We Say ‘Lest we Forget’, But…

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the battle of the Somme. The soldiers found out the day before that ‘zero hour’ was at 7:30am. At 7:30am they climbed ‘over the top’ and ran – as far as they could. On that first day 60,000 British troops were killed. By November one million – 1,000,000 – men of both sides were wounded or killed.

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There is a memorial in France to remember the 70,000 who went missing. In other words, they were so blown to bits that there was nothing identifiable left. How do we even begin to process these kinds of numbers?

The day before the battle began a group of men prayed for themselves and their comrades, they prayed for their loved ones back home, and then they did something rather extraordinary: they prayed for the men they were about to fight, and their loved ones, too. They asked God to help them do nothing out of revenge.

Many of these young men were perhaps a year or two older than my son. Those who made it home again had been through so much they must have come home old, old men. I cannot imagine my own dear boy in the same circumstances. All that innocent, youthful hope and optimism blasted away with the roar of untold circles of hell. It’s just so awful. I look at the world today, what with the racism, refugees, poverty, exploitation and war, and I wonder if we, humanity, have learned anything at all.

This is why Christ told us to pray for our enemies. It is not merely a pleasant or noble sentiment. Praying for our enemies is so radically unlike the schisms of war it can only reflect the God of grace. So much needed Grace. I wonder how many tears He wept over all those young men?

Love: it’s not optional.

Come with Nothing

 

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Come to the table. Come, sit at His feet.

Come if you’re able, come if you’re meek.

Come if you’re broken, come if you’re lost.

Come, come touch the heavenly cloth

Of His robe,

And feel Him breathe into your soul –

All your discarded shards

Made whole.

 

It’s not glue that binds shards together,

It’s grace;

Grace for the humble,

Grace for the race

You thought you had lost,

Grace for the weary and scrap-heap tossed.

 

His yoke is easy and His burden is light,

His words are joy and His love a delight,

You won’t find Him in comfort

Or in success,

You’ll find Him when you’re sure you’re the last to be blessed.

 

He was there in your past, He’s here in the mess,

Come join the raggedy-taggledy fest!

Come to the table. Come, sit at His feet,

And learn from the Master the Way of the Least.

~ Sandyfaithking, 2016

 

I think it’s a bit too close to doggerel for my liking, but sometimes you have to write and be done with it, I reckon. This poem was inspired by these words from Laura Martin’s book ‘Positively Powerless’:

Isaiah 57:15 states:

For this is what the high and exalted one says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

It almost seems a contradiction: God dwells in a high and holy place, but He also dwells with the contrite and lowly. It is a startling contrast: we get close to God by realising how far we are from Him… Jesus taught similar principles… The ‘blessed’ are those who are poor in spirit, mournful and meek – those  who realise they come to the spiritual table with nothing to offer.

Highlighting is my own, not Laura’s. You can read more intelligent, interesting insights over at Laura’s blog: lightenough.WordPress.com

 

Great is His Mercy

Each day is full of His mercies, let’s not waste any of them by beating ourselves up.

~ from Having a Martha Home the Mary Way by Sarah Mae

Now there’s a proverbial kick up the backside for those of us who are recovering from co-dependency (you’re welcome)!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

His mercies never end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NRSVA)

Where are You?

Sometimes people respond to ill health by ‘[feeling] that it’s all their fault, that they somehow brought it on themselves. I don’t know about you, but adding a heavy guilt trip to feeling physically lousy doesn’t sound like a recipe for recovery, does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that the individual has mistaken responsibility for blame…

Blame… is as pointless as what the farmer said to the lost motorist who asked his way to a remote village while driving through a maze of country lanes. The farmer, after scratching his head and thinking for a moment, advised the motorist, “Well if I were you, sir, I wouldn’t start from ‘ere.”

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

~ from Healthier Every Day Hypnosis by Julie-Ann Amos

I have been using hypnosis as a tool in my recovery. I don’t go in for all of it, e.g. Set Free Your Inner Goddess or How to Get Rich. Those things are anathema to me. But that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bath water, is it?

I am making good use of hypnosis and suggestions. I listen all the way through first, to make sure I find nothing objectionable, and then if it’s all – how do I put it? – in line with the bible? Yes, if it’s not promoting something absent or contrary to the bible, I listen regularly and I listen prayerfully. The words quoted above reminded me of Jesus’ words in one of my favourite gospel stories – the healing of the man born blind, found in John 9:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in Him.”

John 9:2,3 (NRSVA)

Note that Jesus doesn’t say that the man was born blind in order that he might be healed, but so that he could reveal the working of God. If you read the rest of the story in John 9, you will see that this man reveals God by his testimony, by his honest, earnest faith, not by his healing.

You are where you are, and there is nowhere else to start from.

In and Through Us

Jonah moves into a jealous and resentful rage when the Ninevites actually believe his message, so Yahweh says to Jonah… “Am I not free to feel sorry for Nineveh?”

The foundation is being laid for a universal compassion and not just a small superiority system which is what Jonah, the unwilling prophet, seems to want. I think the story of Jonah is the much needed journey from ministry as mere careerism to ministry as actual vocation, from doing my work for God to letting God do God’s work in and through me.

~ Richard Rohr

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

(highlighting is my own, for particular emphasis)

I do love the story of Jonah! It’s one of my all time favourite bible stories. Jonah is so very flawed. He’s so funny, like a small child, in the way he tries to first run away from God, and later, having done God’s will, gets grumpy about the fact that the people actually obeyed! A bit like the prodigal son’s brother, perhaps? You might not believe it (ahem) but I have been known to get grumpy myself… It is wonderful to know that my small-mindedness doesn’t get in the way of His grace 😉

No Better

From the Shaun Groves album Third World Symphony

I sometimes wonder how I can call myself a follower of Christ when I still sin. But God, in His inexplicable majesty, instead of condemning me on my confession, seems to chuckle and say, “You’re not the only one. Just know that your sin, and your confession, keep you humble, and that’s the best place to be. It’s not the best way to do it, but – I love you. You’re forgiven. Seventy times seven and all that…”

I keep quiet, knowing that I probably used up my 490 quite some time ago.

An Intimately Personal Struggle

Now the definition of sin that many of us were given was a thought, word or deed contrary to the Law of God. The requirements for sin were three:

  1. You had to have full knowledge.
  2. It had to be a grievous matter.
  3.  You had to give it full consent.

It all sounds reasonable at first glance, but actually it’s not a definition of biblical sin at all. It’s a juridical definition of law. We lost touch with the biblical tradition and the intimately personal struggle meant by the word ‘sin’. We made the whole thing juridical, where we could easily identify it, shame it and enforce it. Thus our concerns came with external behaviour that could be pointed to, measured, defined and controlled, or brought into ‘court’ as it were. You cannot do that with mercy, justice and good faith… which Jesus calls the ‘weightier’ matters of the Law.

~ Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr

…Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples. “The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,” he told them, “so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions. But you must not imitate their lives! For they preach but do not practise. They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on other men’s shoulders—yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives are planned with an eye to effect. They… love seats of honour at dinner parties… They love to be greeted with respect in public places… The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others. For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.

extract from Matthew 23:1-12 (JB Phillips)

It’s as if Jesus is waving and shouting, “You’re looking in the wrong place!” but we’re all so busy doing ‘religion’ that we either can’t see Him or we ignore Him. We’re preoccupied with either ourselves and our egos or with the opposite – with worry about doing the ‘right thing’.

Already Dead

‘In late 1944 conditions in Lunghua [internment camp] continued to worsen, not through deliberate neglect by the Japanese authorities, but because they had lost all interest in us… The huge Japanese armies in China were ready to defend the Emperor and the home islands to the last man.

Nowhere had Japanese soldiers surrendered in large numbers. Fatalism, fierce discipline and a profound patriotism shaped their warrior spirit. In some way, I think, the Japanese soldier assumed unconsciously that he had already died in battle, and the apparent life left to him was on a very short lease. This explained their vicious cruelty.’

from ‘Miracles of Life, Shanghai to Shepperton, An Autobiography’ by J.G. Ballard

I wonder if this is a similar situation to that of today’s suicide bombers, or members of Islamic State? We’ve all seen the shocking news reports of beheadings, violence and rape of young girls. Do they believe there is no other choice and sooner or later they’ll be dead anyway? Is this nothing more than a bleak reflection of a life without hope? Here, perhaps, is how we learn to pray for our enemies.

So I am praying for my persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ in war torn areas. May they be granted the grace and courage to truly be light in all that darkness.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14)

What a great commission. If you would like to know more about how to help our suffering family, please visit Open Doors .

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Reblog: Living Rightly Will Never Lead To Righteousness

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Amen! Grace is free. The fruits of grace are a result, not a cause.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

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      For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14.)

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