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.

First a Spider, then a Pigeon

A small brown spider crawled across the damp lino in the bathroom. I picked it up. It wouldn’t have made it otherwise. It would have been crushed underfoot by an unwitting toed foe. I put it out the window. It may go on to spin a hundred webs. It may get eaten by sparrows.

Then there was the wood pigeon. It’s lovely living in a rambling old house with half a dozen open fireplaces, but there are drawbacks. We use chimney pillows to prevent draughts (helpful hint: they have probably already paid for themselves several times over in terms of energy savings). This pigeon had somehow fallen down the chimney onto the chimney pillow so that when we were attempting to play a game, Chip and I were startled by a loud scrabbling and movement of the chimney pillow. We’d heard birds in the chimney before, but not like this. I called Frank and we attempted to remove the balloon and capture the bird with a blanket. It didn’t work. The bird panicked, flapped and flew back up, settling on a ledge just behind the fireplace.

We were flummoxed. After some discussion we opened the window, left the room and shut the door. We made sure we were quiet in the vicinity of the room, hoping the pigeon would find its own way down into the room and out of the window. Four hours later, as night was drawing in, we tentatively opened the door and peered under the fireplace. The bird was gone. It didn’t need to be rescued. It just needed to be left alone. The only evidence that it had even been there was a solitary grey feather.

********

Last Friday was the most intense session of EMDR that I have had so far. It affected me for the best part of a week and left me functioning well below par. Even FlyLady-ing was a serious challenge and I didn’t manage much most days. I have had nightmares and panic attacks and… well, it was not good. But did I allow myself the time to ‘go with the flow’ and let myself feel whatever I needed to feel? No, in good old Sandy King style I ploughed through and tried to be everything I thought I ought to be. In some ways I had to: Fluff had a Guides camp and I had to drop her off on the Friday and pick her up on the Monday, plus poor Frank had terrible toothache which wasn’t fixed until Wednesday, so I couldn’t step back and ‘rest’, I had to continue; I have a family.

The trouble was, instead of beginning to feel better after a couple of days, I still felt horrible. I started worrying that this was how it was going to be for me from now on – horrible, like it always used to be :-/ I prayed and said, “God, you are always good, even when life is not. I am so sorry for when I have let you down. Please forgive me. Thank you that your love remains. May it all be for your glory.” I continued praying this prayer as my mind brought all its horribleness up over and over. It was the most difficult phase of EMDR because it related to a period of my life where I felt guilty. I felt as if I should have been a better parent, despite being under enough pressure to make a normal person implode… I believed I was a bad mother and this belief was worse than any abuse I experienced at the hands of others. So I prayed and prayed for forgiveness and praised God for His grace.

But God said (once I was listening), “Hang on a minute! What was your immediate reaction on seeing that tiny wee spider on the floor the other day? Did you tread on it? Did you flush it down the toilet?”

Me: “Well, no, but…”

“No buts! Now, you know that pigeon, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

“What did you instinctively do when you realised it had fallen down the chimney? Did you swear and shout? Did you plan how to trap it and break its neck?”

Me: “No! The poor thing was frightened. I knew it needed to be left alone to make its own way out. I was worried that it might have broken a wing and we’d have to rescue it.”

God: “So if your reaction – without thinking – to something as tiny as a spider is to protect it, do you think you’re likely to not protect your own children? Do you think you’re probably a bad mother?”

“Well… I suppose not.”

God: “Do you think that, whatever happened, you probably did your best under enormous pressure?”

Me, hesitant: “Er… Well… I suppose. If You say so…”

God: “Hmm. What did the pigeon need to feel safe and be able to fly again?”

Me: “It needed to be left alone.”

God, softly: “Do you think that might apply to you, too?”

Me: “Ohh…”

………………..

Thank you, Lord.

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.

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)

Reblog: Results of Almsgiving, Fasting, and Prayer

One thing that strikes me with many revered writers is that the English used in translation is quite complex. I had to look up ‘concupiscible’ and I have a good vocabulary. Yet I don’t think that the writers necessarily intended to be obscure. There are many people for whom the phrasing and vocabulary of such writers just goes too far. It’s beyond their intellectual understanding, but I don’t think that that in itself excludes them from understanding the spirituality, quite the contrary. It’s not as if our intellect can ever be anything but puny compared to God’s!

I had a go at paraphrasing what I thought St. Teresa of Avila was trying to say in a post yesterday, just a couple of paragraphs. I imagined explaining the ideas to my daughters, who are themselves bright girls with vocabulary beyond their years (11 and 9), but the biggest challenge would be to paraphrase it enough so that my son could grasp it, or something like it. He is 15 but has autism and receptive language disorder. His language skills are that of the average 7 year old, at best. He has taught me that good communication is in the ability of the *communicator* to explain a concept as simply as possible. Sometimes, of course, the writing has to be of a certain level, but many times writing is needlessly obscure.

I am glad God gave me my beautiful boy. He teaches me about Himself through my son. The boy has a way of seeing things in black and white, and with an inviolable innocence that is at once challenging and compelling.

Contemplative in the Mud

Almsgiving heals the irascible part of the soul; fasting extinguishes the concupiscible part; and prayer purifies the mind and prepares it for the contemplation of reality.
Saint Maximus the Confessor

View original post

Lent: Prayer and Meditation

Cornish Daffodils – Happy St. David’s Day. Spring is in the air!

‘As most certainly the way to please God is to keep the commandments and counsels, let us do so diligently, while meditating on His life and death and all we owe Him. Then, let the rest be as God chooses. Some may answer that their mind refuses to dwell on these subjects and… this to a certain extent is true; you know that it is one thing to reason and another thing for the memory to bring certain truths before the mind. Perhaps you may not understand me, possibly I fail to express myself rightly, but I will do my best. Using the understanding much in this manner is what I call meditation.

Let us begin by considering the mercy God showed us by giving us His only Son. Let us not stop here, but go on to reflect upon all the mysteries of His glorious life, or let us first turn our thoughts to His prayer in the garden, then allow them to continue the subject until they reach the crucifixion. Or we may take some part of the Passion, such as Christ’s apprehension, and dwell on this mystery, considering in detail the points to be pondered and thought over such as the treachery of Judas, the flight of the Apostles and all that followed. This is an admirable and very meritorious kind of prayer.’

The Interior Castle ~ St. Teresa of Avila

Addendum: The following is a paraphrase of the above in more accessible English (I imagined communicating the same ideas to my daughters).

The best way to show our love for God is to try very hard to keep His commandments and do what He teaches us through the bible. As we do this, we can also give thought to Jesus’ life and death and everything He did for us, and we can think about how our lives can and should be different now that we belong to Him. Don’t worry about trying to achieve more than this, though. Let God show you where to go and what to do next. I know some reading this will be thinking that they find it hard to keep thinking about these things, which is fair enough. Our minds don’t always stay focused on what we’d like them to stay focused on. However, when we do make use of our hearts and minds by thinking about these things in this way, this is what is meant by ‘meditation’.

Here are some ideas to get you started: first, think about God’s great mercy when He gave us His only Son. Then move on, considering all the amazing things in Jesus’ life. Another way to begin might be to think about Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested, then you could imagine the actual arrest and Judas’ betrayal and how the disciples all ran away. Thinking about these kinds of things in this way is not only a type of prayer but a very beneficial kind of prayer.

Any thoughts on either the words from St. Teresa, or on my paraphrasing?

EMDR 6: God Reveals Himself Piece by Piece

This Beloved of ours

is merciful and good…

This voice of his

is so sweet

that the poor soul falls apart

in the face of her own inability

to instantly do whatever he asks of her…

hearing him hurts

much more than not being able to hear him…

his voice reaches us

through words

spoken by good people,

through listening

to spiritual talks

and reading

sacred literature.

God calls to us

in countless little ways

all the time.

Through illnesses

and suffering

and through sorrow

he calls to us.

Through a truth

glimpsed fleetingly

in a state of prayer

he calls to us.

No matter how half-hearted

such insights may be,

God rejoices

whenever we learn

what he is trying to teach us.”

~ St. Teresa of Àvila, Interior Castle

Sweet Jesus,

May I never seek to be more.

May I never believe I am less.

May it all be for your glory.

Amen

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

Urgent Prayer Request

My dear friend, J, who is a woman whose faith has always inspired and touched me, is very ill. She is in her mid-30s. A few years ago, she found out she had kidney failure which would require a transplant. Around the same time her father was given a terminal diagnosis and died within weeks. When the doctors anaesthetised J for an emergency kidney transplant, she reacted very badly and was unable to receive the kidney. J’s father died, and his dying wish was that J’s mother donate her kidney to their daughter. Several months ago this wish was fulfilled. Things began looking up. Now dear J has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and the doctors are running out of options. Now is the time, God-willing, for a miracle. J is one of those rare, beautiful people. Her faith is guileless and her simplicity shines like a beacon. I know she has touched those around her while she has been ill, whether they were believers or not. That’s just who she is, and how she shines with God’s love. Genuinely. This is not just words because I’m feeling sorry for her (I wouldn’t do that anyway). J and her husband C are two precious, precious people. I know we’re all precious to God, but you know how in the book of John it says how there was one disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’? C and J are like that. Special. It’s going to take a miracle for C to ‘keep’ J for a little longer, but miracles do happen. Please pray. Thank you.

Jesus, we are all small in the face of trouble. May we never flinch, nor run, nor hide. May we always act with integrity and compassion, following Your example in our broken and hurting world. Please help dear J. She’s one of the best.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24 (NKJV)