A Slave to Love?

 

When man follows the inspirations of grace he finds liberty and peace. In this state we may say that fear renders him free, and that love enslaves him.

~ St Anthony of Padua, as quoted in Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis

Ah, you are beautiful, my love;
    ah, you are beautiful;
    your eyes are doves.
Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved,
    truly lovely.

~ Song of Solomon 1:15,16 (NRSVA)

Wounds

I break my Lenten blog silence today after learning of the terror attacks in London yesterday. There are no words to describe the wounds of terrorism. They last far longer than the act itself.

In the 1990s I was at a railway station near to London that was due to be blown up on the day that I was there. Fortunately for me, the bomb did not detonate. Similarly, my father’s offices were blown up in a terror attack that killed two people. The UK has a long, sad history of terrorism, dating all the way back to the 17th century when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Will we make effigies of yesterday’s killer and burn them on 22nd March, as we do with Guy Fawkes every 5th November?

The difference, I suppose, is that (other than the terrorists who were brutally punished) no one died back in 1605. The difference too is that the plotters back then had genuine reason to display protest at parliament. They suffered extreme persecution as Catholics in a Protestant country. What persecution had the terrorist of yesterday suffered? I don’t know anything about him, but I would hazard a guess that the blood is on his hands and no one else’s. What twisted rhetoric made him think this was a ‘right’ thing to do?

My deepest thoughts and most heartfelt prayers are for the families and friends of those who died. May they know the love of the Comforter. May they know the peace that passes understanding. May they reach out for help and find Jesus there with His hands willing and His arms open.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who do us wrong. How do we show these extremists the radical nature of God’s love? How do we reach out to them in their darkness and show them the Light of the World? Before we rush to condemn, to avenge the wrongdoing and crush the endless, aching hurt – please remember these words:

God is love… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

and

We love because he first loved us.

extracts from 1 John 4:16-19 (NRSVA)

Reblog: ‘The Bible is a Refugee Narrative: The Church and Migration’

I have wanted to write something along these lines myself, but here it is done eloquently and succinctly. Thank you, Matt 🙂

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Bible is the sweeping story of a refugee people.

It’s sometimes hard to see it as such, when bishops sit in the House of Lords and American evangelicals have access to the corridors of power. But without the stories of liberation from Egypt, and the Exile in Babylon, and the Roman oppression of Israel, the whole narrative of the Scriptures falls apart. Even the words in black and white come to us not from the rarefied atmosphere of some ancient theological powerhouse but from immigrant communities remembering the destruction of their cities, their journey into exile.

And so there’s a direct link across the ages between the antisemitic plots recorded in theBook of Estherand the refugees who arrived in the UK as part of theKindertransport; there’s a link betweenthose fleeing Aleppo and the Book of Lamentations; people looking for economic security and the

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On Autism, Family, Grief and Kindness

During the funeral for my mother-in-law last week, I made sure Prince stayed with me. I carefully explained exactly what would happen beforehand and although the girls went with my parents, Prince stayed by my side the whole time.

Prince is 17 years old and has autism. He goes to special school. He struggles with anxiety so was, of course, very worried about what the funeral would be like. I think he thought we’d all be wailing and moaning and falling over one another or something, because beforehand he was constantly asking me if it was ok that he was sad, but not very, very sad, and he was glad Grandma was not suffering any more (he didn’t word it like that but I think that’s what he meant). He also said, quite bluntly, that although he liked Grandma, he didn’t know her very well, so he wasn’t as sad as he would be if it was his other grandmother, whom he knows very well. Which is fair enough. I told him not to say that to anyone else, though!

To be honest, when we would take Grandma out (she lived in a lovely care home for the three years prior to her death) I was mostly thinking about how to manage her with her frailty and dementia (make sure she is not distressed or too tired, keep her upbeat and happy by talking to her and constantly reassuring her, even if I’ve already done exactly the same thing a dozen times or more), Prince and his autism (minimise anxiety, keep him passive), boisterous or bickering girls (make sure they’re not forgotten in the need to put Grandma and Prince’s needs first) and a husband who gets easily distracted and might not notice if his mum is about to topple over or something (keep an eye on him). This family time was lovely – my MIL was lovely – but could also be quite stressful, so encouraging anything other than quiet, non-anxious, absorbed-in-his-radios behaviour from Prince was never really the priority. I don’t mean to sound mean towards my husband. He had all the same things to deal with, along with my PTSD and CFS, so we have always had to look out for one another. My point is that I didn’t seek to encourage interaction between Prince and his grandma.

On the day of the funeral I made sure Prince was with me, to make sure he was ok. I didn’t want to risk my parents saying the wrong thing to him, however well-intentioned they may be. I sat in the pew first, followed by my son and then my husband. During his sister’s beautiful eulogy, Frank began to tear up and I saw him wiping his eyes and nose. I felt bad that I hadn’t sat in between them both, but I couldn’t move as that would distract from the eulogy. Then came my turn. I stood and walked to the front of the church and read a poem I had originally written after the death of Frank’s dad. As I came to sit back down, I deliberately sat in between Frank and Prince. I took Frank’s hand. He squeezed mine. The tears began to flow. I reached for the tissues and thanked God that I had kept it together until after my poem. Then, to my surprise, Prince took my hand in his. He didn’t say anything, but this little gesture from a young man for whom touch is anathema made me realise what a wonderful boy I have. That simple act of taking my hand meant so much to me that I can’t really describe it. You won’t know what that’s like unless you’re a parent of a child with autism yourself. Prince saw that mummy was sad and he wanted to make me feel better.

I love my boy. I love his innocence. You can take your neurotypical sons. I’m glad they have parents who love them. I’m glad they will have the chance to ‘succeed’ in life, to go to work and have a family of their own. But I wouldn’t change a hair on my boy’s head.

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. 

Matthew 10:42, The Message

I think my boy is a true apprentice, even if he doesn’t know it.

Lessons from History

Parliamentary government was breaking down at a moment when the economic crisis made strong government imperative… Hitler realised that his own opportunity had come sooner than he expected. The hard-pressed people were demanding a way out of their sorry predicament… To all the millions of discontented, Hitler, in a whirlwind campaign, offered what seemed to them in their misery some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again…

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

There are many places around the world that seem to echo the Germany of the early 1930s. A perceived lack – be it of food, of uncorrupted leadership, of employment, of morals, of religious observance, of effective criminal law – creates a vacuum. A vacuum creates tension. Tension leads to conflict. I pray we can work together for good, in humility, for Christ’s sake.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another. “

John 13:35 (NRSVA)

Weak, Strong; Broken, Whole

“What is my strength that I should wait?

And what is my end, that I should be patient?

Is my strength the strength of stones,

or is my flesh bronze?

In truth I have no help in me,

and any resource is driven from me.”

Job cries out to God, Job 6:11-13 (NRSVA)

Three times I appealed to the Lord about [my suffering], that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me… for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

My dear mother-in-law is very poorly. She had a stroke at the weekend. It’s touch and go, as they say. When my sister-in-law visited yesterday my MIL was extremely distressed and crying out to God. Praise God she is a woman of faith! But dementia can be very cruel. It steals everything you have. When I read the words from Job this morning as part of my daily Bible time, I was immediately struck by how apt they were. Despite the extreme distress of my MIL (which is heart-wrenching because there is no way to offer consolation when a person has no memory, no way to comfort, no way to reassure) it is an honour to know a woman who, when all else is gone, has a faith that cries out to her Redeemer. God help us all.

In my distress I called upon the LORD,

to my God I cried for help.

From his temple he heard my voice,

and my cry to him reached his ears.

Psalm 18:6

 

God is good. God is always good.