Hannah is sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, wearing a Santa hat, singing, “la, la, la, la, life’s a happy dream”. She is only 6. There are 20 little kids her age who had life stolen from them before they even got to Christmas this year.
I got to spend my Friday with my two girls at their school fun day yesterday. In Connecticut parents are being told their children have been murdered by an evil young man with a gun. Heartbroken for them, gutted that this world contains such evil, thankful for my own kids and at a loss to know why these things happen.
My (first) blog (Words of Eternal Life) was born as a flow-on effect from a tragedy that deeply touched my heart in October 2009 when two-year-old Aisling Symes disappeared suddenly, and despite extensive searches could not be found. As the search continued and fears for Aisling’s safety grew, a Facebook page was set up to offer support for the family. I had not previously used Facebook, but wanted to leave a message so signed up to the site.
Facebook confronted me with both a marvelous mechanism to connect with people and also a fantastic array of utterly trivial and quite pointless time wasters. I did notice, however, that some people were writing excellent articles and posting them on Facebook. Then I realized these were in fact blog feeds and this started me pondering whether I should confront the low-grade content on Facebook with something a bit more edifying to the soul than Farmville and the likes.
So little Aisling induced me to join Facebook, which then seeded the idea of starting a blog. What you are reading is the result, and being born out of the memory of Aisling it has a sober tone to it, an awareness of how precious life is and how essential faith in Christ is given that life can be so short. My prayers go out to Aisling’s parents and sister and I thank them for their own faith in Jesus which is also an inspiration and encouragement that Christ is sufficient for all we need.
The hardest thing about having strength is not using it.
Controlling strength is particularly important for fathers of small children, outbursts of strength around young children is devastating to them, whether the outburst is physical, verbal or emotional. My own experience is that preventing angry outbursts at my children takes a huge amount of self-control, humility, practise and help from others. I am not good at this.
I am not alone unfortunately, New Zealand’s heart-breaking child abuse record attests to this, and the statistics are but the tip of a destructive iceberg. The latest New Zealand figures are indicating that 2011 is likely to be another year of child abuse shame in our nation. People can and do look for many reasons and excuses why adults, men particularly, harm children. It is essential to investigate causes and prevention strategies, but that’s way outside my purpose here.
All I know is that my children are physically, emotionally and verbally much weaker than me and sometimes I turn this against the little people who I love the most. God does not give His gifts to those who exert strength over others, he allows the meek to inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). He does not make greatness in His kingdom a function of strength or power, greatness in the Kingdom of God comes through humility (Matthew 18:3-4).
Controlling my frustrations, voice, irritation, anger, and physical strength is essential for the well-being of my children. It is also essential for my attainment in the Kingdom of Heaven. To attain to the Kingdom of God I must humble myself – especially before my children.
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
(1 Corinthians 1:27 ESV)
It does help me at least a bit to remember in my moments of frustration or irritation at my kids that once again I can thank God for using the weak to shame my strength into submission so that I may also become a child of our Father in heaven.
After writing this my wife, who is much better educated than I about these things, tells me that stress experienced by young children causes demyelination of cortex neurons, leading to learning difficulties and also causing the child to grow up tending towards emotional responses rather then rational responses when stressed.
Gifts I have noticed this week:
416) Cleaning the kitchen floor, because the washing machine flooded.
417) Home-made Turkish coffee… Mmmm!
418) Traffic noise after the tragic silence yesterday.
419) Dwindling wood pile keeping us warm.
420) Hearth stopping hot coals from burning our house down!
421) Growing accustomed to an un-routine lifestyle.
422) Hot shower on a cold morning.
423) Toast at midnight.
424) Comfy woollen jersey.
425) Small people who quail before an unrestrained ranting.
426) Paradise ducks on the pond.
427) Reminder that even the strong can fall.
428) Walking out of shade into sunshine.
429) Cicadas chirping.
430) Rope swing in an old tree.
431) Industry noises echoing around the hills reminding me there are echoes of Christ everywhere.
432) A small army of lancewoods.
433) Acknowledging a passing “I should have…” thought without beating myself up for it.
434) Blinding reflections of glory.
435) Cats lying on a roof to catch the last sunny warmth.
436) beauty of sailboats and steeples.
437) A church who accepts me in my strength and, more importantly, in my weaknesses.
The collage of beautiful children is from various news stories – each of these children was murdered in New Zealand within the last five years, and there are many others also.
If you are a sensitive soul only read the following article on a day you are feeling strong – it’s reality, but not easy to consider.
I’m not quite sure where to start, I have things to do, stuff to read, prayers to pray and blog posts to write… Meanwhile Japan is deeply grieving a major catastrophe and fearful of a potential nuclear disaster on top of that. Despite our recent earthquake nightmare here in New Zealand I am finding it impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, let alone the threat of nuclear radiation leaking from several damaged reactors.
In the days after February 22 it felt like our little nation had been kicked in the stomach, a much more vicious kick than the explosions at Pike River dealt us. On Friday evening the owner of that enormous boot sunk it into my guts again as we watched the ocean suddenly rise up to encroach upon peaceful towns and cities in Japan with complete disregard for life. Japan may have a much bigger population and economy than NZ, but their pain is the same. Their fear as the earth heaves is the same. Their terror as enormous waves crash upon them is something unknown to us. Apprehension at a potential radioactive menace is also foreign to our nation.
What are we really experiencing as we consider the tragic events in Japan? Surely there is empathy, mourning, shock. Yet if we are honest there is also fear – fear of the future, of what might yet be to come that may affect us more directly. The news is full of it, interviews of experts asking them why that building collapsed when others didn’t. Official inquiries into industrial accidents. Quizzing world experts on seismology asking whether more ‘big ones’ might be in store for us. Accosting theologians, ministers and pastors for an explanation of what God is doing. We are scared. The very fact that we are watching these events on our TVs and over the internet testifies that we are distant from them. Distant from catastrophe, fearful that it might happen to us.
Some like to blame God or other people, some say “I told you so”, some take the ‘let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die‘ attitude. Those of us who are trying to trust our Father commit ourselves into His hands (Luke 23:46), knowing He may lead our lives directly into suffering but also knowing He has redeemed us (Psalm 31:5). This certainly doesn’t take away the nagging questions or the fear, but it does help me to quieten my soul (Psalm 131). The future is supposed to be unknown to us (Ecclesiastes 8:17), we are called to trust the One who controls it all.