I have had this small insect in my house for the last few days and posted this picture on Facebook. Someone replied that they weren’t sure about it’s beauty but it was a bit repulsive.
Looking past the legs and tail I see the cross ✝️ The Bible says the cross and all it represents (Jesus dying to take away our sin) is offensive to Jews and foolishness to the educated. So why do so many of us wear a symbol of execution around our necks when we would never think of displaying an electric chair or a guillotine?
The cross has come to represent a symbol of love or maybe just an elegant, simple piece of jewellery. But, like the McDonald’s Yellow M symbol, it is instantly recognisable.
When Jesus called his early disciples he simply said “Follow me”. For these young twenty somethings it was a bit like Alan Sugar calling them to be “The Apprentice”. Imagine being in at the start of what would become something worldwide in its reach; of seeing lifes transformed; going places you’ve never been; doing things you could never imagine; becoming part of a community; hearing amazing story telling and learning key principles. Leaders and recruiters, what an offer for potential candidates!
Then the cross. Not what they expected. The end. Your life under threat. But this isn’t the end, it’s just the end of the beginning. Lifes transformed the disciples helped change the world but ultimately all but one lost their own lifes too, including on crosses.
Two thousand years later, in India, 🇮🇳 Christians pray and see miraculous healing of paralysed people. It is not unusual there. They have an expectancy many of us in the west have lost. But those, particularly in rural areas, see transformed lifes but also suffering. Beatings and being driven out of their villages. The cross brings hope and healing, power and possibility but also suffering, sorrow and rejection. It is, like the insect in my house, both beautiful and repulsive.
60@60 is still open if you want to support persecuted Christians
I was reading the Bible in Mark 2 this week. It talks about new wine in new skins. Old wine skins are inflexible and can’t accommodate the need for expansion in the new wine.
In life, in work, in faith it is easy to get stuck doing things the way you always have. Routine is good but it really does get in the way sometimes. It can stop us reaching our potential because we daren’t step away from it.
One of the things that 60@60 taught me is to be a bit more flexible. It made me try things I wouldn’t normally even think of. I wouldn’t have had tasted “the new wine” of fresh adventures if I’d been like an old wineskin. But I still have lots of things where I need to learn to be more flexible. How about you?
For persecuted Christians the need to be flexible is essential. For some who have come out of very regimented and controlled religious backgrounds it is a big change. For others it is a case of needing to be flexible to avoid beatings and worse. But once the new one is tasted it is, for many, worth the cost.
Since I last posted I have had the catheter removed (yay!) but am having to adjust to a life of self-cathetising. This is something I need to do around four times a day as I am no longer able to pass water naturally. It has been quite a change to routine, with everything revolving around it. I have had to learn how to do it by trial and error, to adapt and face the fear and bits of pain. To know that the next one is coming and face up to it.
How do accommodate major, unwanted changes to your routine? To be honest, though I’m coping I’m tired and it has stirred up a range of emotions. Fear and resentment, of feeling overwhelmed have mingled with acceptance and a recognition that what I have to go through is so much less than many. It is easy to let this dominate life but God is so much bigger. By the beach yesterday it was great to see the beauty of the early morning as well as the rose in my garden. I was watching Songs of Praise earlier and a lady was on there had endured daily headaches for years and many brain ops. She defined Hope as Holding On Past Empty and had a cake making enterprise. Beauty out of difficulty.
Persecuted Christians face the same range of emotions that we go through. I was reading of a Cuban pastor who had been placed in a high security prison who was really struggling with what he was going through. Elderly pastors in Eritrea 🇪🇷 being re-arrested after a brief period of release. Prisoners in jail in Iran (and many other countries) with very limited access to health care for their medical conditions. They go through every gamut of emotion as they try and cope. Sometimes they are strong and sometimes weak but they find God is faithful.
Please do pray for those who are having to make significant adjustments in their lifes right now, such as Afghan refugees. And consider coming along to the annual Open Doors conference this coming Saturday 25th via Zoom (or similar) where you can hear first hand from those who have gone through persecution. And, whatever your circumstances, may God uphold you!
Most things in life come with threat and opportunity intertwined. Sometimes we have the option to stay in our comfort zone; other times there is no going back or staying where we are. My youngest daughter got her degree results today; the choice now is what to do next and the challenge of finding a job. Leaving behind the familiar and known. Going she knows not where. Threat and opportunity stand together as she contemplates the next stage of life.
My daughter got a high 2:2 incidentally. Unremarkable you may say. But I am so proud of Natalie because she overcame so many challenges along the way and seriously contemplated giving up. But she didn’t, she stuck at it and got her degree. Talent is an element in achieving success but a will to keep going is often much more so. By the way, if anyone knows of opportunities for a passionate wildlife conservation graduate do get in touch!
For so many persecuted Christians threat and opportunity are intertwined. A Chinese student may lose grades or not get a degree because of their faith. Others in the middle east may find their job chances severely curtailed. But at the same time many find opportunities to share their faith and talk of finding a richness in their life they didn’t have before. Jesus taught that death to self is necessary to truly live. Finding a pearl in a field, a merchant sold all he had to get it. So many Christians around the world know real threats but for them there is something much greater worth having. Will you support them?
Control is in many ways essential. It allows things to operate as they are designed. If I can’t control my car properly, it crashes. A failure to appropriately control my temper results in damaging words and actions. Not controlling the temperature and length of cooking results in a burnt meal.
I grew up in a household where having everything under control was afforded high priority. I learned that creating an illusion of control was important (and to avoid the things I wasn’t great at).
During 60@60 I learned to control a lot of things (though not without stress and fear at times). It was often good to face that stretching. But now with a bag on my leg it in many ways controls me and walking relatively short distances is a challenge, though I am adapting.
How do we react when our control is taken away? I’ve found in a way that it affected my identity and picture of who I was. But, within that it was important to swallow my pride and let others help me. And to let God hold me. I hope the attached song speaks to you.
For all those persecuted Christians in countries like Myanmar, Iran and North Korea where the state tries to control everything, being in control is hard. But even though the choices are limited and the implications grave, people still choose to follow Jesus; to love and to forgive.
To find out more about persecuted Christians please watch the short video below. The 60@60 fund is still open too-now less than £120 away from £7 000!
Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible talks about there being a time for everything…a time to laugh and a time to cry; a time to live and a time to die among other things. I was struck reading Mark that “when his time had come” Jesus started his ministry. There is significance both in not missing things but also in not forcing something before it’s time.
What is it time for in your life? It could be a small thing or the start of something greater. But whatever it is “seize the day” if it’s a good thing and seek grace and strength if it’s more difficult.
I have had quite a few painful moments with my catheter but it slowly seems to be settling down with no blood loss today so far. Moving around is a bit easier too. Just need to keep adapting.
We have been dogsitting this week or rather Nat has. 36kg of very large dog!
Sometimes we look after our animals better than people. Cows are revered in Hinduism in India but Christians in many areas are beaten and abused. Yet all people are special. It is challenging to love your enemies when your time for persecution comes yet so many pray for their enemies.
One year ago on this Sunday I was finishing the last leg of The Pilgrims Way Part 1 at Otford in Kent. My feet were killing me but it was amazing to reach that point after 8 days of walking. I remember an unexpected spitfire accompanying me part of the way and another Jane Austen connection. And the joy of my biggest supporter being there to meet me was special.
I have just had a weeks leave with lots of tasks to start with then 2 nights away alongside the Essex Pilgrims Way. This is a picture of the chair where the founder of Pilgrims Hall sits nearly 60 years after establishing the Centre, now in the twilight of her years. The building around her is her legacy.
I am sitting here writing this rather uncomfortably with a catheter inserted and a leg bag. Routine Tests on Friday showed I was retaining large amounts of fluid in my bladder which resulted in a trip to A&E yesterday and the procedure being done. I’m glad I did 60@60 not 61@61! I’ve had an enlarged prostate for a couple of decades but this turn of events was quite unexpected. I’m having to get used to a whole new way of living and hobbling for different reasons! Physically and emotionally it’s quite a difficult adjustment and another adventure even if not a totally welcome one.
Persecution is not totally unexpected, especially for new converts, but when it hits it affects life profoundly. Things change and a new, if unwelcome, way of living ensues. It’s part of the cost of Christian living. I have appreciated messages of support and I know persecuted Christians do so too.
It’s a bit surreal but this day last year I was walking nearly 16 miles between Chawton and Farnham on the Pilgrims Way in Hampshire and Surrey.
Today I am staying in Pilgrims Hall near Brentwood by a much less known Pilgrims Way from Waltham Abbey to Canterbury. The difference is I’m only doing a couple of miles jog on this one!
So what is pilgrimage? I like this quote from a booklet I found on Holy Island last year.
“Pilgrimage encompasses two distinct and yet complementary concepts: the physical journey to a spiritually significant place and the journey of the heart and mind as they move nearer to God”.
A deliberate action with two components. We are always on an inner and outer journey but unless we are purposeful it’s easy to get lost and forget. Looking back a year there are sections of the route to Farnham I remember very well and others I can’t recall at all. How quickly memories fade!
I have been reading a book called “Up from the Ashes” by a Syrian doctor. It is quite harrowing in places (though not graphic). The journey Dr A has gone through has been horrendous. Let’s be thankful for our own journey, even with it’s challenges and support organisations like Open Doors that stand alongside those on really challenging journeys.
Do you journal? I used to keep a diary when I was younger; and have various spiritual notebooks where I write things down. I’m not as disciplined as I used be though. My 60@60 notes, appropriately entitled “Footprints”could definitely be more comprehensive-I went 5 months without writing-there is still quite a bit in there.
Looking back at my late teenage self is an exploration of angst, much of it cyclical, events long forgotten and the weather. My 60@60 diary is full of stories of discouragement-all I could think of was aching feet or no donations-but also ones of lovely things, unexpected breakthroughs and God’s faithfulness. I came across this quote from Brendan Manning which I wrote down in March.
“The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves behind what is nailed down, obvious and secure and walks into the unknown”
And another from an obscure bloke called Smith:
“Anything worthwhile needs working at and proper preparation. This is often hidden and hard. But necessary for the next stages of the journey to come”
Is there anything that you look back on and see learning in (and sometimes laughter!)
So, do journal-it’s interesting to see what the pattern of your life is.
As ever the reason for doing all of this is to raise awareness and support for the persecuted church. It is dangerous for many there to journal as it could compromise them. But there are still stories to tell….
Today was another chance to talk about 60@60 and why I did on the radio. It was good to be able to meet with and talk to Ruth O’Reilly Smith on UCB2 (she is always worth a listen) though I have to admit to being quite nervous beforehand. Somehow you become aware that communicating accurately is important and you want to get the message about the persecuted church across. Add to that the fact that I don’t particularly like the sound of my own voice and it had it’s own challenges. I’ve attached a link to the recording below in case you’re interested.
I was reflecting today on Psalm 42. It holds a special place in my heart for lots of reasons. Verse 8 talks about God directing his love during the day and his song being with us at night and that He is God of all my days. During the 365 days of 60@60 I experienced good days, bad days, exciting days and stressful ones. Every variety of day. I suspect we all do to varying degrees. But I have never been alone through it even when alone and sometimes feeling alone. So many persecuted Christians, even when in Prison or situations of torture or rejection, can tell stories of God’s faithfulness. That they have hope even when they suffer. I hope you enjoy this song.