Exclusion

I had to fill in a form for my new doctor. I have finally been given an appointment to see a CFS/ME specialist. It included questions that asked me to compare my current state with my ‘normal’ state. I am flummoxed by questions like these. I was diagnosed with this condition when I was 14. I have never lived a ‘normal’ adult life. Then there was the question of employment. I never chose to be a housewife, although I’m trying to do the job well. Coerced away from education and into my first marriage and immediate motherhood at the age of 21 I never had an occupation, as such, so it’s no good asking me about this. I never chose to be a mother (yes, you did read that right and yes it probably does mean what you think it means…) and I never chose to be a housewife, just as I never chose to have this condition or to be abused or to end up with PTSD.

In that moment I understood what it is to be excluded from general society, to be treated as less than human. There was no box for me to tick. The assumptions were already made. Perhaps that is why my response to those whom society has excluded is so strong. I get it. It sucks. It’s wrong. They and I are no better than anyone else, but equally no worse. They and I, like every human being, are made in the image of God. We are all God-breathed.

This morning God spoke to me through His Word and it directly relates. You may find it useful, too, so I share it here:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NRSVA)

So the people that seem small and insignificant are deemed ‘indispensable’? That’s good. I’m ok then. How about you? And how does this change the way we view our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? How does this change the way we view our potential brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Why do Christians follow worldly ideals and create ‘celebrity’ Christians?

 

Rise Up and Walk!

Silver and gold have I none,

But such as I have give I thee:

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth

Rise up and walk!

These lovely words are from Rob Evans, aka The Donut Man, and form a children’s song paraphrasing chapter 3 of the book of Acts.

Cheesy. Corny. Cutesome. My kids used to love Donut Man when they were small. What a beautiful illustration these words are of how God works in our lives, how He uses the unexpected to accomplish what we never even imagined possible, and how He doesn’t need what we think is necessary to do what He needs to do.

Lord, help me, today, to ‘rise up and walk’, and may it be for Your glory.  Amen

Learning to Breathe

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Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure… We are not saved by any formulas or theologies or any priesthood extraneous to the human journey itself. “Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can help the brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

I went through a ‘Peter’ experience a few years ago. I promised to love God, to be His child, to follow Jesus with all of my heart – and then I went and did something I was immediately ashamed of. I didn’t just do it once, either. It was a very messed-up time. I think I wanted to show God how unworthy I was of His love. I had been on the receiving end of so much hurt that I truly believed, deep, deep down, that no one, not even God, could love me, and that my behaviour would prove it. What did God do in response to this display of weakness and pain? He brought me, within months, to baptism by immersion (an amazing experience) and a few weeks later to the man who seemed to see the ‘me’ underneath all the hurt and loved me in a way that I never knew was possible (of course, I came to love him too, but Frank loved me first, in so many ways that I could never even have imagined). It was truly a match made in heaven.

When I read the words above by Richard Rohr this morning, I recognised their import and impact on my life. Suffering – for reasons I don’t claim to understand – and shared suffering, are essential for growth in Christ. Maybe we human beings can only truly appreciate (and participate in) the Light when we have experienced darkness.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14 (NRSVA)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2

Choices

One of the first things I learned at Celebrate Recovery is that I can make choices. I also learned that my choices affect my life and the lives of those around me. Childhood abuse robs the victim of the awareness of being able to make choices, and as an adult I am still learning this. On the other hand, it has given me a keen insight into how and where we make choices and how seemingly innocuous acts can be part of something that helps another human being, or something that actively harms them, even though we’re not actively aware of it at the time. I think we who call ourselves followers of Christ must take stock of our choices, particularly in our consumer-driven culture.

…the endless debates about the rights and wrongs of aid often obscure what really matters, not so much where the money comes from but where it goes…

No one in the aid debate really disagrees with the basic premise that we should help the poor when we can… The philosopher Peter Singer has written about the moral imperative to save the lives of those we don’t know. He observes that most people would willingly sacrifice a US$1,000 suit to rescue a child seen drowning in a pond, and argues that there should be no difference between that drowning child and the nine million children who, every year, die before their fifth birthday. 

~ from Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish…

Mark 14:7 (NRSVA)

For the first time in history it is possible to eradicate extreme poverty (defined as those living on less than US$1.25 a day). One thing we can do, as ordinary people who are not managers of NGOs or politicians or Bill Gates, is to make ethical choices in various aspects of our lives. I can choose to buy food that has been produced by someone who received a fair wage, I can choose to buy clothing not produced in a sweatshop, I can choose to be a good steward of the resources I have been granted. I can choose not to buy or use the services of companies that are known to exploit people or resources.

Part of this choice for our family has been to sponsor a child through Compassion UK. Compassion work with and through local churches in more than 30 of the world’s poorest countries and, because of this, people’s needs can be met more accurately. They are child-focussed, Christ-centred and compassion-based. Theirs is the only child sponsorship programme that has been proven to work and Compassion always publish their yearly accounts for the public to view. Click the link on the right hand side of this page to find out more. You may need to scroll down to see it.

Genesis: Blueprint for the Dysfunctional Family

The stories in Genesis are mind-bogglingly sordid. They really are. The people are miserable and vile to one another, even those whom God ‘favoured’, e.g. Abraham and Sarah. Take the story of Hagar: first off, she’s a slave. Later, she is a sexual tool used and abused by both Abraham and Sarah, then she is physically abused by Sarah while Abraham doesn’t bat an eyelid.

Thankfully, God sees Hagar’s misery. He ‘sees her’, as she puts it, for who she is and takes her, the slave, the odd one out and not ostensibly part of His plan, and gives her life blessing and purpose.

Genesis 19. What the heck…? A father offers up his daughters to be gang raped:

…the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them out to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don’t do such a wicked thing! Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don’t do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

Genesis 19:4-8 (GNT)

The man has to protect two strangers above his own daughters? What?! Later, Genesis tells us, the daughters seduce their own father, who doesn’t know what’s happening, so that they can have children. I remain unconvinced that it is possible for a man to be unaware of the sexual act. Either way this is seriously screwed up stuff. I am glad to be revisiting these passages with a fresh eye, but I never thought that the bible could give EastEnders a run for its money. It’s depressing.

Thank heaven I know what happens later! Thank heaven that ‘every story whispers His name’, as the Jesus Storybook Bible puts it, even when the only whisper is the implication of the unequivocal and desperate need for a Redeemer.

With that in mind, have a listen to these lovely ladies from Tonga singing ‘Soon and Very Soon’