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Breaking

We can look on the world around us and see such darkness that we just don’t know what to feel or how to respond.

My heart is breaking.  It’s such a cliché but some how true.  Although, gripped may be more accurate.  We can look on the world around us and see such darkness that we just don’t know what to feel or how to respond.

How do we react to political posturing among our leaders? How do we respond to the tragedies that are daily in our news feed? What should we do about the continuous moral decline, this emotionally bankrupt generation and the compromising of our faith?  At the moment I feel manipulated by the media and their choice of stories and yet I’m hungering to know what is happening – and part of me is waiting for the next big crisis to be displayed in all its horror.  My heart is gripped in anticipation – daring the world to get worse.

And yet… and yet, in my mind’s eye I see wonder – in my spirit I live in hope.  I live with the knowledge that my Jesus has conquered death, conquered sin, conquered fear.  My God is compassionate and gracious – and so far greater than any political, religious or spiritual power that the Bible tells us He laughs at those who set themselves up against Him.  And the best news is He is not simply my God, created in my image according to my understanding and expectations – no!  He created me in His image, He has made me His child.  Every battle I think I face is His battle.  Everything belongs to Him.  He chooses to reveal His thoughts and plans and His very nature to us.

What an amazing God we serve.  I will fix my eyes on Him and keep praying.

Your Kingdom come, Lord and Your Will be done!  Lord, we need some Heaven here on earth!

Prayfully Seeking Wolves

In our global society it seems fairly clear that there is an imbalance…

Recently I came across the story of the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park .  Simply put there was a problem with elk over grazing so, as part of the solution, wolves were reintroduced to address the imbalance that had grown in their 70 years absence.  What captured my attention were the unexpected effects of this decision which appear to have been considerable.

With the elk overgrazing halted, willow saplings were able to grow and this enabled the return of beavers.  It is the beavers – in their natural harvesting of willow, building of dams and creation of marshland –  who have themselves altered and restored the landscape.  It’s a cascade effect which has been debated for many years, among environmentalists and ecologists, some agreeing that it is apex predators who have made the difference to an eco-system while others look for broader activity.

It got me thinking, though.  In our global society it seems fairly clear that there is an imbalance.  Food is thrown away in unbelievable quantities while people, just a few hours travel away, starve.  The wealthiest parts of a population can’t spend their money fast enough to put a dent in their fortunes, while those at the other end of the scale have nothing – literally nothing left.  The shouted opinions of uninformed celebrities hold sway while the reasonable murmurings of the wise are scorned.  And that’s only scratching the surface of inequality, injustice and destruction.

I feel society’s been waiting a long time for some kind of change.  Perhaps it’s time to prayerfully seek some wolves.  Or perhaps what we really need are beavers…

Seeking Dissatifaction

This is my challenge to myself: It’s time to stop being satisfied with mediocre.

I’ve been wrestling the last few weeks with a desire for more of God.  That may sound like a strange thing to wrestle with – surely it’s good to desire Him?  What I’m really wrestling with is the question: am I seeking His Face or His Arm?  (I spend far too much time questioning my motives.)

I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to know Him more because of how wonderful I already know Him to be.  And knowing what I know of Him I am not content with just what I’ve seen and heard of the work of His mighty arm.  I am seeking His Face and His Arm – to be honest I’m not sure there’s a difference.

So far I’ve only glimpsed a tiny fraction of who He really is and I’ve only seen a tiny fraction of His power at work in this world.  I am not satisfied.  I am not content.  I will not settle for less – I want more.  I want to know Him more and I want to see His power unleashed to change the world.  It’s only my Lord and Father who can save those wallowing in darkness.  And to Him the greatest global crisis of this age is not perplexing in the least.  Because He IS I will seek His face and because of this broken world I will seek His mighty arm.

This God we’re talking about is the Creator of the Universe….

Pause and calmly think of that (as it says in the Psalms)

This is my challenge to myself: It’s time to stop being satisfied with mediocre.

 

Don’t turn your face away…

…the God in whom I trust is the creator of the universe, the defender of the weak and the lifter of my head. It is He who stirs my heart to pray and care for people I have never met.

Yesterday as I was praying for East Africa – still praying for rain – I found myself thinking something along the lines of:  ‘This is too hard… it’s the rainy season now and if there is no rain in the next weeks, I suppose I’ll just give up.’

It breaks my heart to write those words, because how easy it is for me in my relatively comfortable life to think I can give up on praying for people on another continent who have a different culture and different life experience to me.

But I can’t turn my face away.  And I know my Father in Heaven is not turning His face away.  Sitting here writing this I feel so helpless to do anything, and yet the God in whom I trust is the creator of the universe, the defender of the weak and the lifter of my head.  It is He who stirs my heart to pray and care for people I have never met.  I know that He loves them and so I will pray: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in East Africa.”

My brothers and sisters are among those suffering through conflict and drought and starvation and I can’t turn my back on them.  I was reading recently about the work of Open Doors with the Christian community in Nigeria who are frequently being denied aid because of their faith.  It is encouraging to read about what is being done to help them and we need to continue to stand with them because the crisis is ongoing.  And not just those persecuted, but all Christians who live in the region.

Even as I pray for provision for God’s people I am reminded that God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous – and that rain will be a blessing to all people in sub-Saharan Africa.  And I am blessed by the knowledge that many Christians are working with aid agencies (both Christian and secular) in this region without partiality, bringing help to all regardless of race or religion.  What a gracious and compassionate God we have!

And yesterday, as I rejected the thought of laying down this burden of prayer I felt God meet me in my prayers, filling me with faith and expectancy.  For those who have felt that kind of connection, you will understand the joy that gives life to prayers that had grown cold.  I’m afraid I can’t describe or explain it any better than that – partly because I’m not a poet and partly because no one can or should explain something so personal.

The other day God showed me the following verses in Psalm 65:

“You care for the land and water it;
    you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
    to provide the people with grain,
    for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
    you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
    and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
    the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
    and the valleys are mantled with grain;
    they shout for joy and sing.”

Psalm 65v9-13 NIV

That’s my prayer for East Africa – Lord, So be it in Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia & Kenya. Amen!

 

Spring Rains

…no apologies: This is another post about the drought and famines in East Africa…

I worry that perhaps it is a bit boring for anyone following this blog that I have been writing about the same thing for the last few posts… and then I remember why I’m writing.  This is a space to think through why & how I pray.  I want to explore and meditate on the need I’m responding to.  I need to share God’s heart and receive insight.  And… I haven’t finished praying for this need yet!

So, no apologies: This is another post about the drought and famines in East Africa.

I heard another news report on the situation in the region and I was challenged to keep praying for rain… why?  Because it’s almost the rain season!  I hadn’t thought about it properly before, I’d just focused on the fact that it hadn’t rained for so many years, and not considered that there is an actual time when they should normally get rain.  Foolish of me.  The reason for that oversight is simply this: in my country it pretty much rains every week, except at the height of summer – and some years even then!  How different our worlds are.

And that’s a useful lesson for me to remember.  It is important to recognise that, although we are all the same in essence as people, other people’s experience may be very different from mine.  I need to put myself in their situation, not imagine them in mine.

Lord, I pray that this April and May the rains will fall in east Africa.  That they will soak the land, bringing life, enabling crops to grow and grass to be abundant for the herds.  May the streams and rivers flow, carrying hope.  Please give wisdom to the farmers and herdsmen as they take advantage of the new growth that the rains bring.  May they praise Your name when they see Your provision.

Lord, please MAKE IT RAIN!

Famine Relief

20 million is a difficult figure to visual, so I’m going to do a bit of comparison to help me. That’s just under 1/3 of the population of the UK.

According to the United Nations we are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945 in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and now Kenya.  The figures are sobering.

Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. – Stephen O’Brien, UN


20 million is a difficult figure to visual, so I’m going to do a bit of comparison to help me.  That’s just under 1/3 of the population of the UK.  It’s more than the population of London (approx 7 m) and Paris (approx 11 m) together.  It’s one in three of my neighbours, my family.

Lord, I don’t want to ignore this suffering! Please show me how to pray for these people.

It’s not just the lack of rain and poor agriculture causing this, it’s war and widespread violence that are the reason why people in these nations are starving.  Years of conflict have meant people have fled their homes to more remote areas, often far from help.  Crops have been destroyed or never planted.  Infrastructure has crumbled.  Aid workers are hindered by distance and danger.

Since I started to pray for rain in the region I have not been able to stop thinking about what is happening there.  I’ve been praying – but it’s not enough.  The reports in the last days have intensified and changed my prayers to cries for action (I was late for an appointment yesterday and got a more than irritated greeting, partly because I’d stopped for a few minutes to pray after parking my car).

I don’t want to be simply emotive, but I do believe that as we allow ourselves to feel and identify with people in need we connect with the heart of God.  It’s all too easy for me to switch off and forget that these are real people, to pray a prayer, maybe give a donation and then just get on with life.  Even as I write this I am struggling with my desire to just turn away, not engage.  Lord, help me to care, to love as You love, to stand in the gap and not turn my gaze away.

I’m challenged by the conclusion of the top UN humanitarian official, Stephen O’Brien:

“It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines, to avert these looming human catastrophes.  It is all preventable.”

That’s from a purely human perspective.  I need to know God’s heart in this in order to pray meaningfully, but this is where I’m starting:

Global leaders need to take notice of the problems.  About $600 million has been pledged but the UN estimates $1.5 billion is needed this year – Father, stir their hearts with compassion to bring to bear the resources needed.  Thank You for the many people working to avert this disaster.  strengthen them, encourage them, give them wisdom in the use of resources and protection as they work in dangerous conditions.

There needs to be security in those nations and an end to war – Father, give wisdom to those in charge of police and peacekeeping forces to know if and how those forces can be deployed to protect civilians and aid convoys.  Give insight and understanding to those negotiating peace where it’s possible.  Let there be justice and mercy.

Infrastructure has been damaged making distribution of aid very difficult.  Lord, raise up Joseph-like people who can plan a strategy of provision.

Long term there still needs to be rain and good agriculture and people to work the land – Lord, send the rain, the spring rains, life-giving rains.  Restore people to their own land, raise up farmers and help them to wisely and honourably steward the land to provide food for their nation.

Lord have mercy on these nations where violence and hatred have held sway, destroying the people and the very land.  Bring conviction to those who are using their power to abuse, especially those from other countries.  Forgive us for our blindness and indifference during the years of conflict and drought.  Cause Your Church to rise up and take godly action to bring relief to those so desperately in need.  Bless Your people in these nations and give them provision and grace – and the ability to be generous to their neighbours.  Break the power of darkness and bring your light.  Have mercy, Father.


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Still Praying for Rain (although I wouldn’t mind it stopping here, Lord)

I am not creating a formula for success or incanting a ritual to make something happen. I am talking to my Father in Heaven about something that concerns Him.

Sometimes (okay, fairly often) when I start to pray about the big issues that affect the world I find myself lost in a sea of needs and uncertainty.  I don’t know where to begin, I feel overwhelmed by the magnitude, I don’t know where to focus.  In my last post I described finding a focus on praying for rain for nations facing famine and for a time I have prayed that prayer with great expectancy and fervency.

The trouble is, as I pray, I find myself asking questions:

Will it really make a diffence to those starving now if it rains on lands that have poor agriculture, unsettled or dangerous political situations and damaged infrastructure? – Surely even if rain falls and the land is replenished it will take too long to grow a decent crop or rear healthy animals let alone distribute the food to those who so desperately need it?

Isn’t climate a global issue? – I’m not worried about how changing the weather in Somalia and South Sudan would affect the rest of the region or world (I’m pretty sure God is capable of sending rain on a nation without damaging the global weather systems!).  Rather I’m wondering if there are bigger issues to pray into such as the deforestation & poor land management I learned about in school geography or global changes affected by climate cycles and human activity.

Finally, I wonder if my prayers – and those of some of you reading this and those I believe are praying in those nations – are really enough to address such a massive issue.  In my experience and research there does seem to often be a relationship between the size of a problem and the quantity of quality faith-filled prayer before there is an answer.

Fortuately, the great news is that when I pray I am not trying to achieve anything on my own.  I am not creating a formula for success or incanting a ritual to make something happen.  I am talking to my Father in Heaven about something that concerns Him.  I am asking the Creator of the universe to intervene in His creation according to His loving purpose and His gracious will.  I am identifying myself with the needs of a group of people who have as much value in His eyes as I do – and I remember my Father has shown Himself faithful to provide for my needs.  Just as in my own needs I must look at God rather than the problem, so I fix my eyes on Jesus as I consider the needs of those facing famine.  I am asking Him for wisdom as I pray.  And I believe He has told me to pray for rain.

So for now, until I understand things a bit more and He reveals more to me, I will continue to start by praying for rain in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria.  Oh Lord, send the rain… bring stability and peace… provide for them as You always have for me.  Lord, let it rain!

I’m linking this post with Tell His Story this week. I really recommend you look at http://jenniferdukeslee.com for inspiring thoughts and stories.