The Slippery Slope

I often write about people who live in a fear-based system, primarily those who live in perpetual fear of God. One of the main threats they use to keep people in line is that of the ‘slippery slope’; the idea that if you put one toe out of line it eventually leads to the loss of, well, everything.

And in no place is that fear greater than that of questioning the status quo; asking awkward questions about God, about the Bible, and especially about your leadership, lol 😀

Here’s a great piece by Ryan Harbidge, describing the whole thing really well:


The Slippery Slope

 

It was a heady view for miles in all directions. We were hundreds of feet up in the air. We had reached the top, something most of the poor schmucks at the bottom likely never would do. We were fairly proud of our status, though we would always feign humility. We were set apart from the rest of the common, unenlightened rabble. The large platform had a safety railing around it, except for one part. There was a gap in which there was a long, steep water slide that emptied into a large pool at the bottom. I cautiously edged over to get a closer look. Grasping the railing for dear life, I looked over. My heart started pounding. The slide was so steep, I couldn’t even see the whole thing from the platform.

A sharp voice barked behind me, making me jump.
“Get away from there you fool! Stay over here with us where it is safe. We have all worked hard to get here. There were many stairs to climb and now that we are here we need to enjoy our position. You don’t want to risk that dangerous slide back to being like all of those fools down there. We need to be where they can see us, what they could become with much discipline, hard work and perseverance…all given to us by God’s grace of course.”

I blinked incredulously, slowly breaking eye contact with that smug, self righteous face. I turned and looked over the railing to the people below. There was a vast crowd. Many were on the beach. Some looked miserable and lost. Others were laughing, talking, eating and drinking. They, for the most part looked to be enjoying themselves.

And then there were the ones in the pool. They seemed to be the most alive of anyone. Not just alive, but astonishingly alive. In fact, looking around the beach, you could tell just who had been in the pool—by their aliveness.

And then there was us. We were a stoic crowd, all by ourselves, separated from everyone else. We would sing and tell stories to each other about how we have made the right choice to be on this platform, far above everyone else. Encouraging each other to stick it out here no matter how hard it got. We would also shout encouragement to those we saw climbing the long staircase to the top where we were.

“Come on! Keep walking! Trust in the Lord! We are praying for you! Don’t give up, there’s great reward where you are going!”

Some would keep trudging upward and onward, some would turn back in discouragement. After all it was a tiring climb. If we were honest, we would have admitted that the climb had worn us out as well.

Once in a while, someone from our group would go down the slide. Oh, what a ruckus that would cause! We would tell each other, very piously, that the slider was weak, didn’t have enough faith to stick it out with us at the top. “Don’t be like that person”, we would whisper. We would show outward disgust and disdain all while secretly wondering what the ride was like.

What was it like to have freedom like that?

I kept looking at the slide, at the pool, at the people in it, and I was drawn. The more I watched them, the more I realized that life up here on the high platform wasn’t what I thought it would be. It just seemed empty and lonely, like I was missing out on something important. It felt like being the only one to miss out on a friends birthday party because you have the flu, and you’re at home all by yourself while everyone else is having fun.

I slowly moved toward the slide, trying to look inconspicuous. Trying to avoid being seen by the pretentious eyes of those who would often take me aside and caution me against getting too close to that slide…with loving concern of course.

Finally, I could no longer think of anything else but the slide and the pool at the bottom. With my heart pounding in my chest, I stepped into the water at the top of the slide. I heard the gasps of horror from those behind me who happened to notice my new position. I lay down, crossed my arms over my chest, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

I let the water take me.

Down.

The descent was at the same time terrifying and exhilarating. I’ve never felt that out of control in my life and I’ve never felt that much peace about being out of control either. There was only one way to go on this slide of grace. And that was into the pool of self emptying, unconditional love.

I hit the water fast and skipped on top of the surface like a flat stone briefly before sinking in. The water was wonderfully warm and smelled like fresh rainfall. I went under and could not surface. There was a tremendous weight making me sink that I could not shake off. I flailed about wildly, panicking, desperately holding my breath, before I realized that I was all right. Peace enveloped me. I stopped fighting and surrendered to the water. I took a breath.

My eyes went dark as my false self drowned in that water

My eyes opened and I saw differently. Before, my eyes were on my performance, trying to look good, trying to appear joyful when I was not. My eyes used to be focused on my flaws and the flaws of everyone else around me. Trying to look like I had all of the right answers. Trying to appear acceptable to the God who had never rejected me. Now, I began to see beauty around me. I began to see others before I saw my self. I was no longer concerned about trying to look alive, trying to appear joyful. I just was!  I realized that I was still at the bottom of the pool, but breathing! I was not just alive, but astonishingly so. The weight of my false self was gone and I could swim about freely.

Life is different now. The old crowd I used to hang around with on the platform looks down on me, some with pity, some with open disdain, and yet some have a hungry look about them. I see them looking at me and then glancing at the slide. I just enjoy living life to the full. Once in awhile the ghost of false self haunts me, kind of like an amputee experiences ghost pains. When that happens, I just jump back in the pool and breath in the sweet waters of divine love.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it”. Matt 16:24, 25

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would
have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:10-15


Excellent. Here is the link to the original piece.

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Bite-Sized Wisdom

Here are more bite-sized nuggets of wisdom from various people. Bite, chew and enjoy 🙂


“Christianity is about helping others and controlling yourself. When it becomes about controlling others and helping yourself, it ain’t Christianity” – Jim Heath

“A lot of people have done it “all right.” [done everything right – Ed] But when you look at them you say to yourself, “If that’s salvation, I don’t know that I want to be saved.” If those are the people in heaven, I don’t want to go there! Is that what heaven is going to be like? A bunch of superior people who tell you when you’re wrong all the time? Is that the life Jesus promised? That can’t be it.” – Richard Rohr

“Does our interpretation [of the Bible] match the self-giving, all-forgiving, radically merciful Jesus? If not, or if the fruit from our interpretation results in misery, fear and suffering, rather than righteousness, peace and joy, then I would suggest we are reading it – or at least interpreting it – wrongly. And then of course our application of that interpretation also bears bad fruit, and so it goes on”. – Me

“When you find that your heart has grown bigger than your doctrine, it is the doctrine that needs to go, not the heart that needs to be restricted”. – Jeff Turner

“The main difference now is that my uncertainty [about spiritual things] is tied to wonder instead of insecurity”. – Wendy Francisco

“Your membership in God’s family does not depend on someone else’s approval”. – Me

“The spilled blood of Jesus says that man is merciless to the merciful.
The unspilled blood of humanity says that God is merciful to the merciless.
The spilled blood of Jesus says that the greatest evil that can be committed, has been committed.
The unspilled blood of humanity says that the greatest evil that can be committed, has been forgiven.
What then does it say about all lesser evils?” – Jeff Turner

“What’s scary is how some people refuse to even consider there might actually be “truth” that differs from what they’ve been taught, and choose to currently believe, as though their personal knowledge is perfect, infallible, and never to be questioned, regardless of all the other ideology that has come before now”. – ‘Steve’

[On the doctrine of Hell in the Scriptures] “…the Old Testament does not actually mention it by name; Jesus mentions it only in a very few passages where it can be shown that actually we have His [formerly assumed] meaning wrong anyway; the Gospel of John does not mention it even once; and Paul is almost entirely silent on it. The emphasis on Hell in Scripture is nothing like what it should be if it were actually real, because … it would be the single most important thing that Jesus would ever have to tell us”. – Me

“Following the Jesus path ensures that one will make enemies, precisely because it calls us to reject the easy path of assuming anyone with whom we disagree, or who disagrees with us, even violently so, is our enemy. Ironically, the refusal to label a person an enemy as a knee jerk reaction, is precisely what provides us with the opportunity to trust the Spirit to empower us to “love our enemies.” “- Jeff Turner

“For Jesus followers, we must accept that those who have come to a different conclusion about the Bible, often have done so through the same study, reflection, and sincere desire to know the very heart of God that we have”. – Mike Douglas

 

 

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In the Presence of Jehovah

Here’s another magnificent song from Terry MacAlmon, In the Presence of Jehovah, by Becky and Geron Davis.

Terry is just so talented on the piano, and this piece showcases this skill to excellent effect. And this song speaks of the healing that is to be found in the Presence of God. As you listen to this lovely music, just let your heart be lifted up by the Holy Spirit, and let Her minister healing to your innermost being.


While much of the recording is instrumental, I have also included the lyrics for the verses too.

In and out of situations,
That tug-of-war at me
All day long I struggle
For answers that I need
But then I come into Your presence,
And all my questions become clear
And for this sacred moment,
No doubts can interfere

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Through His love the Lord provided,
A place for us to rest
A place to find the answers,
In the hour of distress
Now there’s never any reason,
For you to give up in despair
Just slip away and breathe His name,
For He will surely meet you there

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Let your heart be lifted and your spirit refreshed. Feel the Presence of God right there with you.

Be blessed 🙂

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The Adventure of Freedom

(Thoughts by Chris Martin)

Two things I rarely, if ever, think about. Sin or the devil.

I actually believe sin was dealt with over 2,000 years ago on the Cross. I have reckoned myself dead to it. I no longer have to beg God to forgive me for anything, because He already did. Completely.

I don’t go through my day trying not to sin. I wake up as a son of my Papa. So washed clean that I squeak when I walk. Lol. I used to live in guilt, condemnation and shame, because I focused solely on everything I did wrong. What a hellish way to go through life.

I was lost, but now I’m found.
I was blind, but now I see.
I was dead, but now I’m alive.
I WAS a sinner, but now I’m a saint.

And the devil? Pfffft. He is a cut off, withering branch that can’t amount to anything. He’s not omnipresent, so I can’t blame all the bad things that happen in life on him. Stuff happens. It’s really that simple. Car battery dies…I don’t start “putting on the armour” and prepare for battle. I go to the auto parts store and get a new battery. Problem solved.

I have submitted to God. That in itself resists the devil. I don’t even think about him.

It’s amazing the growth I’ve experienced in my relationship with Father since I began to focus on who I am. Who I was created to be. Why I’m on this planet.

And it all began when the revelation of His unconditional love for me, and all of humanity, became much more than head knowledge. It became a heart reality.

What an adventure this has been.


For more on this sort of topic, check out my own article in a similar vein:

This is My Freedom

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Facing into Bereavement

In the raw grief, terrible devastation and utter despair of the total loss of someone so central to your life, what can you possibly do? What is the next step?

Do we ever really ‘cope’ with the loss of someone we love? I mean, sure, ‘life goes on’; we still have to get on with life and survive; others also seem to cope in their own fashion. But each of us is different. Each of us wonders: when the time comes, how will I ever manage?

Well, in this series, I have attempted to share, usually in a deeply personal way, the ways in which I have coped with the loss of my dear wife, Fiona, to cancer in October 2016. The insights I have published in this series will doubtless have been helpful to others who are going through a similar thing.

I realise, though, that much of what I have written is based on my Christian faith, because much of the way in which I have coped has also been based on that faith. And I realise that not everyone shares that faith. Maybe you don’t believe in God at all; maybe you would like to believe in God but you don’t like what Religion does to society; maybe you think that a belief in God is kidding ourselves and there is really no good news in Religion at all.

And that’s all fair enough. We all believe in different things. And so, I have written this piece for the benefit of people who maybe don’t believe those faith things like I do. But we all feel pain, whether we have faith or not. And there are still practical, down-to-earth things you can do in order to help you in your grieving process; things I have learned or had to do for my own grief journey. So, in this piece, I will go through a number of such ideas which you may, or may not, find helpful. There’s a lot in this article, and it might look overwhelming, so feel free to read it over as many sittings as you need. And please feel free to take on board those things you like; and to leave behind those you don’t.

Recognise that grief is normal, and yet it is also unique

Everyone feels grief. But everyone feels it in a different way. Do not be either worried or surprised if you find yourself behaving differently from other bereaved people you have met; there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to your grieving process or the ways in which you express your grief. There is no ‘you should feel this way’ or ‘you should not feel like that’.  Anything you feel is ‘normal’ to you, even though you may not have felt it before. Accept that this is your own personal grief journey. That’s not to say it cannot be shared, as we shall see later, but it is unique to yourself.

Recognise that grief is a journey

Time is indeed, as common folklore suggests, a great healer. In two months’ time, in a year’s time, you will not feel the same feelings and emotions about your loss that you do now. Believe it or not, these raw, uncharted and uncontrollable feelings that you feel now – they will pass. Give yourself the time and space to explore, and, if you like, express those feelings, and also, importantly, give yourself permission to have them.

Recognise that grief is healthy

It may not feel like it right now, but the process of grief is a healthy, natural process. Despite how modern society likes to view tears and emotion, grief is just as healthy as a bowl of muesli or salad. It is part of your body’s (and your mind’s) way of coping with a big life change, and for this reason grief can actually be welcomed. Even though you do not welcome the event that has caused the grief (the death of your loved one), the grief itself is the path to healing and recovery.

Get help

Death is an unavoidable part of the life journey. Because of this, there are, unsurprisingly, many ways of receiving external help which are already in place. Do not hesitate to avail yourself of the help that is available; it definitely makes the process smoother and easier. I’m listing these early on, because these are usually the most pressing things to get sorted out.

Practicalities – after your loss, the first couple of weeks or so will understandably be taken up with various ‘official’ duties such as registering the death, arranging the funeral and things like that. Registration of the death is free; certified copies of the death certificate are £4.00 each in the UK at the time of registration; £7.00 each at any later time. I recommend that you get several copies of the death certificate. It seems that everyone wants to see it at once; and not only that, but everyone wants to see a proper certified copy. A photocopy is never good enough, it seems. The other thing is that you will also receive a document which you take to the Funeral Directors; this document enables you to arrange the burial or cremation with them.

The UK has a very good ‘Tell us Once’ system where, when you register the death, you take along things like your loved one’s Driving Licence, National Insurance Number Card, Passport and similar documents, and the registrar’s staff will notify the relevant Government authorities and departments  of your change of circumstances on your behalf, so that it saves you a lot of painful rehashing of the same information to various people. This is definitely extremely helpful at such a time of intense emotional stress, and in my opinion this is one of the best ideas that Government has ever come up with. For more information on the ‘official’ side of things, in the UK at any rate, visit this link; other countries will no doubt have similar systems in place.

Funeral – One of the first things you will need to do will be to contact a Funeral Director – better if they are local – in order to begin to arrange the funeral. There will be various official things that you have to arrange with regard to this, and the Funeral Directors will have experience of this and will help you through the process. For instance, they will be able to advise on the arrangements which are needed if there is going to be a cremation; this is slightly different from a burial. They will also be able to help you find someone to advise on things like probate (if required) and the execution of the Will; many Funeral Directors offer a legal service to help with that sort of thing, and there will be a charge for this service. Although I am absolutely sure that every Funeral Director will give an excellent service – many of them see it as their life’s ‘calling’ – I would not hesitate to recommend the Co-Operative Funeral Service, which has branches all across the UK. They were recommended to me by a member of Fiona’s extended family, and they were absolutely superb.

There is also the possibility that your loved one may have had a Funeral Plan set up in order to pay for their funeral. If this is the case, they will probably have told you or another member of your family about it, so it’s worth checking that.

Funerals can be quite expensive; however, in the UK, many people are entitled to receive help with this cost, even if they are not on benefits. See the section on ‘Financial’ below.

Visiting – If you can at all face it, if it is at all possible, I would advise considering visiting your loved one’s body before the burial or cremation. I never regretted spending a last couple of hours with Fiona, even though I knew she wasn’t really ‘there’ any more. The opportunity to be able to say some final things to her was priceless beyond compare. Offer the opportunity to your family too; they might need it. And once her ashes arrived at my house, on their way to being finally buried, I gave other members of my family the chance to just sit with the box for a while and say goodbye.

This too was helpful for them. For me, both these events were instrumental in helping me to let go of her and I am so glad I did it. But naturally you might not want to do this; you might want to remember them as they were when they were living. This too is fine. You can always visit the graveside later to say anything you need to say.

Financial – You will need to contact your financial institutions, like your Bank, mortgage lender, savings institutions and so on in order to get names changed; also contact your Life Insurance company if your loved one was insured.

The UK Government provides financial help after the death of a loved one, to many people in the UK, whether or not they are on benefits. If you live in the UK, it is well worth you applying for this help – which I appreciate you may not have known about – because if you are entitled to it, then it is your right and your privilege to claim it. Don’t feel bad about it; this is what you pay your taxes for! At the time of writing, there is a one-off ‘Bereavement Support Payment’ available, to the tune of £2,000, which would go a long way towards helping with the funeral costs. When you apply for this benefit, you should also be automatically considered for all other bereavement benefits, all with the same application. More details here.

Medical – In the UK, there is plenty of medical, voluntary and professional help available for those going through bereavement. One of the main ways of accessing this help is through your doctor. Your doctor will be able to offer suggestions for first steps such as bereavement counselling; medication if necessary; and maybe they might also be able to discuss with you the illness that your loved one died of, if that was what happened. Sometimes, it’s good to discuss with your doctor things such as the events leading up to your loss, the way in which (what we call) end-of-life care works, how the body prepares itself for death by shutting down various systems (it’s actually really amazing) and reassurance that your loved one did not suffer. Your doctor will also be able to provide contact details for various counselling organisations, if that’s a route you decide you want to take. Certainly, talking with people experiened in helping bereaved people is really helpful – I myself received an excellent bereavement counselling service from the people at the local hospice where Fiona died. This approach may not be suitable for everyone, of course, but your doctor is still the person best-placed to advise you on this.

You could also consider asking your doctor to sign you off from work for a time; the practicality of this will of course depend on your workplace’s sickness absence policy and philosophy. And you might not feel like doing that now, but after a few months or so you might change your mind. Like I said, grief is different for everyone and there is no set pattern. For me, I was reasonably fine for about eight months, and then I found I had to take some time off work. You should find that your doctor is only too willing to help in this way.

Practical Help – Feel free to ask others – maybe family or friends – if they can help with things like shopping, cleaning and ironing, walking the dog, looking after the kids for a couple of hours, whatever you need. Most people will be only too pleased to help, because they will know they are doing something really practical to help you in your time of need, and this will also help them in their grieving process too. But equally if you do not feel up to receiving offered help, you should also feel free to refuse graciously. Maybe something like ‘I don’t need anything at the moment, but can I call you if I do?’ would be good.

Forgive Yourself

You might feel as if you have let your loved one down; maybe you might feel as if it’s your fault they died. Maybe you had an argument with your loved one just before they set off on the journey from which they did not return. Maybe you feel as if you contributed somehow to their loss in some way. Or perhaps there were unresolved issues in your relationship that still niggle at you. Well, everyone is different, of course, but personally I feel that there is no point in letting these things bother you anymore. You might feel there’s nothing you can do because all these things are in the past and it can’t be changed, and in itself that is true of course. But there is something you can do: although you can’t change the facts, you can change the power they have over you right now. The practical offshoot of all this is that you need to forgive yourself. Self-forgiveness means looking at the thing you think you did wrong, acknowledge it (whether it’s true or not) and then let it go. Decide that it’s in the past, and there’s no point at all in beating yourself up about it any longer. What’s done is done; you can’t change the fact, and to put it bluntly, the only person that any unforgiveness will hurt is you. So, determine right now to put that fault, be it perceived or real, behind you, leave it behind you and move on. Do this for every accusation that you feel yourself making towards yourself. This stuff, this self-forgiveness, is healthy and it works wonders for promoting healthy grieving. This is because the key to healthy grieving is to have it as guilt-free as possible. So, give yourself a break and just let it go. Forgive yourself, let the guilt go, and feel the weight just lift off you.

Forgive Others

Again, you may be aware of things that others have said to you, or to your loved one, that cannot be unsaid; that cannot be mended. Ok, these things happen. But if you hold unforgiveness in your mind, the only person it harms is you. If you are mad at someone, and they are mad at you too, they are not going to care one jot that you are mad at them. In fact they may even cherish the idea because they know you are feeling bad about them. Well, it has no constructive benefit to you at all and it certainly won’t change their behaviour or attitude towards you; all it’s going to do is to eat you up from the inside. And, at this terrible time in your life, you can do without that sort of hassle on top of the grief. The decision to forgive lies in your hands. And that decision is something you have complete control over, and it’s also something they have no control over. I’m not saying that you all need to be friends again; indeed, you don’t need to tell them that you have forgiven them because it may well be greeted with scorn anyway. You can’t control their thoughts or behaviour, neither should you try. But you do have control over your own, and that is your trump card. So, forgive, and in that way you take away their power to hold anything over you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn from others’ behaviour – if you ‘forgive and forget’, as the old saying goes, then you’ll never learn anything – but you owe it to yourself to release yourself from the burden of having to feel bad about those people.

Forgive your Loved One

More importantly, though, please forgive the person you have lost for any way in which you feel aggrieved by something they did, said or were. Again, you do not have the power to change the past; it really is set in stone. But, again, the power you do have is that of forgiveness. So yes, you can’t change the past, but you can change the effect it has on you. So, once again, forgive. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by so doing.

 

Remember that in all three cases above, forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a decision. You decide that you are not going to let those things have any control over you any more. And when the thoughts and feelings keep popping up, push them aside as completed, dealt with, and sorted, and just get on with what you are doing. Tell those thoughts to get knotted!

It’s OK to feel relieved

While on the subject of guilt and forgiveness, you might need to hear this too.

If you lost your loved one through, for example, a long illness, once they have died, you might be surprised to feel considerable relief now they have gone. And that in itself can make you feel guilty. How is it possible for me to be relieved that my loved one has died? Well, it’s perfectly valid. You are relieved that your loved one is no longer suffering and no longer in pain. You are relieved that the waiting and uncertainty – for you, your loved one and for your family and friends – is now over. You are also relieved that your own huge struggle, at least with the impending loss of someone you hold most dear – is over. Granted, there will be things that you still need to sort out, as we have already seen, but these things will soon be done and you will know that that part of your ordeal is over. And it’s perfectly ok to feel a sense of relief about that.

Talking with Others

You will get a lot of people who will express their sorrow and sympathy for you and for your loss. Remember that they have no idea what you are going through – even if they too have suffered a bereavement; remember everyone’s grief journey is different – and they may say some insensitive things. The vast majority of the time, these people are only trying to help, and part of the problem is that they don’t really know what to say. What can anyone say at a time like this? Death is an awkward subject and it’s not something many people think about in terms of how they would cope with it. And so their sympathetic words might seem a little hollow – but they really are doing their best to express their concern for you. They are probably feeling awkward and like I said, they – actually quite literally! – don’t know what to say. I used to reply to such things with ‘It’s ok’, but not for long! I had to take my dog to the vets a couple of days after I lost Fiona, and the vet said ‘Sorry to hear about your wife’. I replied with a simple, ‘Oh, it’s ok’, and his reply was, ‘Well, no it’s not ok’ and he was right. It’s not ok. And so I decided that from then on I would simply say ‘thank you’, because that was far more accurate! Or maybe you could have a set phrase – ‘I’m coping’, or similar. It’s not lying. That you are still alive and just getting on with stuff shows that you actually are coping after a fashion!

Don’t hold it against others who might say insensitive things. They are grieving too, possibly for the first time on this sort of scale. Maintain an attitude of forgiveness – let the ‘offence’ go. Coping with others is not my strong suit, though, because I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and so I can’t really advise beyond this. Maybe your counsellor or doctor can help with that.

Being There for Others

Although your grief is huge, there may well come a time – and, indeed because you might have friends and family relying on you, that time might be here already – when you feel you can help others cope with their grief by talking with them about your respective grief journeys. Not only is it true that a burden shared is a burden halved, but getting these feelings out into the open, and realising that you are all going through a common process, can be a huge step towards your healing.

Look after yourself

As soon as you feel able, try to restore your normal eating patterns. And, certainly, remember to keep yourself hydrated. Continue to exercise and get fresh air, continue your hobbies and continue your social life as far as possible – I realise it will be more difficult now if it’s your spouse or significant other you have lost.

There may – or may not! – be a strong temptation to give up doing the things you used to do together. If possible, don’t give those things up. Ok, if it was something like ballroom dancing, you’re going to find it hard without your dancing partner. But many of your activities can likely still be engaged in as often as you feel like it. So, if you can, don’t forego continuing the things you used to do together. If you can do it, this is a healthy way to remember and indeed celebrate the good times you had together – see this article for more on this idea.

And give yourself a break, in the sense of ‘go easy on yourself’. You do not have to do everything at once. You do not have to feel pressure from anyone to do anything. Your grief journey is your own, and you do not have to explain yourself to anyone.

Memories

Something profound I learned a few months ago is that memories are just as lasting whether the person you made those memories with is alive or not. Here’s how I put it in a previous article:

“And so, the happy memories I hold precious as examples of how good life was, and indeed still is. In essence, whether Fiona is here or not, those memories would only ever be all I have left of those times, because what is past is indeed only ever memories”.

And so, remember the good times and rejoice in the fact that they happened. Nothing can ever take that away from you. And forgive the bad times; holding a grudge will only interfere with your healthy grieving process.

Remember that everything that your loved one contributed to your life, your character, is still yours. All the attitudes that you learned, all the memories you have, the way in which your character has changed for the better because of the time you spent together – all of that is yours and can never be lost.

Let go

Finally, I should let you know that it is perfectly normal eventually for you to let go of your loved one, for this life at least. This doesn’t mean that you didn’t want them, nor that you don’t wish with all your heart that they had not died. It simply means that life goes on. You are going to have to learn to live a very different life from now on because your loved one isn’t here any more, and, although you will think about that person every day for the rest of your life, it’s perfectly ok for you to let go of your loved one. You keep the memories and attitudes and things, but there’s no avoiding it that the person is gone. Letting go is a gradual process, and it is a natural one, and above all it is nothing to feel guilty about. Indeed, it is part of the healing process.

Conclusion

I apologise that this article is so long, but there was so much that I wanted to say, and different people will have different things that they receive from reading this piece. Remember: take in what you want and find helpful; discard what you do not.

I hope this has been helpful for you.


Useful links

Finally, here are some links to services I have either mentioned or hinted at in the text of my article. These are primarily for my UK readers, but other countries will have similar services. Remember: Google is your friend!

Cruse Bereavement Care – somewhere to turn when someone dies

NHS advice page on coping with bereavement

The UK Government’s page on how to claim Bereavement Support Payment and other bereavement-related benefits. Applying for Bereavement Support Payment means that you will automatically be considered for any other bereavement benefits you may be entitled to.

The Samaritans – the renowned, free-of-charge counselling service

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Guarding Your Freedom

In this excellent piece, my online friend Dave Carringer paraphrases part of what I call the ‘letter of Freedom’; St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:


Don’t be deceived; you’ll have to guard the liberty Christ gave you. Remember, it was for freedom alone He made you free! The ‘law’ isn’t restricted to just 10 rules on a rock. Any stipulation or requirement you strive to live for will keep you from bearing the natural fruit living from Him will produce in your life! Oh, they won’t bombard you at first; but will subtly slide your neck in the yoke one rule at a time.

It may start like “just add this in the spirit”… or “just cut this off in the flesh”… but once you agree to just one of their rules, they won’t stop until they have you straining to keep their whole list! And you’ll be cutting something off all right… YOURSELF… from the Life giving flow of Grace and Truth already within you! Trying to ‘do’ a certain thing or ‘stop doing’ other things to please God… will profit you absolutely nothing. He’s already pleased with you because of Christ IN you, who came with all the faith you need which flows beautifully unrestricted through His Love. You’re not under any form of ancient ‘agreements’ made with any other people groups… but are simply free to Live & Love as sons and daughters of God.

Understanding this alone will produce more lasting fruit in your life than you’ll know what to do with! Of His fullness you have received… and you are complete IN Him; so do yourself a favor and cut yourself off once and for all from anyone or anything that says you need something else! (Galatians 5:1-6 dcv*)


*’Dave Carringer Version’ – i.e. his own personal paraphrase 🙂

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Christianity vs. Biblicism

Here’s a superb piece by the renowned Christian thinker and pastor, Brian Zahnd.

During my ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘, one of the things that Father God set me free from – in this case, quite forcefully – was the idea that the Bible is the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith, and that its ‘authority’ trumps even that of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the fruits of ‘Biblicism’, which Brian describes in his piece below.

Here’s the piece, which I think is well-written, balanced, gentle and informative.


Christianity vs. Biblicism
Brian Zahnd

(This is my foreword to Keith Giles’ excellent new book, Jesus Unbound.)

As modern Christians we are children of a broken home. Five centuries ago the Western church went through a bitter divorce that divided European Christians and their heirs into estranged Catholic and Protestant families. The reality that the Renaissance church was in desperate need of reformation doesn’t change the fact that along with a reformation there also came an ugly split that divided the church’s children between a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In the divorce settlement (to push the metaphor a bit further) Catholic Mom got a long history, a rich tradition, and a unified church, but all Protestant Dad got was the Bible. Without history, tradition, or a magisterium, the Bible had to be everything for Protestant Dad — and Protestants have made the most of it. For five hundred years Protestant scholars and theologians have led the way in biblical translation, scholarship, and interpretation, giving the Christian world such notables as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, John Wesley, Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, T.F. Torrance, Walter Brueggemann, Stanley Hauerwas, Fleming Rutledge, Richard Hayes, N.T. Wright, to name a few.

But with Sola Scriptura as a defiant battle cry there always lurked the temptation to place more weight on the Bible than it could bear, or worse yet, a temptation to deify the Bible and make an idol out of it. This has become increasingly true among the more fundamentalist clergy and congregations who are suspicious of higher education and unwilling to read their Bibles with the help of biblical scholars the caliber of Brueggemann, Hayes, and Wright. So while pretending to “take the Bible as it is,” the fundamentalist reads the Bible through thick lenses of cultural, linguistic, political, and theological assumptions — interpretive lenses they are unaware of wearing.

This has led to the thoroughly modern and peculiarly Protestant problem of Biblicism. Biblicism is an interpretative method that reads the Bible as a “flat text” where every verse is itself “the word of God” and carries the same authority as any other verse. Biblicism, in effect, attempts to make the Bible the head of the church. Where Catholics err in seeking to give ultimate authority to the Pope, Protestant Biblicists err in seeking to give ultimate authority to the Bible. What Christians are supposed to confess is that Christ alone is the head of the church. The risen Christ said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me.” With his wry British wit, N.T. Wright reminds us that Jesus did not say, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given unto a book you chaps are going to write.” The irony of Biblicism is that for all its claims about giving final authority to the Bible, in reality Biblicism enables the individual reader to remain their own private authority. So if you don’t like Jesus’ explicit call to an ethic of nonviolence, you can always appeal to the wars of Joshua and David to countermand the Sermon on the Mount. This is how you use Joshua to trump Jesus. Perhaps the most clever way to ignore the commands of Christ is to cite an opposing chapter and verse. By reading the Bible as a flat text and selecting the corroborative proof-text, you can gain a biblical endorsement for nearly anything — including wars of conquest, genocide, women held as property, and the institution of slavery. This abuse of the Bible has a long and well documented history.

One of the chief problems of Biblicism is that it fails to make the vital distinction between the Bible and Christianity. Christian faith is a living tree rooted in the soil of Scripture. We cannot remove the tree from the soil in which it is rooted and expect it to survive; but neither are we to think that the tree and the soil are the same thing! They are not. Put simply, the Bible and Christianity are not synonymous. Yes, they are connected, but they remain distinct. Scripture is the soil; Christian faith is the living tree. They are connected, but they are not the same thing. So if the Bible assumes that slavery is both a tolerable and inevitable institution (see Ephesians 6:5), even explicitly stating that slaves are slaveowners’ property (see Exodus 21:21), that doesn’t mean this is the Christian ethical position on slavery. Christianity is not a slave to the Bible — Christianity is a slave to Christ! Out of the soil of Scripture grows a mature Christian faith that is not only able, but required to oppose all forms of slavery in the name of Jesus. Rooted in the soil of Scripture, Christianity is capable of growing an ethical bough of justice called abolition.

Since the canon of Scripture is closed, the soil of Christian faith is unchanging. But that doesn’t prevent the living Christian faith itself from growing, changing, developing, and maturing over time. Of course, how it grows and changes will often be a matter of fervent debate within the church; and the deeply fractured nature of the church compounds the complexity of this problem. Nevertheless, to understand Christianity as a living tree rooted in the soil of Scripture enables the church to grow in new and redemptive ways within God’s moral universe. To say that Christian faith is forever rooted in Scripture, yet distinct from Scripture, is both conservative and progressive. Conservative in that it recognizes the inviolability of Scripture. Progressive in that it makes a vital distinction between the living faith and the historic text. But to claim that Christian faith is one and the same with the Bible is a fundamentalist mistake that is ultimately untenable. For example, I’ve seen Biblicists backed into a corner trying to defend the Bible by saying, “sometimes slavery is a good thing.” This is Biblicism at its worst.

The ancient orthodox alternative to modern heterodox Biblicism is to say what the church has always said: Jesus Christ is the true Word of God. The Bible is the word of God, only in a penultimate sense. The Bible is the inspired, canonized witness to the Word of God who is Jesus Christ — the Word made flesh. Only Jesus Christ is the inerrant and infallible, perfect and divine Word of God. We come to accept the Bible as authoritative in the ongoing conversation about Christ that is Christian theology through the witness of Christ and the church — not the other way around. Without first appealing to Christ and then secondly to the church, we can’t even account for how the Christian Bible came into being. The risen Christ commissioned the church to bear witness to the gospel throughout the world. In the course of obeying Christ’s commission the church composed, collected, and canonized certain writings that became the New Testament. But we don’t start with the Bible; we start with Jesus and the church. Why? Because Jesus is Lord, not the Bible. Christians worship Jesus, not the Bible. Jesus is the head of the church, not the Bible.

In reading Jesus Unbound: How The Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God, some readers will regard Keith Giles as controversial. I insist this is not so. Giles’ approach to the Bible is not novel or modern — it’s the orthodox way the Church Fathers read the Bible in the formative centuries of Christianity. It’s modern fundamentalist Biblicism that should be regarded as controversial and ultimately rejected as heterodox. But I also understand that a Biblicist approach to the Bible is the default position inherited by most American evangelicals, which is precisely why Giles’ book is so helpful, so timely, and so important. So as you begin your reading of Jesus Unbound, be assured that you are on solid ground — and keep your Bible close at hand, because as a lover of Scripture, Giles will refer to it over and over again. Both Keith Giles and Jesus Unbound are firmly rooted in the Bible.

BZ

(The artwork is the 6th century Christ Pantokrator mosaic in Hagia Sophia.)


Click here for the link to the original article


Since this is based on an American article, the links to the book in the article go to Amazon.com. For the book on the UK Amazon site, click this link.

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To My Readers

I’ve been writing this blog now for more than three and a half years, and it seems like time has just flown! Up until now, I have been posting an item roughly twice per week, and I would imagine that my readers have become used to that posting frequency.

This is just a quick note, then, to let you know that I’m not going to be posting quite as often from now on, nor as regularly. This doesn’t mean that I’m stopping writing; I’m just not going to be writing quite as much. But the take-home message is: ‘don’t worry!’; I will still be writing things 🙂

Rather than having you check back every few days, it may be helpful for you if you sign up to my notification list so that you get an email every time a new blog post is published. The system for doing that can be found in the right-hand column of any blog page.

Thank you all for frequenting my blog. It means a lot to me.

 

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The Wisdom of the Wise

We’ve all come across these people. You know the situation: you’re on a forum and you make some comment implying that you are intelligent/educated/well-versed in Bible history, theology, or your Bible college education, or indeed anything. Not meaning to blow your own trumpet, of course, but just to illustrate that you probably know just as much as anyone else how to at least talk about the incomprehensible – and yet, so close to us – Being we call God.

And then some oik comes along and tries to puncture your entire balloon by declaring that ‘God frustrates the wisdom of the wise’, or some other such comment designed to put him/her on an ‘equal footing’ with you as far as shooting down your qualifications, education, wisdom, experience or whatever.

And in some ways, they’re right. Not only do none of us have a ‘monopoly’ on the knowledge of God, but also God is capable – and willing! – to give wisdom to anyone who asks for it, having realised their lack! (Jas 1:5) If God can speak through animals, children or even a glorious sunset, then He can speak through anyone, educated or not.

But, to me, it’s quite obvious when certain ignorant* people are just parroting Scriptures that they have been taught, without understanding. In many ways, they are “…seeing but never perceiving, hearing but not understanding…” (Mk 4:12, Mt 13:13-15 fulfilling Isaiah 6:9) and they can’t imagine anyone knowing more than they do. Or, it might just be that they are afraid of feeling ‘small’ in the things of God and say these things to bolster their own confidence. I don’t know; being Autistic, I find it difficult to relate to others’ feelings. (And I wouldn’t presume to make any assumptions about what others are thinking, either).

In this essay, then, I would like to address this problem by describing the differences between certain types of ‘wisdom’.

Now, it’s funny, but as I have mentioned before on my blog, I don’t come across all that well in face-to-face discussion; I’m not all that articulate!

But I am still a professional man, Bible College educated and with two University degrees in science (a Bachelor’s and a Master’s), and I have been recognised in the past as a Polymath – that’s someone who is very good at a lot of things. I say this not to boast, but to set the stage for this piece in which I would like to try to address the problem that a lot of Christians seem to have with people who are clever and/or knowledgeable.

While I fully understand that some people who are not all that clever may feel belittled, maybe threatened or put-down by others appearing smarter than they are, I firmly believe that it takes all sorts. Everyone has value, and intelligence and knowledge are only two of a whole multitude of amazing abilities that humans have. We can create fire and cook wonderful meals. We can kick a football with such accuracy in terms of mass, speed, trajectory and such that it arrives in a specific spot in space and time, hopefully beyond the goalkeeper’s reach. The ‘keeper’s brain is also performing a set of automatic calculations which might – just might – help him to put his body, or at least his hand, in a place that will stop that ball going in the goal. We can drive vehicles at speeds that our brain was never designed to cope with; even a standard 70mph is a phenomenal speed compared with the speeds our bodies were originally supposed to move at: usually up to 3-5mph, and certainly no faster than 20mph, at least not without steroids 😉 Even driving a car, then, is an utterly amazing thing to be able to do, a thing which is not rendered any less clever and special because most adults can do it; that it’s not rare does not make it any less amazing.

So, just because one does not have all that much intelligence or knowledge – two ‘abilities’ which are supposedly highly prized in the world today, although sometimes I doubt it – does not mean that one has to belittle those who do have them, and particularly when that belittling is likely in response to one’s own insecurities. It’s vitally important to remember that we each have our own talents, and they are all amazing in their own right. And we are all equally valued by God.

I know that many Christians immediately answer an assertion of intelligence with a Scripture salvo containing the idea that ‘God frustrates the wisdom of the wise’ and all that sort of thing. Let’s address some of those Scriptures, shall we? In that passage about the ‘wisdom of the wise’, in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2, St. Paul is talking about the wisdom of the world; the fleshly wisdom that comes only from a non-spiritual person (1Cor 2:14). There’s more about this passage below. Sure, St. Paul wrote about all his former ‘spiritual education’ and theological knowledge being ‘rubbish’. But that, firmly in its context  (Phil 3:8), was what he thought of the stuff he considered he ‘knew’ before he met the Risen Jesus.

In other words, Paul was saying that, compared with what he was learning in Jesus, the Wisdom of God personified, the former things were indeed a load of old rubbish, of no remaining value whatsoever, fit for nothing but to be thrown away as worthless!

But here’s the thing. An educated believer is not someone whose intelligence God frustrates. No; instead, He builds them up in wisdom and knowledge so that they can be of service to their fellow believers. In other words, God gifts the body of Christ with intelligent people so that they can use their gifts for the common good. This is what I am doing with my blog – I hope! The Secret of the Lord and all that…

If nothing else, the sometimes complex and convoluted theology of Paul should be a case in point for what happens when a highly intelligent person gets hold of the Gospel and applies it with the wisdom of God, and then uses that wisdom and knowledge for the building-up of others. He brings out points of theology that can satisfy both the simple and the wise, who can go into as much or as little depth as they want to do – as long as they acknowledge that there are some parts they don’t understand as well as they do others. And so, Paul’s writings have survived nearly 2,000 years and are known and loved word-for-word by millions of people worldwide, and they continue to build people up, right up  to this very day.

I could go further with this and quote the two main Scripture passages used by people to attempt to bring down, or level, those of high intelligence. But I won’t; I would instead encourage people to respect their own intelligence and read it for themselves, and hear what Jesus is saying through the words. The passages are 1Cor 1:18 – 2:16, in which St. Paul quotes from Is 29:13-16. Those (1Cor and Isaiah) are the two main passages that spring to my mind at the moment. Interestingly, this Isaiah passage is also a passage that Jesus quotes (Mt 15:9, quoting Is 29:13) about how humans make up their own religious rules, and in fact these are the ‘wisdoms’ that Isaiah declares that God is going to frustrate, and St. Paul’s reference to that Scripture in the context of man-made religious rules is no coincidence. In fact, it strongly suggests to me that Paul is referring to human wisdom in things involving spiritual matters. In these things, things about which we really don’t have an awful lot of clue, if we’re honest, the wisdom of men is pretty useless and only those things revealed to us by the Spirit have any value anyway (Jn 16:13; Jn 16:13 KJV)

And so, please let’s not belittle or otherwise disregard the intelligence of the intelligent, or the wisdom of the wise; not when they are people of the Spirit speaking of spiritual things; not when their wisdom is rooted in the Cross and the Resurrection and all that Jesus did there. By all means, we should take only what we need and what speaks to us in what they are saying, and discard the rest. But let’s not knock it. We will already know that, in fact, the Bible praises wisdom greatly, and if we want that to be true for us, how then can we discount all (even Godly) wisdom, and count it all worthless? That’s just plain daft. The first four chapters of the Book of Proverbs are full of exhortations to wisdom; we cannot discount it simply because others have it. In fact, mocking those who are wise is also not all that clever an idea, mainly because you miss out on what they have to contribute.

How long will mockers delight in mockery
And fools hate knowledge
– Prov 1:22

…and also, comparing ourselves with others isn’t always a healthy thing to be doing either. Personally, I prefer just to rest in who I am in Christ, use the gifts He has given me for the benefit of others, and rest in His Presence. There’s no better place to be.

*Ignorant in its true sense: being in a state of not knowing. A state which we are all in, to some degree, but some more than others.

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