Thursday, 3 December 2015
I've got to write because writing helps me process my thoughts. I guess I don't have to actually publish this. But, weirdly, knowing my thoughts are out there helps me too.
I'm a feeler. I can't help it. I feel stuff deeply and sometimes this paralyses my thoughts and actions. Today, I feel paralysed. Not by fear (although there is a certain amount of anxiety whispering what-ifs into my ears). Not by disappointment (although, again, I am extremely disappointed with our government's rush to air strikes). I'm not even paralysed by the crushing despair that wraps around me whenever I think about the ugly and beautiful state of humanity.
Today I'm paralysed by this phrase:
"Love your enemies and pray for the ones who persecute you."
I follow the one who said it. I don't just follow him on twitter or Facebook. I have given my whole life over to him. It means I want to be like him. It means that I want to live my life for him and find my whole purpose of existence in him. It's not a 'liking his posts and moving along quickly' kind of following. It's a life changing kind of following.
And this guy died because he loved his enemies. He came as a baby, giving up all his glory and honour, to live like us. In skin like ours. He sacrificed everything for his enemies.
Eh? This is hard to swallow. Surely he doesn't expect me to follow that bit. Surely that's a bit extreme. An enemy is an enemy. I don't even know if I can like an enemy who chops heads off children, rapes and imprisons women, brainwashes and radicalises young people and shoots and kills innocents.
But, to Isis, those innocents are the enemy.
So this is where the rubber hits the road. Jesus was counter-cultural in his day. Oh yes. And he certainly continues to be the same today. The terrorists hate their enemies. They hate them so much they have made it their mission to kill them. Jesus loves his enemies. He loves them so much that he made it his mission to die in their place so they could know him. Jesus isn't a terrorist-sympathiser. He hates what they do. But he's a terrorist-lover. He loves them.
If I follow Jesus, then I have to work out how to love them too. Does this come naturally? No. Does this make me a terrorist-sympathiser? No. It makes me a Jesus-follower.
So, I pray for Isis. I pray that (like the Christian-slaughterer, Paul, in the New Testament), the leaders of Isis would find Jesus. I pray they would be led to conviction and repentance. I pray for them to know the love of a God who dies for his enemies instead of killing them.
And I trust in a God whose rule and reign over the earth will never, ever end. And I wait for the return of the King, who will bring justice to our on-it's-knees (in so many ways) world.
Come, Lord Jesus.
NB: Before anyone berates me, I am praying with equal fervour for the innocent people across the world whose lives are being torn apart by Isis (and other terrorist groups) too.
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
"Have you written your Christmas list yet, Jonah?" Our lovely hairdresser (who puts up with wriggling boys, complicated hairstyle requests and the occasional dirty ears) asks my boy.
"Ooh yes!" He replies enthusiastically, "I've bought everyone's presents except for Dad's!"
The hairdresser looked surprised as Jonah didn't list off expensive item after expensive item that he wanted for himself.
And this is how this Christmas has been so far in our family this year. It's come as a pleasant shock.
Rather than constantly asking us for extravagant and expensive presents, my boys have seemed to focus more on what they are giving other people. In fact, two of them haven't even asked us for anything at all!
And unfortunately I don't think I can take any credit for it!
This year, for the first time ever, we have no TV aerial and so they are not watching the brainwashing adverts which tell them what they need in order to be happy. This isn't by choice but simply because the aerial needs fixing and we've had other priorities (like damp walls and broken ovens) to spend the money on. Having no live TV (we can still watch catch up TV) has transformed our family life and has made an enormous difference so far to the requests for Christmas presents. And in such a fast paced culture which constantly tells us we need more and more and more, my boys seem to be content with what they have. It's such a relief.
So, this morning when we began our Bible Society Advent challenge (we love a good challenge, as you know!) and read the verse that says 'it is better to give than to receive', my boys just got it. They simply love giving. They've spent hours making and buying presents for other people. They love watching them open presents they have carefully chosen.
I wish I could explain in three easy steps how this has happened, but I can't. It just has. And I'm making the most of it.