We have today

Ten years ago if I could see myself here today I’d have been gobsmacked by my complacency.

At that time I was newly married, my wife was 6 months pregnant with our first child, we were renting a cute (but chilly) cottage with a fantastic view over the city. My wife was a student at Teacher’s College and I worked as a biochemistry technician, anxious about whether funding for the position would be renewed (it wasn’t).

A lot of people are recalling what they were doing on that terrible day. A day which started as any other for all except 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Little did we know the horror we were to see unfold on our TV and computer screens that morning. Most of us can remember exactly what we were doing when we first heard or saw the news.

I also remember that evening walking on a beach with my pregnant wife, discussing what had happened, feeling the uncertainty of what might lie ahead. Even in little Dunedin we spent the next few weeks cringing whenever an aeroplane flew low over the city. People were nervous, anxious for the future. it felt as though the world had changed.

In the months after the attack there was a surge in publication of books on ‘the end times’, I heard several sermons on the topic myself and saw plenty of interest in theories regarding whether those events signaled the beginning of the end. Obviously we are still here and still worrying about paying the bills so life has settled back into what we would generally consider normal.

Yet, while I am not convinced ‘the end is nigh’, it has been a troublesome decade. We have seen increased incidence of terrorist attacks, environmental disasters of human making, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes, floods, droughts, and influenza epidemics. Then there are the purely human events such as economic collapse. None of this tells us what God is doing in the world of itself but does all serve to remind us that life is precious and fragile.

As the horror of September 11, 2001 was a stark reminder of how suddenly life can be interrupted and changed forever, so too the events of the decade since then should also serve as a similar reminder. In the natural, life is not as secure as we might think. However, in Christ we are safely in His care – though that does not mean we may not suddenly be taken from this life. So let’s be thankful for today, for the moments we have here now.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
(John 10:27-29 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed this week:

613) Today, this moment.
614) Each time I get to kiss my wife and children.
615) A slightly tidier front yard.
616) Remembering where to find some unusual information when it was urgently needed.
617) A gift of tickets to take my daughters to the ballet.
618) A colleague swapping shifts with me so I can see my daughters in their school performance.
619) Birdsong heralding the dawn.
620) That I can call a sunny day ‘glorious’ and know God made it reflecting Himself.
621) A clear head despite tiredness.
622) Morning tea with the kids in their tree hut.
623) Lunch in the sun on our back porch.
624) Children giggling.
625) Being reminded that God counts me as His despite my sin and weakness.
Image of a new day: Eric Parker

We will remember them

The grandfather I loved was a peaceful man living a quiet life. It is hard to comprehend that as the young man in the photo above he fought terrible battles on the other side of the world to stop an evil that still horrifies us 66 years later.

This is my Grandfather as a young man. I knew him as ‘Grandad’, my Mum called him ‘Dad’ and his friends called him Ron. He had a lot of friends.

To my shame I don’t know very much about my Grandad as a soldier, he was very young when he enlisted in the army at the start of World War II, so young he had to lie about his age. I know he fought in North Africa, Egypt, El Alamein, and Italy.

He told me a little about the battle for Monte Cassino, how they got cut off from retreating until an American destroyer almost dropped a shell right on top of his patrol, taking out the German troops so the Kiwis ‘ran like hell’ to escape.

He described how they slept leaning against the wheels of trucks because they didn’t have a chance to make camp.

But what I remember most about Grandad is his smile, his enjoyment of life and his generosity. Packing eight grandchildren into his little red car to take us ice skating. He loved gardening, and us kids loved playing in his garden. He always seemed happy to see us, and always had a loyal dog following him around.

The grandfather I loved was a peaceful man living a quiet life. It is hard to comprehend that as the young man in the photo above he fought terrible battles on the other side of the world to stop an evil that still horrifies us 66 years later.

As our nation remembers all who served our country this ANZAC day, I think of my Granddad who survived it all and lived to fill us all with love and joy. He probably never thought he would survive, let alone become a grandfather, but I’m so very thankful he did.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(From “For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon.)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, (Philippians 1:3-4 ESV)

I am inadequate, God is sufficient

Today I felt my feebleness, my insignificance, my powerlessness to create change and most of all my prayerlessness.

Why? Why were such feelings of inadequacy storming my soul?

Because they are true, and I was being faced with reality as I read an article by Compass Direct News about Christians fearing civilian casualties in Burma as the military junta gears up for a large scale assault upon ethnic troops in Karen State where approximately 40% of the 3.5 million population are Christians. It is widely believed that the ruling military junta are trying to systematically purge the country of minority ethnic and religious groups, meaning that in a predominately Buddhist nation Christians are on the list of those to be eliminated. From the Compass Direct article:

The junta perceives all Christians in ethnic minority states as insurgents, according to the pro-democracy Free Burma Rangers (FBR) relief aid group. The Burmese Army attacked a Christian village in Karen state four months ago, according to the FBR, and on July 23 burned all houses and the state’s largest church in Tha Dah Der village.

The situation for Christians in Burma is dire, especially for Christians who also happen to be in one of the ethnic minority people groups. They are facing one of the largest standing armies in the world, an army which is being given orders to subjugate or eliminate Christian ‘insurgents’. For the proportionally very few Christians in the Shan ethnic group the situation is even more difficult as their neighbours often consider them to be bringers of ill-omens to the village because they do not worship the local gods.

After October’s month of prayer for the Shan people of Burma, I can no longer ignore the suffering of the people of Burma. They are not just a news story. These people are my brothers and sisters, the Christians there are part of my family, I cannot ignore them. But what can I do? I may live in one of the wealthiest nations, have a secure job, have total religious freedom, be a citizen under one of the least corrupt governments in the world, yet I have no power to help the people of Burma. My spare change will change nothing, my good intentions will not stop a single bullet.

However, I am also a citizen with direct access to the most loving, compassionate, merciful, gracious and powerful being. I may be but a little child in the kingdom of God, but Jesus is God’s own Son and He has given me full fellowship and told me to ask for whatever I want in His name and it will be given (John 16:23-24). Therefore, I can do something of utmost significance, I can ask.

I was reminded of this by something else I read in the blogosphere today:

Satan dreads nothing but prayer.  His one concern is to keep the saints from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. — Samuel Chadwick (quoted on Tim Challies’ blog).

So, just as Daniel set his face to pray (Daniel 9:3), and Hezekiah prayed (Isaiah 37:15-20) and God answered (Isaiah 37:21-22) and acted (Isaiah 37:36-38),  I also will pray to God in whose hands kings and dictators are His servants (Isaiah 44:28).

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24 ESV)

The enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian, and above all the minister, to neglect prayer. He knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. — Andrew Murray

Image source: Free Burma Rangers