Category Archives: Lent

Lent- Forgive part 2

Forgiveness is important enough, and hard enough that it needs more than one Reflection. Here is a story about a time where forgiveness was very hard, but where it eventually became very life-giving for many people.

This is about following through on forgiveness. Forgiveness is tough, but once you’ve made a decision, it’s significantly easier than dithering over the choice. With God’s grace it can happen, but the hurt might not always disappear overnight. By showing forgiveness in a practical way you help to heal the wounds.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

If you’ve heard about the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) you’ll know that there is a considerable negative history between Lebanese and Syrians, and that Syrian troops did not completely leave Lebanon before 2005. Before the Lebanese had time to forgive and forget painful memories, the Syria crisis started in 2011, and with it came an influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, such that our country today has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world, with one in every four persons a Syrian refugee, 80 percent women and children.

Yet how does the church respond to the needs of this multitude of Syrian refugees when its congregations include people who were themselves, or members of their families were, hurt during the Civil War. God, in His wisdom, started working within us. A colleague of mine openly told her church: ‘The best I can do is pray for them, but don’t ask me to get involved! I still have not forgotten when at gunpoint my husband and I were lined up against the wall to be shot at. It’s only through God’s intervention that we’re still alive.’ Yet as she heard of what the Lord is doing in their lives, she went through a paradigm shift: ‘God is revealing Himself in dreams and visions, miracles of healing, answered prayers to these people whom for years we considered to be the enemy! I want to be where God is at work.’ And so she is today directly involved, both at her church and through LSESD, in serving refugee children and families.

As LSESD we carry out our humanitarian response to the Syria crisis in partnership with local churches and community-based organisations. Each person involved has their own story to share of how God changed their heart. One young man, who had lost loved ones during the same war, shared that at the time he and his community had prayed that God may bring on Syria the same calamities that the Lebanese were going through. Yet, he told us, ‘When the refugees started coming into our country, we rushed to their aid, for who can better empathise with them than us Lebanese who have been through it all?!’ Today, he pastors one of our partner churches in Lebanon that is serving around 2000 refugee families.

God is working both within and through our churches in a magnificent way! All agree that as we serve the refugees, we’re learning a lot of new things about God! God is teaching us how to forgive, and He is teaching us about Him through them.

Today’s blog was written by Alia Abboud from Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).  Find out more about her here.

Here are some ways to respond to today’s Reflection, building on the first Forgiveness Act. Green for a small step forward, Yellow for a bigger step, and Red for a generous leap.

GREEN:If you are having trouble forgiving, spend today getting closer to forgiveness. Pray for yourself, and pray for the person you want to forgive.

YELLOW:Finding a practical way to show forgiveness starts with sincerely putting the other person first. There are two ways to approach this: (1) think, yourself, of a way to show forgiveness; (2) ask the person you’re forgiving what might be a good start.

RED:Give more than they deserve back. If you’ve forgiven someone, how do you actively demonstrate that with kindness?

Lent- Forgive part 1

This Reflection is one of a pair I read last week, but didn’t have a chance to post until now. Forgiveness is central to our faith, and it is easy to talk about, but really hard to do, sometimes near impossible. But, like giving and living generously, it is often of as much, or even more benefit to us when we can forgive.

Bitterness will eat at you. And it can be properly hard to let grudges go. If you’re holding a grudge or a wound against someone who’s hurt you in the past, make this Easter the time you find a way to forgive them. God says he’ll give you strength to find compassion. In forgiveness, you not only set others free from a debt they owe you, but you also transform yourself – imagine what the world might look like if even half of us practised forgiveness like this.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:8–9 (NIV)

 

I once suffered a painful betrayal from a close friend, and it took me years to forgive her fully. I recount this story in my book The Living Cross, and although these big stories stick in our minds, perhaps equally important are our day-by-day acts of forgiveness that help to keep our souls clean. But we can find it hard to forgive those with whom we have regular contact, partly simply because they are so close to us, and we know them well – foibles and all. We can cling to the ways they have let us down or acted unkindly, but when we do, the unforgiveness builds up like a wall between us. And our hearts form a hard crust, bit by bit, each time that we fail to forgive.

Yet we don’t have to live like this. We can ask God to dismantle these walls and dissolve that crusty layer as he helps us to forgive. Although we may not feel like forgiving, he can change our feelings. For forgiveness is an act of the will, which means we may not feel anything at all, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t working to bring freedom. He is.

How can we forgive? I suggest coming before the cross where Jesus died – this, the living cross – to name and then release each specific sin or wrongdoing there. We may be extending forgiveness to others, or we may be asking God to cleanse us. We wait, and we will receive from God his forgiveness and the power to forgive. We receive his gifts of love and new life. And we find that we are the one who has been set free from the prison of bitterness and unforgiveness.

Why not give it a go today?

Today’s blog was written by Amy Boucher Pye. Find out more about her here.

Here is a suggestion for how to Act in response to today’s Reflection (just one option for now- check out further options in Forgive part 2!):

If you’re in a place where forgiveness is really hard, start by praying: ‘God, I want to want to forgive.’

Lent- Against the Tide

Sometimes it can be easy to go along with the crowd, but in a few days, we hear how the crowds cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion. How can we be generous and compassionate when the people around us make it more difficult?

 

Following the crowd is easy, but it’s not always a good thing. Especially when what’s popular excludes people, or isolates the already lonely. Swimming against the tide is the biggest challenge. But trying it – even just giving it a shot – can be life-changing.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…”

2 Corinthians 5:18 (NIV)

 

It’s the end of a lovely evening where a group of my friends and their children have gathered to mix batter, toss pancakes and sample a range of toppings whilst chatting and drinking tea. The washing-up done, people gather their children, get their coats and adjust their hijabs before leaving the house.

‘Thank you so much; it’s been really fun,’ I exclaim, as we embrace goodbye.

‘Yes,’ says another, ‘some of us have been here seven or eight years and we’ve never been invited to an English home before; thank you.’

Another day I stop to chat to the new (Somali) owner of a local eatery being refurbished. He tells me a little about his dream for the cafe and, as he warms to his theme of creating a new kind of meeting place, he describes a venue which will attract a wider, more diverse clientele.

‘The trouble is the white people are just not integrating into this area,’ he says, ‘so anything we can do to change that will be positive.’

Never been invited? Not integrating? Who’s keeping who at arm’s length?

Jesus did something positive when he moved into the ‘neighbourhood’ (John1:14 The Message) and spent time with those not usually invited to the parties of the day. His life ended with arms outstretched in sacrificial surrender to the reconciling work of God. Now all are invited to step out of alienation from God and each other and into friendship with Love Himself. It’s the ultimate triumph of friendship over fear.

In a culture which seems to thrive on negative perceptions and suspicion of difference, building friendships with people from other faith communities is one way we can do things differently. How will you swim against the tide of mistrust and fear? In which ways will you live out the message of reconciliation with which we have been entrusted?

Today’s blog was written by Jan from Mahabba Network.  Find out more about her here.

Here are some great ways to respond to today’s Reflection. Green is the simplest, Yellow takes a bit more effort, and Red is more of a challenge!

GREEN:Have a think. Are there any situations where we’re in danger of following the crowd? First stop is social media. Review last week’s posts. Are we ungenerous in how we talk about others on Facebook and Twitter? Resist joining in for the sake of it especially if it might take you to narcissistic or gossipy places.

YELLOW:Office gossip? Train delays making everyone grumpy with train staff? Collective moaning becoming a habit? Think about how you can turn against the tide. Or, something tougher: Who have you been pushing to the back of your mind during the 40acts challenges? Take the challenge to do good to that person today, even if you think they won’t appreciate it.

RED:Challenge ungenerous behaviours that damage communities, our country, and the world. For example? Well, are we locked into a worldly pattern of consumption? Thinking about how our shopping choices affect the world? Generous in the things we like and share on social media?

Lent- Gulp

Giving is not just about the transfer of things from one person to another- it’s a spiritual act in response to how much we have been given by God.

Giving when it’s comfortable is definitely an important part of our lives. But God didn’t call us to only give when it’s comfortable. Does our giving ever make us gulp or cause a sharp intake of breath?

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

Luke 11:42 (ESV)

 

Back in the days when I was teaching full-time, I was faced one morning with the sight of a 14-year-old boy quietly sobbing, his head on his desk. I gently asked him what the trouble was and he told me that he was being forced to leave his foster home after nine years. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because the subsidy they received wouldn’t be paid any more,’ he answered. He was devastated. Then he looked at me and said the words: ‘Who will want to adopt a 14-year-old?’

‘We’ll adopt you,’ came out of my mouth before a moment’s thought.

‘But I don’t even like you,’ he said.

‘Well, I’m not that keen on you either,’ I said. But I knew there and then that I would go home and speak to my wife, Priscilla, who already had her hands full bringing up our three children – all under the age of six – and explain to her what we needed to do.

She looked at me, took a deep breath and then she said, ‘Let’s take him.’ And we did.

Jesus points out that the Pharisees give: they tithe; they are generous. They give people ‘every herb’. But they are generous only to a point. No deep breaths, no big gulps: they stop when the giving hurts. They do what’s required but they neglect justice and the love of God.

When you come to one of those ‘big gulp’ moments, you don’t always know what the cost is going to be but you know it’s going to be big – it might hurt a little or a lot – but God’s love is big enough to take it.

Today’s blog was written by Charles Osewalt. Find out more about him here.

Here are some great ways to respond to this Reflection. Green is for something simple to consider, Yellow takes more planning, and Red is a longer term goal.

GREEN:

Look back at the list you wrote on day one. Is there anything you’re holding back on that you could give right now?

YELLOW:

If it needs a bit of planning, get to work now. If it’s money, you might not be able to give a ‘gulp’ sum away in one hit, but what if you put aside some each month? Then, at the end of the year, you could reach a significant amount. Start saving, set a goal.

RED:

Review your regular giving (or start in the first place) and challenge yourself to sacrifice so you can push your financial giving further.

Lent- Step Out

Speaking to people about our faith can be a scary thing. We often feel as though by mentioning what we believe, we will be accused of proselytizing. But you never know who might need to hear words of hope at that moment. Today’s reflection is about opening ourselves up to being brave and stepping out of our comfort zone.

That little voice in your head that tells you it’s okay to hold back when you see an opportunity to step out for God. Today we’re ignoring it.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”

Philippians 4:5 (NIV)

It sometimes feels like I spend my life on buses and trains, travelling from one meeting to another. Most of the time it’s just routine but sometimes, when I least expect it, God gives me a nudge and highlights someone He wants me to talk to. It’s at that point I can choose to go with Him or ignore the prompt, but when I go with Him it’s a real thrill!

So there I am during the last Tube strike, on a jam-packed bus full of frazzled people, and an elderly Sikh gentleman sits opposite me.

I sense God telling me to speak to him.

Now? When I’m running late for my meeting?

But I put away my phone and I smile. He smiles back. Maybe I can leave it there. But God has other plans. The stranger starts to talk to me and it turns out he’s from India, from an area I’d spent time in, so I share my smattering of Hindi with him.

We swap names.

Mr Singh is delighted and we end up speaking about all sorts of things – his wife’s death, his own battles with illness and his family’s wish for him to live with them in the UK so they could look after him. He shares how much he misses his community back home but finds solace in the community at the Sikh temple and then speaks about one of the founding fathers, a guru who’d sacrificed his family life to pursue his faith. His next question is my God-given chance: ‘Do you know anyone who has sacrificed like this man did?’

On that heaving bus, amid the noise and jostling, I said to him, ‘Mr Singh, I do. I know someone who gave his very life as a sacrifice so that you and I could have life. His name is Jesus.’ I told him about the miracles I’d seen when working with a church in India. I answered his questions and shared my faith with him. Mr Singh listened and so did the other passengers nearby.

We got off at the same stop and shook hands, exchanging blessings. I told him how wonderful it was to meet him and he thanked me and said that he could see God in me. We left it there and then I ran full pelt to make my meeting.

A chance encounter? There’s no such thing in my experience, so even when you’re feeling like you’d prefer to keep yourself to yourself, step out and God will be with you every step of the way.

Today’s blog was written by Ros Turner. Find out more about her here.

Here are some great ways to Step Out today! Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow takes a bit more effort, and Red means opening yourself up to a challenge!

GREEN:

Share a bible verse on social media, or with someone in person.

Note from Kristin: This is one of my favourite verses, and I saw this video a long time ago and it never ceases to make me smile.

YELLOW:

Really reflect on how you can be an everyday example of Jesus. Practise sharing your faith with others; brush up on simple tools to help share your faith. If you’re stuck for a tool, why not try Two Ways To Live?

RED:

Pray for an opportunity to share your faith today and look out for it. Go find it.

Lent- Grateful

Gratitude is so important to a life of faith. We should, of course, be grateful to God, and this kind of gratitude inspires generosity. But we also should be grateful to the people around us!

Taking people for granted. It’s an easy trap to fall into, even if we think we’re genuinely decent people. Gratitude takes effort. It takes remembering. It takes serious, considered, wonder-centred thankfulness.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

 

Someone scared me once by asking, ‘What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?’ For a while this panicked me into praying a ‘thank you’ for everything I could possibly think of, but I was saying thank you for the sake of it, not because I truly meant it.

God tells us to be thankful for everything: ‘…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude isn’t just for when things are easy; sometimes it is hard to be thankful for anything at all, and this is when we need to stop and remember that God is with us in all circumstances. Life, and every good thing in it, is a gift from God – we have a lot to be thankful for.

However, we have to mean it when we thank someone. A casual ‘thanks’ is often a throwaway comment, something we say without thinking. But a genuine thank you has power; it adds value to an action, reflects kindness and even lifts our mood. If you are thanked you feel appreciated, just as if you thank someone else you are reminded of good things in your life. Saying thank you inspires and prompts generosity; the more someone thanks you the more you want to help them out. The more you thank God for the good in your life the more you want to praise him.

 

Imagine if by simply thanking someone you encouraged them to do something nice for someone else. The ripple effect of two straightforward, yet powerful, words has the potential to go a long way and make a lot of difference.

Today’s blog was written by Emily Owen. Find out more about her here.

Here are some options for how to respond to this Reflection. Green is for the simplest Act, Yellow takes a bit more effort and Red encourages you to branch out more.

GREEN:

Write down a number of people from your past who’ve supported and helped you. Commit to contacting each, to tell them ‘thank you’. P.S. Not all in one day!

YELLOW:

Write a letter thanking someone. This might not be the easiest thing for a lot of us. If you’re not prone to cracking out the fountain pen and writing paper, you can write a well-composed Facebook message – and sometimes, a few well-chosen words can mean more than a page of prose.

RED:

How about thanking someone who doesn’t usually get thanked in person: your bus driver, the local postman, the colleague who always puts on a fresh pot of coffee or empties the dishwasher. Appreciating these people will add a whole ton of value to their day, and being thankful is a great way to begin your week.

Lent- Date

As a church family, it is good for us to consider ways we can strengthen our relationships!

Lots of us – especially as we grow into adulthood – struggle making acquaintances into friendships. Building relationships takes time and effort. Today, put aside your busyness and agendas, and make the effort to cultivate an acquaintance.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

Have you heard the story of the professor lecturing on time management?

Letting actions speak louder than words, he fills a large glass container with several fist-sized pebbles and asks the room if it is full. “Yes” comes the reply. So he takes handfuls of smaller pebbles and shakes them in to the container. Still not full. A bag of sand follows. Surely full now. Finally, a jar of water is poured in and nothing more can be added. Point made.

The moral of the story? The big important things need to go into our life ahead of the small and trivial or it won’t all fit.

As Kevin De Young unpacks in his great little book ‘Crazy Busy’ many of us have “a pervasive sense of being unrelentingly filled up and stressed out”. Modern life can often be hectic and our busyness can sideline relationships before they’ve had the chance to begin. Without time, acquaintances will never become friends and the big things are lost.

My parents were experts at making time to build new relationships. As I child I remember them inviting people back for lunch every Sunday after church. Anyone new would get an invite.  Those on their own had a place at our table.

Building strong relationships needs thought too. It requires effort and energy to make space in our schedules and to be imaginatively creating places and doing things where they can flourish and grow.

Those Sunday lunches remain an abiding memory and have a huge impact on how Claire (my wife) and I view our home today. It isn’t a museum or playroom for our children but a resource God has loaned us for His purposes. Whether that’s hosting bonfire nights for our church family or inviting friends and their kids over to camp out for the night, we’ve discovered great joy in making what we have available to others in return for special memories that grow into lifelong friendships.

We haven’t always got it right and sometimes get the mix of people wrong but, hey, God knows who’s going to be there and why!

What are the big stones you need to be giving attention to today?

Today’s blog was written by Mark Heasman from Ormiston Families. Find out more about him here.

Here are some great ways to respond to this Reflection! Green is for something simple, Yellow takes more thought, and Red requires more effort!

GREEN:

Bring something nice in for whoever you’re with today – whether that’s in the office, gym, college, or school run. If you’re not going out, make a plan so that you’re ready for the next time you do.

YELLOW:

Invite a slight acquaintance for coffee/to watch the match at your local/for a walk – whatever works for them. Don’t leave it vague – make a date.

RED:

Make a date with the neighbours. Make it worth their time coming over. Don’t scrimp on effort – give your best.

Lent- Boost

We tend to notice faults before virtues, we tend to notice the one thing wrong rather than the list of things right, we tend to bring up complaints before compliments. Today’s Reflection and Acts encourages us to flip that around!

Most people don’t have a clue about their value. It’s true across the spectrum: culture tells men and women they’re only valuable if they look a certain way, upbringings leave people insecure, job prospects have many feeling down about their worth. These people are in your circles, too. How much longer can they go on not knowing their worth? It’s time to give them a boost.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)

 

There are many great places to live in the world but to me there is no place quite like London. I love the pace, the diversity and the history. London continues to expand and because of that there are construction sites everywhere.

Now, I am no expert in the field of building but I have noticed two types of machines on building sites. Cranes, which lift things up, and bulldozers, which knock things down. If we relate this to the verse above, I believe Paul is saying our talk should be like a crane rather than a bulldozer. We should lift people up rather than knock them down, be constructive rather than destructive, be positive rather negative, so that we may give strength and grace to the people who hear us.

One thing I have come to realise is that regardless of age everyone deals with the issue of fear.

Over the last few years I have personally received courage through receiving encouragement from others. We all have the ability to give someone courage by encouraging them. Every encouraging thought we have about someone but fail to pass on actually deprives them of that blessing, strength and courage.

Let’s be fearless today and every time we think an encouraging thought; let’s share it in order to build that person up the way Jesus would. Let’s meet them, tell them, call them, text them, email them, Whatsapp them or comment on their social media. Whatever it takes, let’s be counter-cultural; let’s pass strength and courage on because, today, we are shaping the way the world sees the church – let others see us as those who build people up, rather than tearing them down.

Today’s blog was written by Dan Blythe from Hillsong. Find out more about him here.

Here are some great ways to respond to this Reflection: Green for a simpler Act, Yellow for one that takes a bit more effort, and Red for more of a challenge!

GREEN:

Talk about them behind their back. This one can be done really simply and still have a huge impact. Tweet at them telling them something they’ve done that meant something to you, spotlight them in an Instagram post, or casually mention in conversation at work how brilliant another member of staff is. Easy but profound.

YELLOW:

Put a word in. Maybe they’d be perfect for an upcoming position at work or in church. Maybe they’ve achieved something recently that deserves to be publicly talked up. If you can think of even the smallest reason why bragging about this person could lead to greater things, then don’t hold back.

RED:

It’s easy to spot ten ways your best mate is brilliant, but what about people you find difficult? What’s great about them? It’s easy to dig out the worst, but search for the gold. We guarantee you can find something. Take time to really consider them, and then be as brave and bold as possible, and let them (and those around them) know.

Lent- Refuge

With refugees crossing the Manitoba border from the, the issue of refugees is very relevant.

It’s not exaggerating to say the world today is a divided, polarised place. Attitudes to the ‘other’ and, frankly, anything outside of our own culture, have shifted positions of fear into the mainstream. Now is the time to counter fear with generosity and ask the question – who is our neighbour?

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me…”

Matthew 25:35–36 (NIV)

 

The Bible teaches us much about God’s heart for the poor and the ‘sojourner’ – the stranger living amongst us. Jesus himself spent time as an asylum seeker in Egypt where his parents fled from Herod’s genocide. There is a whole book in the Bible that tells the story of Ruth the Moabite ‘refugee’ who married Boaz. Have you ever wondered why Matthew lists Ruth and four other women in his genealogy of Jesus? Because quite simply the good news – the gospel – is for everyone whatever their background or past.

God calls us to love Him and to love our neighbour; these are the two most important commandments (Luke 10:27 and Matthew 22:37-39). Acts 1 tells us that we are to receive the Holy Spirit and then to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the world.

This was made very real for us at Jubilee Church Teesside when in 2000 we began to have visitors who were asylum seekers from the ends of the world. What was then a predominantly white British church was about to change. New friendships were spawned and the eyes of the church were opened to ways of responding to the many difficulties faced by the much wider refugee community living locally but made up of people from different faith backgrounds who had fled persecution and conflict and sought sanctuary in the UK. With the aim of showing the love of God to everyone seeking refuge, members of Jubilee Church got to work – a move that eventually led to the formation of Open Door North East.

One particular story really sums it all up. Kamilia (name changed) was a Muslim lady abused and rejected by her husband and then abandoned in the UK. She was sleeping in a shop storeroom when we first met her.

When she eventually got her refugee status she came to say thank you and these are the words she said to us without realising that she was quoting the very words of Jesus:

‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me.’

Today’s blog was written by Paul Catterall from Open Door North East. Find out more about him here.

GREEN:

Sometimes the most generous thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issues. Take time today to look into which newspapers spread fear about refugees, then write to the companies who advertise in them (major supermarkets are a good place to start), asking them to remove their funding from the papers. You could also do your own research into migrant groups in your area.

Note from Kristin: Not all asylum seekers are Muslim, and vice versa, but today there is a lot of misinformation being spread about both Muslims and refugees, and especially Muslim refugees. This week, on Thursday, March 30 at 7pm at ArtsForward (The Viscount Cultural Centre) Neepawa and Area Ministerial is hosting a speaker from the Brandon Islamic Centre to come and explain a little about his faith and culture and answer questions. It’s a good opportunity for us to learn something new and perhaps recognize that we have much in common, even with people who seem different.

YELLOW:

Make a practical difference today for those seeking refuge. Men, this is your time for a clear-out (groups supporting refugees often report low numbers of good quality men’s clothes). Or regularly donate tinned and dried food to those helping destitute asylum seekers or check out Welcome Boxes, a group who make arriving in a foreign land a little bit easier for refugees.

Note from Kristin: Welcome Place in Winnipeg is the place to support if you want to help the people who continue to cross into Canada at the Emerson border crossing.

RED:

Can you play a bigger role in reaching out and caring for asylum seekers and refugees who are far away from home?  You might be just the person to set up a new Welcome Box project in your town, or offer help to Home for Good’s work with refugee children, or support one of the many excellent The No Accommodation Network (NACCOM) member projects providing hosting and homes for asylum seekers left destitute and with no recourse to public funding in the UK.

Lent- React

Today’s Reflection is a consideration of how we are called to react to acts of violence in our world, like the terrorist attack that occurred yesterday in London.

Today is not beginning as any of us planned or hoped as we hit the midway point of Lent and 40acts. Yesterday, innocent lives were lost during a senseless attack in the heart of our capital. In these moments of terror and uncertainty we must never forget that we can control one important thing, how we react. Today we’re calling on you, the 40acts community, to double down on generosity and love for others.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

Yesterday started just like any other day.

It ended with an attack on innocent people and the home of our democracy.

The hours after followed a pattern with which we are all too familiar: shock, disbelief and fear followed by mourning, a deep sense of loss and resigning oneself to face tomorrow with courage and determination.

During my journey home on the tube I struggled for answers and for words.  And then I remembered the comment, widely reported at the time, uttered by an Amish man whose granddaughter had just been murdered while at school by a man intent on horrific acts of violence.

“We must not think evil of this man.”

Another member of the man’s Amish community had continued, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.”

These men were living through an attack on their children, their community and their quiet and peaceful lives.

Hours after the horrific shooting that had left 6 people dead (including the gunman), members of this Amish community were comforting the widow of the man who had killed their loved ones.  It was reported that one Amish man held the father of the gunman in his arms for perhaps an hour while comforting him in his grief.

What motivated these people to such extraordinary acts of forgiveness, sacrifice and love?

The good news of Jesus Christ. It changes everything.

We’re halfway through Lent and 40acts.  As a community inspired by the single greatest act of generosity the world has even witnessed – the cross – we seek to live lives of radical generosity to our neighbours. All of them.

Before Jesus died on the cross He asked the Father to forgive those who persecuted Him.  He sacrificed His own life as atonement for our sins.

With this in mind, we must not think evil of this man. Nor must we allow fear to creep into our communities as a result.

We, who have received forgiveness, must be generous with our forgiveness for others.

We must rise above the temptation to hate, to marginalise, to alienate.

We must treat our neighbours as ourselves.

We must forgive.

We must love

Today’s blog was written by Michael O’Neill from Stewardship. Find out more about him here.

Today there are no “options” to Act, just a call to radical, generous love.

Wherever you are today, the most generous thing we can do is share the hope that is within us with those around us. How can you extend hope on a day like today to your colleagues, neighbours and friends?

A smile at the stranger on the bus, holding open doors, putting others first. Treating stressed out colleagues to lunch, a message of support to the emergency services or your local MP. Gathering together to pray for our communities.

Love and compassion today will take many forms.

Let us not grow weary of doing good.

Note from Kristin: This afternoon Neepawa United Church hosted a funeral, where many people shared hope and love- through music, through words, through food, through helping things run smoothly, through comfort offered, through donations made in someone’s name. It fills my heart with joy to see how our wider community takes care of one another in a time of grief. May you continue to generously share love in whatever way you can.