our love and our good deeds. When we pray, He hears our cries and remembers us and remembers the blood of Jesus, shed for the abundant, eternal life of each of us. Even in His moment of greatest distress, in agony on the cross, the thief asks Jesus to ‘remember’ him and Jesus assures him that He will remember him and has heard his plea for mercy – “today you will be with me in paradise.”

Matt 26:10 -13

Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me… When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Acts 10:4

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

Is it not truly wonderful that God loves us so much, that He wants an intimate relationship with each one of us, so He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us every moment into all the truth and to remind us of all that we need to know. I’m so glad He reminds me constantly of my complete dependence on Him.

And yet, all the ‘good’ deeds that we do are always ‘remembered’ by God, whereas our sins – these He remembers no more!

Hebrews 8:10-12

For I will be merciful to their iniquities,

And I will remember their sins no more.”

What an amazing love and such amazing grace!

Remembering His Promises

Remembrance Blog 3

In the previous 2 blogs, I explored how November is a month where traditionally in the church and in the wider society, we remember people from the past – those whose lives inspire us to be greater people and those whose lives warn us of consequences of rebellion or folly. We also traditionally remember our forbears who have gone before us and left their own legacy.

Throughout the history of the relationship between God and His people, God regularly ‘commands’ us to remember (call to mind) Him and His Covenant promises with His people.

Here are some examples from the Old Testament, where God exhorts US to remember His faithfulness to His Covenant –

Ex 23:14-17

Three times a year you are to hold a festival for me. Hold the spring Festival of Unraised Bread… That was the month you came out of Egypt… Hold the summer Festival of Harvest when you bring in the first-fruits of all your work in the fields. Hold the autumn Festival of Ingathering at the end of the season when you bring in the year’s crops. Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Master, God.”

Deuteronomy 5:15

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”

Deuteronomy 8:18

But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

Psalm 77: 11-12

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will reflect on all You have done and ponder Your mighty deeds.”

Why does God command us to remember His ‘mighty deeds’? I think it is because we are so prone to forgetting and to focussing instead on our own immediate, day-to-day issues. Our tendency is to be overwhelmed by our present concerns and to take a microscopic focus on our circumstances or our own limited human capacity. Remembering that God is with us and for us inspires faith, hope and a greater capacity to love and to follow Him.

Remembering God’s mighty deeds of the past puts God in the focus of our mind and gives us a telescopic view of His care and faithfulness and reminds us of the bigger picture. Remembering that God hears our cries, answers our prayers and comes to the aid of His people, this builds our faith and our hope in Him who, if He has been faithful and mighty, He can be faithful and mighty again. Remembering His interventions in our stories also causes us to pause and to give Him the thanks He deserves and the peace to rest in His provision. This is why I do my monthly public thanksgiving for specific prayers answered. It reminds me to have faith in His faithfulness.

God remembers His promises

But sometimes it is God Himself who ‘remembers’ His Covenant, when His people call upon Him to act and to save –

Genesis 9:14-16

It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Exodus 2:23-25

Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.

Psalm 105:8

He has remembered His covenant forever,

The word which He commanded to a thousand generations.

God’s word is there to remind us of His constant faithfulness to His Covenant with His people.

God desired a greater intimacy with us. He planned to restore the intimacy lost in the Garden of Eden. He spoke of His plan and fulfilled His plan in Jesus, when He extended His Covenant with all of humanity. We will look at that in the next post.

Let it inspire your faith – God will never forget you! He loves you with an everlasting love. His word always accomplishes what it says. Remind Him of His promises to you and build your trust on His faithfulness.