Psalm 23- An Epistle of Hope
He makes me lie down in the sunshine of my own garden
He leads me through the stillness of the lockdown
He restores my soul
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake
Even though I walk through the darkest valley that is Covid 19
I fear no evil
For you are with me
Your rod and staff, codeine and paracetamol comfort me and aid my recovery
You prepare a table before me
Despite panic buying in the supermarket
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me through the lockdown and all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
My whole life long.
Pentecostal Flames 2020
The rowan froth of white blossom
Will become luscious red berries
Ready to NOURISH our hungry birds
And fill the jelly pots.
The quiet inconspicuous holly flowers
Slowly CHANGE to red iridescent jewels
To deck the homes at Christmas
Heralding our Saviour’s birth.
When raging winds blow
They send wild rose petals flying
Then bulging red hips will grow
Full of God’s RECHARGING food.
The red awakening azalea bush
Is ready to burst forth
In a blaze of blinding colour
Remindful of that burning HOLY bush
Our churches are silent and dark
But the people sing and PRAY
Serving God in a hundred different ways
Greeting the glowing RELEASING Pentecostal flames.
© Helen McNichol, May 2020
Then and Now
Thomas stood outside the door
His head still spinning and aching
of that Day
The cruel, unknowing, inflamed crowd,
Women stifling cries of anguish.
People locked in houses,
wracked with fear.
Children with little understanding
filled with future
The driving of the hideous nails
Hammers for building
He crept away like Pilate and Judas
But he was in denial, total disbelief
They could not kill his Saviour there on
Still at the door, he remembered that word
He entered the room
All eyes on him, the doubter
But His Lord’s voice reached his ears
His throbbing head and shaking body calmed
Jesus drew him close, and lovingly led his hands
to feel the water from His side
baptising him once again,
giving peace to his soul.
The healing hands and feet
Filling his veins with
and Strength to Live Again
and understanding surround us all
giving us strength to live anew
in faith and hope near to God
Now and into the Future
© Helen McNichol
Two pieces of creative writing from Frances
Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I Broke the Rules
I’m stuck in a gender twisted society.
But I need to break free.
If scripture was open to me,
I’d sing, “Let me sit at Divine feet
because God’s Word edifies me.”
I must wait ‘til a man reads it to me,
And interprets the Word thoughtfully
through the lens of masculinity.
Naturally, I just sit an’ listen, silently.
I hurt in this “male-female camaraderie”.
Hebrew? Right- just lines to me.
Learning isn’t a woman’s right, you see.
So, I try to commit it memory.See, my culture has many faces.
Prophets n’ kings in high places:
Adam, Abraham, David, Shem.
Many, many men.
And I’m not saying men of God don’t speak to me –
They do! That’s the point, you see.
I’m a woman who wants to wrestle with theology,
And hear a voice, my voice, with God’s, in harmony.
Who else holds this view, secretly?
Am I the only one? Quite possibly.
Cos, even if we united for our liberty,
Women know, we can’t change society.
I thought, if people knew, they’d slander me,
Ha. They’d say, “Rebel Lady Mary?
You overstep social boundaries.”
Have I prayed for one opportunity?
For a chance to be me, really ME!
Yes – obviously.
Did you hear my plea?
God? Did you really hear me?
Cos, I tell you faithfully,
I never thought I’d see the day,
when I’d have a chance to say,
that not one male head
wanted my cooking, my cleaning,
or held me back from my Hebrew bread!See, I sat at Jesus’s feet quite openly,
He got me … and my sister-family.
He was and is God to me.
And it’s transformed me.
I radiate his Holy charity,
cos’ I know scripture accepts women like me.
See, I’m a woman whose dreams came true.
I sat with the men
Who meditate ‘em scriptures through
And what’s more, I learnt from a man
who gave me my voice, my platform.
Time stood still and I … I forgot my female form.
Look, I know my story sounds unlikely
But I broke the social rules for all to see.
I’m left with questions buzzing incessantly,
What kind of God encourages rule breakers, like me?
Even speaks of a love that rises higher than conventionality?
And he said …?
Well … isn’t it plain to see?
I broke the rules and he set me free.
Acts 1v14 : “Mary the mother of Jesus stood with the disciples joined together constantly in prayer.”
Praying from a Dusty Floor
My son, Jesus, was executed in a brutal act between religious leaders and the government. The horrors I saw were still vivid in my memory on the day I met the disciples. I hadn’t been able to sleep for days. My jaw and neck muscles were tight and sore with the pain of grief but when we prayed together, even the memories that engulfed me in terror faded along with my worries about the future. The fact that we had all managed to meet there, without being caught and strung up in front of some unofficial council, didn’t seem to be a co-incidence.
No longer sensing the poison of the last few weeks, I sat down opposite the door, leant against the wall and closed my eyes. I began to feel the benefits of rest. I felt held and supported by all of Jesus’s companions around me – we who knew him so well and knew he was a holy man both in the eyes of God and the public. How could I be drawn into such stillness when raw images of his death on the cross had been torturing me? It was an experience that is beyond my comprehension.
That time of prayer was like a meeting with the depths of existence – with that which all things come from, are sustained and will return. By God’s grace, in prayer we began a new journey. It was like receiving a gift and we received it. We said ‘yes’ to it. It reminded me of the moment I said ‘yes’ to giving birth to Jesus. It was the same sense of acceptance.
Everyone’s prayers reached a point beyond words or song. Intuitively, we knew that one person’s words would not be meaningful to the rest of us, so we automatically settled into silence. Every one of us received something different from the silence. Our words could not express what was happening. We all rested on Jesus’s teaching which pointed us to what we needed now – the experience of praying together in communion with God and one another.
There was no sound but from the family in the room underneath us. I began to realise the beauty of everyone in the room … each person created, sustained and loved by God. I think we all saw each other in a new way that day. Any personal boundaries which had divided us turned into a recognition of human vulnerabilities – and we could love one another because we saw ourselves as we really were, all frail and in need of love. I blessed everything I could hear, the donkey braying, a boy who had just started crying and his mother who I could hear consoling him.
For a brief second or two, I opened my eyes and looked around. I noticed how the sheer fear etched onto their facial expressions had fallen away, as if we’d all just escaped a whirlwind of living hell. In my own way, silently to God, I started telling him my nightmares. I was completely honest: the crowds, the Temple, Pilot, Judas, the cross, the way he forgave them on the cross. It all came out until my mind fell silent and I felt peace, rivers of peace.
I began listening internally now. I wasn’t listening for a voice. It was as if I was waiting for the sweet sounds of a flower bud to open. I cast a quick eye onto the door. Only half an hour previously, I’d wanted to be in total darkness and had chosen a place where I could see for myself that no one was entering the room to harm us. But within that short amount of time in prayer, my need for security and blackness was already diminishing. There was a small amount of light, shining through the crack under the closed wooden door and I was pleased it had managed to get through – like a glimmer of hope. The warmth of the sun had penetrated the room and seemed stronger than my need to hide – and actually that felt good. The light picked up the dust on the wooden floor planks.
Nowhere in the world would there be this beam of sunlight shining on the dust on this wooden floor. In a flick of a thought, I saw myself as part of it all. Together, we merged into one and my sense of self disappeared. We shared the same creator. I felt eternity was ingrained within me, the others in the room, the sunlight and the dust and it made me feel intensely alive, as if I was both less and more than I normally am.
Although I didn’t want this moment to end, my mind jumped back to when John and I were at the cross of Jesus. The last thing he said to me was, “Woman, here is your son,” and “John, here is your mother.” Jesus wanted me to have a home, someone who would be family to me – who understood what life had been like and what our faith would mean. The pressure of the past began to catch up with me again and I felt as though I’d lost the deep peace I’d been blessed with just moments before.
At that point, I remember my eyes beginning to fill with tears and I prayed, “God help! Your peace is running away. I can’t hold onto it.” I poured out to Him how those last words sounded and how it felt to lose a son, branded a criminal and God heard me and His peace stayed me in that moment and comforted me in my anger. I know I am never alone nor could I be ever alone. “Love your neighbour,” my son had taught us. “Love your neighbour” and “God is love.” All three necessary, all three one and the same.
I glanced around the room again. There was Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. There God was in each of them – the love of God, expressed in infinite variety! And, I knew too that the love we have for others would also be expressed in infinite variety.
Instinctively, I asked for God’s blessing on each one of them and when I asked for his blessing on myself as well, I felt a deeply nourishing warmth in my heart and mind and soul. I knew that we, as a group, were going to heal, relieve suffering, be peace-makers, cultivate justice, preach and teach. We were going to continue what Jesus started. And in that moment, I knew what my role would become.
I am a woman of prayer and I desired an inner path – a life where each day would rise and return to silence, where each moment of silence would surround all those who followed a life of love for God. My sense about what our future would involve evoked a question, “Where do we start?” But I made no attempt to answer it – for it was not my answer that I needed to wait for. I let the question float in the air of that upper room.
The hours felt timeless and complete, still, strong and reassuring, like a boat’s anchor in a turbulent sea. I can clearly remember how I didn’t want this time to end but it did of course. And everything that happened afterwards was the fruit of this time of prayer.
Since then, we have had many times of trial and we have lost sight of that experience at times too. When that happens, we are honest with each other and we re-group and rest until we can forgive ourselves of anything that stops us being in communion. We pray to God that the challenges in our journeys won’t become overwhelming. Even the smallest of negative thoughts can have tremendous power to rock us by building fear within us along with an increasing feeling of powerlessness. We all have those times and we are not alone. From that perspective, humans are not so different from each other. The disciples and I have found that coming to God, as open and as honestly as we can helps us. We do so as often as we can. It allows us to open up to a deeper and more fulfilling truth, which is that we are an unspeakable mystery at one with God. We know that our lives are fleeting, as fleeting as the position of one of those specks of dust caught in the light on that wooden floor.
Based on a book by Simon Small entitled: From the Bottom of the Pond – The forgotten art of experiencing God in the depths of the present moment