Keep Calm and Carry On

In memory of all who have died as the result of recent violence, wherever they may be:

Nothing is more certain than death and nothing is more uncertain than the day and hour of our death. The great folly of worldlings consists in putting the thought of death far from them, and acting as if they were to live forever.

~ Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

~ from In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.

~ Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

 ~ John 3:17

“O Death, where is your sting?

O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Picture by Manfred Heyde – Own work, GFDL 

No More

The killing of people enjoying a concert is unimaginable. I just can’t get into the mindset of someone who would do such a thing. What could they possibly hope to achieve? Manchester – such a great city, so vibrant and full of life. Death and destruction have no place here.

Violence begets violence and evil begets evil – the spiral descending. There is only one way out: say no. No more violence. In its place, compassion. No more hate. In its place, loving kindness. No more revenge. In its place, open-armed forgiveness. Hatred has no place here.

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…no more shall the sound of weeping be heard…
    or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime…

Before they call I will answer,
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox…

Isaiah 65:19,20,24,25 (NRSVA)

My thoughts and prayers, with deepest sympathy, are with the victims and families of the Manchester bombing. My prayers are also for the misguided souls on the path of destruction who think this is a ‘righteous’ thing to do. May they all know the love of the risen Christ, who overcame sin and in its place gives new life. May they know the peace that passes understanding. May those of us on the outside, looking in, find a role in repairing the damage done by this terrible tragedy – all the while knowing that the holes blown in families’ hearts are never going to be filled.

A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.

Jeremiah 31:15

 

 

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)

From Victim to Victory

I’m in bed because I have a bad cold and whenever I catch anything these days I have to be very careful otherwise I will not get better in a timely fashion. Ugh. It’s mostly just boring and frustrating because I have a daily plan and I can’t stick to it 😕

However, this morning I am so glad because I have been listening to audiobooks and came across a wonderful recording which has been sitting in my Audible library for a while now. Today I have had the opportunity to give it my full attention.

 

“[There is] a giant step from knowledge to acknowledgement. In a family, a community and a nation there can be guilty secrets. Everybody knows something to be the case but there is no acknowledgement.”

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Michael Lapsley, Oxford, 2005 (from Wikipedia)

“Prayer, love, support, acknowledgement, reverence, recognition, giving it moral content, saying ‘yes, what happened to you was wrong‘, all of this is what I would say, in terms of my faith, [is] the way in which God enabled me to travel a journey from victim [to] survivor to victor… Something horrible happens to us [and] we’re victims. If we physically survive we are survivors, but frequently that’s where people stop and remain prisoners inside themselves… Life is like a river: something terrible happens and our lives become whirlpools, and we never ever really live again except in terms of what has happened to us…”

~ Father Michael Lapsley speaking in ‘A South African Journey’

by Radio Free Maine.

Audiobook available from audible.co.uk

(transcribed by yours truly)

Michael Lapsley campaigned against apartheid. In 1990 he was the subject of a letter bomb which caused severe burns, destroyed his hands and left him blind in one eye. Since then he has worked tirelessly for hope and healing, in particular he works with former victims of trauma.

“…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

~ John 8:36 (NRSVA)

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)

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