Lessons from History

Parliamentary government was breaking down at a moment when the economic crisis made strong government imperative… Hitler realised that his own opportunity had come sooner than he expected. The hard-pressed people were demanding a way out of their sorry predicament… To all the millions of discontented, Hitler, in a whirlwind campaign, offered what seemed to them in their misery some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again…

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

There are many places around the world that seem to echo the Germany of the early 1930s. A perceived lack – be it of food, of uncorrupted leadership, of employment, of morals, of religious observance, of effective criminal law – creates a vacuum. A vacuum creates tension. Tension leads to conflict. I pray we can work together for good, in humility, for Christ’s sake.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another. “

John 13:35 (NRSVA)

Weak, Strong; Broken, Whole

“What is my strength that I should wait?

And what is my end, that I should be patient?

Is my strength the strength of stones,

or is my flesh bronze?

In truth I have no help in me,

and any resource is driven from me.”

Job cries out to God, Job 6:11-13 (NRSVA)

Three times I appealed to the Lord about [my suffering], that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

My dear mother-in-law is very poorly. She had a stroke at the weekend. It’s touch and go, as they say. When my sister-in-law visited yesterday my MIL was extremely distressed and crying out to God. Praise God she is a woman of faith! But dementia can be very cruel. It steals everything you have. When I read the words from Job this morning as part of my daily Bible time, I was immediately struck by how apt they were. Despite the extreme distress of my MIL (which is heart-wrenching because there is no way to offer consolation when a person has no memory, no way to comfort, no way to reassure) it is an honour to know a woman who, when all else is gone, has a faith that cries out to her Redeemer. God help us all.

In my distress I called upon the LORD,

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

Psalm 18:6

 

God is good. God is always good.

Seven: Thoughts on Married Life

It’s been a little over seven years since I first met my husband. I was 32 then. How young that seems now! My dear Frank was a youthful 41. When I look back, when I consider the woman I was then it is almost like I’m remembering the life of someone else, so far have I come from that ill-used, halfling creature. It amazes me to think that Frank saw beyond all that jagged brokenness and, more than that, he loved me just for me. He rescued me. I was about breaking into a million sharp shards and this wonderful man didn’t run in the opposite direction when he found out my past, he didn’t even scarper when my then 10-year-old autistic and ADHD son attacked him when he babysat the kids for an evening, for the first time. Frank phoned me when I was in the middle of dance class and asked if I would come home. I confess I didn’t think it was all that bad and wanted to stay (single parenthood not giving me much opportunity for anything). Ten minutes later he called again and I realised that I needed to go home. His voice sounded polite, but strained. Here we go, I thought. I braced myself.

As I walked in the front door and saw Frank’s face, and then took in the fact that he was covered from head to toe in Vaseline and eczema cream, I knew for sure it was over. Who would willingly stay to become the step-father of a child who didn’t sleep, destroyed things and attacked you? Who would willingly desire to be the husband of someone as broken as me? Who could possibly think that we, the kids and I, were worth it? Also, at that point I had had not only the awful, abusive first marriage and the ramifications of that individual’s crimes, but a few months before had fallen for someone – a lovely Christian man – whom I thought felt the same only to find out he didn’t. Ouch. So I had wrapped my heart tightly inside me, to protect it. I had not let myself feel anything other than a moderate attraction to this new man, Frank, who stood before me as I stepped into the hall.

But the rejection never came. Instead, the very first thing he said was “you know that I love you, don’t you?” And I – well, how do I say this? – I began to unwrap the tight bindings of my heart. I can’t say he swept me off my feet or romanced me. Everyday life with two very little girls and a son with ASD meant that we stepped into (grim?) reality straight away. No time for all that lovey-dovey stuff. He stayed. And he loved. I grew to love him, and I also grew to love the ‘me’ that he saw – because I can tell you for sure that I did not even like myself, let alone love myself, and I didn’t see how anyone else could.

So I would like to thank God for answering prayers I never even uttered, and I would like to thank Frank. For being Frank. For being a man of God and a man of compassion and a man of so many other things that will remain unnumbered. Not a day goes by that I don’t tell him how much I love him. I am truly blessed! This post is for my husband. Thank you.

Three in One and One in Three

Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’  They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized…’

Mark 10:38,39 (NRSVA)

Then [Jesus] took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many…

Mark 14:23-25

rubilev

The Hospitality of Abraham by Rubilev – see how each looks at the other, in a triangle? See how each hand reaches in the opposite direction to the eyes? See how they share the one cup?

‘Three in one and one in three, the godhead of the Trinity’ so says the hymn attributed to St. Patrick, caster-outer of snakes and paganism.

I think this is the core realization of every saint. Saints see things in their connectedness and wholeness. They don’t see things as separate. It’s all one, and yet like the Trinity, it is also different. What you do to the other, you do to yourself; how you love yourself is how you love your neighbor; how you love God is how you love yourself; how you love yourself is how you love God. How you do anything is how you do everything.

Reading these words from a blog post by Richard Rohr this week (emphasis added) brought to mind another post: Thou Shalt Love Yourself? by Laura Martin. It’s as if each one answers the questions posed by the other. Funny how God does that.

Perhaps the third part of this triangle would be my own post: A Mathemagical Puzzle. After studying statistics and probability all day my befuddled mind began a-wondering and a-pondering. It didn’t come up with much more than a desire to learn more about probability and the way stuff works. Much like theology, mathematics can be applied to every sphere of life, the universe and everything (perhaps I should have titled this post ’42’)?

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He… began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’ And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed…, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Mark 14:32-36

Three in one and one in three. I in You and You in me. I guess drinking from the same cup is terrible and glorious and yet – ordinary.

Let it Go

If you have daughters of a certain age you will no doubt have repeatedly heard the dulcet refrain from Disney’s ‘Frozen’. In our house it has been less dulcet and more, shall we say, decibels, when my two giggling beauties belt out, “Let it go! Let it goooooo!”

That was the refrain that came to mind as I read Richard Rohr’s words this morning. My brain assigns a song to pretty much everything I do. Musical insanity. My husband says it never happens to him. Perhaps he’s the sane spouse. Anyway…

[The] spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic West we keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success… We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room… for God… 

~ Richard Rohr (highlighting my own, for emphasis)

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Going up? Or down? Image from idpinthat.com

Like a good little baptist I immediately wanted to locate a relevant biblical comparison, and this is the first one that came to mind:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:2

It also brings to mind the Beatitudes, in which Jesus says we are blessed when we are low. Maybe that’s not just a way to bring comfort to those who are suffering, which seems to be the usual (perhaps rather shallow) interpretation, maybe He was telling us that the whole point is to go lower, to be less, to welcome dishonour and unglory, because only when there’s less of me can there be room – any room – for our beautiful Saviour.

Emmanuel: God with us.

Reblog: #worldwithoutdowns: A Challenge for Christians

My first thought when I heard about the new, safer pre-natal test for Downs was ‘thank God there’s no test for autism!’ Abortion of children with Downs is eugenics by the back door, in my opinion. I know there will be those who disagree. But I also know that we are firmly instructed ‘do NOT judge’ as well as ‘love one another, as I have loved you’ and the way He has loved is without boundaries. None of us is worthy of Christ’s love. So what do we do? I believe this post from Included by Grace makes some very pertinent points.

Then people began to bring babies to [Jesus] so that he could put his hands on them. But when the disciples noticed it, they frowned on them. But Jesus called them to him, and said, “You must let little children come to me, and you must never prevent their coming. The kingdom of God belongs to little children like these. I tell you, the man who will not accept the kingdom of God like a little child will never get into it at all.”

Luke 18:16-17 (Phillips)

NB I have not seen Sally Philips’ BBC documentary as we don’t have a television license. I did catch her on BBC Radio 4 the other morning, speaking about the programme, the Downs community, the current very high rate of abortion for those diagnosed with Downs before birth, and about her son, whom she clearly values as much as I do my own dear boy.

includedbygrace

I was going to write a ranty post about the implications of genetic screening (and it may still work out that way) but in the middle of composing it in my head, I got a message from a friend who is isolated from her church, her family and community because she is a single mother with a severely autistic child. Many Christians would talk about the value of life and speak up against abortion, but then sit in churches that exclude these ‘valuable lives’ because they are so inflexible and inaccessible to them. Changing things for the few is met with horror at the mere thought. So families and adults with disabilities are left out, excluded, not welcome.

Watch Sally Phillips documentary “World Without Downs”

I wanted to join in the throng of ‘all life is sacred’ with the many that have responded to Sally Phillip’s BBC documentary that I…

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“Be Kind.”

 

My son, who has autism, is not able to follow stories, not very much. Watching his little sister in her yearly Christmas pantomime last year 15-year-old Prince was worried when, dressed as Maid Marian, she ran across the stage yelling, “Who shot that arrow at me? You nearly took my eye out!” Everyone else laughed but he leaned in to me and whispered, “Mummy, is Chip OK?” I told him she was just pretending and relief flooded his face. “I thought someone hurt her!” I told him it was just a joke. 

Parables, such as those consistently used by Jesus, are utterly baffling to our dear boy. Prince has to have even common expressions carefully explained. Of necessity, then, the gospel has been reduced – and reduced some more – to two words:

be kind.

This morning I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post, immediately followed by my daily bible chapters. As I read both I was struck again how simple the Good News actually is.

Truly I tell you… whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 (NRSVA)

Why don’t we let loose kindness – see what happens?

Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

WHAT IS FAITH?

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from idpinthat.com

…the Christian world must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western ‘can do’ world.

The only problem is that it devolved into our modern private and personal ‘decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a ‘good work’ that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

In the above paragraph Rohr has summed up the largest elephant in the room of Evangelical Christianity. It’s about time we had a long, hard look at ourselves. And yes, I do consider myself Evangelical, partly because that is how I came to faith, mostly because I believe this is something so wonderful how can I not live it and breathe it (and thus share it)? That’s what loving Jesus looks like: loving my neighbour, seeing Jesus in the people I meet even if they have active antipathy towards Him themselves and, of course, sharing the Good News.