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 .

I

Indifference

‘Persecution is an enemy the Church has met and mastered many times;

indifference could prove to be a far more dangerous foe.’

from God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors

In my life, I can see how true this has been. Imho, indifference is one of the West’s biggest problems. We are indifferent towards our families, indifferent towards our communities, indifferent towards the environment, indifferent towards the poor, indifferent towards the lost and suffering. We justify it to ourselves, and the justifications sound good. They seem plausible, sensible even, sometimes. But Jesus taught us that the very last thing we should be is indifferent. Apathy, indifference, whatever you want to call it, is at least as destructive as ‘active’ evil. Indeed, indifference could easily be described as a ‘passive’ form of evil. Yet however you dress it up, evil is still evil. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a preacher, or a missionary, or a theologian, or [insert worthy calling of choice]. Jesus says that even a cup of water to someone who is thirsty, if it is done in His name, makes us part of His kingdom.

The people ask, “Why should we fast if the Lord never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” [notice the rationalisation of indifference]

The Lord says to them…“The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives…’

extract from Isaiah 58:3-7 (GNT)

My Brothers, My Sisters

Caring isn’t a Christian’s sideline hobby. Caring is a Christian’s complete career. We don’t just care about people — caring about people is our job — the job every single one of us get up to do every single day. That’s it. Caring is our job, our point, our purpose. We’re here to care like a boss… 

Because God forbid, you don’t get a roof over your head, food on your table and the safety of no bullets shattering your windows because you deserve more — you only get all that so that you get to serve more.’

Read more of Ann Voskamp’s brutally honest post about the desperate realities of life as a refugee fleeing Islamic State here:

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t Telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend it’s Not Happening

You can donate via Ann’s page to The Preemptive Love Coalition, or you can donate to Open Doors. Both are there on the ground with the refugees. I have no more words. Just read it. Please. Give what you can.

Far Away and Close at Hand

CHIBOK GIRLS MISSING FOR OVER A YEAR

The girls abducted from a school in Chibok have now been missing for one year and three days. For their parents who continue to hope and pray for their return, it feels like an eternity. Of the 252 girls that were taken, 16 jumped off the trucks, four escaped after arriving in the Sambisa forest, but 232 are still missing.

It seems likely that they have been moved to another country, possibly Niger. Muhammadu Buhari, the recently elected President of Nigeria, has said that his government will ‘do everything in its power to bring them home’ but that he ‘cannot promise that we can find them’.

PLEASE PRAY:

  • Continue to pray for the protection and safe return of the Chibok girls
  • For comfort for their parents. Twenty of them have died since the girls were taken, many because of stress-related illnesses.
  • For wisdom for those who are working to secure the safe release of the girls.

From an email from Open Doors, a charity serving persecuted Christians worldwide. I can only imagine what those parents are going through. My heart goes out to them. I can’t doing anything other than pray and show my support through agencies like Open Doors. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

What about closer to home? What can we do to love those who are distraught and in our midst? Too often the response is to avoid the person, because their grief or distress is so deep that it seems overwhelming and although we might like to help, we just don’t know how. Plus, it’s scary. We fear becoming entangled in their pain and distress. We know that, as followers of Jesus, we must be kind, we must show compassion, but what can we do? I’d like to share this, which happened when I was a teenager:

My grandparents were visiting us for Christmas. On the evening they arrived, my grandmother was taken ill. She was rushed to hospital and the next few weeks were a blur as she was admitted to hospital, sent home, admitted to hospital again, had surgery… and then she died. My grandfather, my father and his brother were overwhelmed. Their grief was palpable; it seemed to hang in the air.

My grandfather stayed with us for four months after her death. One morning, I heard him sobbing. The door was open so I went in the room. I put my arm on his shoulder and stayed with him until the sobs lessened. Later that day he said to me, “How did you know?”

“How did I know what?” I replied.

“How did you know to not say anything?”

I looked him in the eye and shook my head, “I just did.”

“Thank you.” He said.

Sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes words are too much. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Broken

Sometimes I wonder what the point is. Sometimes I look at the world and all I see is brokenness. Sometimes I look at my life and all I see is brokenness. Sure, I see that where many families would have fallen apart, we stayed together and grew in love, flawed as it is. We’ve had our rocky moments but I think, thank God, that my children are going to be ok. They have been through such a lot, but each of them is, I hope, secure in the knowledge that he or she is loved and worthy of love. Each child has hopes and dreams for the future and understands that they have to work to reach those dreams (to a greater or lesser degree). Each child also has a knowledge of God, again to a greater or lesser degree… Prince’s understanding of Christianity is – of necessity – very simple. It boils down to ‘God is love. He teaches us to love. Be kind. Where you have done wrong, say sorry.’

I have a wonderful husband, who gives me more than words can say. I hope I give him what he needs, too. He has been enormously supportive throughout our marriage (we celebrate five years this year!) and even more so these past few months during EMDR. My husband always sees things in me that I never see in myself. He always has. Ours was definitely a match made in heaven.

But then I look at me. I’m nearly 40. I’m still going through therapy. When will my life begin? When will I experience normality? When will I be able to serve God more fully?

So I said to God, “Dear God, how can I be of use to You when I am like this – broken and jagged and anxious and broken and…”

I had hardly begun this (admittedly rather truculent) prayer when into my mind came an image of Christ on the cross. He was weak. He was scorned. Naked. Shamed. Humiliated. Tortured. Nails through his flesh to enhance the suffering. Broken.

“This is my body, broken for you.” The words flashed into my mind as the image changed: Jesus with the disciples, sharing the final meal, speaking the words that would become a gift for His followers.

The image changed again: bread and wine raised aloft as the priest repeats Jesus’ words; words that have echoed through the centuries. “Take, eat. This is my body… Do this in remembrance of me…”

*****

Jesus was broken. I am broken. We are all broken, in different ways. Brokenness is the most remarkable thing about the Gospel. Brokenness was taken down from the cross all crumpled and empty. In grief and sorrow brokenness was carried and laid in a tomb, carefully wrapped in cloth. The shell-shocked stragglers walked away.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Needed Time

I’m off to my EMDR session tomorrow, with the full intention of trying to ‘let go’. My friend is in labour with her first baby. My parents are flying back to Europe this week from America. The children are at school tomorrow. A friend mourns his wife.

In the Middle East, Christians are fleeing their homes, their livelihoods, running from everything they have ever known. Worse still, some of them stay, knowing the consequences but choosing to live as people of light in the land of darkness, God help them. God bless them. See how bright they blaze in the darkness?

Children the world over are abandoned, abused, neglected. Families starve in the basement while in the penthouse they party with champagne. One is born into poverty. One is born into privilege. The world groans under the weight of her own iniquities.

Now is the needed time. Lord. As much as ever, we need You. We need a Saviour. Help us to be thankful for ‘enough’ and when we have more than enough, help us to share. Help us to always be alert to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, and to help them in whatever small way we can. We know that with You, Lord, small becomes big, last becomes first, poor becomes rich. Thank you, Lord, for your Upside Down Kingdom. Help us in our weakness. We need You.

Amen

Reblog: “Ain’t I a Woman?” (video)

‘Sojourner Truth was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826.’ (wikipedia)

I have read a lot about slavery and the history of slavery. William Wilberforce is a personal hero, someone whom I find inspiring as an abolitionist and as a Christian.

I know less about Sojourner Truth, but you can hear what an incredible woman she was in her own words as spoken here by Nkechi.

Thank you, Laura, for posting this.

Laura Droege's blog

This was too awesome not to share. Actress Nkechi reenacts Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech for a TEDx talk.

(I’m hoping that I’m not violating copyright. The video gave the option to share on various social media sites, including Blogger; so hopefully I’m in the clear.) 

View original post

Lent: As the Father has Loved

‘1968. Jerusalem. Brother Andrew had spent a decade visiting the church in Communist lands. He had built a team to help him. But the success of God’s Smuggler meant he was now too well known and could not return to those countries. A visit to Israel brought him face to face with the conflict between Muslim, Jew and Christian in the Middle East. He read again Christ’s messages to the church in Revelation. ‘To him who overcomes…’ [Revelation 3:7-13]

“But most of the churches in that letter had not ‘overcome’. They no longer existed. Individual churches could die… I knew then that my mission was to seek out the living church in the Middle East, learn about her condition and needs, and do whatever I could do to strengthen her.”

The core of Brother Andrew’s message is love. “Here’s what we need to remember: I Sincerely Love All Muslims.” Or ISLAM for short.’

from Open Doors email

as part of the Step of Yes series

Amen. ‘I Sincerely Love All Muslims’ – ‘Islam’ for short.

*********

This morning I had a cup of tea brought to me by my wonderful husband. The mug containing the tea was printed with the words ‘Love was His meaning’ over and over. How amazing  – no, how beautiful – that I should be sipping my tea from that mug and reading the above from Open Doors. A gentle reminder that God is good when times are good and God is good when times are bad.

‘Would you know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it? For love. Keep yourself therein and you shall know and understand more in the same. But you shall never know nor understand any other thing, forever.’

from Revelations of Divine Love

by Julian of Norwich

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

John 15:9 (NRSVA)

Sparks

Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated on 27th January and a documentary, Touched by Auschwitz, aired by the BBC. I watch little television, but I was particularly interested in this documentary because although it focused on what happened at Auschwitz, it gave equal weight to the lasting impact that Auschwitz had on the survivors’ lives and on subsequent generations. It was clear to me that some of those filmed still suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This interests me because I can, in part, relate. Readers of this blog will know I am currently receiving treatment for PTSD. I don’t claim to know what victims of the holocaust went through, but I do know how PTSD, especially that gained through years of repeated trauma, haunts you in the here and now. I am also trying to come to terms with the impact my PTSD has had on my children and on family life. I’m just so grateful to finally be receiving therapy, thank God.

The tragedy of Holocaust Memorial Day is that atrocities have continued around the world ever since, under various regimes, and that oppression and persecution continue even as I write. Because such things continue, and continue to be perpetrated by (under normal circumstances) ordinary people, we must revisit the tragedy of the holocaust again and again and again and again, lest we forget.

“So I started walking with him [a German soldier]. He says to me, ‘Listen, I don’t give a damn what you do. I don’t like seeing small boys being beaten.’…

“It was very dark… The smallest act of kindness appeared like a large spark. I choose to remember the sparks. That’s my motto and that’s what I live by.”

~ Max Epstein, holocaust survivor,

speaking to the BBC for ‘Touched by Auschwitz

********

Yesterday I listened to a sermon on Matthew 5:14-16, where Jesus is speaking to His followers right after the Beatitudes.

“You are the world’s light—it is impossible to hide a town built on the top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house.

“Let your light shine like that in the sight of men. Let them see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven.”

Matt 5:14-16 (Phillips)

I thought of Max’s words and was deeply touched. I thought of how God has shown Himself all the way through my life. He has shown Himself all the way through my EMDR. God has shown Himself within me and He has shown Himself in the kindness of people whose lives have touched mine. I hope He has shown Himself through my actions, too.

I think Max is right. I will go through the EMDR until I have ploughed the field of memories. That soil needs to be turned over before it can be sown. And then I will remember the sparks.

Where is Jesus? Where are We?

Below is the content of an email from an organization called Open Doors.

Open Doors stands up for and helps persecuted Christians around the world. It recognises that in Christ, we are one.

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” Psalm 94:16

Nigeria

“Mummy, why isn’t the world standing up for us too?”

Amongst the many cartoons that have been doing the rounds in the last week, there’s one that shows victims of the Nigeria massacre forlornly looking down on the Paris protests. A child asks, “Mummy, why isn’t the world standing up for us too?”

Just before the Kouachi brothers unleashed their shooting spree on an office in Paris, on 7 January, Boko Haram attacked the Nigerian town of Baga, terrorising and killing at least 150 people. Some witnesses say there may have been as many as 2,000 victims, many of whom drowned while fleeing to Chad. Unlike events in France, the attack on Baga had no live broadcast. There were no reporters present, nobody tweeted for help or texted the police. Gruesome pictures were posted later but were largely ignored, especially in Nigeria.

Christians angry

Because of the understandable difficulty of getting information after incidents like these (see BBC report), we don’t yet know how this has impacted Christians. What we do know is that Christians in Nigeria are angry. In November, hundreds of Christians, displaced by the Islamist insurgency in Nigeria’s north, staged protests to express their outrage over the government’s failure to protect them. Daniel Kadzai, Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria for the North Central Zone, declared:

”The Federal Government has toyed with the lives and limbs of the Christians in northern Nigeria for political gains. There is no explanation the government can give as to why the Federal troops will run away from the towns prior to the attack on such towns by Boko Haram.”

The publication of Open Doors’ new World Watch List last week shows that Nigeria, for the first time, has entered the top 10. Last year, 2,484 Christians were killed there for faith-related reasons and 108 churches were attacked. The Church of the Brethren in Nigeria has been the worst affected by the insurgency. In the last five years, over 8,000 of their members have been killed. How would we respond if that were happening in our country?

Let’s stand up for our brothers and sisters in prayer and action. There’s still time to invite your MP to the launch of the Open Doors report on global persecution next Tuesday.

Source: BBC; Open Doors

Please Pray:

  • That Christians in Nigeria will lead the way in responding to violence with grace and truth
  • For the people of Nigeria to choose justice and peace as elections take place next month
  • For world leaders, that as well as responding to terror attacks in Paris and Belgium, they will take seriously the extreme persecution and violence faced by Christian communities around the world.

With many thanks for your prayers.

Open Doors Prayer Team