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Different Vacations: By, Christianne Walsh

Beach in Thailand

My family just returned from vacation on a beach in Thailand… just what the doctor ordered. I needed to be away… from pain… from ugliness… from grief…  just for a time, so I could see my Maker… see His beauty… and know His own Love and Grace, that are so deeply hidden in the chaos of these streets of Kolkata.

I returned to day one of work, refreshed and ready for whatever the day would bring. Here’s how the day unfolded…

9am: My Indian co-worker begins to tell of his vacation time at his home. His mother and older brother have cheated him out of his birthright… his farm. He has no recourse and is hurt in the deepest recesses. We cry together and pray.

11am: We go to visit the ladies in Sonagachi. One woman tells us about the cyclone that is hitting her home back in her home state, as we speak. The house where her children live with her 100-year-old mother-in-law is under water. She is worried and fed up with another disaster to deal with. We pray, and ask God to calm the storm.

2pm: My house-helper, a resident of Sonagachi, comes to my home. I ask her how her vacation was. She says, there was lots of fighting in her home. Her 15-year-old sister has been arrested. Her mother poured kerosene over herself in an attempt to kill herself, because of the shame. “That was my vacation!” she says with alarming resignation.
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Sometime in the middle of the night: I wake up from a nightmare (which I have frequently here). People are after us and we need a place to hide. It takes me a good five minutes after waking to realize I’m in my own bedroom, and that I can stop looking for an escape on the other side of my window.

Here we are, back in Kolkata! The harsh realities which our Bengali friends deal with every day are so hard to contend with. I do thank God for time away.  The glimpses of the life and beauty He meant for us all to enjoy are still fresh in my heart and mind. Deep down I know He is Good.

I appreciated this blog written by Ann Voskamp, that I read while away. It helps give me perspective on Hope and Waiting. Please take a moment to read it and be encouraged, in whatever hardship you or a friend might be facing. Jesus IS making something beautiful… even in the ugliest and darkest of places.

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How long must we wait?: by, Joe Pouliot

How Long Must We Wait?

“We are

born like this

into this

into these carefully mad wars

into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness

into bars where people no longer speak to each other

into fist fights that end at shootings and knifings

born into this

into hospitals that are so expensive that its cheaper to die

into lawyers that charge so much its cheaper to plead guilty

into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed

into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes”

- Charles Bukowski (found in the local newspaper, The Telegraph)


 

How long must we wait for you, God?

How many more wars? How many more people have to die? How long will evil reign? How long will death and suffering haunt our existence?

Tonight was a rough night. I am struggling with the realities of life. Injustice reigns throughout the world, in our governments, in our systems. But it’s not just “them,” it is in our very own hearts. The brokenness of this world is wrecking me and I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. How can I? How can we? And I’ve been to Bible School. I know all the answers I’m supposed to have. But they all seem to fall short tonight and I look to my God and ask Him, “How long must we wait?”

My mind wanders… I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for Jesus to walk this earth. To see the world He created and walk among the fruits of the path that we, humanity, had chosen for ourselves – the hurt, the struggle, the pain that has existed throughout history since the beginning of time and continues to this very day. The atrocities that have been committed, the lives that have been lost, the desolation of a beautiful creation…

And as I’m dwelling on all of this, the story of Jesus walking up on a large funeral procession comes to my mind (Luke 7:11-16). He sees the only son of a local widow being carried out of the city gate. He hears the weeping and wailing; he looks on at the broken hearts. He sees the mother who just lost her only son and grasps the anguish that has shattered her as she walks alongside him. Jesus cannot just let this pass. He is moved in the depths of his being to action:

 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (ESV)

After I read that, more and more of the stories of Jesus’ life flooded my mind- all the times He was moved with “compassion” or “pity” and even how He “wept.” It was like with every word He was speaking, every miracle He was doing, He was showing us the very heart of God poured out on the earth. He sees what I see now, and He was, and still is, moved with compassion. He hates evil and all it’s faces, and He gave His life to defeat it.

His hope met my despair and I am grateful.

I’ve come to realize that to be a Christian in this world is not to just go to your local church on Sunday mornings. Father, have mercy on us! It can’t be only that. It is a call to change, a call to action- to be moved with compassion and to stand against Evil itself, not only in the world, but in ourselves. To choose to live in direct contrast to it everyday, by the power of the One who overcame the world! And the desire of our hearts as His followers must be to seek the redemption of His creation, the restoration of all things, whatever the cost, till He returns…

Life is hard. If you watch the news enough, it’s hard not to get depressed. We may not be able to fix all the world’s problems. We may not be able to raise the dead. But my prayer is that the followers of Jesus, all over the world, would lay down their lives for their neighbor, and show the world that God has not abandoned us…

Till He returns,

Joe

I hope you find what you’re looking for: by, Joe Pouliot

Justice Mercy Humility

It was the final days before my family and I were getting ready to leave. We were meeting with all the family and friends we had time for. We weren’t leaving on the best of terms. For many reasons (and most of them totally justified from a practical standpoint), many members of my family didn’t understand why I was leaving my steady job, our home, our stability and comfort, and most of all, leaving them and taking our kids to the other side of the world.

At some point in many of our conversations, I would inevitably hear the words, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.” I can still think back and remember how much these words stung. I felt so misunderstood. Here I was making the hardest, probably also the most beautiful, decision of my life, and it felt like those closest to me thought this was just some selfish quest for self-discovery. What was I looking for? Prosperity? Fulfillment? Happiness? Success? In many ways, in the years leading up to this point of my life, those were absolutely the things that I was seeking. But something had changed in me and I couldn’t explain it (or explain it well for that matter). My family and I would go round and round looking at the same facts and always end up at opposite ends of the looking glass… Why? Why would I choose to do this? How could we leave them? Why would we risk so much?

I can’t really tell you the why. I can’t explain why God saw fit to reach out to a 20-year-old, self-consumed punk, drunk or high half the time, wandering through life the best he knew how. Why He radically changed me and my life in a way that made me want to give up everything for Him. Why He brought me to a place in my life where I had everything I could have wanted and yet I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t that I needed something new, or that I needed to “find” something. What I needed to do was begin living out of the Truth and Love that I had already found. And this wasn’t something that could be controlled or manipulated to my liking. It looked a lot more like a reckless abandonment to a radical Christ, and to seeing His kingdom come on this earth, all in the midst of a flurry of unknowing, doubt, and fear. My wife, Sarah, and I had no idea what the future would hold, but together we opened up our lives and asked God to use us however He saw fit – whatever, whenever, wherever. Our hope and prayer, for us and our children, is not to find something that will fulfill us or make us happy, but to give up our rights and our lives to share the life-changing Love that has already found us.

It was never an easy decision. It still isn’t an easy decision. God has chosen for us to leave behind the people who matter most to us in our lives in order to do His will. He’s chosen for us to leave behind all that we knew and held dear and to step out into the unknown and trust Him. To become like little babes again, walk a new, strange road, and lay down our lives for our God and our neighbor.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I am thankful that I serve a God who blazed this trail long ago and chose to do the same for us…

“…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men… he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

                                  (Phil 2:6-8, ESV)