After more hate, there’s more love


It’s hard to comprehend what is going on in our world in these days.

Acts of terrorism and tragic events which I was used to thinking about happening ‘over there’ are now happening  less than a couple of hundred miles from me. It shouldn’t make them more terrifying or tragic to me, but it does.

Most people who know me, disagree with me, but I’m loved by many of them. Lots of my nearest and dearest think the opposite to me on most things about faith and social issues, but I thank God (even if they don’t) that we’re able to hug, and laugh and sing and dance together. It is possible! I don’t know how anyone DOUBTS there is a God; but many, if not most, do.

You might be one of those who reckon that love and compassion were invented by John Lennon and the Dalai Lama. I BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART they were invented by God – the Bible tells me that and I believe it. But though you may disagree with me about where love comes from, can we at least agree that it is FANTASTIC that it’s still there?! Despite all that’s happened, in vast quantities, in the form of blankets, money, a bag of toiletries from Asda, someone’s spare room, someone’s spare jeans – love really is conquering all.  The stories of the mighty courage of first responders running into danger to do their jobs just blows me away.

There’s that stop-you-in-your-tracks quote flying around at the moment from Maya Angelou, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.” Amazing words, from an inspired woman.

Here are some more amazing words, from Jesus. “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt 5:43,44)

I’m not saying that no Christian has ever said a hateful thing, but hate is not Christ’s way. I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a bad ambassador for Jesus, or just a bad human being. I believe the world needs His counsel more than ever. Disagree with me if you like, but give us a hug first. If you’re not into hugs, then let me put the kettle on. Cos I love you, and so does HE!

S is for Syria, Sadness and Solomon


I’ve been desperately trying to avoid writing this one. But really – what else could ‘S’ be for but Syria.

My avoidance has not been apathy, it’s been helplessness. What can I say that has not already been said? And even if I did come up with something new, what would it be worth in the great scheme of what is happening across the Middle East and Europe?

The statues in the image below are part of the Irish Famine Memorial; a haunting depiction of the helpless, hopeless Irish people who had no option but to emigrate or die of starvation. The gaunt faces remind me of images of Live Aid in 1985. To think that hunger and death was once so close to home is still shocking to me.  It’s said that through death and emigration, Ireland lost about 4 million people.

irish famine syrian

 

I’m not sure who first made and posted the ‘photoshopped’ image above. I’ve seen it a few times on social media and grabbed this copy from the Irish Times website. But I have to say, it stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. I was all for helping Syrian refugees, “Let them in by all means – and fast. But hang on… what about the numbers, and what about the ones who are going to make trouble and what if there isn’t enough room for us all (to live undisturbed I mean…)?”

Then I saw that merged photo and I was moved to tears; because I knew, if they were Irish people I wouldn’t be asking any questions other than – ‘what are you going to do to help?”

I remember that scene in the Titanic movie, when they wouldn’t let more people on the lifeboats for fear they would buckle or topple over. Fear, grief and more than a little self-preservation put a limit on who could be rescued. I’m not judging, I’d have been the same, I’m sure.

So what is to be done? What is the answer? I believe the wisdom of Solomon is needed for this crisis. A whole nation of displaced, terrified, people are on the move looking for a chance to raise their families in peace and safety. Who am I to say they should be denied that? And as for the talk of those whose intentions are not for peace, but for getting their terrorist agenda in under the radar…? Well I doubt every Irish person who emigrated had the purist of intentions; but America and Australia and the other countries they fled to still stand.

Who decides who is worthy of a chance to live anyway – good or bad? It isn’t me. The instructions I read in my Bible are clear about mercy and love, about welcoming the alien and feeding the poor – it doesn’t say… “but only the nice ones.”

And still I confess there is a nagging feeling in my gut. One that scares me about a massive influx of displaced people – into my place. What will my world be like when the dust settles and the unsettled have settled?

You see…? I told you my words would not be worth much!

Blog Action Day 2013: The Religious Right!


It’s Blog Action Day! 🙂
This year the theme is Human Rights. And my thoughts have turned to religious freedom and the right to worship.

If you’ve read my blog post Dear Twitter you’ll know that I get fed up with the anti-christian malarkey that goes on in social media. But when I think of the work of Church in Chains and some of the stories that they tell from around the world, I realise what a privilege it is to live in a country where the only ‘stick’ that I take is verbal, and I can safely live a life of faith.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

This freedom does not exist in many countries around the world. Christians suffer a wide range of forms of persecution, sometimes perpetrated by the state (ranging from discrimination to imprisonment, torture and even execution), sometimes by society (from harassment to violent mob attacks).

Church in Chains is an independent Irish charity that encourages prayer and action in support of persecuted Christians around the world. It also advocates before governments and ambassadors and sends aid to persecuted Christians. Church in Chains publishes news on its website and in a quarterly magazine and weekly news updates.

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is Sunday 3rd of November. Part of Church in Chains’ focus for that day will be Syria. You can join people all over the world as we pray for Syria together.

Of all the work that Church in Chains does, I’ve chosen to focus on Syria as it is a country that I think about regularly. I spent 9 weeks in Cyprus a couple of years ago and though most of the time I was helping out with a small international fellowship, I spent the last two days at a conference listening about the work of Christian churches and ministries all over the Middle East. I still remember the Pastor from Syria locking eyes with me, telling me how beautiful his country is and how beautiful the people are. He told me that the international news bulletins about his country are helping to kill it and that one day I should determine to come and visit, so that I can see for myself. His passion was not just for Syrian Christians – but all Syrian people. As I think about the conversation I can still see the mix of hope and grief in his face. Syria plays on my mind – and I hear his voice every time I see a news report on the country.

There are many other ways you can help.
Go to www.churchinchains.ie to see how you can get involved with the work.

And if you are someone who prays, be sure to thank God today for the freedom to worship and ask God to give grace and strength to those who don ‘t enjoy that right.