Monday, October 12, 2015

"Think about such things..." : A tool against despondency

During the past two weeks, I have really battled with the side effects of Bell’s palsy.  Half of my face has been left paralyzed and I have had sporadic pain, difficulty eating and drinking, eye problems and generally having to try do things differently.  Despite all this, my biggest challenge has been to guard against the despondency that threatens to descend on me at times like this.  It is a dark cloud waiting to happen.  I have to discipline myself to rely on God’s spirit and His word.  It’s not always easy – especially when you can’t read properly and your eye remains out of focus. It’s at times like this that passages of the bible, which I have memorized, wash over me…and I am grateful.

About a month ago, our pastor challenged our congregation to memorize Phillipians 4:8. But it appeared that people had difficulty with this challenge. I wondered why. It reads:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
(Philippians 4:8)

It’s a long list.  But Paul instructs us to “Think about such things…”.  Why do we have difficulty remembering the list? The answer is simply because we DON’T ‘think about such things.’!

Never-the-less, I set about finding a way to remember the verse and came up with a tool (which may also help you, dear reader).  I set about painting a mental image of symbols representing the various ‘things’ that Paul asks us to think about. Whilst doing this, I realized that if I, indeed, did ‘think about these things.’ There was no space to think about anything else.  There simply wasn’t any space in my mind for despondency to creep in. 

So, today, I’d like to try and share my own mental picture of the ‘things’ which Paul asks us to think about. They are simple drawings, but perhaps it will help you too?  Perhaps you’d like to consider sketching your own, personal mental picture of the ‘things’ Paul asks us to think about?

Let's begin...
1.        WHATEVER IS TRUE: In my mind, TRUTH is represented by the Cross of Christ.  Not only is it a ‘T’ for TRUTH, but in the cross, all theTRUTH of the world is revealed; God’s plan for mankind and the redemption of his flock through His Son’s act on the cross all those years ago. This is truth...think about it!

2.       WHATEVER IS NOBLE:  When I think about NOBILITY, I think about God. We just have to think about all the Biblical descriptions of our Lord – His majesty, His all-knowingness, His glory, His beauty, His judgement, His mercy and forgiveness…the list goes on and on.  The fact that the world has been created by Him and that we are in the palm of His hands makes us understand our position.  In my picture, I have a hand coming from the heavens reaching down to the cross.

3.       WHATEVER IS RIGHT:  In my picture, I represent ‘RIGHT’ with a ‘tick’ at the foot of the cross.  This represents everything that stands for what is right.  Jesus spells this out in the Sermon on the mount.  His Spirit in us also ministers to us as to what is ‘RIGHT’ and what leads to RIGHTEOUSNESS.

4.      WHATEVER IS PURE: PURITY again, is at the foot of the Cross – in this case represented by the Mother of Jesus and the virgin birth.  It is also at the foot of the cross that we are washed clean by the blood of Jesus…and made pure.

5.       WHATEVER IS LOVELY: If we look out from the hill where the cross stands – away from ourselves – we look over Gods creation and His anointed people.  It is beautiful.  It is LOVELY!

6.       WHATEVER IS ADMIRABLE: Again, looking out from the cross to the road leading to the cross, we see many things that are ADMIRABLE, and we can ‘think about them’.  In my case, I admire Simon of Cyrene (and many others) who carried the cross of Jesus . But we can ADMIRE many things – those people who have contributed to the wonderful story of God and the world.

7.       IF ANYTHING IS EXCELLENT OR PRAISEWORTHY: At the top of the road leading to the cross is the WORD OF GOD – the BIBLE! Through the painstaking work of the saints and the people of God, the Bible’s message has been preserved over the years and brought to us.  People preach it, write about it, study it, meditate on it…and internalise the wonderful messages which are brought to us in its writings.  This is definitely EXCELLENT AND PRAISEWORTHY - worthy to be thought about!

So, if we meditate and ‘THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS’ as in the Philippians verse, there is no more space for negative thoughts to enter our minds.  It truly is a beautiful tool and I would encourage you to draw a picture of your own – with symbols in it to represent these THINGS which we should be thinking about

Sending lots of love and prayers for you,

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bell's palsy: Day 10: "I'll praise you in this storm"

It's Day 10 of my Bell's palsy. 
After a week of intense physiotherapy, steriod and antiviral tablets and numerous supplements (at times, 30 tablets in one day), I strapped up my sagging face and lay down on my bed.  I felt battered and aching.  I pulled the heated wheat-bag closer and rested it against my cheek.  I closed my eyes and repeating the beautiful words that our Lord, Jesus had uttered on the cross:

"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit..."
(Luke 23:45)

Although these were Jesus' dying words, they have become my mantra over the past ten days.  They symbolize everything about my faith.  This life is no longer about me - I have died to self.  It's about what the Father wants to make of me and my life.  I surrender. Each morning, as I open my eyes, these are the words I repeat:

"Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit..."
(Luke 23:45)

And amidst these storm, I will continue to praise my beautiful Lord, 
Jesus Christ....


Dear reader,
The above song, by 'Casting Crowns', was sent to me by my beautiful, encouraging daughter, Robyn.  It has blessed me enormously.  I pray that it will bless you too.

With love, in Christ,

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bell's Palsy: Day 8: "He leads me besides the still waters..."

I was contemplating what God wanted me to write about this morning. 
Writing is my therapy, but what does God want me to write about?

 My mind drifted back to ten days ago - the wonderful weekend spent together with my fellowship group at the quaint little holiday resort called 'WYNFORD HOLIDAY FARM', in the eastern Free State, South Africa. It's a treasure of a place - tucked away amidst the picturesque mountains that border Lesotho; a little gem that provides a great escape from our busy lives.  The bonus is that it has a Christian ethos and the management and staff attempt to subtly encourage guests to relax into the beauty of their surroundings.  Some folk choose to simply pull up a chair and take it all in.  Others grab a book from the 'honesty library' in their reading room.  

Wynford staff treat their guests like family; they provide good, wholesome meals; teas and cookies under the thatch lapa of the summer house and clean, comfortable rooms.  There is no cellphone signal in the area which makes it even more appealing - no disturbances at all. Instead, it's a weekend to enjoy God's beautiful creation, or to sit quietly in the chapel and take in the view of the majestic mountains.

At night a trillion stars dot the heavens and the 'Milky Way' shimmers in all its glory.  In the morning, birds herald in the dawn and the sounds of the farmyard animals add voice to this Eden. There are a number of beautiful walks too.

One morning, we were walking quietly along the river bank - our group scattered out along the path. It was so peaceful.  I turned to a friend:

"This reminds me so much of Psalm 23...'walking beside the still waters'," I said.  "Have you considered the part where it says,' He MAKES me lie down... to RESTORE my soul'?"  

"That's interesting..., " was the response.  "I never thought of it that way. But its probably true.  There are times where God FORCES us to take a rest."

How ironic! Four days later I was struck down with Bell's palsy. 


There's not much one can do about the effects of an attack like Bell's Palsy except to accept the blows as they arrive.  You are left with a paralyzed face, an eye that refuses to shut, a tongue that does its own thing, a nostril that won't flare and an ugly frozen expression that refuses to budge. The only positive option is to focus on adapting to one's 'new normal'. It's time to learn how to eat, drink, talk, blink, a whole new way. One reaches for anything that offers the possibility of relief. Often, nothing works. Instead, I have had to resort to simply lying down and surrendering into the company of God. It's time to pray for the people I care about and to meditate

Yes, God is certainly MAKING me lie down! And something inside of me says , 'It is right'.  I have the honest hope of restoration; the love of friends; a Christian family that is far wider than I ever thought, and the all-important opportunity of embracing God's glory amidst my affliction. Without the Lord by my side, I would most certainly be a mess - crumbling like a leaf in the clutches of winter.  

But its not that way at all.  Although the paralyses is unchanged, the birds sounded brighter this morning.  I made muffins too - to give to friends and I'm looking forward to my REST during the day. It's obvious that I am being instructed to take it easy.


I pray that God draws close to you to, dear reader.  That you too are able to surrender into His loving arms.  Allow Him to deal with whatever is troubling you - in the full knowledge that "He has got this!". May you also find the true meaning of the gift that is offered by our amazing Lord Jesus Christ. My prayers are with you at this time.

Have a wonderful, happy and blessed weekend. With love, Caryl