The light shines in darkness and the darkness comprehends it not.

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I heard the Kurdish version of the story of the wisemen while working in a refugee camp. Kurds are the descendents of the Medes (I didn’t know that either!) So, Daniel (of lion’s den fame) worked for the king of the Medes and trained a school of wise men to follow in his footsteps after he was gone. According to Kurdish tradition the wisemen were “descendants” of Daniel. That’s why they knew about the star and the coming king!

I love it when I discover a new piece of the puzzle. Just wanted to share this little known one. It seems powers that be have long been trying to eradicate much of Kurdish literature which sheds light on their ancient Christian roots. The friend that told me this tale hoped to one day make it to London to search the texts in the British museum, the only remaining sanctuary of these ancient books.

 

How to be thankful – empathy!

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I still remember when visiting friends in Sicily, after a long stay helping in a critical situation in  Greece concerning Kurdish refugees. Our host remarked how thankful and appreciative my kids were compared to hers. How did I do it? she asked.

I replied, when you don’t eat meat for months, have to bathe in a bowl of hot water, wake to freezing cold and fight constant mold on the walls and ceilings in winter and intense heat in summer, your home seems like paradise on earth by comparison!

Needless to say our conditions were much better than those of the refugees we were trying to help (we at least had a house!)

I thank God every day for my beautiful, warm apartment, pension and sweet supportive family. I am so blessed!

So it has been, so it continues… (flash fiction)

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snow

Pain gripped her. There was nowhere to go. Nobody wanted to take them in. She couldn’t have the baby out in this cutting wind. Her husband looked around anxiously as he draped the blanket tigher around her. Even were his remaining money sufficient, no one would take her in in that state.

Snow was beginning to fall. “God help us!” he screamed. A curtain pulled back, a withered face pressed against the window, opening it to see better amid the flurries.

“There’s someone out there in the snow!” It warbled. A younger face joined it, peering hard through the snow.

“Please help us! My wife is having a baby,” the snow clad figure waved its arms.

“It’s more of those damn refugees. None of our business. They should have stayed where they were.” He closed the window firmly gesturing the old lady away. She took one last furtive look of compassion before re-joining her grandson near the Christmas tree at the fireside, her own place in jeopardy.

I count my blessings.

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It might look that way but this isn’t a magazine picture, it’s My daughter’s new home where we’ll be spending Christmas. It’s not mine and I didn’t work all the hours she and her husband did in order to afford it but I’ll get to enjoy it at Christmas complete with tree, furnishings, log fire and family.
I contrast it with the picture I was sitting opposite on the London underground yesterday after visiting old friends. It was a refugee child peering scared and bedraggled from a tent.
I remember the guy selling Big Issue (rather unsuccessfully) on my high street, how he looked up hopeful that I might slip him something for a hot drink again.
I think of my son in law who’ll be at work translating for the refugees, so others, who have their families close by, can be with them, and my policeman son who’ll be patrolling London Streets with his fellow officers so we can all be safe.Then there’s the firemen, the doctors and nurses etc.
I guess I had my turn at these things. Our old family Christmases usually revolved around others in some way, visiting a homeless shelter, an old folks home, detention centers and yes, the refugees (Kurdish back then).
Now I’m getting old and my kids are long grown up. I’d planned a very simple Christmas prefering to sponsor some homeless folks to come in from the cold at least for Christmas. The gifts and glitter are not so important to me. Yet God has His ways. Instead I’ll enjoy the very best of food and comfort with those I love.
Why me? Why should I be so lucky? I think God just loves me, I know my kids do.

Stop and look at the stars.

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My father was always trying to get me to look at the stars with him, but as a child I found them just too big and scary. Now I understand. Sometimes you just need to stop and realise your own insignificance, that the world will continue to turn if you just stop and rest.

This quote picture really spoke to my heart. I’ve been very busy and burdened of late. I didn’t realise till I entered the end rest of my yoga class (something I’ve skipped the last two weeks) just how stressed I’d been. The world wide refugee situation etc. has been much on my mind. Then there’s my sweet personal “refugees” – my daughter and her 3 year old who’ve been staying with me since August, having finally decided Mexico was just too dangerous for their family. They’ve had more than their share of battles, sickness, finding a job/nursery, getting all the paper work organised and working on temper tantrums when daddy isn’t here to cope with it but instead translating for refugees in a bullet proof vest.

I was given the gift of empathy, to love, to care, which has been a great blessing both as a teacher and volunteer worker,but sometimes, if I don’t keep giving it up to Jesus, it can become overwhelming.

As I lay back and slipped into deep relaxation I pictured the clear starry heavens and peace encompassed my soul. God has this, I realised.

Who was he?

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question

“He was born in an obscure hill town in a small Mideastern country. In early childhood his family had to flee as refugees from political injustice and attempted infanticide.[1]

The son of a manual laborer,[2] he showed little promise of greatness. He had no opportunity for higher education as we know it, never learned anything about technology, never even possessed a TV, a computer, cell phone, or I pad. There is no record of him owning a home or even any form of transportation.

In his thirties he was living hand to mouth,[3] wandering from town to town, never going more than 100 miles from where he grew up. Yet his deep and caring love for mankind inspired a small group of others to travel with him to learn more.[4] He often spent his time around social outcasts and the seamier side of society.[5]

For a period of three years he managed to gather some crowds through the use of what some called miracles. But false charges[6] that he associated with suspected terrorist elements seeking to overthrow the government, and accusations that he was claiming to be the king of his own nation resulted in his arrest, torture, and subsequent execution[7] at the behest of some influential enemies.

His friends and associates claimed that the charges were trumped up and that the whole incident had been a conspiracy by top religious and political elements to discredit what they saw as their competition, but none were ever brought to justice for what happened.

His life on this earth ended as it had been lived: focused on giving all that he had in order to rescue others. From a life of obscurity, poverty, and oppression, he showed that the simple truth was greater than the greatest intellect. Through his love and care for the weakest and neediest, he proved that power and wealth were truly weak and worthless unless used for God.

Instead of his death being the end of an obscure life, his subsequent resurrection triggered a kind of uprising in the hearts of men, a revolution of freedom and truth and mercy[8] that the armies of the earth throughout history have been unable to crush, that the superpowers have been powerless to suppress, and that the deceits of greed, malice, and hatred have never been able to silence.

The attempt to stifle his voice by a torturous and brutal death was futile. It has burst out in the voices of those whose lives down through the ages have been transformed by the truth he gave and the spirit he provided and the love he instilled in their hearts. What he gave to those who chose to live the example he set has proven to be greater than all the forces that have tried to prevent it spreading throughout the earth.

The result: All the powers that have tried to sway this world throughout history, all the wealth of nations and influence of kings and queens, czars and emperors, presidents and dictators, and all the revolutions and wars combined have failed to have as great an impact on the lives and hearts of mankind as this one extraordinary life”.[9]

(Adaption of the essay “One Solitary Life” by Dr. James Allan Francis, 1926.)

how far does our love go?

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child

Like many others my heart is wrenched by more and more news of Middle East refugees, of drowned toddlers and forsaken Afghan interpreters.

What can be the solution I wonder?

I’ve worked with refugees and know first hand the pain and suffering, the tales of terror they escaped from, on the other hand I also know how overstretched the system is already here in the UK, how can we take more and how can the system be changed to be more fair to those in genuine need?

An answer came from a surprising source. This morning my daughter and I were discussing Iceland (she visited friends there for two months in her teens) how they made such a remarkable recovery from financial melt down etc.

Checking my face book feed I came across another Icelandic classic, 11,000 Icelandic people have offered to open their homes to Syrian refugees and help them get set up in return for the government upping its present refugee quotas and supplying the paperwork etc. – practical compassion. No wonder Iceland can perform such economic miracles!

True Brotherhood.

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(from July 2014

Song Bird Songs

kurds

This true story began many years ago. A friend while traveling with his family in Greece had come across a Kurdish refugee camp. There were 600 refugees and four water taps, garbage was everywhere and there was little or no organisation. Worst of all there was no doctor or clinic – some arrived with gunshot wounds and stories of atrocities abounded…

He was not a doctor, just a male nurse, but he couldn’t ignore their plight. Holiday adventure forgotten they stayed on to help making a tenuous living singing in restaurants over the weekends (he had a great voice). His pregnant wife had just had a baby and with two other small children they needed help urgently. That’s why we went.

The day I entered the city of squalid tents the Greek authorities decided to move the whole embarrassing populace out of the camp. It had been allocated in winter…

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True Brotherhood.

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kurds

This true story began many years ago. A friend while traveling with his family in Greece had come across a Kurdish refugee camp. There were 600 refugees and four water taps, garbage was everywhere and there was little or no organisation. Worst of all there was no doctor or clinic – some arrived with gunshot wounds and stories of atrocities abounded…

He was not a doctor, just a male nurse, but he couldn’t ignore their plight. Holiday adventure forgotten they stayed on to help making a tenuous living singing in restaurants over the weekends (he had a great voice). His pregnant wife had just had a baby and with two other small children they needed help urgently. That’s why we went.

The day I entered the city of squalid tents the Greek authorities decided to move the whole embarrassing populace out of the camp. It had been allocated in winter, now it was summer and well, it was a tourist spot. Their idea of relocation I heard was to bus them out to the most remote of places and leave them there. I watched my first episode of non-violent civil disobedience that day as men, women and children sat blocking the road to prevent the buses from leaving – after several hours the refugees finally won.

But it’s not of this I would speak, nor of our tough lifestyle, or even our adventures (like hiding a friend on the run from a Kurdish faction, he having witnessed their murder of his cousin).

There’d always been a strange affinity between the Muslim Kurds and my Christian friend, epitomized when I spent an hour in the tent of a famous Kurdish actress. (People think refugees are poor labourers. It’s not true, they are mostly businessmen or professionals –  the only ones with enough money to get smuggled across the borders etc.) We had to communicate with our hands (neither speaking the others language) but she was an actress and being bad at languages I was used to mime etc. She “explained” how her sons had been tortured to death (I heard many heart rending stories this was another). I noticed a crucifix propped against the tent wall and “asked” if she were a Christian. She explained she was Muslim, but put it there in respect for my friend and all he’d done for them.

The most exciting story happened soon after I left. Wealthy restaurant owners, tired of the refugees interfering with their tourist trade set fires to destroy the camp. Everyone knew who did it but it couldn’t be proved, fires are an occupational hazard in the hot, dry Greek summers.

All looked on terrified as the giant flames leapt towards them. Fanned by a strong wind, tinder dry trees exploded into walls of flame. There was nothing to defend them just a wire fence. All around was chaos, people running and screaming but a small group of calm individuals held hands with my friend to pray, Muslim and Christian alike.

The wind ceased, reversing its course to later destroy not only the tourist restaurants but the scenic forests that made it a resort. All gazed in awe at the blackened devastation just inches from the fence, the parched grass within the camp unharmed. God loves all His children.