Cry of the Clay

Does the lump of clay tremble at the thought of becoming a pot?
Does it apprehend why it has to be kneaded and slapped into shape,
Softened by being slammed against a hard surface, pulled
And kneaded yet again?

Does it scream in pain as it is thrown onto the potter’s wheel,
Spun round and round at dizzying speed,
With the potter’s hands shaping and moulding it,
Digging into it,
Raising it higher and higher until it attains the desired form?

And as it rests, drying out after that ordeal, parched,
Has it any idea of what it’s about to go through
In the kiln, not once but twice?
And when it is finished, and stands as a glazed vessel,
Beautiful, useful, delicate or strong,
Does it have any regrets?

The Blessing of Good Friends

Lord, thank you for leading me by quiet waters, for feeding me at Your table, and for inviting me to dwell in Your house forever.

Would You please give me opportunities this week to show true hospitality to others and to do it generously, joyfully and without grumbling.

Would You give me grace to embrace interruptions as gifts from You, and help me to make space in my schedule at my table, in my home and my heart for others.

Amen.

This was one of the prayers in my Sabbath devotional this morning. Just after I had said “Amen”, I received a message on my phone from old friends saying:

“Would you like a “socially distancing” lunch brought to you today?”

IMG_5403Who knew that prayers were answered so rapidly? Especially in this time of isolating, quarantine and shielding! Not only did P and V arrive with a casserole, a loaf of bread, homemade brownies, a hunk of Roquefort cheese and a bottle of red wine, V also did the washing up afterwards! My hospitality consisted of setting the table on my patio, cutting the bread and making the coffee – done generously, joyfully and certainly without grumbling and I definitely embraced this interruption as a gift. It was a lovely surprise, and an opportunity to sit and talk, catch up, and enjoy our friendship. V and I share a birthday and I had also just finished crocheting a lacy scarf, which V graciously accepted as a belated birthday present. We decided this lunch was a belated birthday party. Thank you, Lord!

I see the last few weeks as a very generous and gracious gift from the One who provides. At the end of July my best friend – who lives about 20 km away –  invited me to stay a week with her, which became 10 days, and gave us plenty of time to put the world to rights, watch our favourite TV series on rainy days and enjoy the privilege of swimming and floating around in her private pool on hot sticky days. I was especially grateful that she played chauffeur for me, so I didn’t have to take the train (masks are mandatory on public transport here, but I still don’t like the idea) and also took me to the supermarket so I was able to stock up on food and essentials, instead of having to haul my shopping from the village. Such friends are truly a huge blessing.

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Prior to that, I was delighted to be able to enjoy some time with my Dear Eldest Granddaughter and her family. She has four children, aged 3 to 12, and they spent their summer holiday in their caravan on the Bad Ragaz campsite just down the road from my house. This is Heidiland so they were out and about most of the time, but we met up twice for extended meals and the children found their way from the campsite to Granny’s house, so that also gave me a chance to exercise a little hospitality, too!

“Now I’m 12 I’m allowed to drink coffee,” announced my great-grandson S on his arrival.

“Does that mean you would like a cup of coffee, then?”

“Yes please. With lots of milk.”

His five-year-old brother M had a “Granny tea”, and they sat very primly at my table, demonstrating their good manners, but alas, the coffee didn’t meet S’s standards (he prefers Nescafé) and M wasn’t impressed by the biscuits he was offered, so it wasn’t a total success. However, they are very forgiving and promised to give me a second chance some time.

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I confess that I was a little sceptical this morning about asking for “opportunities this week to show true hospitality to others” when most people I know aren’t going out – but I was quickly taught a lesson, and now my fridge and freezer are well stocked, so I’m prepared! Who will be my next surprise guest, I wonder?

 

Matthew 25:40

Facebook seems to be blanking me. Their loss! I’m wondering if I have offended some thin-skinned arbiter of political correctness by my posts and comments, or if my computer is simply getting old and slow like its mama.

Whatever Fb may be feeling, I’ve probably offended at least two old friends, both confessed practising Christians, by commenting on posts they uploaded that shocked me. Is Fb taking their side against me?

The first was a post about Denmark’s policy towards refugees, which is basically that of the Three Wise Monkeys: blind, deaf and mute. Or in practical terms, lock ‘em out, and if they do get in, starve ‘em out. To which I simply wrote “Matthew 25:40” (the reference is to the verse The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’)

The second is a video showing a young woman who identifies herself as Yugoslavian – though she looks far too young to remember any of the events that led to the disintegration of that country – who claims to be warning the world in general and the USA in particular of the dangers of failing to learn from history. The first ten minutes of her impassioned diatribe give a fairly accurate historical account of the fall of Yugoslavia, and exhort the USA to beware of falling into the same traps.

Then she turns to the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution of the USA and my ears pricked up in disbelief. She goes on to conclude, by meretricious and specious arguments, that Donald J Trump is the saviour of the world. I cannot believe that my FB friend has fallen for this, so my comment on her Facebook page – again based on St Matthew –  was to the effect that sending Beelzebub to drive out devils has never worked, and wondering if she has been brainwashed. My friend is probably miffed and now my ex-friend. But I could NOT let that pass.

I find it extremely disturbing that, even as Trump freely provides more and more evidence of his dangerous incompetence, so many American Christians continue to support him. How is it possible? Perhaps I hit on the right analogy in my earlier remarks: the Three Wise Monkeys.

Yes, Lady No!

Corollary to my last post

D has been at the top of my prayer list for some time now, especially during the past few months. There’s no way I can provide or organise help for her, so I put it all confidently into the hands of the Big Guy Upstairs. Of course, any Christian knows that God can use anyone and anything for his purposes – and non-Christians will maintain that things tend to work out anyway. I know where I stand on this. I’ve seen him work in VERY mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

However, I had to laugh out loud when D phoned me today to tell me that she had followed up on one of Lady No’s leaflets, a service offering help to elderly people stuck in their homes. And she was quite penitent about the threats she was breathing the other day, acknowledging that this was indeed a very good idea. As a result, she now has a friendly person who will do her weekly grocery shopping and might even do some light housework, which will be a great boon.

The range of services offered also includes “sitting having a chat with you over a cuppa” and “taking you to appointments or on short outings”. Now that is simply brilliant. Of course, it isn’t free, but for the first time in months I actually heard my friend sounding genuinely upbeat and cheerful. Lady No has, at last, done something right! God bless her!

And my word, does D appreciate the irony!

How is the Covid-19 Pandemic changing the way people relate?

A young Hong Kong Chinese friend of mine recently published this article on the Cross-Current website  

I find her insights interesting, and hope you will, too. 

Time and Space

In this time of global pandemic, time and space are being handled differently. Because there is no commuting, there is a sudden credit in our time deposit…but our space is also sharply constrained. On one hand, with the “extra time” we have been granted, most of us are spending more time (voluntarily and also involuntarily) with family  both near and far; family is essential to us. On the other hand, because our space is being limited, the intense shared space can cause conflicts.

The limitations on space have also confused the boundaries between work and leisure time, when everything happens in the same house. We commonly experience working even longer hours, when “home is at work” or “work is at home”. The borderline between home and work has become blurred.

In a conference scenario, the “same time, same place” changes in pandemic time from common time and place to one’s own same place and time…the only same thing we all share, is indeed the Zoom screen.

Technologies of Communication

Technology has jumped in as a “saviour” for everyone; without it, we would not know how to stay in contact with those who are not living with us, how to maintain community like church, or how to maintain work efficiency at home. Technologies give a glimpse of hope to those who live alone and those who have never used technology before to stay in touch with others. I truly admire the elderly in my church, who obviously have not used social technology before and do not feel comfortable using it, but still step out of their comfort zone to try the strange technology and remain in good contact with the church community virtually. The generation gap is suddenly pulled closer.

Technology also creates opportunities for those who normally cannot physically join the gathering, but can now join virtually from the other side of the globe.

Expression of Affections

The affection we used to show towards each other was mostly through touching – like a handshake, hugs, slapped shoulders and kisses. In pandemic time, we need to use our body differently to express affection in an alternative way, like waving a “hi”, blowing our kisses or showing a hug gesture from a distance…because we still want to show our affections towards those we love.

This pandemic time has suddenly taken away what we have taken for granted. We used to work in the same office, but because of our lack of willingness to perhaps talk to and care for others – though we were in the same space – we were all alone at our desks. When we are now forced to work separately at home, some of us have realised that cooperation and communication with others is essential and require everyone’s effort and willingness.

Shared Meal

No matter whether it’s in a business or casual context, previously we often shared meals together and considered this time one of fellowship with one another. This is strictly suspended in pandemic time. And we shall all reflect, why has sharing a meal always been such a core part of our social life? How does a shared meal open us up to each other?

Religious Rituals

Christians practise communion together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and we sing worship songs together; these are our shared embodied experiences. In pandemic time, we do these rituals virtually together, though the communion is not served by others but by oneself; and we cannot hear the others’ singing. The feeling of togetherness is definitely missing. But our shared experiences remind us how it was, and while in the meantime we do it virtually together but alone at home, in our mind, we remember how it should be. Our shared memories bind us as a community and with a hope that we will resume that traditional practice again soon.

Collective Memories

Our collective memories as a nation are getting stronger as we all pay attention to the same news – COVID-19. The government also acts – at least in Western Europe – in a more integrated way. The feeling of unity is suddenly felt much more strongly, as we have a common problem to solve. Though some governments might fail to react to the crisis with integrity, people in our society are helping each other, finding resources and supporting one another to get through the crisis together. COVID-19 is a crisis one cannot solve or fight alone; it is a common battle for us humans to fight against.

By Shuk Ling Chan from the Cultural Influencers Group, May 2020

Posted
May 29, 2020
 in

Testimony

 category

There is only one human race

No man is an island, entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main:
If a clod be washed away by the sea
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as any manor of thy friends,
or of thine own were;
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

John Donne, Meditation XViII 1624

John Donne

Quoted so often, people nod sagely and agree, then forget.

But right now, these words should be engraved on everyone’s brain, their sense and meaning hammered into us. They are as true, even truer in our globalising world, than they were 400 years ago when Donne wrote them on his sickbed.

Whether we are referring to Brexit or ISIS (remember those?), the Corona virus and various forms of lockdown, or the recent inexpressible events that have lit the powder keg of protests, violence and horror in the USA and Hong Kong, these words apply.

The funeral bell tolls. Every time a person dies, each one of us is something less than we were because we are all part of a whole. Selfishness, arrogance, hatred, violence can only lead to the destruction of us all, body, soul and spirit. The bell tolls. Heed it.

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

“Isn’t it wonderful when brothers and sisters get along together in harmony. It’s like a great big chocolate fountain or a party with champagne for everyone!” Psalm 133. OK so that’s a paraphrase and I dare say that there are better ones out there. Yet listening to this Psalm this morning got me wondering. How […]

Tuesday 17th March — Sundry Times Too

I’m reblogging this from Kangerew2, whose insightful reflections have given me much comfort and inspiration over the last few months since I discovered his page.

The need to forgive

i mentiond in my last post that I had finished translating another book, so this is just to satisfy any curiosity which that may have aroused. If you have been following me for a long time, you may remember that back in 2013, 2015 and 2016 I reported on an African family separated by the war in Rwanda who were finally, after several years, reunited here in Switzerland.

The posts were Perseverance Rewarded, When life becomes a fairy tale, Book launch and Book launch: Postscript.

My friend Josêphine and her husband Désirė described their traumatic experiences and adventures in a book published first in German as Auf der Flucht getrennt which I translated into English under the rather lame title of On The Run (see my blog post Synopsis of On The Run in 2016 – ISBN 978-3-7407-1525-0, available as paperback or Kindle edition from https://www.amazon.de/dp/374071525?tag=lovelybooks-rdetail-21).

A few months ago, friends who had spent many years as missionaries in Africa asked me if I would be interested in tackling a book that had just come out in French, with another story from Rwanda. Once again, it’s a Christian testimony by an amazing woman. The title in French is Pourquoi je leur ai pardonnė, and is also available from Amazon (ISBN 978-2-8399-2477-6) for those of you who read French. The autthor, Apollne Dukuzemariya, has also given a TV interview that can be viewed here https://dieutv.com/videos/1451-talk-shows/1163-ciel-mn-info/78277-pourquoi-je-leur-ai-pardonne. The English version will hopefully be published later this year. Here’s the synopsis:

Rwanda1994. Pastor’s wife Apolline Dukuzemariya is beaten andg butchered by militia who leave her for dead in front of her children. Physicians doubt she can survive with an open skull and without suitable treatment; her life hangs on a thread, while murderous raids contnue daily even inside the hospital. Despite all odds, she holds onto life.

Eventually, Apolline is able to get to Europe on humanitarian grounds thanks to the intervention of long-time mssionary friends. The long slow healng process allows her opportunity to reflect, read and pray. Today she is able to talk about the inner workings of her soul and spirit that led to this miraculous outcome.She also describes her childhood, her vocation to become a nun that turned out so differently, her marriage and the events that prepared her to face the indescribable. Far from being a chronicle of the genocide, this book is the story of a woman’s spectacular resilience and those who accompanied her on her journey, making her triumph possible. A first-class testimony to the power of forgiveness in a generation that, more than ever, needs reminding of what it means to forgive.

“I AM NOT SCARRED BY MACHETES.
I AM MARKED BY THE LOVE AND POWER OF GOD”

Merry Christmas!

According to my stats, I now have over 200 followers, a figure I find hard to believe since it’s always the same faithful few who deign to pass comment. Be that as it may, I can’t let the season pass without wishing everyone who looks in here – whether 1, 2 or 200 of you – a Merry Christmas, frohe Weihnachten, joyeux Noël, buon Natale, legreivlas fiastas da Nadal, feliz Navidad, god Jul ….

May you know the joy, peace and love that are celebrated at this time, and so urgently needed in today’s world.

Georg Friedrich Händel and Isaac Watts expressed it very well: