Pet tragedy

Last Saturday we had a distressing accident with one of our baby rabbits. A plank of wood which held down the rain cover over one of our rabbit hutches fell down into the hutch and hit a little rabbit named ‘Oreo’ on the head. It was a severe impact, breaking her front teeth and causing concussion and some sort of injury to her nasal passages making it hard for her to breathe.

We took her to the vet and they gave her oxygen, pain relief, and kept her as comfortable as possible. Then it became a case of waiting to see if she improved or deteriorated. She remained in the vet clinic overnight and we were pleased she survived the night. Unfortunately the blow to her head must have caused major brain trauma and severe injury to her nose because she was still struggling to breathe, was partially paralysed on her right side and seemed to still be in a lot of pain.

Our vet considered her long term chances of survival to be low and the poor little rabbit was distressed so we made the hard but hopefully humane decision to euthanise her to avoid further suffering.

I find the decision to end the life of a pet to be difficult and haunting, the internal debate of whether it was the right choice remains with me for a long time. I’ve had to make that call for two dogs in the last five years and despite it being the rationally obvious decision in both cases I still feel terrible for making that choice for both of them.

I’m well aware that in nature survival is a constant struggle for all animals and their normal state of existence is probably what I would call suffering for a pet, but as  Christian I consider this a result of the Fall rather than the original plan for creation (see Isaiah 11:6-9).

Oreo
Oreo

Pain isn’t meaningless

portrait of crying dirty girl holding rose

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. (Psalm 147:3-4 ESV)

There is One who tenderly heals those who are suffering in the most hidden of places. When pain tears you apart within yet there is nothing external for anyone to see, nobody understands your despair, but God knows.

He knows and He heals. Jesus will bandage the wounds that are hurting now, He has no intention of letting you haemorrhage where you stand. From there God will follow through with healing – not just first-aid, full healing.

What I’ve just written could be passed off as the shallow words of a prosperity preacher – I’m not claiming God will make our lives pain free.

What Psalm 147 tells us is that God’s will is to heal the broken hearted, and He has the power and authority to do so. God placed every star in the universe (and stars are rather big!), they exist because God wills them to exist. So we can be assured of ultimately being healed – Jesus said himself this is why he came (Luke 4:18-19).

Knowing that God both desires our healing and is able to make it happen means the pain we currently experience cannot be meaningless. God knows about it, and has for some reason chosen not to fix it right now. We cannot know God’s reasons, but we can know that there is a reason. Small comfort when you are in pain, yet a lot better than meaninglessness.

God in a brothel

In this book Daniel Walker describes how sex abuse of children sucks their souls out leaving an empty body – like J.K. Rowling’s Dementors but even more terrifying because it is not make believe. Every man who has battled lust should read this book and fight that demon sin with renewed vigour as a result. Sex trafficking is a many-headed monster but we must fight it on all fronts.

There are some books that I don’t especially want to read but know I need to read them. God in a Brothel by Daniel Walker is such a book. My reason for reading it was that if I am to understand the situation for the Shan people of Burma then it is important to comprehend how sex trafficking occurs in South East Asia. This book is well written and the words are easy to read. However, what the words are saying is not at all easy to stomach.

Daniel Walker is a Kiwi police officer who worked undercover as an investigator of human trafficking in the global sex industry. It is a sickening trade in the bodies and souls of women and children.

I would recommend all men to read this book – it shows the degrading horror of what lust does when indulged without thought to its effect upon others. The darkness of sex trafficking is everywhere, because lust is everywhere and internet porn is feeding its voracious appetite. Daniel Walker describes its effect upon the victims:

I noticed that many of the older girls, twelve and thirteen years old, had lost all life in their eyes. They appeared to be in a trance or under some dark magician’s spell. They moved with a slow resignation; no amount of smiling, warmth or kindness on my part could draw them out. The systematic and prolonged sexual abuse of children and young people is perhaps the very worst crime against humanity because, as I saw day after day, it strips them of their heart and soul. It murders the person but leaves their bodies alive.

…These empty bodies existed in the netherworld of prostitution and in the vacuum of an indifferent world. I met them in every room of every brothel, and they all had the same look in their dark, empty eyes.
God in a Brothel, p89 (emphasis mine)

This man has an integrity, moral strength and toughness way beyond what I have. To face the temptations he did and the suffering he saw without falling down or falling apart is astonishing. He does discuss the issues of what support is ideal for people doing such work in order to maintain their personal wellbeing longterm and is candid about his own failing on one occasion.

He also admits to struggling on an emotional level with wanting to summarily execute some of the “predatory sex tourists, sadistic pedophiles cunning traffickers and greedy pimps” he encountered. He opens that chapter with the following:

It is easy to hate men. Men create the demand for sex trafficking, which the criminals involved in human trafficking are only too eager to supply. Without these men and their personal pursuit of pleasure, the simple fact is there would be no forced prostitution.  God in a Brothel, p79.

Remember this guys – lust is not an innocent desire. Left unchecked it is a selfish, destructive force. When the lust of multitudes of men rampages through a society it is a demonically ruthless force of evil. You cannot stop sex slavery, but you are responsible for killing your own lust.

Slavery can happen here too:

The Malaysian sex worker, who was in New Zealand on a visitor’s permit but has since returned home, told another prostitute there she had been paid $5600 to come to Auckland, and had been made to work 16-hour shifts with few breaks on most days.

Another Malaysian sex worker said she had been lured here with a $4500 cash offer, plus airfares, but was later told that it was a loan she had to repay.

Her passport was also taken from her soon after she arrived.
(NZ’s sex-slave cases ‘slip under radar’)

A case of forced labour in Auckland: Slave labour probe in central Auckland

Relevant Links

Nothing looks the same

Last Friday evening my wife and I went to a concert by New Zealand’s two best gospel singers, Derek Lind and Steve Apirana.

Steve & Derek regularly tour NZ in support of Tear Fund, playing for donations in local churches. Their concerts are humorous and spontaneous, these guys are relaxed and genuine. They also have depth, there is no flashy lights or stage makeup, what you get is real faith accompanied by experience and wisdom.

This particular concert has challenged me. It occurred at a time when God seems to really be on my case about reaching unreached people groups in hard places with the Gospel and love of Jesus. Then along comes the Christian singer who has been in my ears since 1989 and seriously reinforces that message!

In fact God niggling at me about missions work is nothing new either, over 20 years on that one too! (I’m a slow learner). There has also been a lot of background work needing done before I would be fit to inflict upon the world.

What I am finding is that my perspective is changing. I am seeing things differently, myself, my life, my place in the world, the realities facing others don’t look the same.  There is no undoing the knowledge I now have of how much suffering is happening in Burma. With that knowledge I am responsible (to paraphrase Brooke Fraser), I cannot just pretend it is not a problem.

Nothing Looks the Same

Fly the friendly skies,
nothing looks the same.
From this distance,
nothing looks the same.
Fly the friendly skies,
and hang your head in shame.
From this altitude,
nothing looks the same.

Was that a lightning bolt?
Nothing looks the same.
Was that a camera flash?
Nothing looks the same.
Is God taking photographs,
for evidence for blame?

From this distance,
nothing looks the same.

But under the spell of gravity,
there is dissonance and danger.
This voyeur gets to touch,
and taste and small and see,
This is not fiction,
it’s fact, and it’s stranger.

This is not a checkerboard,
these are paddy fields and fishponds.
This is not quaint,
it stinks and it’s ugly.

From this distance,
nothing looks the same.
From arm’s length,
nothing looks the same.
Even from 35 millimetres,
nothing looks the same.

Just remember this
at the end of a long hard day,
I get to fly away,
you get to stay

Nothing looks the same
Nothing looks the same
Nothing looks the same

Derek Lind – Nothing Looks the Same


External Links:

Love in pain

Recently I have been a bit stuck for what I should be writing about. There are some topics I’d like to address, but I’ve felt as though this is not the correct time for me to venture my as yet partially-formed thoughts on certain issues.

Then this morning while my son trashed our house and I enjoyed a cup of tea, God reminded me that the greatest thing I can do is to know Him, to meditate upon the perfections of Christ and to share the glory of this with you.

Perhaps the most obvious of Christ’s perfections is his love. I want to consider the love of Jesus even in His pain.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:1-5 ESV)

Jesus loved His disciples not only through many weary miles of ministry on dusty roads, He loved them through their betrayals and in His deepest times of agony. He loved them to the end.

At this time when He knew His betrayer had ‘gone over to the dark side’ and He knew that His disciples would all scatter and run from Him, Jesus continues to love. He does not retreat into being wrapped up in His own trials and misery, He does the opposite. Laying aside the clothing of a man, Jesus takes the place of a servant and voluntarily undertakes the most demeaning of tasks.

The act of washing feet introduces Christ’s final discourse to His disciples. Jesus has much to communicate to them, but the overall message is “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). The ultimate example of His love is yet to come, this command is given knowing that He indeed will not shrink back, that He will love them to the end.

Jesus is fully God. He is also fully man. This means that the pain of following through on what love required hurt Him every bit as much as it would hurt me. I have no grounds to dismiss what Jesus endured as being impossible for me because I am not God – He experienced the pain of it just as much as I would. In that pain He continued to love. Through pain Jesus made good His promises. In agony He forgave. While being tortured He refused to call upon angels to take the easy way out.

When I am in pain you see me at my worst. I will be irritable, short tempered, selfish, unkind to others, refuse to forsake comfort, impatient and withdrawn. What I will not be is loving.

This is sin.

It is dishonouring to Jesus.

Such behaviour reveals my lack of trust in God.

Paul proved that it is possible for a man to love through pain (2 Corinthians 4:7-18), the cost is high but the gain to everyone is beyond our usual ability to measure things:

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:11 ESV)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

Give thanks in ALL circumstances

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

I suppose I expected this eventually, it is logical that eucharisteo would bring me to this point. A convergence of truths which are being woven into my life.

Giving thanks, searching for joy, fighting for faith, conviction that God is sovereign, trusting His word, and struggling with the failings of life. Give thanks in all circumstances.

I began this journey of gratitude as a means to fight for joy, and an act of obedience because I know we are commanded to give thanks but am not very good at doing it. So I began counting God’s blessings as I noticed them. Generally I was noticing the things that I was glad God has placed in my life. Give thanks in all circumstances.

But God has bigger dreams for me than merely being happy. It is God’s will that I rejoice in Him, always (Philippians 4:4).

In His mercy God has gently led me this far. It seems that now there are some lessons I really need to learn. Hard lessons about accepting trials and suffering as a gift from my loving Father who is creating me in the His image. Just as the Son of God learned obedience in what he suffered, I am seeing that this is a path none of us can avoid if we follow Christ (Hebrews 5:8).

For a long time I have tried to avoid the path of obedience through suffering, it is time to repent (turn) and begin trudging the way I am being led. Not only plodding along, but rejoicing as I do. Giving thanks in all circumstances.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

501) Opportunity to do some outside work today.
502) Sunshine after working nights.
503) Flowers in midwinter.
504) Muscle-tiredness as a welcome change from weary-headedness.
505) Watching old movies of the kids when they were babies.
506) Tired girls after sleep-overs.
507) 2-year-old up in the night unwell – opportunity to show him a father’s love by giving him medicine and cuddles.
508) Depression – causing me to look closer at where my hopes are placed.
509) The neighbour’s dog barking loudly, it is happy (joy) to see them come home.
510) My irritability – a reminder that I am setting my happiness upon trivial comforts.
511) A crisp, clear, cold winter’s day.
512) Noticing the storms clouds before setting out to walk to work (I will take the bus now!)


Image of approaching storm in Shetland Islands: iStockphoto

The little I can do

As thousands of ants can move huge amounts of leaves despite each individual’s small size, surely the Body of Christ each loving their neighbour can do God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.

Leaf-cutter ant - Acromyrmex octospinosus

In my job at the Poisons Centre, I recently received a call from a person who was very distraught and sincerely seeking help, but the situation was outside both my area of expertise and also my role so all I could do was to give some cautionary advice and encourage her to contact one of several agencies that may be able to help her. It was the middle of the night so the options were limited, but she did seem a little calmer by the end of the call and thanked me for my help. “What help?” I thought to myself, feeling that I had been next to useless in giving her the sort of help she really needed. Though I suppose sometimes just having a calm voice offer a few more options is better than nothing.

There are so many times I have encountered situations in which I felt powerless to be really useful. Either I lacked the training, skill, tools or resources to be of much help.

But recently I was in the opposite situation – I was the one needing help. Having already sought professional help from experts, who did I then turn to? The person I sought out is someone I have known for a while now, and has one primary attribute that the professionals lacked: he is passionately God-focused.

At that particular time what I needed was to chat with a friend who would consistently keep pointing me to Jesus Christ. We yarned about all sorts of stuff, the overall message I went home with was; God is in control. The help I had already received from other experts was transformed as a friend faithfully gave of what he had.

The world around us has some massive needs – right now 10 million people in East Africa are facing drought and possible starvation. How do we fix that?

The Burma Army continues to enslave, rape and slaughter ethnic peoples in their own nation. Is there even the will to fix that?

How often I see the needs of the world around me, consider the puny contribution I could make towards those needs and end up thinking, “It wouldn’t make any difference anyway.” Even if I gave my entire income and the remaining years of my life to serve the needs of the world it would not make a noticeable difference. But is it my role to make a difference? It is God who is in control. Our job is to love, on a small scale maybe – but if multiplied…

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
(Galatians 5:13-14 ESV)

Can we truly love our neighbours, and in so doing be pointing people to Christ? In words and deeds acting in love?

As thousands of ants can move huge amounts of leaves despite each individual’s small size, surely the Body of Christ each loving their neighbour can do God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

486) An hour relaxing at the library.
487) A friend who will take time to listen when time is what he has least of.
488) Happy, noisy children waking me up.
489) Psalm 139:12
490) Praying for my kids
491) Good books to read.
492) Bacon!
493) This reminder from John Piper: Beware of presuming on the strength of youth. “Even young men shall stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30). [even if I’m not so young any more!].
494) Eagerly looking for dawn when working night shift (2 Samuel 23:4).
495) Reminder to look through my circumstances to see God.
496) That sometimes simply doing my duty is enough.
497) Pen and paper, helping me to think and unload.
498) Eyesight – so fragile, so beautiful.
499) Clock ticking.
500) God’s strength (Isaiah 40:30)


External links related to this topic:

Image of leafcutter ant: iStockPhoto

God has chosen the weak

NZ Children murdered by parents or caregivers in the last five years

The hardest thing about having strength is not using it.

Controlling strength is particularly important for fathers of small children, outbursts of strength around young children is devastating to them, whether the outburst is physical, verbal or emotional. My own experience is that preventing angry outbursts at my children takes a huge amount of self-control, humility, practise and help from others. I am not good at this.

I am not alone unfortunately, New Zealand’s heart-breaking child abuse record attests to this, and the statistics are but the tip of a destructive iceberg. The latest New Zealand figures are indicating that 2011 is likely to be another year of child abuse shame in our nation. People can and do look for many reasons and excuses why adults, men particularly, harm children. It is essential to investigate causes and prevention strategies, but that’s way outside my purpose here.

All I know is that my children are physically, emotionally and verbally much weaker than me and sometimes I turn this against the little people who I love the most.  God does not give His gifts to those who exert strength over others, he allows the meek to inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). He does not make greatness in His kingdom a function of strength or power, greatness in the Kingdom of God comes through humility (Matthew 18:3-4).

Controlling my frustrations, voice, irritation, anger, and physical strength is essential for the well-being of my children. It is also essential for my attainment in the Kingdom of Heaven. To attain to the Kingdom of God I must humble myself – especially before my children.

God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
(1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)

It does help me at least a bit to remember in my moments of frustration or irritation at my kids that once again I can thank God for using the weak to shame my strength into submission so that I may also become a child of our Father in heaven.

After writing this my wife, who is much better educated than I about these things, tells me that stress experienced by young children causes demyelination of cortex neurons, leading to learning difficulties and also causing the child to grow up tending towards emotional responses rather then rational responses when stressed.

Gifts I have noticed this week:

416) Cleaning the kitchen floor, because the washing machine flooded.
417) Home-made Turkish coffee… Mmmm!
418) Traffic noise after the tragic silence yesterday.
419) Dwindling wood pile keeping us warm.
420) Hearth stopping hot coals from burning our house down!
421) Growing accustomed to an un-routine lifestyle.
422) Hot shower on a cold morning.
423) Toast at midnight.
424) Comfy woollen jersey.
425) Small people who quail before an unrestrained ranting.
426) Paradise ducks on the pond.
427) Reminder that even the strong can fall.
428) Walking out of shade into sunshine.
429) Cicadas chirping.
430) Rope swing in an old tree.
431) Industry noises echoing around the hills reminding me there are echoes of Christ everywhere.
432) A small army of lancewoods.
433) Acknowledging a passing “I should have…” thought without beating myself up for it.
434) Blinding reflections of glory.
435) Cats lying on a roof to catch the last sunny warmth.
436) beauty of sailboats and steeples.
437) A church who accepts me in my strength and, more importantly, in my weaknesses.


The collage of beautiful children is from various news stories – each of these children was murdered in New Zealand within the last five years, and there are many others also.

If you are a sensitive soul only read the following article on a day you are feeling strong – it’s reality, but not easy to consider.

Voice your complaint – God can handle it

caucasian man praying with hands over his face

How do you thank God when life sucks? We are commanded to give thanks, always and for everything (Ephesians 5:20) – how is this possible if your lot in life is lousy?

I know enough people who are having a real tough time in life to be under no illusions that being a Christian exempts anyone from enduring hard times. The situations these people are experiencing are not their own fault or due to a lack of faith. Frankly it looks very much as though God has given some folks a real bum deal.

That seems to be how Job felt too – he believed God is good, he firmly held that it is much better to be righteous than wicked, yet there was no denying his suffering. Job was more honest than his friends, he didn’t try to protect God from the truth – really bad things do happen to good people and there is no logic to it.

I loathe my life;
I will give free utterance to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
(Job 10:1 ESV)

Job knew something wasn’t right and he grew weary of holding it in, he vented, he shocked his friends. His friends snapped back with accusations, defending their doctrine, standing up for God.

Yet someone was listening to all this. Have you ever considered that someone was listening to these conversations and faithfully reported or wrote what was said? This is what I can do for my friends also, listen and take their complaints to God.


Gifts I am noticing:

341) Honest words telling of a spouse who disdains your worship. I cannot change your situation, but I am praying for you.
342) Your endless sleep deprivation. I am praying and trying to help where I can.
343) Your heartbreak and fears for the future in the disarray caused by an unfaithful husband. I am angry too, I don’t know what to pray even, but keep asking God to comfort you.
344) Shortened work hours, rising living costs and healthcare bills causing anxiety. Praying for you both.
345) Unending headaches and stress. I cannot see why you must endure this but Jesus is walking with you and I’m asking Him to give you comfort in your endurance.
346) Depression casting shadows across your soul. Asking our Father to be your light, comfort and hope.
347) Past abuse that has generated hardships beyond my knowing. I see you as you are today and there is grace at work. Praying for continuing grace, comfort and peace.

Useful reading (some of what I read in thinking about how to write this post):

Image of man praying: iStockphoto