Unity

There was devastation in my country, Northern Ireland, when Protestants and Cathoilics were at war from 1968 to 1998.

Thirty years of Troubles. Catholics were bombed out of their homes, forced to move away from Protestant neighbours. Protestants were bombed out as well to force families into Ghettos. City centres were bombed to try to disrupt everyday life. Your life was at risk if a Catholic married a Protestant. Hearts were broken over the death of loved ones, and dreams. Men and women were kidnapped and never returned to their families. Many people were forced into exile. Why did this happen? Other nations who don’t believe in Jesus were laughing at us. We were bringing shame to the name of Jesus.

This is Christian Unity week. Around the third week in January each year, Christians are encouraged to gather together to pray. This movement has been encouraged for around ninety years. I think it a great idea. I was inspired to seek for unity many years ago when I read Jesus’ word to his disciples before he went to the crucified.

“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.
Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:11-12, 17, 21-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It was one of Jesus’ last prayers for us before he died. This prayer is still valid today. When I first came upon this scripture there was war in Northern Ireland; war between Protestants and Catholics.
I was distressed that this situation was definitely the opposite of what Jesus prayed. I determined to look for unity among Christians.

I sought out other Christians in my town. I went along to every Church to meet the people and see what their services were like. I found they had many things in common. The bible was read and explained. They prayed to the same Father in heaven, “Our Father who art in heaven.” They all said that Jesus forgives our sins. They all said there is a heaven and a hell and one can be sure of getting there to heaven if one has faith in Jesus. They all celebrated the breaking of bread to remember Jesus death. Many people turned to God during the troubles and found solace at Church. Congregations were growing. But still I wondered why are there so many churches. Why were there so many different meeting places? Why was there such hatred and bitterness among people outside causing bloodshed in my country?

Here is another verse that inspired me at the time.

““I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:19-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I wanted God to change my life on the earth. Jesus said “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus promises us eternal life in heaven with him and the Father if we believe and trust him. Not only that but he wants us to experience his kingdom life here on earth. There is peace, joy, unity and love in heaven. Why not on earth as well? I wanted heaven to come on earth in my life, home and community.

I wanted to pray, even if it was only one other person, all those thirty eight years ago. I read a book in the library about people in America meeting together to pray for healing and people got healed! I found a group of ladies who prayed. One was a Presbyterian, another a Church of Ireland, a Methodist, a Baptist and myself a Catholic. We met together to pray each week. I felt at home and began to pray. One lady said later, “I was the best wee evangelical prayer she had ever heard.” Yes God was in our midst, as Jesus said “I am there with them.” There may have been war outside, but we had peace in our hearts and in our meetings. Prayers were answered, especially prayers for peace in our country. We would pray that bombs would not go off. Often bombs were found by the police before they did any damage. We prayed for our families. I found these ladies loving and encouraging. I looked forward each week to seeing them.

With any step forward in one’s walk with Jesus, one’s heart gets tested. Immediately after Jesus taught his disciples to agree in prayer, Peter asked “How often have we to forgive?” It is necessary that to be in unity one has to forgive. Each of us is a sinner. If I want my own way and don’t work with the other person then there is disagreement. Our prayer is not answered.

This can be particularly relevant when a husband and wife wish to pray together. You don’t have to leave home or go to Church to pray with someone else if you are married. Statistics show that not many couples pray together. It is easier to pray with a stranger who believes in God than one’s husband. It is God’s plan that a husband and wife are in unity. He wants us to be one! How can this be? Only by God’s power. No amount of reading “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” will bring about the unity. I know. I have been tried in the furnace of affliction in order for me to agree with my husband. Perhaps you ladies out there can identify with me.

““But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.””
‭‭Mark‬ ‭10:6-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This is the ideal but in the working out of this truth one has to give up one’s own agenda for the sake of the other. It means giving up one’s pride, ambition, and independence for the sake of the other. Am I willing to do this for the sake of the Kingdom of God and unity to come in my marriage, my family and community of believers.

Jesus knew how difficult we would find it to agree. It is difficult for two sinners to live together. Paul fell out with Barnabas, who had been a big encourager to him before. They went their separate ways. Jesus has made provision for us. He died and shed his blood for me for my forgiveness of sins. He wants me to forgive my brother or sister who has done me wrong. Through his blood we can be reconciled and be in unity again, so we can pray. Outside of ourselves we have the evil one, the devil, with whom to contend. He hates when people agree to pray and especially when a couple pray. Satan is defeated when we overcome our disagreements.

I appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to united again in your belief and practice. It is clear there are serious differences among you.”
God has taken me on a journey to seek an answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity. This has taken me back into my own home. I seek unity with my husband so we can pray and our prayers are not hindered. God has cleared away the serious differences between us. This means being humble, forgiving and not arguing.

Jesus told us to remember his death in Communion. Before we come to Communion in remembering Jesus death on the cross we are encouraged to go to our brother and and sort out any disagreement.
“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am beginning to understand why there is bitterness and hatred among Christians. It is deeply rooted in their hearts. Injustices against one another in past generations had grown into devastation of lives and property in our towns. Great offences had festered for generations and grew into deep roots of malice and hatred. Can our land be healed? Can people be healed who have been deeply hurt? Is there any balm to heal the wounds of my people?

God was working. There was hope. Two “Cities of refuge”were opened. Cecil Kerr began a work of Reconciliation in Rostrever Renewal Centre. Protestants and Catholics could find a space to meet together and be accepted. Corrymeela, near Ballycastle, was opened by Ray Davey with a vision to give holidays to people who needed to get out of the war zones. Another city of refuge. Protestants and Catholics were starting on a journey of getting to know one another.

Peace talks were held with the help of other leaders from Britain, Tony Blair, and America, President Clinton. Channels of communication were opened. Political leaders from Northern Ireland, John Hume and David Trimble received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work for peace. Martin Maginess and Paisley who had been enemies, became the First Minister and Deputy Minister in Stormont. They worked together and became known as “The Chuckle Brothers.” The War ceased. The devastation stopped.

There is a Balm to heal the wounds of my people. I found him. He is Jesus. He forgives all sins of the people and their forefathers’ sins through the shedding of his blood. If we have faith that he forgives sins we can be set free. So the devastation, hurt, divorce, cancer and hatred need not continue. It starts with me forgiving another if he hurts me. If I feel wounded I ask Jesus to heal me and not let the wound fester until I want revenge. By his stripes I am healed.

When I was suffering from cancer, I had unforgiveness in my heart. I definitely wasn’t in agreement with my husband and other Christians. I had to ask Jesus to forgive me again and in return I chose to forgive others. My heart was cleansed and at the same moment my cancer disappeared. I sought reconciliation with my husband and others.

The war has ceased. But now so many of our churches, whether they are Catholic, Church of Ireland, Prespyterian, Methodist, Baptist, or new Church having falling numbers in their congregations? Why are so many people suffering from cancer. Has there been fall outs in marriages, divorces, family and church members?

I urge you as Paul says above, to make up the differences between you. Pray together again with one or two. This is how we solve our problems and our nation’s problems. When we are forgiven, healed and restored we are free to pray together and our prayers will be answered. Some people from Northern Ireland now are invited to other war torn nations to help broker peace. What God has done for us he can do for others.

There is restoration after devastation. We need not give up hope.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/devastation/

 

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Testimony Tuesday. Norming and Storming Brings Unity.

In earlier years some children left home for university and others were still at home.  At holiday times those at university would return home to Ireland with their luggage.  They would have to find a spare bed or share with others for the duration of the holidays.  We all had to adjust to being in close proximity again.

When children leave they have more space in their new surroundings.  So returning to a confined space stretched their patience and they had to sacrifice their own comfort.  They usually were stressed out after exams at university and tired after all the activity student life demands.  They would crash in bed and sleep late.

I had other expectations.   I looked forward to their company and some help to give me a break from working in the home.  Instead I had more work to do, more cooking and shopping.  Home was somewhere for them to get their batteries recharged.  My batteries were running out.

In my dilemma I would get frustrated with the children and made demands they were not able to meet.  Children would get frustrated with each other and disputes would have to be settled.  All this was too much for me.  I would call on my husband to talk to any child  who was misbehaving and settle disputes between me and the children, or between each other.

Brendan had his work cut out.  He called these times “Norming and Storming.”  The children were disciplined and reconciled.  Often I felt disciplined when I had to be reconciled to my own children.  The father has the ability to do this for his family.  He can bring unity.  While living together as a big family we had to get on with each other and forgive each other.  We had to go through the process each time we were together.

Despite all the Norming and Storming at the beginning, holidays always turned out to be refreshing times when we could spend time together at meals and at play.  My husband and I were stretched at these times.  When everyone left we needed to take a break ourselves to forget about our troubles and spend time together.

When any group of people get together to do a task, they have to take time to know one another.  Each one’s skills and gifts are needed in the Christian life to help each other.  I needed others to help me get healed.  Someone with the gift of healing helped, another with the gift of prophecy encouraged, a deliverer, the doctors, nurses, family and friends were all needed to love me back to health.  God works through people.  We are his hands and feet.  That is why it is important to get on with each other and forgive each other.

We make up the Body of Christ.  Where brothers dwell together in unity The Lord commands a blessing.

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭133‬:‭1, 3‬ NIV)

We built This City. Daily Prompt. Downpatrick, in Northern Ireland, the Place where I Live.

Next Monday, the 17th March is St Patrick’s day.   There are celebrations all over the world on this day.  In America green beer is sold.  When my husband was in China on St Patrick’s Day the locals gave him a can of Guinness.  He said it was the best can of Guinness he had ever drank in China.  It was the only one!
The Irish people have spread all over the world and that is why most countries have heard of St Patrick.
St Patrick  is celebrated as an man who lived among the Irish in the fifth century.  He preached the gospel of Jesus and did many signs and wonders among the people.  It is recorded that he drove the snakes out of Ireland.  There are no snakes in Ireland.
The town where I live is called Downpatrick.  It is claimed that St patrick is buried here.  Many tourists come to visit this historical place.
The people of this town have lived at peace with each other during the recent troubles in the seventies.  Every Good Friday all denominations of Christians walked through the town behind a wooden cross.  People took turns to carry it.  The people of the town demonstrated their unity, when in other parts of Northern Ireland people were being murdered.
I believe there is a blessing over Downpatrick because of it’s history as a centre of Christianity and civilisation.  There are many schools and colleges in our town.   Christian brothers set up a school for over eleven year old boys back at the beginning of the twentieth century.
They brought education to the poor.  My children attended this school.
I was praying for a bigger house for our growing family.  I needed more space.  I believed that God would provide for us a big family, like he provided for the tribes that went into the Promised Land.
About that time I read in the bible “Look for the ancient pathways where you will find rest for your soul.”  Jeremiah 6 v 16.  Downpatrick is an ancient pathway where Christians have lived for many centuries.  St Patrick may have walked down the pathway or street where we live.
My husband and I believe that God can speak and guide people.  God showed my husband in a dream to get in touch with a man who lived in Downpatrick.  This man, some months later helped us get the big house we now live in.   It has seven bedrooms, two kitchens and two living rooms.  We will be ever grateful to our friend who helped us find a home here.  He helped us when we were in need.
Downpatrick has been a blessing to our family.  Our children were welcomed into the schools.  Their friends’ parents welcomed them into their homes.  The local soccer club and Gaelic club were somewhere safe for my boys to play, supervised by responsible caring volunteers.  It felt as if we always lived here.
We joined with other Christians to pray in unity.  We were blessed.   Where brothers dwell together in unity there The Lord commands a blessing.  Psalm 133.
Since we moved here as we prayed with others for our town,  new things have come here.  A new hospital is built, a new cinema, two new schools, and a new supermarket.
Where I came here I met other families that returned here to rear their children.
Downpatrick is a pleasant and safe place to live.
We have a vibrant Art Centre that gets funding from the government.  Downpatrick punches above its weight.
It has a pleasant climate.  It rests in the lee side of the Mourne Mountains.  The rain falls on the mountains, so we receive less rain than other parts of our country.   We often had our dinner outside in the summer time.  We could never do that in the last town we lived in.
There are beautiful local parks and coastlands.  Within seven miles we are at the beach.  Coney Island is nearby.  It is made famous by the Van Morrison song.
As people live together in harmony the Mayor of our town will have an easy job.
Soon we are moving to a smaller house not far from Downpatrick.   I will always be grateful to God for leading us to live in Downpatrick.  I am thankful to all the teachers, coaches, friends and neighbours who helped our family and have made our time in Downpatrick a happy one.
you too can be guided by God in your life.  He will speak through dreams or circumstances that may arise in your life.  God loves you.

From the Roar of the Sea to Stillness of the Flock of Dunlins

Today I am noticing birds. It is mid January and spring is in the air.  The sparrows are chirping in the hedgerows, the starlings are searching for food under the leaves:  the doves flit from branch to branch, and the little chaffinches chase away any intruders from the bird table.  Blackbirds are making an appearance from their winter hideaways.  The time for singing of birds has come, early!
Image
 The earth is causing the first flowers to spring up.  I saw snowdrops today.  There are a sure sign for me of brighter days coming.  I bought the first bunch of daffodils this week.  I am reminded of the scripture
“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  from the Song of Solomon 2:12 NIV.
Later in the morning I saw other birds.  Brendan and I went for a walk along the promenade in Newcastle.  The tide was high, the sea calm, with waves gently lapping on the rocks.  A few days ago the waves were crashing, splashing, and cascading onto the promenade, leaving sea weed and sand.  There was  power in those waves.
Image
I looked closer at an area of beach covered in pebbles.  There was a little flock of Dunlins.  Their white bellies and grey backs enabled them to be camouflaged among the stones.  They were still and silent in unison, all facing the same direction.  The moment reminded me when people would be silent out of respect for someone important.  It seemed they were worshipping.  It was a holy moment.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and though its waters roar and foam.  He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:1-3, 10 NIV)
It was marvellous to look at the flock of birds.  Can we learn from these little birds and be in unity?  Sometimes one can be quiet for a moment, but for a group of people to stand in quietness without being told to is unusual.  Our world is full of noise, talking, traffic, radio, TV, music and machines.  Perhaps we can try with our friends or family to be quiet and still for ten minutes like the Dunlins.  Be still and know that I am God.
Creation is is declaring the Glory of God as the waves crash and the little birds together stand still, hidden among the stones.