Without Ceasing

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It’s a cliché to want world peace, is it not? It’s the kind of thing you say if you are ever asked what you would wish for if you had three wishes, like in the fairy tales. But on learning of yet another terrorist attack, this time in Turkey, one has to wonder if there will ever be a time when people stop killing one another and spreading the anti-gospel of fear and hatred.

In my comfortable existence here in the UK, I know how far I am from being able to do anything. Our family are taking part in a sponsored 24 hours without power to raise money for ShelterBox, which supplies refugees with emergency shelter, cooking equipment, etc. It’s not much but it’s something. You can read more here: Off the Grid 

Meantime, let’s pray without ceasing, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians. Let’s give thanks for what is being done to help refugees. Let’s pray for the aid workers and the families who have been forced to flee their homes. Let’s pray for those who are caught up in the twisted rhetoric of the Islamic State, that they will come to desire a different way to be, that they will recognise that what they do – the way they kill and steal and destroy, ruling by fear and fear alone – is a terminal spiral into more violence, more death, more evil.

Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. How many times have you done that? We often forget. I forget. I have prayed for the people who abused me, but it’s not easy! It makes me very uncomfortable. I have to ask God to help me to do it. But it’s part of what makes me different than if I had no faith. It’s part of living in and as His image. It’s a reflection of His perfect grace, however imperfectly reflected!

So today, as well as praying for the victims and their families, let’s pray that the hearts and minds of the terrorist groups will be opened, and that they will come to know the love and peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes prayer and love are the only weapons we have. But they’re also the best.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven…”

 Matthew 5:43-45 (NRSVA)

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

 

Unashamed: Christine Caine

Shame… prompts us to toss away the good gifts we are given…

Hiding my feelings had already become a way of life for me [as a child]. Shame does that. It teaches us to hide ourselves… Shame… pushes you down and prevents you from becoming all you could be…

When you are abused, at first you are ashamed of what is happening to you. Over time, though, you begin to think it is because of you that it is happening…

…I thought, there must be something very wrong with me. I must be at fault. I must be a bad person. I am not worth protecting. God must not love me. I guess I’m not worth His attention. Shame does that: it whispers lies to your soul…

I had no concept of the difference between the shame of what was being done to me and the shame of my own actions… I worked hard to be sure that all those frightening feelings were locked away and invisible… 

I was a child damaged by shame, shackled to it, and I dragged it with me from childhood into adolescence and then into adulthood. Most likely, you have done the same…

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

This is a rather large set of quotes to put in a single blog post, but I do hope Christine Caine will forgive me(!). I bought this audiobook last week. I sensed that I needed to read it. In just one chapter I have recognised so much of the broken parts of myself that I am in awe. Christine does not share the exact same past as me. Our stories are different, yet everything that I’ve quoted above was so descriptive of my situation that I felt I could have written it. Much of it consists of things I never knew how to put into words. Even now, with all the hard work I’ve done as part of my recovery, I also realise that some of these things – well, I thought it was just me who thought like that. Shame does that: makes you think you’re the only one because you’re somehow responsible, even when you know that, logically, you’re not. Which shows I still have a way to go, because I thought I had changed these negative beliefs.

This is what I think God is trying to tell me (and who knows – maybe He’s needing you to know it, too): humility is good. Humility looks like Jesus. Humility is not the same as feeling worthless or useless. That’s not humility; that’s shame. Shame has no place on the shoulders of one who belongs to the King of Kings.

God be praised for His perfect timing.  I can’t wait to hear more!

Reblog: Twitter sheds light on non-physical forms of abuse

Abuse has many faces. For many years I stayed with the highly abusive man who was my first husband because of teachings like this (see video below). My children learned that it was ok to be nasty to mummy. They were being brought up in a miserable, soul-destroying home. It is not the abuse towards me that breaks my heart to recall, it is the fact that they were there too. I have no words to describe the abject horror of the seemingly innocuous words from John Piper on this issue. This teaching is not just wrong, it is wicked.

The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors

The Twitter handle #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, started by the BBC, has given victims of emotional, spiritual, financial and other forms of abuse a platform to share a glimpse into their experiences.

Often, the pain and trauma of non-physical abuse is dismissed or ignored.  Because the bruising to a victim’s psyche and soul are not visible, they do not receive the help and healing needed or the support to leave.  Slowly, they are beaten down to a place of low self-esteem and self-doubt and they begin to believe the lies of their abuser.  They experience symptoms of PTSD or anxiety or other conditions from their distress and this gives their abuser the added ammunition to claim they are the crazy one, they are the cause of the abuse.

Sadly, these types of abuse are very common in…

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Fear Not

My darling boy is in constant pain and I can’t do a thing. I am trying to juggle attempts at homeschooling him, managing my own illness, being Mummy to the other two children (honestly, who invented teenage girls?!) and maintaining a clean and tidy house. A friend ‘gave’ me the verses Isaiah 43:1-3 and after a search I came across this song. I find myself holding onto Jesus’ hand and taking each day one step at a time. I don’t know why I ever thought I could do anything other than this, because it is a blessed way to live, really.  Are you struggling? Then this is for you:

Legitimate Suffering, Legitimate Grace

The most common substitute for the legitimate suffering of the self is the illegitimate suffering of others.

…human beings who try to avoid changing themselves… always set out on a destructive course to change the world, others, or even God.

~ Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr

Some of us respond to pain by taking every bad thing on board, believing ourselves worthless. Some of us respond to pain by exacting it on others. Some of us do both at the same time. Some switch from one to the other. They’re both human responses to pain – possibly even to the human condition. Jesus did not. He turned the world on its head when He willingly, consciously, conscientiously took the pain of all the world and bore it into the grave. In doing so He made it possible for us to say I don’t have to be like that any more. This is Grace, freely given.

We love because he first loved us.

1 John 4:19 (The Life with God Bible NRSV)

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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‘All We Had’

‘She was only thirty-two, but the weight of a hundred hard lifetimes was etched across her face. Last winter’s cough had never fully gone away. The rattle in her lungs had worsened. And no amount of makeup could cover the heavy darkness that had settled beneath her eyes.

My mother began to weep. She dropped her head and her shoulders shook. I could see the winged bones of her back beneath the thin fabric of her dress. A length of hem hung below her knees, weighted down by the safety pin that had held it up for days.

“Don’t cry,” I said. When my mother cried, nothing else existed but her sadness, and her sadness ran so deep that if I didn’t stop it, it would drown us both.’

from All We Had by Annie Weatherwax

I have just finished reading this novel. It was so well written that I read it in two days. Usually I listen to audiobooks because reading is tiring, but this was worth it (it also isn’t available, as yet, on Audible). The excerpt above struck me as both one of the most beautiful passages that I have ever read, and also as heart-strikingly true. That final sentence is something I think many children can relate to, and many adults as they look back to childhood, particularly if they grew up in a dysfunctional home. I wonder if my own children ever felt that way, when I was going through those dark, dark days? I tried so hard to keep going, for their sake, but I was profoundly broken. I hope they didn’t, but at least I can thank God that those days are long gone.

What I loved about this novel was the simple, yet painstaking, portrayal of flawed, broken people and the ways in which we can overcome, at least in part, the brokenness. I loved that it was never sentimental, yet the author always tackled pain, grief, love, despair with a direct, honest and humorous approach. I loved the fact that, despite the darkness within the novel, ultimately it proved to hold a message of hope and a quiet, unspoken focus on the idea that in the end,  the only thing that matters is love one another. I guess, really, I was reminded of myself and my own life, and all that I have overcome, by grace.

On the final page the main character writes:

‘The meek shall inherit the earth, the Bible says, but how many have to suffer first? Where I come from, children are wrenched away from homes. Men are disposable, boys are lost, women are beaten or killed. Little girls are left quaking at the sight of so much blood. And we blame them when they become less than perfect mothers. The meek shall inherit the earth, but why can’t we just share it?’ 

A pertinent question, I think, for all who profess to follow Jesus.

Sam, the Recipient of Crumbs

I sat there in the office all morning and only a few Negroes came in, although the teenagers on the streets with ballot boxes were having better luck… The longer I sat there, the madder I got… If Negroes truly wanted to vote, they would have come in the office and done so. “They know it’s just a freedom vote,” I thought. “They also know Aaron Henry is a Negro. After three weeks of walking and talking until we were collapsing in the streets, these are the results we get… Until we can come up with some good sound plans to help the Negroes solve their immediate problems – that is, a way to get a little food into their bellies, a roof over their heads, and a few coins in their pockets – we will be talking forever. They will never stop being scared of Mr. Charlie until we are able to replace the crumbs that Mr. Charlie is giving them. Until we can say, ‘Here is a job, Sam. Work hard and stand up and be a man.’ Not until we can do that or find some way for Sam to do that, will Sam stand up. If we don’t, Sam will forever be a boy, an uncle or just plain Sam, the recipient of crumbs.”

~ *’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ by Anne Moody

Good intentions, the best of intentions = not worth much when people are hungry, or homeless. A person’s dignity cannot be realised when they’re unable to provide for themselves and their family. I am reminded of Thérèse of Lisieux – I can’t remember the exact quote and I can’t recall which book it’s from(!) but she wrote that, although every one of us is sinful and broken, we have a God-breathed dignity that means that we can stand before Him (and before the world), small as we are, without shame. We should treat one another in the same way, especially those who are suffering. God gives some of us more than enough so that we can share – and I don’t just mean handouts, I mean treating one another with the respect that a God-imbued dignity deserves.

*’Coming of Age in Mississippi’ is an incredible book. It is the autobiographical account of a young woman’s life in rural Mississippi as a black, abused child, and how she grew up into a strong, determined woman who decided to take a stand against injustice. I’ve been the victim of abuse (though not racism) so can relate to an extent, but the fact that Anne Moody chose to put herself in harm’s way to advocate for the rights of black people in Mississippi and elsewhere is nothing short of amazing. She is no saint – and paints no one else as saints either, just as the complex beings that we all are, even when we have the best of intentions. That makes this book all the better! It is an honest, detailed account of one person’s experiences in the mid-20th century and imho should be required reading for anyone who thinks they understand what constitutes racism and/or misogyny (especially if they have, by default, experienced neither). 

Tell what the Lord has Done for You

They came to the other side of the sea… When [Jesus] had come out of the boat, immediately a man… met him out of the tombs. He lived in the tombs. Nobody could bind him any more, not even with chains, because he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. Nobody had the strength to tame him. Always, night and day, in the tombs and in the mountains, he was crying out, and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and bowed down to him…

The people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus, and saw… [the man] sitting, clothed, and in his right mind…

As [Jesus] was entering into the boat… [the man] begged him that he might be with him. [Jesus] didn’t allow him, but said to him, “Go to your house, to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.”

extract from Mark 5:1-19 (WEB)

The amazing thing about having experienced suffering, and experienced God’s healing and grace, is that you always have an honest, earnest and utterly compelling testimony. I doubt I would willingly choose the suffering, but I could never not choose the gifts that come as a result of the experiences, and the deeper relationship and understanding of God.