Compassion in hostile environments.

Grace and acceptance towards one another.

In recent weeks, there have been many conversations about what is most important in the world. For me, my Christian faith earths me in God’s love, Jesus’ teaching challenges how I live each day, and His Holy spirit encourages and remakes me. But there is also the wider question about what general qualities are most significant in human relationships, and how to care for our planet. How do we discover and then express this?

We are still in pandemic mode, with so many still getting the covid 19 virus, so many isolating, hospitalised or sadly dying. And the consequences of the backlogs in social care, education and health care especially leading to long waiting lists, lack of resources and shortages of staff. Our society seems fractured, and the pandemic has accentuated and accelerated injustice, isolation and multiple crises. We need many wise people to manage well, to direct resources, and to plan strategically.

However in much planning, there sometimes seems to be a lack of basic humanity and compassion. Souless bureaucrats have power but are not always listening to people on the ground, as to what is most needed. Fulfilling quotas and keeping to timetables, does not always reflect that we have done our best to listen to the needs of, and to support the individual in front of us.

I love this quotation from Henri Nouwen: ‘compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear and confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.’

Jesus showed compassion to the sick child, the woman who was ill, the man with leprosy. He spent time with those on the edges of society, the person who collected taxes, who was a rebel, who prostitued themselves for money. Jesus had a heart and a message for all. He offered them a way back to God, to cleansing, forgiveness and a new beginning.

In our society, we have been through so much in recent years, it seems that we are exhausted, at times numb, on automatic pilot. It is easy to think that the wellbeing of others is not our responsibility. However if we follow that model then we create a harsh world where self preservation and convenience are our only concerns.

May we look to God for answers, to the life and ministry of Jesus for our models. ‘when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ Matthew 9:36. May we too show compassion to others, by praying, listening, giving a safe space, and affirming and supporting each other.

Gracious God, sometimes so much has happened to us, that we become hard hearted, for we are hurting and sorrowful, and we find it hard just to survive. We protect ourselves by covering ourselves with a hard shell. Lord Jesus, look upon us with compassion, and soften our hearts with your abundant and undeserved grace, acceptance and love. Help us know the depth of your care for us, so we in turn can show similar compassion to others. Holy spirit, each morning, may you fill us with tender love and empathy for others, so we can see them through your eyes, and show compassion, Amen

We think of the lyrics of Graham Kendrick’s song ‘Beauty for brokeness’

‘ Friend of the weak, Give us compassion we pray, Melt our cold hearts, Let tears fall like rain, Come change our love from a spark to a flame’ Amen.

Seizures and grace

Person in distress.

My late husband Colin had epilepsy. It sounds like such a little word, but it had such major consequences. He was  unfortunate, in that his epilespy was intractable, and so he would have 4-6 tonic clinic seizures a month, always when he was asleep.

A seizure would start with a loud guttural shout, the change of colour of skin and shaking of limbs, and then his body becoming more limp, and  the gradual restoration of a more rhythmic natural breathing occurred. It could appear pretty scary. Colin was again unfortunate, in that he had long post-ictal periods, so his brain function would not be fully restored for days.

My heart goes out to all who live with this disability. I know that many people have epilepsy that is well controlled by medication, and they have a good quality of life. However for those whose epilepsy is more difficult to manage, my prayers are especially with you, your family and friends.

I guess this is where the grace comes in. It seems like grace, when people around you are understanding. Grace when people call an ambulance when some one has a seizure on the street. Grace when people choose not to walk by on the other side of the road.

We were fortunate too, to have good support from various organisations, including Epilepsy Connections. This organisation provided great practical support, as well as a brilliant befriender. From another similar organisation, we found another support worker, who understood the nuances of how seizures can affect you, and was a brilliant help to Colin, even in demanding and unusual situations. So much grace.

Sadly I know from much personal experience how difficult it can be to support some one living with epilepsy. However it it certainly never dull, and teaches you much about love!  I hope that as a society, we might be better informed about seizures, and more open to learning, and being supportive, and I am grateful for all who work in this difficult area of medicine and social care.

In the bible, Jesus often met people having seizures, and was able to heal them, as in Matthew 4: 24. My prayer is that there would be many opportunities for healing for people with this condition.

Gracious God, You want all people to be well, to be loved, to be at peace. Yet in our world we see such suffering and illness, including epilepsy, cancer and other diseases and conditions. Lord Jesus bring healing, through Your love and power, through medicine, and through wise individuals, willing to go the extra mile. Holy spirit, when people are ill and distressed, by your grace, may there always be some one there to care, to helpfully intervene and to bless,  for in that way Your kingdom comes, Amen.

Coming home at Christmas?

This is a photo of our wonderful dog Gabriel welcoming me home. Yes, he is in fact standing on the dining room table. Yes, I had only been to the bin. But there he is welcoming me back to the house, with excitement and enthusiasm!

We have an image, about what it is like to be welcomed back home. It is a bit like the movie images, of a harmonious family sitting round the dinner table, synchronising forkfuls of delicious food, with a place setting with your name on it. But it is seldom exactly like this.

This year, we are all so conscious that we can meet up with a few loved ones at Christmas, under the new regulations. But it is so hard. Many people are opting not to visit, as they think this is the best way to keep loved ones safe. Others are travelling or planning, but are worried as to who to invite or not, and how that might be received. There are strained relationships and worries as to what to do. It is so complex, as to what to do for the best.

When we celebrate Christmas, we remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. His birth brings Hope, Love, Salvation, Forgiveness, Joy. It is a beautiful time, whether we celebrate it alone or with others

And if we are celebrating alone, for whatever reason, we remember the story of the Prodigal Son. He was far from home, he turned away from his family and went and did his own thing. But when he decided to go home, his Father was watching for him, and celebrated with the best robe and a feast of celebration, for the one who was lost was found.

This reminds us, that actually we are never by ourselves, for God welcomes us into His presence with a tender love and care. And this Christmas, my prayer is that every person will know that message of grace and love, wherever they may be.

There is a beautiful song called ‘ You came running’ by Laura Story which reminds us that in Luke 15:20 it says: ‘ while he was still a long way off, his Father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ The Father sees his children, and he runs to welcome us. What extraordinary grace and undeserved love. When we are with God, we are always spiritually home.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, when we feel lost or alone, thankyou that You are looking out for us, and long to welcome us back to you. Lord Jesus, Saviour of the world, You came as the Word made flesh, to open up the door to eternal life, to all who place their trust in You. Holy spirit, prompt us to keep returning to You, to know that You never turn us away, and that we can be reconciled with Yourself. In the midst of disrupted plans, and empty places this Christmas, may we know how much we are loved by You, and find peace, Amen.

Continue reading “Coming home at Christmas?”