An End to Violence: Where is the Olive Branch?

I began praying for Israel and the Middle East several years ago. I pray for strength and courage for those who face terrible situations, I pray for the work of Mama Maggie in Egypt, and I pray for peace.


The olive branch                                           ~ a universal symbol of peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”*


The situation in Israel and Palestine is sad beyond words. It is tempting to want to portray one side as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’. After all, this makes any response much easier… but this is the real world. There are no such things as ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ unless you’re nine years old. Humanity is too complex, and ultimately too frail, to be viewed in this simplistic manner. There have been acts of good and bad on both sides. Evil has warped (some of ) the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians. My brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be Palestinian have been on the receiving end of Israeli violence just as much as their Muslim neighbours.

he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” **


I wonder what would have happened if, during the decades of terrorism of the IRA at the end of the 20th century, Britain had bombed Dublin? Would there not have been international outcry? When I was a little girl my father’s London office was blown up by the IRA. If the bomb had gone off at the right time it would have killed hundreds of men and women who had nothing whatsoever to do with the political situation, my daddy included. I was at a railway station the day another bomb was due to go off. If the bomb had killed my dad, would I have wanted revenge? If the other bomb had killed me, would my family have wanted revenge? It is a natural response, but in Israel and Palestine, just as in Britain and Ireland, violence never solved anything. It never will. Violence leads to violence, which leads to more and more innocent victims  - be they Jewish, Muslim, Christian or none of the above. As I said the other day in my post about the turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East, evil begets evil. It has to stop.


When Love was flogged, when Love was spat upon, when Love was ridiculed and stripped naked and forced to walk to His place of execution, when Love was bound and nailed to a cross, He did not declare war or vengeance. Love could have called down all the angels of heaven with fire and trumpets and wrath. But He didn’t. Instead, the voice of Love said, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”


Please join me in praying for peace and a lasting end to violence.


‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’****


* John 14:27

**Luke 10:29

***Luke 23:34

**** Galatians 3:28

Reblog: The Whole Man Becomes Spirit



‘Jesus went on into Jericho and was passing through. There was a chief tax collector there named Zacchaeus, who was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he was a little man and could not see Jesus because of the crowd. So he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to that place, he looked up and said to Zacchaeus, “Hurry down, Zacchaeus, because I must stay in your house today.”

Zacchaeus hurried down and welcomed him with great joy.’

Luke 19:1-6 GNT


Originally posted on Contemplative in the Mud:

Marie-Joseph Le GuillouIt is not a spiritual work in the sense used by many modern texts, but rather a transformation of the flesh itself. It shares in the elevation of the other human faculties and rejoices with them in communion with God, and indeed becomes the place where God dwells… Thus the whole man becomes spirit. This supposes a constant memory of God.
Marie-Joseph Le Guillou OP (1920–1990)

View original


The ‘Arab Spring’ seemed so hopeful when it first began, but it has descended with sickening inevitability into turmoil and war. Violence begets violence; evil begets evil. Now Christians in ISIS-held Iraq have been told to convert to Islam, pay a form of ‘protection’ tax, or face death.



‘Iraq is home to one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities but its population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Prior to 2003, the number of Christians in the city had been as high as 60,000, but that had dropped to about 35,000 by June this year… [and] another 10,000 fled Mosul after Isis took control at the beginning of June…’ 

BBC News ‘Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum


Open Doors is a charity supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, most recently those in Iraq who have literally had to run for their lives. Can you help them in their work?


‘Open Doors partners in Iraq have responded rapidly as Christians flee intense persecution in Mosul from militant Islamic group, ISIS. They need your support and prayers to continue to provide emergency relief for 2,000 of the families most in need…

“When people are arriving without any food or water, on foot, having walked for half a day or longer, with only a plastic bag containing their belongings, you just want to provide help. What else can you do?”

A gift of £70 can provide an emergency family relief pack for a family of four for one month.

Each pack contains essential items like food, water, medicine, pillows, blankets, air coolers, cooking and eating utensils, and hygiene kits.

And please pray for safety, guidance and strength for local Open Doors partners as they bring God’s hope to these broken Christian families and many others who have fled their homes.’


To find out how you can donate, please click here and the Open Doors page will open in a new tab.


“Whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none, and whoever has food must share it.” 

Luke 3:11 (GNT)


Jesus said:The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]…”

Luke 4:18 (Amplified)

For those who have no choice but to stay, we must pray. Many of them will be too poor to flee, or too old, or too infirm. Some will be too scared to know which way to turn or what to do. We must pray without ceasing: pray for courage, pray for wisdom, pray for strength and most of all we must pray for peace – the peace that passes understanding and that only flows from the wide and gentle arms of Jesus. God help us all.

Pride Has Many Faces

‘The devil’s wiles are many. He would turn hell upside down a thousand times to make us think ourselves better than we are. He has good reason for it, for such fancies are most injurious. Sham virtues springing from this root are always accompanied by a vainglory never found in those of divine origin, which are free from pride.’

The Interior Castle

St. Teresa of Avila

Pride. It’s such a ubiquitous sin that we barely even notice it :-/ I wonder why? I’m sure pride makes God sad. Have you ever heard a sermon preached on pride? I certainly haven’t. Yet pride is a tenacious, deep-rooted sin that grows like a weed, so why is it largely ignored? Why are certain sins singled out over other sins? I don’t get it. I guess I don’t have to – God isn’t asking me to be anyone else, or to worry about why anyone else is the way they are (except, of course, my children). No, God’s just asking me to be me and you to be you. And that’s all (which is not to say we are to ignore other people – absolutely not! But we have to allow them room to be themselves, and we have to love, and to serve, without judging).

For me, the first lesson in humility has been a realisation that I am, frankly, rather useless. It is also the realisation that the whole of humanity is screwed up in one way or another. But the second lesson is amazing. The second lesson turns everything on its head (God does this, I’ve noticed). Far from living in a continual state of misery over my worthlessness, lesson number two is a life-changing realisation of my innate, God-given dignity. My recognition and comprehension of my unworthiness is what makes the knowledge of dignity so joyous, and so beautiful. When I acknowledge my God-given dignity I have no more need of pride. This is the working of grace. I don’t think I’m there yet, by any means, but… I’m on my way and the view’s good.

‘There was once a man who went out to sow. In his sowing some of the seeds fell by the road-side and the birds swooped down and gobbled them up. Some fell on stony patches where they had very little soil. They sprang up quickly in the shallow soil, but when the sun came up they were scorched by the heat and withered away because they had no roots. Some seeds fell among thorn-bushes and the thorns grew up and choked the life out of them. But some fell on good soil and produced a crop—some a hundred times what had been sown, some sixty and some thirty times. The man who has ears should use them!’

Matthew 13:3-8 (JB Phillips)


‘To me, freedom is so precious and I would not give it up for all the world. I have realised that for those who live in the West, freedom is so often something they take for granted. It has always been there for them. It is their unnoticed, unrecognised, constant companion and friend. But for those… like me who were enslaved, it remains a uniquely beautiful, special experience.

…for me, this freedom is also a terrifying thing. I was captured when I was still a child. I spent my teenage years and my early adulthood in slavery. For all that time, I had no freedom. I was a non-person; I didn’t really exist. I had no doctor, no dentist, no school, no family, no friends, no money, no bank account, no taxes to pay and nothing to buy or sell. I had no diary, no papers to file, no phone calls to make or take, no letters to send or receive and no bills to pay. I had no decisions to make about my own life. Everything was decided for me; when to get up, what clothes I had to wear, when to start work, when to eat, when to sleep. In short, I learned nothing that a normal person learns when they are going through the transition to adulthood. After I escaped I realised that I just didn’t know how to do any of these things.’

From Slave

by Mende Nazer


This is a brilliant book. The tenacity and courage of Mende Nazer is a wonderful thing to behold. I found I could relate to so much of what Mende went through. I went from an abused childhood into an abused adulthood. During my first marriage I was only ‘allowed’ to visit the doctor or dentist with permission. One time, I had a miscarriage and was in a lot of pain and bleeding. Any normal person would have called an ambulance. That man refused to even call the doctor. I bled for a whole month.

When I was pregnant I had placenta praevia, a very dangerous situation where if I went into labour or started bleeding I had to have an emergency operation immediately or my baby would die and I would bleed to death. When I started bleeding that man would not let me have the emergency C-section that I needed until late at night. Afterwards, although I was not really well enough, he forced me to go home after only two days in hospital.

He stopped me from studying (this was my dream). He stopped me from having friends. He created situations that were so awful that he pushed my family away and then blamed them. I didn’t see them or hear from them for years. I had a bank account, but only so that he could use it to control me and the money. I was not permitted to spend money other than in the manner he dictated. If I did, he would hit me and call me horrible, awful, vile things. He was as cruel with his tongue as with his fists.

I had to use the phone in the exact manner that he dictated. If I said anything ‘wrong’ he would hurt me. I was not allowed to make decisions about the vast majority of things. I got up at quarter to six every morning so that I would have a short time to myself, and time to read my bible and to pray. He forced me to stay awake until late at night so I was constantly tired. Even my clothing, like Mende, was decided for me. He decided when and if I needed new clothes and how much I was permitted to spend on them. Unlike Mende, I was allowed to go out of the house as long as I followed, to the letter, his instructions.


Also like Mende, the freedom that came when I first found myself a single mother was overwhelming  and terrifying. Like Mende, I had to learn how to do everything one usually learns as a teenager or young woman. I am still learning! By grace I manage so much better now. Hallelujah! It is grace and freedom in Christ that is the real purpose of this blog post. Many people have no idea what freedom means, and hence can have little idea of what freedom in Christ means. When we have always been granted so much, how can we comprehend being thankful and joyful over so little? This is not a joy that is free from pain. The pain and the sadness and the flashbacks are still, on occasion, overwhelming. I have at last received a diagnosis of PTSD although I am still waiting for treatment. But I know without doubt how much I have to be thankful for and how grace has set me free. I have found something that is worth more than anything else will ever be, and I will never let it go. There is an inexpressible ‘something’ that is more powerful than the pain. Faith, maybe? I don’t know; it is inexpressible.


‘Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.’

Galatians 5:1 (The Message)


I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live in his love. I have told you this so that you can share my joy, and that your happiness may be complete. This is my commandment: that you love each other as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this—that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.

John 15:9-15 (JB Phillips)


Believe me when I tell you that every man who commits sin is a slave. For a slave is no permanent part of a household, but a son is. If the Son, then, sets you free, you are really free!

John 8:34-36 (JB Phillips)


I seem to just about guzzle books and have long considered doing a book review but I have never got around to it. So I thought I would do a multiple review, looking back at a selection of the books that I have read recently, giving each a few sentences. I am no literary critic, just an ordinary reader. The following are just my opinion. If you disagree, that’s fine. Thank God he didn’t make us all the same; the world would have been rather dull. In no particular order:


The Siege by Helen Dunmore *****

This novel is set during the now-legendary siege of Leningrad in 1941 Russia, and more specifically it is about one family during the siege of Leningrad. As a writer, Helen Dunmore manages to demonstrate her deep understanding of what it is to be human, and the extremes of human behaviour in desperate circumstances. With a penetrating yet never sentimental prose Dunmore immerses the reader in the all-permeating cold, hunger and weakness. I found myself so absorbed by the writing that even on a hot summer’s day I had to stop myself shivering. I can only highly recommend this novel.


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress byDai Sijie ****

A sweet little tale of youth and idealism and of the inevitable end of both. The voice of the storyteller is charming, delightful even; the characterisation vivid and well-displayed. Unfortunately the book is too short to ever really do justice to the plot, the characters, or any deeper message, which is a real shame. However, I’d love to read more from this author.


What Katy Did and What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge ****

What Katy Did is just as good as I remember it from thirty several years ago. Perhaps a little too saccharine in places for a 21st century audience but overall a good, robust and well-told story of childhood, which appealed to my girls aged 11 and 8 (who don’t care about stories being over sweet), as well as to their out-of-the-woods-but-not-over-the-hill mummy.


What Katy Did at School I enjoyed just as much as ever.  The first couple of chapters dealing with Elsie and Johnnie’s holiday with their cousin are a little odd, but after that the story is highly entertaining and thought-provoking for young minds. How strange it is to consider the changing standards regarding ‘modest’ or ‘appropriate’ behaviour. One understands that, in 19th century America, certain types of behaviour were considered ‘wrong’ because the author tells us through the characters, but they are things a 21st century audience wouldn’t even notice! This is interesting because it relates to ongoing debates and made my girls ask lots of questions.


The White Queen by Philippa Gregory **

A fluffy bit of nonsense vaguely based on the downfall of the Plantagenets. It was ok. I stayed with it to the end so it can’t have been too bad.


Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope ***

This was a well written novel. Despite my being an avid reader I had never before read any Anthony Trollope, though I think I’ve listened to a dramatisation on BBC Radio 4. How do I love thee, BBC Radio 4? Let me count the ways… As with What Katy Did at School, the ‘scandalous’ behaviour within the book is such that a modern audience would barely notice. However, this creates a conflict in a modern reader’s mind and the writing is good enough to draw you in and make you want to know what happens next. I imagine that when it was written this novel was considered rather avant garde. It was not the best book I have ever read, but the sheer skill of the author kept me reading and wanting to know what would happen next.


Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster ***

E.M. Forster is one of my all-time favourite authors, although he is often overlooked in favour of (in my opinion) lesser writers. A Passage to India and A Room with a View are paragons of literary achievement. A Passage to India is exquisite. A Room with a View is a beautiful display of the tender, genteel, yet hypocritical and often downright funny world of upper-middle class Edwardian England. Where Angels Fear to Tread could never live up to those two I suppose but, as with Anthony Trollope, the sheer skill of the writer kept my attention to the end, despite my distinct dislike of all the characters. Perhaps, to give Forster his due, maybe in the ‘flaws’ of the characters (which are what causes them all to be rather unlikable), the writer touches something uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, about the human condition. Perhaps the characters are all too real; perhaps a little too close to home.


Helen’s Babies by John Habberton *****

I have read this novel several times now and love it more and more. It is both funny and tender in a way which mixes some real guffaws with some genuine ‘awww’ moments. This is a real gem and always cheers me up. It is lovely.


The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila *****

This book I am still reading. It strikes me with awe and leaves me speechless. I read it slowly so that I can consider the author’s words. The translation is a little odd in places, but if you work at it you can understand the meaning. No wonder St. Teresa is considered a ‘Doctor of the Church’ in Catholicism. Highly recommended. Very challenging, in the best of ways.


The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight *****

This too, I read little by little, wanting to carefully weigh up and consider what the author has to say. It is very different in approach and in subject matter from The Interior Castle (after all, one was a Spanish 16th century nun and the other an American 21st century pastor) yet I get the sense they might have agreed more than they would have disagreed. This is something I will have to give some thought to. Again, highly recommended and very challenging.


Pied Piper by Nevil Shute *****

For some reason I seem to have been drawn to books about war over these past few months. It is maybe because of the WWI centenary. Pied Piper is a thrilling story set in Nazi occupied France in 1940. An English man holidaying in rural France sets out to return to England, avoiding the Nazis, and ends up as the guardian/caregiver for a growing raggle-taggle bunch of children. I shan’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil it, but it was both a thrilling story (a real can’t-put-downer) and also gently touched on what it means to have love, to have integrity and to have courage. I really, really enjoyed this book. It was the perfect mix of entertainment with challenge and often heart-warming moments of genuine humanity. A great read.


Contented Dementia by Oliver James ****

Although the title is ‘Contented Dementia’, it is actually far more aimed at those with Alzheimer’s and their families. It is well-considered and well-written. Oliver James is a thoughtful writer. I read this book to try to gain more of an insight into how I can help my dear mother-in-law, but she does not have Alzheimer’s, she has a different kind of dementia. Unfortunately this meant the vast majority of the book held little relevance. I would imagine that this would be a very good book to read if you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or if you are caring for an elderly relative with the disease.


A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute ***

Another war story. The first third of the book was brilliant, so touching, so full of courage and a ‘ripping yarn’ as they might have said back in the 40s. Unfortunately the story began to dwindle after this and when it reached the final third, in the Australian outback, I was actually bored.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe *

I believe this book was written as an attempt to convince those who were pro-slavery in 19th century America to become aware of the plight of their fellow humans who were suffering under slavery and thus persuade them to agree to abolish slavery. In this I can say that I understand and applaud what the writer was trying to do. However, there were, in my opinion, two major flaws: 1) the overly-sentimental language used on occasion and 2) despite this being an abolitionist novel, the writing was so racist it made me cringe. A third of the way through I couldn’t stand it any longer and gave up on the book. If I was in a generous frame of mind I would surmise the writer knew her audience which was why she used stereotypes so blatantly. But I’m not in a generous frame of mind. I gave up after the first half.


A History of Britain Volume 1 by Simon Schama *****

Brilliant. Just brilliant. The man’s a genius. The writing is so smooth and seamless that it reads like a novel. Simon Schama is both knowledgeable and a gifted communicator. If you read but one history book in your life, read this! I can’t wait to read the other books in the series.


Bleak House by Charles Dickens ***

This is the first Charles Dickens novel I have actually read to the end. The plot was good, but I did find, as with many of Dickens’ contemporaries, that some passages wander around aimlessly for thirty-odd pages before settling back to the plot and the characters. This may be to do with the fact that when Bleak House was first published it was serialised in a magazine. The Eastenders of yesteryear, perhaps? Television and film adaptations are rarely better than the book, but the BBC TV version of Bleak House from 2007(?) is brilliant. I almost wonder how they got such brilliance from this novel, but que sera sera.


Pearl of China by Anchee Minh ****

I enjoyed this novel very much. It is based loosely on the life of the daughter of Christian missionaries in rural China who grew up to become a Nobel Prize winner for literature as well as a devout Christian. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the characterisation and the scope of the book. Anchee Minh is an excellent storyteller. The book begins in early 20th century China and ends with life under Mao, after the titular Pearl has left for the US. I liked the balanced way that Christianity and Christian missionaries were portrayed, neither as saints nor unrepentant sinners but that curious mixture somewhere in between, with the desire for good, and the desire for God and blessings and hardships along the way.


Daniel Deronda by George Eliot ***

I enjoyed this book. It is rather dated, and very much a novel of its time (it wanders around and spouts its self-righteousness but I skipped those parts). The characters, particularly the evolving, intriguing character of Gwendolen Harleth/Grandcourt, are what made me want to continue to the end. I wish there had been a sequel about Gwendolen’s later life.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ****

I listened to this as a free, unabridged, audio dramatisation by volunteers  on Librivox. It is brilliant. As with Daniel Deronda, there are passages here and there which do the Victorian meandering thing, which prevents this from developing into what could have been a great thriller, had the genre existed at the time! Nonetheless the plot is well weaved and the characters well portrayed. A highly recommended book.


Every Living Thing by James Herriot ****

I would have liked to have known James Herriot. He comes across as such a decent, kind man, and although his writing will never rank him among the literary greats, his gentle, honest humour is a breath of fresh, farm-scented, Yorkshire air.


Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis *****

This is an autobiographical account of a young woman’s life as she learns, and puts into practice, what it means to love God and to serve ‘the least of these’ in Uganda. Wow. Just buy a copy!


Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang ****

Very interesting. I have read reviews saying it is factually incorrect but who am I to say? I found it an absorbing and fascinating look into one of the world’s oldest civilizations and a woman who was once one of the most powerful in the world.


A Wayne in a Manger by Gervase Phinn ***

A Christmas present, this book chronicling the life of a school inspector in the wilds of Yorkshire had me laughing out loud. Highly recommended for a light-hearted look at the British tradition of Christmas in school and the forthright honesty of small children.


Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis *****

I laughed and I cried with this book. This is a true story of a Sudanese woman’s escape from slavery. Mende lost everything she had ever known, even herself, her identity. With help, she escaped. She demonstrated so much dignity, so much courage, so much insight into the motives of human beings, good, bad and indifferent. There were so many things I could relate to. I shan’t say more because I think this book deserves a post of its own. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

How Do I Love God? (or: How Do I Love, God?)

Our Lord asks but two things of us: Love for him

and for our neighbour.

These are what we must strive to obtain.

I think the most certain sign

that we keep these two commandments

is that we have a genuine love for others.

We cannot know whether we love God,

although there may be strong reasons for thinking so,

but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbour or no. 

~ St. Teresa of Avila, from ‘The Interior Castle’ ~


Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5