Tag: Lent

For you alone and all of you

Today is Good Friday. Today at 3pm we commemorate Our Lord Jesus’ passion and death for us on the cross.

It is more than a commemoration. As we pray, as we venerate the cross, as we approach the altar and receive Jesus, Body and Blood given for us, we take part in the sacrifice He makes for us and the redemption that flows from His Sacred Heart.

On a Good Friday several years ago, the Priest gave the briefest and possibly most powerful sermon I have ever heard. After the reading of the narrative of Christ’s Passion he simply said: Jesus did this for you, and He would have done it for only you. That very simple amazing truth about the cross lifted me right into the arms of Our Lord.

At the Cross, if I only stop there and look at my Jesus, there is no hiding and no pride. None of my sin, need, failure, weakness, pain, despair, is bigger than what He did on the Cross. And none of my pain, longing or grief is too small or stupid for Jesus to care about either, even the things I try to hide from everyone because I feel they are so childish or bad. Jesus did this for me and for all of me.

It is really hard for me to comprehend a love that wants all of me. So often I set myself apart, sure that this love cannot be for me really because I am too bad inside, sure of an angry God and that I deserve punishment. As a child my abusers convinced me utterly of my evil, the awful things I did and would do and the awful intentions and desires that were inside me. They set up a world where I believed they were the only ones who knew the terrible person I really was and the only ones who could stop the terrible consequences if I did what they demanded. They proclaimed their love for me but looking back I don’t know how I understood this love or how the supposed love was shown. In a way might it have been simpler if they just outright hated me?!

The understanding of me and of love that this left me with is so far from the love of God. He created us in His image. When we messed up, He sent His Son Jesus, right into our dark and confused world, drawing us back to follow Him to God the Father. He didn’t demand our perfection. Rather the opposite. He takes on all our imperfection, suffers and dies for us, and rises again, so that weak as we are we can do the same and follow Him to His Father’s house. The fact Jesus wants me, only me, all of me, is something it will take me a long long time to truly understand. The Cross is a good place to start and ask Jesus for the grace for His truth to replace the lies and confusion in my heart, so that I can lay down all of me and let Him love me, even though for all the years I have so wanted to believe, I don’t know yet what this kind of love is.

My prayer for you today is that Jesus show you tenderly how He loves all of you.

Ginny xxx

With thanks:

Image 1 from Mount Carmel Edmonton

Image 2 from Slideshare.net

Image 3 with thanks to Bertha Chelemu from Sermon quotes.com

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Gesthemane

Today is Holy Thursday, or Mandy Thursday. Today we remember – and share in – Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, the Last Supper where He gave His Body and His Blood for us, so that we should never be apart from Him again. We also recall Jesus’ prayer and suffering that night in the garden of Gesthemane. We wait and watch in prayer.

I was not well enough physically or mentally to go to Mass tonight and watching at the altar. I have been trying to pray, read, listen at home. I wanted to find some words to say, some hopeful answer or some words to write here…. and I can’t. I don’t know what is happening to me. And I feel so guilty. In the liturgy of today, my God and Saviour Jesus has just given the most indescribable gift to us that makes us one with Him forever. He is about to suffer death for us. For me, so that I am lifted up with Him in His resurrection to God. And what do I feel? I feel empty, blank and cannot see for panic and hurt and darkness. Right when I should be thankful, grateful, filled with hope. Maybe what I most hate about this illness, and about myself as I am with this illness, is that unbearable emotions block out everything even what I most believe to be truth.

Jesus asks his disciples “Will you not watch one hour with me?” They also struggled. They were overcome with exhaustion, confusion, grief and fear. Jesus went away a little distance to pray and returned to find them sleeping.

Will you not watch one hour with me?

Here I am, Lord Jesus. My Jesus, I am here, but I do not know what to do or say. I am with You, yet I fear. You give Yourself to me, yet I lose hope. You died for me, yet I deny You and forget You when I despair and when I am consumed by anger or fear. You call me Your own, but I do not know who I am and I’m terrified of what is inside me, of my “others”. You are Love, You made me to love, but when it matters most, I do not feel.

Right after the Last Supper, came the darkness and agony of Gesthemane. Christ was still to go through His ultimate suffering and sacrifice. There was still the Cross, and still the Resurrection, without which everything before would have been meaningless. The way was not instantly rejoicing and light and the disciples did not yet understand what was to come and that Jesus would be risen from the dead. But the darkness and confusion did not mean Jesus’ love was gone away. It did not mean He had abandoned us. Rather, in suffering His love was about to be poured out for the whole world. Everything and everyone was part of His redemptive plan.

Please Lord Jesus, help me know that when it is dark You have not abandoned me. Please help me lay down now the terror of what I am, the terror that I am beyond Your help and beyond Your love. Because that denies the enormity of what You did for us, when I think You came for everyone but me. Here I am Lord, all of me. Please give me the grace to know You came for me.

Xxx

Resurrection eggs

I have been making some little gifts for the elderly at the Christian day centre where I volunteer. This isn’t my own idea – I came across a similar project on YouTube for “resurrection eggs”. I bought a set of plastic eggshells from a craft store and filled the insides with not only some chocolates but also a Scripture passage I wrote out, a different one for each person. There are a few different versions of this project and often pictures are put in numbered eggs which are opened to tell the Easter story to children. For the day centre I chose to include passages that share God’s mercy and that we are tenderly loved by Him. Please God it will bring some encouragement to our visitors next week (we still celebrate the joy of Easter beyond Easter Sunday!).

Copying out the passages today gave me a little bit of help as I have been extremely low and feeling I’m sinking, not able to carry on. I need to keep reaching out.

You can find the YouTube video by Taming the Frizz, that inspired me HERE .

Ginny xxx

Easter crafts – letting the light shine through

We made stained glass window pictures this week at the day centre where I volunteer with elderly people. In a small group we made three pictures – loaves and fish, the Cross and the sun rising above a tomb with the stone rolled away. Here’s the Cross (please excuse the scribbling where I’ve removed anything that could have identified the location; I’m probably being over-cautious but still…):

I made the templates and then we laid them on laminator pages, filled the designs in with tissue papers then added the top sheet and laminated them. This gave them a shiny finish. Once cut out we attached them to window panes to let the light shine through. My inspiration came from a YouTube video of Christian seasonal craft ideas.

It was trickier to do than I’d expected and tested my patience! The tissue paper did not stay in place easily especially when people with limited movement were handling it. Too easily it could be knocked, or the static between the tissue and the laminator sheets pulled pieces out of place. Surprisingly perhaps, all the clients enjoyed it and persevered. It helped that this week everyone seemed curious and wanted to be involved. With clients who often feel depressed or otherwise unwell, this isn’t always the case. This week the clients’ enjoyment encouraged me to keep going even when I thought everything was going to go pear shaped.

Thanks to one of the other staff members we were able to read a bit about how stained glass was and is made and where the colours come from.

We were very happy to do an activity strongly rooted in the hope of Easter. Of course compassion and generosity and love underly everything we do with the clients and we almost always learn, discover and receive blessings as well. However we wanted to do something explicitly exploring God’s gift to us at Easter. In our pictures, each side of the central Cross, the bread and fish represent Jesus’ presence amongst us, His feeding us, His Body given for us 2000 years ago and still on all the altars of the world; the empty tomb and rising sun represent God’s Son Jesus rising from the dead, as He is with us on earth so He is lifting us up to Heaven to be with Him where He is gone. The Cross itself we decorated in bright colours not dark. The Cross is deepest suffering but also and inseparably, our only hope, because there Jesus restored the ruptured relationship between God and man, so that we can now joyfully call Him Heavenly Father. There God’s light shines through to heal our broken hearts.

This Lent time seems to be passing faster and faster for me and I’ve felt I’m grasping at desperate moments to pray between crises, responsibilities, pain and dissociation. It was important to me to have this little time trying to reflect on the Easter promise with those Jesus loves so much, the frail and lonely. Thank you, Lord.

I’m praying for moments of peace throughout your every day.

Ginny xxx

Sing like never before, O my soul (Ten Thousand Reasons)

Lent sneaked right up on me this year and I felt so unprepared. Partly, because it began earlier than usual, Easter being about as early as possible* this year, but also because I have been through a period of having really given up hope. One of the most frightening things about my Borderline and PTSD is how the most terrible emotions can obscure everything good and important to me, even God and faith. It has been a period where God and heaven seem “hidden” for a while. Very slowly I am learning that the hidden times do not mean that my relationship with Our Saviour is lost or that He is gone away.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, worship His Holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul, I’ll worship Your Holy Name… For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

Last night I went to a candlelit service of reflection, music and prayer, with the opportunity for conversation, guidance and the Sacrament of Confession (reconciliation).  I talked with one of the Priests about the feelings of anger that are coming and my fears of them; my fears of being out of control and consumed by this emotion that seems to block out all good and through which I cannot pray. His response really surprised me and I think it is going to change how I see my relationship with God and the work of each one of us in the church body and the community. He told me that the struggle I am going through with these feelings can itself be prayer. Prayer itself is not intended to be painful. If one kind of prayer, like praying with Bible verses, or reading, or trying to spend long periods in silence, is impossible at this time, perhaps God is leading me towards a different kind of prayer at the moment. Continuing to walk and struggle through this, even knowing that perhaps this pain will never be totally resolved this side of heaven; offering the work of every moment of every day; offering someone kindness or a smile; giving thanks for the small beautiful things that we notice along our way to work; writing to a friend; all these actions can be actions of love. The passion of anger may even be channelled into the passion of love. Perfection is not needed and could even lead to pride in our own achievements, or desperation feeling that we are useless. Continuing to walk forward when even the smallest things are an agonising struggle – that can be love, and that can be prayer.

And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come, still my soul sing Your praise unending, ten thousand years and then forever more.

Perhaps then, this can be a new kind of prayer for me. Right here and now, even though I am so far from where I feel I am meant to be and even though so often I can lose sight of hope very easily. This kind of prayer, prayer in this moment, prayer in our offering of our current selves and current circumstances – that cannot be lost. It does not require even hope for the future, or tranquility in our hearts; it does not require success, much less perfection, but it does require the resolve to walk on.

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.

Italicised lyrics – extracts from “Ten Thousand Reasons” by Matt Redman. This is rather different from the kind of music I usually choose to pray with but it’s a song that speaks to me right now.

 

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

My cell phone is depressed (and Catholic) – on walking through cognitive dissonance

Just now I was typing a text message to my friend to say thank you for a good catch up that we had a couple of days ago. Like most Android phones now (I think – dodo alert!) it not only has predictive text in terms of suggesting the word you are currently typing, it also predicts the following words (so for example, if I type “hello how” it will prompt “are” then “you” “?” and so on). Sometimes it is rather over zealous in that function and inserts words you don’t want. Or, as I said, possibly dodo alert again.

So there I am starting to write “It really was good to see you” and my phone changes it to “it really hurts”. Then tries to do it again the next time, too.

It’s not just me you see – now it’s official, my cell phone is depressed too. It’s going for all the sad options!

This made me laugh and also realise that I must whinge a lot more than I realise if it has learnt that word combination. Then it reminded me of the time a while back when I had to send numerous messages about the choir arrangements over  Holy Week* and Easter at my church, so frequently that come Easter Sunday my phone’s predictive text learnt how to spell “Triduum”* and  “Attende Domine”*. So I’ve got a Catholic phone too 😉 .

On a more serious note, this got me thinking that my cell phone mirrors what the cells in our brains – y’all see what I did there 😉 – what the cells in our brains do as we have our life’s range of emotional and interpersonal experiences. Like my phone literally expecting “hurt”, the more hurts and pains we experience, the more we can readily expect this, the more we feel it and the harder it may be to feel anything else. Perhaps the longer we’ve suffered in an abusive or otherwise harmful relationship, the more we are only able to see ourselves and others only in the light of how our reality and our identity and our relationships were in that abusive trap. It’s somehow sadly a lot easier to continue to believe a very painful belief about ourselves that we’ve always held, than to be able to dare to adopt a new belief and to tolerate the cognitive dissonance we need to go through in order to begin to switch our beliefs. It’s easier to continue to believe rubbish about ourselves that our abuser(s) indoctrinated to us, than to accept any good. We long for care and help but we may be unable to receive it. Which sounds bizarre and I hope that it does not sound offensive.

To give an example, in therapy this week I identified that I have lots of rigid and entrenched beliefs along the lines of: “if N. wanted to be my friend, s/he would do xyz” “if N. cared about me, s/he would have [replied straight away to this message because I said abc in it] and because s/he didn’t it shows s/he doesn’t care and doesn’t want to be in touch and couldn’t stand me anyway, what an idiot I was to think s/he’d want me around anyway” or “if you’re someone’s friend and they are upset you do xyz, it’s just obvious, and N. didn’t so it just shows they really think abc [negative thing / opinion that I’m evil] about me”. The thoughts that spiral from these beliefs mean that if they aren’t fulfilled and someone doesn’t do one of these things that I have set as absolutes in my mind (and which, incidentally, I would hold myself to in relationships as well, as rules I must follow as a friend) then very quickly I use them to confirm an even deeper-seated view of myself which stems from things my abuser told me. Such as that I’m evil really, I manipulate people, everyone will think it isn’t my fault but she and I will always know it’s because of how evil I am, xyz person I care about will die or be taken away because of the harm I’ve caused, I’m disgusting and ugly, etc, etc. It’s impossible for me to get past these beliefs and they are a big block in therapy and in everyday life. It’s impossible to believe that my beliefs and motivations are what I think they are and impossible to believe anyone could really want me. My cell’s predictive text is set to “hurt”.

I’m not sure how to get around this at all. I’m not sure if my psychiatrist is either. I met with her yesterday. It was a very helpful meeting and was about a lot of things other than this as well. However, I think to this there isn’t a short answer. How do I go through this? How do I learn a new setting, a setting in my mind that is open to a different belief? How do I dare to actually feel differently? I can try to explore other possibilities cognitively, but I cannot link it up to the emotions and what I really feel and believe about myself and others. I just cannot reach that. What the psychiatrist did help me identify is that only with repetition can we learn something new (as with my cell phone’s expanding Catholic vocabulary). I need to try to continue in relationships long enough to get past the point at which my default beliefs about myself as evil are (or so it seems) absolutely confirmed. Currently I don’t. Like my cell phone I go into “predictive” mode and I pull away from the interaction or even end the relationship at that point.

That’s the one thing I can change, though with a great deal of help from what I think would have to be incredibly supportive and understanding friends. That’s almost too much to ask. This is going to be a long road.

Ginny xx

*Quick (hopefully simple) explanation of Catholic terms: Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter Sunday. The Triduum is a term which refers to the Thursday, Friday and Saturday immediately before Easter Sunday: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. “Attende Domine” is a piece of chant music often used during Lent at one of the churches I attend – “Attende Domine et miserere” or “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy”. I find it quite beautiful and relaxing to listen to.

https://youtu.be/t7Glyu7tEWU – Attende Domine – with thanks to Petrus Josephus for the video

Image from Gilmore Girls (sorry I am not sure which Season) – Lauren Graham and Scott Patterson – Gilmore Girls produced by Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino. All rights belong to respective artists.