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About the Author
Angela Harper studied Theology at Spurgeon's College in London and went on to serve in two chaplaincy roles in a hospital and a supermarket. She was dramatically healed from a lifelong health condition some three years ago and now shares her experiences of healing personally and in writing devotional reflections on healing.
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Finding a Way ahead!
Spiritual Signposts to Healing and Wholeness
By Angela Harper
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2015 Angela Harper
All rights reserved.
Caring For You
Things to Think about – Loving Yourself
'Love others as well as you love yourself.'
Mark 12: 31
Looking at yourself – once you love yourself, life and health tend to improve because you are no longer beating yourself up
It's not easy for some people to love themselves. Some believe that it's narcissistic or selfish – but to love yourself means that you are more able to achieve the realistic things you want to do in life, without constantly thinking that you are not good enough; loving yourself means that you are able to comfort yourself. Loving self helps to look at the world through that framework, which helps to take situations or people in a more realistic way rather than by using a wrong interpretation! It also provides a secure foundation that can better enable you to help others.
Self-love is a protecting factor which enables us to build a safe haven deep inside. However, so many of us speak negatively to ourselves, which often means that we can often hold grudges against the things we, ourselves, have done, even in our childhood! It's always best to look within and see if we have done anything causative or unjust. After that it's good to learn from it, to understand why we did something wrong, and then repent, and start afresh with our slate wiped clean. To accept forgiveness for ourselves is not easy in a person who doesn't love who they are, because they can hold onto unforgiveness instead of being able to release themselves. In that case learning compassion for who you are can help this process. If you have never felt loved, start by appreciating you, because you must have been strong to have coped so far.
A short story about you!
You can only be you, because that was who you were created to be! You can never be anyone else, even though you may have yearned to swop yourself for someone who in your estimation is far more worthy! Everyone around us will always have different gifts and unique faces, but that is them. Do not deny yourself by wishing you away, use your gifts – we all have them. It is so easy to lose self-worth. From childhood onwards we all hear criticisms, and somehow they take root deep inside us. Some of these criticisms are lies told to you by people who judge others rather unkindly, and can never see the beauty of another person. Often these people have never felt loved, so there is a reason behind their harshness, because this is how they feel about themselves. Deep down they may even feel desperate, and this comes out in their sharp criticisms towards others.
Do not believe you are worthless, or ugly. Everyone is beautiful in a different way, and we cannot compare looks, or our individuality, because we all have a purpose for our souls. All our lives are tailored in a personal way, life is often painful, but you have learned so much that is of great value. Don't put down who you are, these are just reactions to the pain you're feeling. Ask God to turnaround you, so that you can now be unhindered by the circumstances which may have trapped you into a small cage. Now it's time to soar, and let yourself out.
There may be aspects of learning that you find hard to handle, or something may have happened which has stopped you doing the career you so longed to do. But you have two treasures – yourself and God. When you pray you will not be denied your dreams, although you may have to wait for them. If they are not beneficial for you, something else will open up which will be more suited to you, and this will prove to be far, far better in the longer term, (even though for now you may not believe this).
We can all learn from others of every age, from children to those who have reached one hundred, and beyond! Everybody has a sprinkling of wisdom in some way, do not limit yourself to just your peer group, do not look down on those who are 'different' everyone has something to teach us. Choose your friends with great care, and look after them, but don't let them use you. When we nurture others, we also nurture ourselves, men are just as good as nurturing as women!
It's time to value you, at the moment you may feel poor in spirit, so appreciate the small things that happen every day, such as birdsong, fluffy clouds in the sky, and the rain which glistens like diamonds when the sun comes out to shine, after a stormy time. Sometimes others seem so much more capable than us, but don't lose your life in wishing to be them. We can all do something well, and we can learn to polish up our gifts, but we must get them out to use, we can't keep concealing our beauty, our ways, and the gifts we have.
We are all of equal worth, and our minds and thoughts function uniquely, no one can be you, as we can't be them. You are you for a purpose; the most important thing in your life is to get to know you! When we start to love ourselves, life flows more easily, and new opportunities are more likely to come our way, because we now feel able to take them, and grow.
If you keep giving your feelings of disempowerment to God, watch how they start to fall away like a landslide, and see how new events start to happen, in the way that God plans. Learn to stop any unhelpful reactions, and turn away from the habits you've struggled with – when you see someone you believe is far more worthy than you – how do you know? You are judging yourself rather harshly, as you may have been judged before by others. This does not mean you have to continue seeing yourself through other people's darkened images of you. Welcome you today! Celebrate the good you may have done, and any achievements, whatever they may be!
Live! Talk kindly to yourself, and vital new starts can happen! It is never too late to do this!
What did that passage say to you?
Notice how you felt while reading that passage. Did you refuse to receive it, or did you believe it? If you once again rejected yourself, try talking to yourself kindly as a nurturing parent can talk to a child and then work on reframing certain thoughts about yourself. So many of us seem to stick to the same script when we think of us! So it's just re-writing how we may learn to love ourselves without repressing or denying anything. By talking to yourself kindly I believe that is how the Holy Spirit talks to us. It may feel strange or odd at first, but over time, self-love, plus more tolerance towards others can build up.
Are you feeling trapped and living by approval from others, when all you want to do is to be the real you, and fulfil your vocation but are scared in case others do not accept you or what you believe you are called to do?
Often when people find that courage to let go and be themselves they become more genuine and alive, and this can generally help in feeling better.
A friend of our family believes that each letter in the word L.O.V.E. means Lots of Vital Encouragement because we all need this at times to use both for ourselves and others.
We've all been hurt by other people and/or experiences – we need to take time to understand what keeps triggering our inner wounds, even when the event is past. Are you still reacting, and basing your whole life on the same wound? It's taking time to give the whole experience to God and ask for help.
Unconditional love can be found in this life, when we start the search; God makes sure that we find this divine love. Imagine God's light and love shining on you today, notice any helpful thoughts; are all your friends good ones? Are there any people or circumstances hindering your progress? Are you allowing people to put you down? Do you put yourself down, in front of other people? Take some time out to read this passage from 1 John 3: 18-20. Try and read it every day, and let it reach those places in your soul which need help.
What does real love feel like?
My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is the only way we'll know we're living truly, living in God's reality. It's also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
1 John 3: 18-20
As soon as the meal was finished, Jesus insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead across to Bethsaida while he dismissed the congregation. After sending them off, he climbed a mountain to pray.
Late at night, the boat was far out at sea; Jesus was still by himself on land. He could see his men struggling with the oars, the wind having come up against them. At about four o'clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. He intended to go right by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and screamed, scared out of their wits.
Jesus was quick to comfort them: "Courage! It's me. Don't be afraid." As soon as he climbed into the boat, the wind died down. They were stunned, shaking their heads,wondering what was going on. They didn't understand what he had done at the supper. None of this had yet penetrated their hearts.
Mark 6: 45-52
I'm sure most of us have been kept awake at night because of fear, even after praying for the healing of it. Some fears loom so large it's as though they threaten our very being, and as we look up at those fears, it feels as though they are devouring us. Our prayer relationship with Our Creator and our prayers to make things right for us are anything but easy, because we can't see God physically. As a consequence we all imagine God differently and it's hard to concentrate on how we think Jesus may look or respond while we pray. Indeed when a fearful situation remains, we desperately wonder how we will get out of it. From the suffering of fear our whole self can feel at constant threat. Some fears are so huge (whether imagined or real) and our response can be so troubling, giving rise to sleepless nights, terrors, palpitations, sweats of horror, that we believe our very response could destroy us.
Our imagination is a gift, we use it to pray, to create, to think. It can also help us form our very personalities, and discover who we are by showing us our gifts and likes and dislikes. Imagination is a great power, but there's also a downside, and that is when it takes over and starts to over-process fearful situations. When we face these things our minds can go round and round locked in that cycle of fear that remains before us. When that locked cycle happens, our minds are actually trying to help us process it, and as the fear circulates continually, the mind is doing its job by trying to solve it, and unpack it. Plus our mind is trying to alert us to a thought pattern that could be unhelpful. (Strangely, this is the mind's way of working for us, by using repetitive thinking, it can finally rest when the fear has been looked at, understood, and a solution found or fear let go.)
We understandably fear when our very survival is at stake, if we believe we are going to be attacked, or we are seriously ill, etc. Indeed there are many fears and a myriad of causes, which often go back to some traumatic event earlier in our lives that we have not really recovered from. However our fears manifest themselves, whether they are real or imagined, they are often still homing in on a particular event we once went through. Because that fear keeps coming back, it can be telling us to look at it deeper, to see what it is really telling us. Life is far from easy, and there will be fears that we have to face, with no running away. Of course, other fears suddenly happen with no past experience to look at.
Perhaps we could imagine that we are slowly ascending white flights of stairs which are bringing us closer and closer to God, but as we go, and grow, new challenges suddenly appear. This is a parallel process because as we walk up the stairs Jesus accompanies us to either remove the obstacle of fear, or to lead us through it safely. What may have once distressed us can suddenly give way to more helpful reactions; this is when we overcome and find that we may have experienced a spiritual promotion.
The passage of the terrified disciples on the stormy sea comes just after the feeding of the five thousand, where the perplexed disciples wonder how they can feed everybody, which is when Jesus tests their own powers of faith wanting them to have enough faith to manifest the food. After this event when Jesus had demonstrated another lesson of His power to feed the five thousand, a new challenge comes upon the disciples when they are caught up in a storm. It must have been violently shaking their boat from side to side. I'm sure when Jesus looked down from the hill where he was praying to see the distress of the disciples he thought "What? They still don't get me, (the all-powerful God) and my promise to look after my creation!"
It might be helpful for you to imagine that you are in the boat alone with the storm raging, and any minute now it will threaten to capsize you. At this moment the fear is horrific because you don't feel able to swim, and you really believe that you are going to drown. Indeed you might be fighting for your life in this instance. All of a sudden you see a figure walk towards you on the water, and as it is night you wonder if it's a ghost. (In Jesus' time people were generally frightened of the sea because of the unknown things that might live there.) It is then you realise the figure is Jesus and it looks like he will pass you by, but instead he climbs into the boat with you. At first the storm carries on raging, then the waves appear less agitated, next they start to calm down and settle, and finally the water clears for you to see the sea bed clearly. Of course during this time, Jesus is holding onto you. The fear is now calmed and the cause of it might be clearly seen and understood, as Jesus starts to work on it with you. (Sometimes the healing of fear does not immediately take place, if the fear remains there is something to learn about it before God removes it. Whatever happens, The Creator will show you when the time is right for it to go. Praying for the Healing of Memories can also be helpful.) Eventually though, you will be able to look down on that fear having finally overcome it, rather than look up to it which makes a fear dominant.
There is no blame for the fear, whatever it is, and you may have to wait for insights and divine help to be provided in order for you to resolve the fear you now clearly see. God may teach you to let go of the fear, or show you how to face it. (Jesus will be alongside as He walks through the fear with you.) Whatever happens you know God is on the case, as a light shining on the particular fear. This can help restore a calm-ness, despite circumstances still prevailing, and the power and confidence you have gained in God (and in yourself) while being in the boat with Jesus helps you once again to trust, that somehow all will be well. There can be a feeling of moving through the fear, as you once again walk up the white stairs, in a process of growing closer and closer to the unconditional love of God.
Whatever the fear, God will not refuse to help you grow and to bear new shoots, we're not alone as the Holy Spirit comforts and teaches us. It is a triune activity; God, Jesus and Holy Spirit, the divine three, interact to make us stronger people, you will never be judged for being fearful. Fear is one of our inbuilt survival skills. It aims to protect us as it sounds alarm bells within us so that we can escape from harmful situations. It's only when it moves in and takes a hold of us that we need help. Even if we are still perplexed and wonder how we will get through, we have the promise that God will be with us and rescue us.
We Are More than Conquerors
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us – who was raised to life for us! – is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bulling threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:
They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We're sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.
Excerpted from Finding a Way ahead! by Angela Harper. Copyright © 2015 Angela Harper. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One – Caring For You,
Chapter Two – Our Inner Wounds,
Chapter Three – Burdens We Carry,
Chapter Four – Meditative Journeys,
Chapter Five – Our Perceptions,
Chapter Six – Oh! It's Christmas,
Chapter Seven – Your Future With God,
Chapter Eight – Healing Strategies,
Chapter Nine – A New Destination,
Chapter Ten – Helping Others,
From the Author,