The Blind Pleading the Blind

I just wanted to share with you something I learnt this week. I went to do a half-day of sight loss awareness training, which might sound a bit daft, but my blindness was caused by prematurity and my being given too much oxygen. Having been blind all my life, I don’t know what it’s like to suddenly lose my sight.

I’m not sure how this plays out across the world, so I’ll just tell you what happens here. In the UK, when you’re first diagnosed with sight loss, you apparently get a phone call from social services. You’ve had a hospital appointment with an ophthalmologist, who’s passed your information on to them, and they ask you whether you want to be registered (I didn’t know registration was voluntary). Legally, you’re blind if your sight is so poor that you “Can’t do work for which eyesight is essential”.

So, let’s say you agree to be registered, and they agree to come in twelve months to see how you are. What happens during those first twelve months, especially if you have no support network? And when they’ve visited and assessed you, and given you what you need, if you have an eye-condition where your sight deteriorates gradually, common sense tells me that in a few years, you’ll need more than you did at the time of their assessment.

The organisation I trained with went to see a lady who’d decided to apply for a guide-dog. (I wasn’t asked to keep this story confidential, so my guess is she’s given permission for it to be shared.) The lady had been diagnosed; she’d waited the first year; she’d had her assessment from social services, and she’d been given a symbol cane. This is exactly as it sounds: A cane that symbolises to others your lack of sight. A person can use one of these if they’re partially-sighted. It’s a short cane they hold across their body as a symbol, while still using their vision to get around.

Years passed before the lady I mentioned applied for a guide-dog. When the organisation went to see her, she was walking the streets bent double, dragging this symbol cane along the edge of the kerb and following the double-yellow lines on the road. She’d had no formal mobility training and her sight had deteriorated so much, this was the only way she could cope. I think they were as shocked as I was, and gave her the support she needed. They trained her up with a long cane (which comes approximately to your breastbone and you swoosh it from left to right in front of you, so it hits any obstacles before you do). Suddenly she could stand up to her full height, look straight-ahead, and walk along the pavement without having to follow the kerb. It made a huge difference.

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Why am I telling you this? I suppose to highlight the lack of support out there for someone who’s just lost their sight, and to encourage you if you know someone in that situation to please, please try to be there for them. It’s a huge adjustment they’re having to make. Maybe they won’t want to discuss it at first, but it might help to have someone there when they do.

But once they start talking, how do you handle it? What can you do to support them? I thought perhaps we could explore this over the next few weeks. Are you with me?
(Linking up with Tuesday at Ten on this week’s prompt: Change)

The Blessing of Easter

I was inspired by this week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt: BLESSED.

Bereft, He prayed at Gethsemane – His soul overwhelmed with sorrow. “If it’s possible, take this from Me!” but the choice had already been made; He knew it would happen when the time came.

Lamb-like, He was led away – His friends deserting Him. From the house of the high priest, He looked straight at the one who denied all knowledge of Him.

Ethereal, He confessed to being the Son of Man who would sit at the right hand of God. Robes were torn and His death decreed.

Suffering, He was spat upon. Cruelly they blindfolded Him and asked who struck the blow. They bloodied His head with a crown of thorns.

Selfless, He thought of others in His darkest hours – telling the women to weep for themselves; entrusting His mother to John’s care; forgiving a common criminal.

Easter and the sun was rising. An angel rolled away the stone. There lay the tomb, open for all to see, but He was not there; He had risen!

Deliverer, He went to His disciples. Gave the oil of gladness instead of a spirit of despair. Suddenly they weren’t locked away in fear; there was hope and newness. “My Lord and my God!” one cried, as Jesus stood before His eyes, and the one who denied – he dived from the boat and swam to shore. He was completely known, and completely restored.

This Jesus – do you love Him? Then follow Him.

Tuesday at Ten: Create

I saw Karen’s prompt this week on Facebook, so here’s something I haven’t done for a while – joined in with Tuesday at Ten:

Thank You that You create something out of nothing, You whose Spirit hovered over the waters, who saw a beginning when there was nothing to see.

You brought land and life, the routine of day and night, and even before it all, You chose me.

You sent Your Son to die on a cross, so many years before I was born, years before I wanted to be Yours.

And even as I live my life, You look down in love and You guide my steps, knowing what I think and feel.

You see the closed doors and the questioning, and You say: “I will make the valley of trouble a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).

Creator-God, You’ve never stopped creating. Your hope is always there in our trouble, so make us more aware; more thankful; more loving towards the One who offers us so much.

A Lady in Waiting

This week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt is patience, and because of the time of year, my thoughts went to Mary. How patient she’d had to be throughout her pregnancy, knowing she was giving birth to the Son of God! What would He look like; the same as other babies or different? Did she search the pages of our Old Testament for clues?

And when He was born, Simeon came along – Simeon who’d had the revelation that he wouldn’t die until he’d seen the long-awaited Christ. Simeon cradled the babe in his arms, calling Him Saviour and the glory of all the Jews! Then he spoke to Mary: “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” How did she feel when she heard that?

Words are so powerful – the negative and the positive, and those must have stayed with her all through Jesus’ life. We don’t hear anything of Joseph after the incident when Jesus was twelve years old. Perhaps Joseph died, and Mary wondered if that was the piercing Simeon spoke of.

Years passed and Jesus began His earthly ministry. Mary heard about the crowds and the demands on His time. Thinking Him out of His mind to accept it, she set out to speak to Him. The sheer volume of people made it impossible to reach Him, but finally, she caught someone’s attention. She may have heard them relaying the message, and heard Him say: “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Sting. Surely this must be the moment?

She couldn’t have imagined how bad it would get, the depth of her pain as she saw her Son lifted up on a cross. But that piercing of soul, that depth of pain, eclipsed by the joy of seeing Him alive. Unashamedly falling before Him, reaching out to cling to Him, even to one of His feet! He lived! He’d conquered death! This was unparalleled – awesome – daunting. What did it all mean? She knew only the words He spoke: “Tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me,” but what would happen next, or how everything would fall into place, she couldn’t tell.

When we know only the next step, let’s be reassured that God knows our destination. Let’s keep those important words people have spoken over us and think on them, wonder at them, in the knowledge that God’s in control.

G R A C E

The acronym for GRACE I’ve always remembered is: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense, but I don’t like that.

I don’t like it because the Bible says God’s grace was on Jesus, right from when He was a child (Luke 2:40). That couldn’t have been God’s riches at Christ’s expense, because Jesus is the Christ, who hadn’t yet suffered death on a cross. He was just a little boy, growing up in Nazareth. There was nothing in His outward appearance to distinguish Him from those around Him (Isaiah 53:2), and yet … God’s grace was upon Him.

Another definition of grace I’ve heard: Undeserved favour. I don’t like that either, again because God’s grace was upon Jesus, who deserved every bit of it.

Shall we call it God’s favour then? God is so extravagant, He loves all those He created.

God’s Riches … Adoration … Care … Extravagance. That’s how I’ll think of grace from now on. Will you?

The Truth About Self

This week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt is truth – that thing that’s so vital in processing what we hear, so we can live our lives well. Jesus said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”, which is why it’s so important to find out what He thinks about us and our lives.

Lately, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about self. As an example, here’s a quote from a friend’s update on Facebook:
“Apparently happiness has replaced goodness. We all strive for what will make us happy, to fulfil our desires, to satisfy our needs & dying are the thoughts for doing good. Its all about us. Praying that I’ll change my selfish ways to wanting to make a good choice, to please God with my actions instead of pleasing myself. Happiness only lasts for a time but doing good lasts forever.”

At first glance, this might give the impression that all God wants is for us to do good, paying no attention to our feelings and having no thought for ourselves or our happiness. I admire people like my friend, who’ve given up some of their own comforts to accomplish something greater for God, but I also love my friends dearly and don’t want to see them working themselves into the ground whilst forfeiting their happiness. I’d rather see them work less and smile more, but does Jesus agree?

Just today, I listened to a radio-programme about self-obsession, and the presenter said: “The whole point of following Jesus is that it’s nothing about yourself at all” – again, same impression. If I took just these two quotes on their own, I might be left wondering if God really cared about me.

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life,” says Jesus, so let’s look for the truth in God’s Word. “God cares for you, so turn all your worries over to Him” (1 Peter 5:7), and one of my favourite verses: “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the wellbeing of His servant” (Psalm 35:27). God delights in our wellbeing – mine and yours. If I had to make a judgment about God, I’d say He’d rather see us work less and smile more too.

Of course doing good is important. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). “Let us not become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9). Doing good is essential to the outworking of our Christian faith, but not at the expense of our joy. I was just thinking about the phrase: ‘Find your joy in the LORD’. Where do you think it’s used in the Bible; in connection with working for Him?

Actually, it’s used in connection with Sabbath – with God’s day of rest. “If you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

There were two sisters who were friends of Jesus while He lived on earth: Martha and Mary. Basically Martha beetled about trying to get everything done, while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Jesus said Mary had made the better choice (Luke 10:42). Perhaps, rather than striving to do good or striving for happiness, our life’s goal should be intimacy with Jesus. Out of that will come everything else we need to live our lives for Him.

Possible

This week’s Tuesday at Ten prompt is “Believe”, and I just felt to write a little poem this time:
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When we think that God created the world – everything in 6 days – do we believe it’s possible?
When we hear that He parted the sea for His people – do we believe it’s possible?
When we picture a giant, slain by a shepherd-boy – do we believe it’s possible?
When we hear of a suffering servant, taking all our punishment – do we believe it’s possible?
When we want to be like Peter, in whose shadow people were healed – do we believe it’s possible?
When we hear of a disfigured body straightened – do we believe it’s possible?
When we seek provision for those in great need – do we believe it’s possible?
When we want a thriving church, people worshipping in spirit and in truth – do we believe it’s possible?
When we want a peaceful life, lived in a strength not our own – do we believe it’s possible?
When we search our hearts, and lift our eyes ...
Believe – it’s possible.

Tuesday at Ten: Time

Well, I’m quite pleased because I can give a bit of a shout-out to not one, but two people through this post. Today is Tuesday, which means Karen’s back with her Tuesday at Ten linkup. This week, her prompt-word is: Time.
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So I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine, and how she spends her time. Alex has always been a quiet person one-to-one, but put her behind a microphone and she speaks with real authority, so I’m thrilled she’s using that voice of hers for God’s glory.

Alex spends three hours on a Wednesday, 6-9 pm here in the UK (that's 1-4 pm Eastern), playing music to praise God to on her radio-show – Worship Unlimited. I plugged her show when she first started broadcasting in 2011, and now three years later, you can find her on ACB Radio Interactive. This Internet radio-station showcases blind DJs from around the world, but Alex is listened to by people of all ages with very different musical tastes. One request might be a children’s song for a girl in her local church, the next a hip-hop song popular in Germany, or perhaps Alex’s personal favourite – Christian country. As long as it glorifies Jesus, she’ll play it.

Worship Unlimited now has a blog, Facebook page and Twitter account, giving you plenty of ways to connect, so why not spend a bit of time tomorrow night listening to Alex on ACB Interactive? Let’s see if we can make this a community, and not just a three-hour show.

Tuesday at Ten: Gather

I enjoy these link-ups where I can join with other bloggers and just write. Tuesday at Ten is Karen’s first link-up, so I hope she gets a good amount of support. Similar to Five Minute Friday, the prompt word goes live at 10 pm Eastern (that’s 3 am Wednesday here in the UK, so I’m glad she’s giving us 24 hours to make our contributions!). This week’s prompt is: Gather.
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I’ve read Psalm 2 recently. It seems appropriate with all that’s going on at the moment in this world. It talks about people gathering together against the LORD (doesn’t that remind you of the situation in Iraq?), and yet the Psalm isn’t full of doom and gloom. No – what I love is its picture of God in all this. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.”

Do I mean that God laughs at tragedy? Well, I can’t imagine that of a loving and compassionate God. If I want to gather those Iraqi children in my arms and protect them, surely God wants that even more. In fact, the Bible says He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).

So here’s what I love about that picture of God:
I love that He’s enthroned in heaven. Whatever might be going on in the world or in your own life, whatever might be spiralling out of control, there’s One who’s still sitting on His throne, in control of it all. I’m reassured by that.

And I love that God scoffs at the ones who’ve gathered against Him. If a human being scoffs at you, that’s one thing, but God scoffing at you? Wow - that’s a dreadful prospect! Has someone treated you unjustly? Do they think they’ve got away with it? Psalm 2 reminds us that one day, we’ll all have to give an account of ourselves to God; we’ll all have to answer for our actions. And do you know your response to the one who’s mistreated you will affect their future?

Jesus taught that if we forgive others’ wrongs, they’ll be forgiven; but if we don’t, they won’t. He showed incomprehensible forgiveness Himself when His hands and feet were nailed to a cross, and He was tormented to come down and save Himself. An early Christian, Stephen, asked as he died a martyr’s death that the sins of those who killed him wouldn’t be held against them. Have you ever thought who was standing by that day? A young man called Saul gave approval to Stephen’s death. Not long afterwards, Saul was travelling to Damascus to persecute more Christians when Jesus appeared to him, and he became a believer himself. Saul (later known as Paul) believed in Jesus, so his sins weren’t held against him. Could you do that to those who gather against God or against you – forgive them, and trust that God will respond in the right way to their mistakes?