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Today
is reconciliation.
Today
we forge the bond
between you and me,
between your land and mine.
Today
we seal the covenant.
Today
is the start of peace.

Can I forget my people
and my father's house,
and leave them forever
for you - a stranger?
Can I forsake
all I have known
and dare this alliance
with a stranger - with you?

You are different
from other kings -
you reign with peace and equity,
truth, justice and humility.
You look upon me,
your former enemy,
enthralled -
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.


Can I forget my people
and my father's house,
for you?

Here is reconciliation,
here is peace.
Here is your hand, reaching out
to accept me as your queen.
Here is love
that brings an end to enmity.

So I will take your hand
and enter this alliance,
as joy and song envelop us
into the hopes
of all who long for peace.
And so today
we seal the covenant,
we forge the bond -
today
is reconciliation.
Bride of the King: Reconciliation
Psalm 45

Been wanting to write this ever since reading Psalm 45 some days ago... the Psalm is a wedding song about the wedding of a King with a girl from another country who is called upon to "forget your people and your father's house" (v.10). Some verses seem to point to Jesus (e.g. v.6-7).

Anyway, the Psalm got me thinking about royal "alliance marriages", i.e. where a king married a princess from a foreign country to secure peace and to seal a covenant between the two nations. This was still happening some 100 years ago, actually. On the one hand, I do think one can see it as a problematic practice: a girl being carted off to some foreign country (in a time when people hardly travelled and she probably wouldn't have seen her home and family ever again), to marry a stranger who probably already had a whole load of other "alliance wives" (Solomon had quite a few...). On the other hand, I think that the concept of "alliance marriage" can tell us something about God - since the church (and in the Old Testament Israel) is frequently described as the "bride of Christ" or of God.

Alliance marriages were (a) to seal a covenant between two nations, (b) to secure peace.
In 2. Cor 5:18-20, the message of Jesus is described as a message of reconciliation. God wants reconciliation with us. And the way I see it, it's not God who throughout history has kept a sulky distance - it's us. The Bible shows God approaching us again and again, seeking relationship with us. God does not deny us peace - we are the only ones fighting, by insisting on managing by ourselves and rejecting the love of God. But in Jesus God became one of us, and Jesus died to reconcile us to God. And He wants to accept us as His bride - a gesture of peace, and actually of raising us into honour.

So the "wedding" of God with His people can maybe be seen like an alliance marriage: God wants to seal His covenant with us, and He wants to secure peace. He wants reconciliation with us, wants us to stop fighting off His love. And maybe accepting this love of God and following Jesus means forgetting and forsaking other things - like the bride in the Psalm is called upon to forget her people and her family. It means starting a completely new life, being changed by Him.

The "bride" imagery comes up quite a few times in the Bible, especially in prophetic texts (e.g. Ezekiel 16, Hosea, Jeremiah 3) but also in Revelation. Song of Songs is also often read as an allegory about the love between Christ and the church (and btw, the italicised bit in the poem is SoS 4:7). I find it does good to meditate on such texts and reflect what it means to be the "bride of Christ", how to compare our relationship to Jesus with the relationship of husband and wife.
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Lately I've been reading the last book in a biography series about Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission ("Hudson Taylor and China's Open Century" by A.J. Broomhall) - and as always, it has made me think!

Reading about how in the 1880s and 1890s hundreds or even thousands of students and young people pledged to become missionaries if God willed it - and of the motto in those days "the evangelisation of the world in this generation" has made me think of our response today. There was a strong fervour for missions back then, not just short-term missions or supporting from afar, but actually going, in a time when going was a lot more dangerous than it is now. "The evangelisation of the world in this generation" was understood as meaning: every generation is responsible for the non-Christians of their generation. And back then people were even doing mathematical calculations about how many people it would take to reach the entire world in how many years ("reach the world" meaning give them the opportunity to hear the Gospel - the response is, after all, not in our hands).

The pledge people signed at Christian conferences was: "It is my earnest hope, if God permit, to engage in foreign missionary work."

I wish we had this fervour today as well - a fervour to really go. Going out as a missionary is, from my observation (I grew up on the "mission field"), a lot easier than it was in the 19th century. For one, travelling is far less of a fuss (7-12 hours on a plane, depending where you're flying to and from, is a lot more comfortable than two months on a boat), then communication with family and friends back home is far easier (e-mail, facebook, skype - compared to letters taking months to arrive [if they didn't get lost on the way] in the 1800s), many countries now have good-enough medical services that getting sick, giving birth, and other killers of the 19th century won't be as high a risk... not to mention the world is so globalised now you might even find your favourite pasta brand in the supermarket (depending where you go, of course).

What I mean to say here is: back then, people sacrificed a lot for God and for people they had never even met, by becoming missionaries. So where are the thousands pledging themselves today, where things have been made so much easier? We would sacrifice a lot less than they did - why then are we still so hesitant to?

Another thing, though: since I'm in the West right now I write this a bit froma Western perspective. But the reality is that there are way more Christians in the "global South", the former "receiving countries", and there are ever more Christians from Africa, Asia and Latin America becoming missionaries (PTL! I am a dummy! ) - while in the traditional "sending countries" in the "West" / "global North", church growth is stagnating or going backwards. Many Westerners I know are not Christians. Many people who are officially members of the church never go to church services, and if you ask people in the street what Easter is about, they say "bunnies" or "I don't know".

So I think throughout the world, we need fervour to go out wherever God sends us, because there is need throughout the world. There need to be more people going to countries where the majority have never heard the Gospel. But if we stay in our own country, it should also be as missionaries and servants of God to reach the people there, willing to make any sacrifice for Him and for them. "Staying" should not mean not being engaged in missions at all.

I believe we are all called to share the Gospel, each in our own ways and using the gifts God has given us. The "Great Commission" at the end of Mt 28 ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations") is not meant just for a few extra-active Christians, but for all of us. The question is not "whether" we have been called to share the Gospel - the answer to that is already in the Bible, in Mt 28! The question is "where": abroad or in the country where we already are. And as for "how": not all of us are super evangelists (I know I'm not!), but God has gifted each of us differently. One simple way to share the Gospel is to visibly live out the love of Jesus. Because the first step to sharing the Gospel always is living it, applying it to our own lives.

We need fervour: so let's pray for it, because ultimately none of this can come about except through the Spirit of God.
  • Mood: Zeal
  • Reading: "Hudson Taylor and China's Open Century" book 7
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
I.
I promise you I will be true, he said, kneeling across from her on the grassy Hill of Ceremony. I promise you, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be yours, and you will be mine. I promise you, no matter what lies in store, I will be true to you, my wife. And he bent to the ground and kissed the red earth, and then Carnelian looked up into her eyes with that smile she loved so well.

All eyes now turned to her, and Ruby felt the blush on her cheeks as she trembled with joy and hope and delight, and she opened her mouth to speak the vow as well –

With the clatter of hooves and the blare of a trumpet, four riders tore into the midst of the gathering, crying, Hear the command of your King!

The priest looked disconcerted; the people started muttering; Ruby did not know if she should rise or stay kneeling – the ceremony was not over yet. A shadow had fallen over their wedding day.

Hear the command of your King! one of the riders called out. We are at war! Every able-bodied man is to gather at dawn. Every able-bodied man is to leave wife and home, to defend our country! Long live the King!

Then they thundered away, onward to bring doom to another village, and the next, and the next. A shadow had fallen, and it would not go away.

Ruby found herself still kneeling on the ground, still trembling, but now no more with joy and expectation – only with fear. She could not look into Carnelian's eyes – for before it had begun, she knew it was over, and she would lose him.

The priest, confused, said the final blessing and let them go – and Ruby realised later that she had never said her vow.

Do not be afraid, Carnelian said, as she lay that night in his arms. But she knew that he was afraid; she could see it in his eyes and taste it in his kiss. I will return – soon, he said. But she knew that he was afraid; she could feel it in his touch and smell it on his breath. It will be all right, he said. But she knew that he was afraid; she could hear it in his heartbeat as he drew her close to him.

Then he spoke those words again: I promise you I will be true. I promise you, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be yours, and you will be mine. I promise you, no matter what lies in store, I will be true to you, my wife.

And Ruby opened her mouth as the tears ran from her eyes, wanting to speak those words as well – but he had fallen asleep.


II.
Days passed with no news. Weeks passed. Every morning when she awoke, Ruby's first thought was Carnelian. Was he alive or was he dead? Would he come home today? Would he never return? And dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought of spending day after day this way, waiting for him into all eternity, while he lay far away, dead in the ground on a foreign battlefield.

The war came closer. Sometimes she imagined she could see smoke rise from the other side of the valley, although the enemy was far away. Sometimes she imagined Carnelian in the midst of smoke and flame, the only thing standing between herself and death. Sometimes she dreamt she was lying in his arms, and he said those words: I will be true. Sometimes she doubted his faithfulness – and hated herself for it.

Then autumn came, and with it an army: allies from the West, tall, on sleek horses, in glittering armour, with golden hair and sky-blue eyes as she had never seen before. They set up camp behind the hill; she could see their tents from her window. Only for a week, the villagers said, only a week and they would be gone, to the far-off place where Carnelian was.

She was out on the fields when they came for her, trying to cut the grain on her own. They looked at her until she asked them, What do you want?

Our king has need of you, they said, He has been watching you all day. Come with us, they said, and, confused, Ruby followed, leaving her scythe in the field.

What could a golden king of the West, with eyes like the sky and an army so great, need a simple peasant woman for?

They led her to his tent, of blue cloth with golden borders, the largest and grandest in the camp. The king was tall, with eyes sky-blue, and the golden locks of the West. A golden beard flowed down his chest. They left her there, alone with the king, and she realised too late what it meant.

He looked upon her with lustful eyes – and she remembered the smile in Carnelian's gaze. He tore the clothes from her body – and she remembered Carnelian's gentle touch. He pushed her onto the bed – and she remembered how Carnelian had held her that night, when joy had been swallowed by fear. He forced himself onto her – and she remembered how Carnelian had wept, how he had said, I promise you I will be true.

When it was over, the king sent her away, and she was left to limp home in the dark on her own. At midnight, in the pouring rain, she reached the Hill of Ceremony, where in another life, a stranger named Ruby had married a wonderful man who was now far away. She fell to her knees and wept, and threw red earth upon her head, and wept and cried out, I promise you I will be true. I promise you, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be yours, and you will be mine. I promise you, no matter what lies in store, I will be true to you, my husband. But it was too late.

The king and his soldiers left soon after; Ruby was glad to see them go. But she was with child. And when her time came, it was a boy, with the golden locks of the West. And she named him Carnelian – for, she said, in my heart I will always be true.


III.
Months passed with no news. Soon it was a year. Some neighbours received news of a loved one dead – but no news came to Ruby. Every morning when she awoke, Ruby's first thought was Carnelian. Was he alive or was he dead? But then the child would cry for milk, and her thoughts went to the child – the child with the golden locks of the West – the child with his name. And dread filled thte pit of her stomach at the thought that Carnelian might never return – and dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that one day he might come, and see this child with the golden locks of the West, and hate her.

The war came closer. They said all the world was engulfed by it now. They said the Western army had fled. They said the North had come to their aid. Then one day they said a great battle had been fought, though no one could say: had they won? had they lost? And Ruby was afraid – for her home, for her life, for her child, for her husband – was he alive or was he dead? A year had passed, and winter fell.

In the midst of winter he came to her: wounded, half-starved, almost dead upon her doorstep he lay. She could not leave him there – a foreign soldier, probably a deserter, with the dark hair of the North, tousled and tangled, his dark beard clotted with blood and dirt. She imagined him a man like Carnelian: far from his home and his wife. If this were Carnelian, fleeing from war, trying to go home, she would want him cared for – and so she cared for this man, washed his wounds, fed him slowly back to health, sharing the little that she had, until he regained his strength.

And then one night she woke to see him standing by her bed, silent as a shadow, staring at her. Do you need something? she said, but he stood there without a word, and she knew exactly what he wanted.

That moment her child Carnelian started to cry in the next room, and she said, The child is crying. But he stood there without a word, silent as a shadow. Do not force me, she pleaded, as the child's cries grew louder and the man drew her covers aside.

And she thought of Carnelian and the one day they shared, of his smile and his touch and his tears on her skin. And she thought of the king with the golden hair, of pain and her shame and the red earth of the Holy Hill. And she heard the child cry as if sharing her pain, as the man took her by force. And she heard Carnelian weep and say: I promise you I will be true.

She could not look him in the eyes the next day, yet she served him as she had before, preparing food, tending his wounds, and no word passed between them, just as before. But his every movement filled her with dread. That night she could not sleep, for fear he would come again. And come again he did, and again the child cried, and soon she was not sure which Carnelian was crying in the next room: her son, or her husband? or were the cries her own? She dreaded her days, she dreaded her nights, until it became so normal she hated herself.

And then one morning he was gone, without a word – silent as a shadow he left. But Ruby was with child again, and when her time came, it was a girl, with the dark hair of the North. And she named her Rose – for, she said, here is beauty bought with pain.


IV.
Another year passed, and still no news. Every morning when she awoke Ruby's first thought was worry. Would the food last? Would her children stay well? Would the war reach the village and destroy them all? Ever nearer it came, and people were fleeing, telling of cruel hosts from the South who took joy in killing and raping and pillaging and burning and would keep no one alive.

Some days, she thought of Carnelian. Was he alive or was he dead? And dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought he might be dead – and dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that one day, she might forget him – and dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that one day he might come, and see the child with the golden locks of the West, and the child with the dark hair of the North, and hate her.

Then one cold day they came, lighting the fields and burning the crops, striking down old men in the streets, barging into houses and taking all they found – food, clothing, treasures stored away. Ruby locked the door although she knew it was no use. She told Carnelian to be quiet, and hid him and Rose in a cupboard, praying the enemy would not look there. Then she paced the room, waiting and praying, as she heard them coming closer, breaking windows, laughing and cajoling, singing as though hurting others was a game.

They were upon her like a storm: tall, broad men, already drunk, with the long eye-lashes of the South. They broke down the door and emptied the pantry, broke some furniture for no reason at all. Then one pinned her to the wall and she knew what would happen, and she silently prayed, Just let the children be safe.

And she remembered Carnelian and how gently he held her, and she remembred the king roughly shoving her onto his bed, and she remembered night after night of fear – and Carnelian's words, I promise you I will be true. And in her mind she repeated them, again and again, until all four soldiers had their turn, until they left her huddled on the floor, sobbing but grateful that her children had been spared.

With horror she found herself with child again, and she wanted to die, but she knew she must live, if not for her husband who might never return, then for her children who needed her there. I promise you I will be true – these words were for her children now. She must be true to them.

And when her time came, it was a girl, with the long eye-lashes of the South. And she named her Sorrow – for, she said, I have nothing left to hope for, and all my joy is dead – he will not return.


V.
Three years had passed since Carnelian had left – soon it would be four. Ruby no longer expected news. Every morning when she awoke, she was swamped by a mighty feeling of dejectedness. But every morning she forced herself to get up, to live. She had three children to care for, three hungry mouths to feed – and the harvest had failed and food was scarce, and they cried and she had nothing to give. And dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that she might lose one of them.

Money was worth nothing now. She bartered away all the silver spoons they had given her at her wedding – a twinge of pain stabbed her heart as she let the last one go for a sack of grain, the last memory of that day so long ago, a day in someone else's life. And dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that Carnelian might be dead – and dread filled the pit of her stomach at the thought that one day he might come, and see the child with the golden locks of the West, and the child with the dark hair of the North, and the child with the long eye-lashes of the South, and hate her.

Then one day there was nothing left to barter, and all she could do was beg. Merchants from the East were pouring into the land – a sign that the war had been lost. They were the only ones with goods to sell, the only ones with more than enough to eat. So Ruby went to a merchant from the East, afraid but knowing she could do nothing else.

Please, sir, she said, if there is anything you cannot sell – fruit that is ruined, or bread old and dry – please give it to me, for my children's sake.

He looked at her and laughed, and said, I have none of that. But if you paid me just a little bit – I could give you to feed them for more than a week.

I have nothing of value, sir, she said.

You have what I want, he said.

And she knew what he meant and she fled to the street, and she looked to the heavens and wept. Then she thought of her children, and she turned back and said, All right.

And she hated herself, and she hated him, and she hated Carnelian who had left her to this, and she hated the king with the locks of gold, and she hated the deserter from the North, and she hated the pillagers who had come like a storm, and she hated the world full of evil and grief –

And yet she remembered Carnelian's love, and the words no man had ever meant: I promise you I will be true. Where was Carnelian now? Had he not broken his vow, those years ago, when he had left her for country and king? What did it matter what she did, what did it matter now?

The merchant gave her enough for two weeks, and she took it without a backwards glance. And when it was gone she went again, cursing herself, but knowing no other way.

Then spring returned, and her garden bore fruit, and she did not have to go to him again – and once again she was with child.


VI.
He came with the summer. She looked out the window and knew it was him, slowly walking up the path. And dread filled the pit of her stomach, for now he would see the child with the golden locks of the West, and the child with the dark hair of the North, and the child with the long eye-lashes of the South, and the child of the East not yet born.

He came up the path, and she stood by the door, and his smile lit his face as he saw her – just as it had done, so long ago intheir previous life, though it seemed they both had aged ten years in four. Then he stopped as he saw them file out the door: Carnelian with the golden locks of the West, Rose with the dark hair of the North, Sorrow with the long eye-lashes of the South, and he saw Ruby was with child. He stopped, and her world stood still.

He stopped and stared, and her heart raced within her, and fear gripped her insides till she thought she would scream. For what felt like hours he stood and he stared.

Then with something like a sigh Carnelian approached, and his smile returned as he embraced one by one each child as though it were his. And he took her in his arms and she burst into tears, for she knew he still loved  her the same.

All day she waited, for a question, a word, for him to acknowledge that something was wrong, that something had been broken since the day that he left. But all day he spoke lightly, of the weather, of her garden, of the harvest, and he played with her children, helped her wash the dishes, as though nothing had changed – but everything had changed. So she waited for the night, when they would be alone.

That night they faced each other in silence, neither knowing how to voice the horrors of what they had gone through, neither daring to wake the ghosts of those four years that filled the space between them.

Then Carnelian spoke, his voice tinged with pain: Every day I fought to stay alive for you. Every day I fought to stay true to you. Four years I have loved no other. Yet now I return, and...

Anger flared and Ruby said, Are you accusing me? Every day I fought to stay alive for you. Every day I fought to stay true to you. Every day I fought to believe you would return. Four years I have loved no other. Yet while you were away, one after the other took me by force, against my will. Know this: my heart has been ever faithful to you, though war has destroyed my vow.

Compassion filled his eyes then, and he took her hand, and they sat there in silence until he said, Let us go, then, to the Ceremony Hill, let us speak our vows like on our wedding day, and let us begin again.

So they went hand-in-hand to the Holy Hill, and at midnight knelt there, face-to-face. And she cried as Carnelian spoke again the vow from long ago: I promise you I will be true. I promise you, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be yours, and you will be mine. I promise you, no matter what lies in store, I will be true to you, my wife.

But when her turn came, she could not speak – she opened her mouth, but could only weep. Too much had happened, too much had gone wrong. It is all right, Carnelian said. Take your time. We can wait. Hour after hour they spent kneeling there, as she fought all the sadness and fear in her chest, as she remembered their wedding in a different age, the golden borders on the tent of the king, the tousled beard of the soldier from the North, the smell of burning fields as the pillagers came, the hunger that drove her to the merchant's bed.

And as the dawn broke over the hill, she looked into his eyes, and saw love there. And fighting all doubt and fear she said, as the tears ran down her face: I promise you I will be true. I promise you, as long as there is breath in my body, I will be yours, and you will be mine. I promise you, no matter what lies in store, I will be true to you, my husband. And he took her in his arms, and together they wept, for pain and for joy, for the stain of four years that could not be undone – but they could begin again.

And when her child was born, they named her Grace – for, she said, true love remains, and heals all shame and brokenness.
Grace
Women and girls are usually those hit hardest by war, despite it being the men who officially go to fight. Here's an article about "Sexual violence as a weapon of war" (it's from 1996, but I think gives a good picture) and another here about War's Overlooked Victims
Please pray for those affected by such situations. This kind of thing still happens today.

I got the idea for this story after reading a short piece I wrote at 16 about these characters. Even back then the idea was to get them parted by war (but I doubt back then I thought it would end up this terrible).

Tell me what you think about the style. I know it might be a bit weird; I was experimenting a bit, in particular trying to emulate Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern poetic styles a bit, and to write the story as if it were a poem (the numberings denoting not so much "chapters" as "stanzas" in a way). Tell me if it worked or if it tripped you up while reading! I was following a rhythm in my head (kind of) so that would account for weird word orders and things like that. ^^; I'd be grateful for feedback~
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I find it crazy, a bit upsetting / annoying, and yet "typical human nature" that concern about Ebola has only started properly spreading now that there's Ebola cases in the US and Spain. I remember Ebola being an issue in West Africa this spring already - why are we (and I mean outside the media) only becoming concerned when it comes "closer to us"? I admit it's freaky to consider the virus might spread to somewhere nearby, and that that's in my head a bit - but as long as we're still relatively safe in Europe / America / wherever, I believe we should think first of all of those for whom the situation has been much worse for months.


I believe our first priority right now should be to pray for the many people affected in West Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia):
Bullet; Blue One thing that makes the situation difficult is cultural practices, things like burial customs which are not easily changed, but which spread the virus more easily. Pray for wisdom for medical teams and others as they try to convince locals to change these practices.

Bullet; Blue Another difficulty is not having enough equipment or not enough helpers. Pray for provision of funds, medical equipment, and people who are willing to risk their lives in order to help others. Pray for God to call and for people to respond.

Bullet; Blue I read recently that Ebola orphans and Ebola survivors are likely to be shunned by their society. Pray for people to overcome their fears and accept these people, pray for love to be greater than fear, especially in Christian churches. Pray that Christians will put others before themselves, and be a witness to the love of Christ by loving those shunned because of the disease.

Bullet; Blue One terrible thing about Ebola is that sick people are completely isolated, without any human contact except through multiple layers of protection. Dying in complete isolation is a dreadful thing. Pray for the sick and dying, that they can be comforted, that they can experience the nearness of Jesus in their suffering. But pray also for healing - and for comfort for those who survived the disease but have lost their family to it.

Bullet; Blue There is no cure for Ebola, though there are some experimental drugs. Pray for those seeking a cure, that they can have wisdom and the right ideas, that God may lead them to find a cure or vaccine as soon as possible. Pray also that the cure will be kept affordable so that it can reach those who need it.

Bullet; Blue There are people - doctors and nurses and others - treating patients, putting themselves at risk. Pray for wisdom and protection, and that they can be strengthened and comforted from all fear. Pray for a continued willingness to serve despite the risk.


Bullet; Green The virus has started to affect other countries. Pray that it will stop spreading, that it can be contained somehow. Pray for wisdom for governments, hospitals etc. Pray for protection for those in Spain and other countries who have come in contact with the virus.


What about us?
Bullet; Orange Why do we freak out about an incurable, 90% fatal disease? I'm reading a 19th century missionary biography right now, and that has brought to my attention that just over 100 years ago, in many parts of the world disease was a real killer. I believe we have started to take our health and security for granted. Smallpox has been eradicated - cholera isn't much of a topic in the West anymore. We have good hospitals, good medicines, and are used to being able to get sickness under control pretty quickly. So maybe we need to ask forgiveness for taking for granted our power over disease. And "power over disease" sounds kind of bad (as in: theologically off) and I think that's precisely what it is. It's easy to forget that we are fragile, mortal, and will never have everything under control - that we need God. I believe God works through medicine and medical discoveries have been led about by God - but I believe the danger is there that we glorify the gift instead of the Giver, or forget we need God just as much as before we had all these medical things.

Bullet; Orange Outside of West Africa, the virus has hardly spread very much yet (I know of only 2 cases and 1 suspected, and various quarantines). So maybe instead of freaking out, we need to pray and ask how we can help. In the 19th century, people would go to African and Asian countries even though they knew they'd die on the way there or within the first few months due to disease. Still they went. I'm wondering: would I ever do something like that and go straight into such a dangerous situation?? But of course there are other ways to help too, like donating (to organisations like Médecins sans Frontieres who work in West Africa to fight the Ebola outbreak) and of course prayer. In situations like this where we feel helpless, we can know that God is in control and He can change things.

So, please pray.


Follow this link to watch a clip about "Ebola battle through nurse's eyes" --> edition.cnn.com/video/data/2.0…
God
is a baker-woman
elbow-deep in dough,
kneading, kneading,
making bread
preparing for a feast.
Taking flour,
adding yeast,
until the dough is leavened through,
working, working
patiently
till all is ready for her feast.

God,
you became bread
for us to feast upon,
for us to be fed,
strengthened, restored,
filled by you.
You became bread
for us to devour,
consumed for our sakes,
fulfilling our needs,
our hunger for you.

God
we are your bread
to be shared with this world.
You knead us, prepare us,
to feed hungry mouths
in need of you.
You spread your yeast
into each corner
that we may rise
and glorify you
at your feast
where all will be fed.

So let us feed on you
in thanksgiving
as you knead us
into your image.
Give us grace
to feed the world
as you fed us,
with these gifts
you gave to us -
Bread of Life.
Parable of the Yeast: God is a Baker Woman
And again he said, "To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened." (Luke 13:20-21)

One could say this is the first time I have ever used feminine pronouns on God - I'm not usually that kind of feminist, but since it suits the parable I hope no one's going to complain, since the image of the baker-woman was made up by Jesus, not me... :P

The topic of "bread" kind of stalked me all day yesterday, so I ended up writing this, bringing together different thoughts that had been impressed on me during the day...
  1. In the morning, I read this month's "Word of Life" from the Focolare movement. The verse of the month happens to be all about bread! "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35) You can read Chiara Lubich's interpretation here, it really inspired me and flowed into this poem. God is bread - Jesus became bread for us, in multiple senses. He fulfills our deepest needs - and we remember Him through bread in Communion / Eucharist.

  2. On the way to church in the evening, the words "God is a baker woman" sort of whacked into my brain and I started meditating on Lk 13:20-21 because I remembered that parable. It's one of a set of parables about what the "Kingdom of God" is like. The "feast" image slid into the poem because that is another image from another parable - sort of what the bread is being prepared for (the feast at the end of time).

  3. The sermon in my church also ended up involving bread and communion imagery! One thing that stayed with me was sharing: that we are not meant to hoard what God gives us, but share it. And I really loved this image: when we break the bread for communion, one half represents what we receive - the other half what we share. We are meant to share. In a sense, we can become bread to share with others what Jesus shared with us. And that can mean suffering too: being "consumed" like Jesus was.

  4. The "parable of the yeast" is basically about the influence of Jesus spreading through the world. In that sense, it's very much about sharing. What is the influence of Jesus, though? I believe it's becoming like Him, following Him, living like He did. But that means giving ourselves like He did, denying ourselves, being willing to be "consumed" by hungry people. Helping people in all their needs, be it literal hunger, or a hunger for love and acceptance, or another need. Bringing people the "Bread of Life", which is Jesus - but in a sense becoming bread too, by becoming like Him.


"Loving means 'making ourselves one' with everyone, making ourselves one in all the others want, in the least and most insignificant things and in those that perhaps might be of little interest to us but are important to them. [...] This is love, to make ourselves one in a way that makes others feel nourished by our love, comforted, uplifted, understood." (Chiara Lubich)
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Lately I've been reading the last book in a biography series about Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission ("Hudson Taylor and China's Open Century" by A.J. Broomhall) - and as always, it has made me think!

Reading about how in the 1880s and 1890s hundreds or even thousands of students and young people pledged to become missionaries if God willed it - and of the motto in those days "the evangelisation of the world in this generation" has made me think of our response today. There was a strong fervour for missions back then, not just short-term missions or supporting from afar, but actually going, in a time when going was a lot more dangerous than it is now. "The evangelisation of the world in this generation" was understood as meaning: every generation is responsible for the non-Christians of their generation. And back then people were even doing mathematical calculations about how many people it would take to reach the entire world in how many years ("reach the world" meaning give them the opportunity to hear the Gospel - the response is, after all, not in our hands).

The pledge people signed at Christian conferences was: "It is my earnest hope, if God permit, to engage in foreign missionary work."

I wish we had this fervour today as well - a fervour to really go. Going out as a missionary is, from my observation (I grew up on the "mission field"), a lot easier than it was in the 19th century. For one, travelling is far less of a fuss (7-12 hours on a plane, depending where you're flying to and from, is a lot more comfortable than two months on a boat), then communication with family and friends back home is far easier (e-mail, facebook, skype - compared to letters taking months to arrive [if they didn't get lost on the way] in the 1800s), many countries now have good-enough medical services that getting sick, giving birth, and other killers of the 19th century won't be as high a risk... not to mention the world is so globalised now you might even find your favourite pasta brand in the supermarket (depending where you go, of course).

What I mean to say here is: back then, people sacrificed a lot for God and for people they had never even met, by becoming missionaries. So where are the thousands pledging themselves today, where things have been made so much easier? We would sacrifice a lot less than they did - why then are we still so hesitant to?

Another thing, though: since I'm in the West right now I write this a bit froma Western perspective. But the reality is that there are way more Christians in the "global South", the former "receiving countries", and there are ever more Christians from Africa, Asia and Latin America becoming missionaries (PTL! I am a dummy! ) - while in the traditional "sending countries" in the "West" / "global North", church growth is stagnating or going backwards. Many Westerners I know are not Christians. Many people who are officially members of the church never go to church services, and if you ask people in the street what Easter is about, they say "bunnies" or "I don't know".

So I think throughout the world, we need fervour to go out wherever God sends us, because there is need throughout the world. There need to be more people going to countries where the majority have never heard the Gospel. But if we stay in our own country, it should also be as missionaries and servants of God to reach the people there, willing to make any sacrifice for Him and for them. "Staying" should not mean not being engaged in missions at all.

I believe we are all called to share the Gospel, each in our own ways and using the gifts God has given us. The "Great Commission" at the end of Mt 28 ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations") is not meant just for a few extra-active Christians, but for all of us. The question is not "whether" we have been called to share the Gospel - the answer to that is already in the Bible, in Mt 28! The question is "where": abroad or in the country where we already are. And as for "how": not all of us are super evangelists (I know I'm not!), but God has gifted each of us differently. One simple way to share the Gospel is to visibly live out the love of Jesus. Because the first step to sharing the Gospel always is living it, applying it to our own lives.

We need fervour: so let's pray for it, because ultimately none of this can come about except through the Spirit of God.
  • Mood: Zeal
  • Reading: "Hudson Taylor and China's Open Century" book 7

deviantID

deng-li-xin32
鄧禮欣
I'm a missionary kid (i.e. my parents are missionaries) and cross-cultural kid (i.e. my parents come from different cultures) and grew up in Asia. I am from 3 continents. :)

I'm currently studying theology in my "foreign home country", being trained as a pastor, but I hope to return to Asia as a missionary.

My big project is writing a poem for (almost) every woman in the Bible. deng-li-xin32.deviantart.com/g…


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Ten Seconds Prayer for Taiwan: www.taiwanteam.org/index.html
Globalprayer365: globalprayer365.com/

:icongreat-comission: :iconwomen-of-god:

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But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

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Stamp - I love Green Tea by r0se-designsI left the 99 to find the 1 by impersonalinfoI support this verse +12 by RebiValeskaLOVE. NOT force. by OnWingsOfBlueI love Taiwan by tikalYesu:Jesus by MenchieeeIt's an insult by Blue-UnciaSwitzerland Stamp by l8God rules and Jesus is Lord? by ChristianKitsuneFragile by 2Timothy3-16Not What I Used to Be Stamp by Haru-MegumiMultilingual stamp by Kylia1992Stamp: Bubble Tea Love by TheSaltyMonsterStamp - Taiwan Flag by nicole92614Mooncake Stamp by mylastelI :heart: Sushi by Alys-StampsI Use Chopsticks by angryannoyanceI Love You Stamp by MissBezzHP Stamp by Sergeant-McFluffersLord of the Rings stamp 3 by Chrysalislovercupcake by DreeamyEyesFlag: Singapore by TheStampKingLOTR - Wander by Jenna-RoseStamp Eowyn by DulbellaDance with Jesus by Rainbow-BeanicornEvolution and Creation by impersonalinfoStamp: Flute by samen-op-de-motor...Pray For Japan... by azianwolfdollStamp: Fruits Basket by MoliskiTea Lovers Stamp by Kelsi-samaCatholic-Chrisitan Stamp by chessgirlChina by TivariThe South African Flag Stamp by MoRbiD-ViXeNSnape stamp by iruhdamWriter Stamp by AkatsukiMemberWoolfyTaipei 101 blank by IS--awhcomWriter stamp by WhiteKimahriJane Austen Stamp by KelianeDownton Abbey stamp by effleurConflict and Terror by StJoanCM - Stamp - Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama by MissBezzStudio Ghibli Fan by SharkfoldImperfect Stamp by Vexic929Rohan 1 by WolfcatStampsBetter to light a candle by Claire-stampsHotpot Love Stamp by wangqrSo Many Books by LaPurrLes Miserables 2012 Stamp by ThreshTheSkyFranciscus (without the I.) -Stamp by CygnicantusAnti-War Quote by InsanityisthefutureDumplings Stamp by Weapons-Expert-Cool:: bubble tea :: by GezusfreekKindness... (Bl Teresa of Calcutta quote) by ShedaraI believe that... by Shedara

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:iconhbpen:
HBPen Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the fave!
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:iconcaz-art:
Caz-Art Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the fave:)
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:iconwatertiger1419:
Watertiger1419 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
thanks for the fave
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:icontheresahelmer:
theresahelmer Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Professional Photographer
Ps. It's kinda like...example: I want to become a famous food photographer but I really don't think it will happen!!

Or one could say...I want to become a famous food photographer and I am willing to do everything and anything to achieve my dream.

Just a thought...
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:icontheresahelmer:
theresahelmer Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Professional Photographer
Why do you say you want to be a missionary, then straight away you said it is a privilege you don't think you deserve?

Sending mix message is worst than not having any message to say at all, no?
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