We Will Remember Them

img_1229They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Englishman Laurence Binyon wrote his well-known poem, “For the Fallen”, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Sitting on the cliffs of Cornwall, gazing across to France where the British army had suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front, he composed the poem to honour his fallen countrymen. The third and fourth stanzas are quoted often as a universal tribute for fallen servicemen and women.

Receiving little recognition, an ongoing battle rages between the worldwide family of Christ and those who oppose and persecute its members. Recently Perfecto, a dedicated church elder from a village in the Philippines, was brutally murdered by two Muslim men as he rested in a hammock outside his house. Perfecto’s 12 year old daughter witnessed the shooting. She and her younger brother lost their only parent as their mother left the family years ago.* Perfecto’s murder is only one among many occurring in countries restricted and hostile to Christians. As well, large numbers of believers are being tortured, imprisoned and persecuted for their faith. Will we remember them?

When the apostle Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, the early Christians were already suffering persecution for their belief in Christ. “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
(Heb. 13:3 NIV) Calling upon the compassion exemplified by Christ, Paul exhorts believers to identify with their persecuted brothers and sisters and do what they can to comfort and help them. The most accessible and effective defense for such intense spiritual warfare is the weapon of prayer which can be wielded from anywhere by any believer. In Ephesians 6. Paul uses the parts of a soldier’s armour to illustrate the list of defenses needed for spiritual warfare. He instructs them to pray “in the Spirit, on all occasions” and to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18)

How can we best honour and remember those of the army of Christ who have given their lives for their faith? By vigilantly praying for those who are presently being persecuted around the world because of their love for Jesus, asking Him to equip and protect them with the His spiritual armour. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

* story from Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com


In the Wake of the Storm

img_2323At some point that evening I went from being exhilarated by the fierce summer storm raging outside, to fleeing in fear to the only windowless room in our home. I huddled with my husband in the dark while the wind roared and shook the house as if it were too close to a speeding freight train. Finally sensing a lessening in the storm’s clamor, we cautiously crept out to witness the utter chaos left in the wake of its violent tantrums. Broken tree limbs and debris littered the lawn, but worse was the uprooted cottonwood tree stretched like a slain giant across our crumpled fence into the yard behind, barely missing the neighbor’s house.

In the following days as we cleaned up the wreckage from the storm, I mourned the loss of the cottonwood tree. On hot summer days we used to rest in our lawn chairs under its cool shade, lulled by the lyric rustle of its leaves in the breeze. It had been a green sanctuary to myriads of birds which we enjoyed watching splash in our nearby birdbath. Our grandchildren once climbed the lower branches, safe in its woody embrace. Now an ugly stump was all that remained, and empty space where once a friendly giant stood.

My husband took a more pragmatic view of the loss of the tree. He saw how its absence allowed more sunlight to reach his vegetable garden, especially the rows closest to the fence which always did poorly for lack of light. We observed carrots and parsnips gradually flourish with more sunlight to strengthen them.

In her book, “Roots & Sky”, author Christie Purifoy writes, “God does not erase our losses, those empty places in our lives, but He does something almost more miraculous. He fills the loss with a sign of His presence.” Losing a tree cannot compare to losing a loved one, or a marriage or a part of who you are, but for me it was a picture of how loss opens up room for a new work of God.

There was a time in my life when I lost everything I had ever feared losing; my marriage, financial security, health and family unity. In the midst of these devastating losses, I could not imagine a future when all would be made new, even better than before. But God could. “His mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of.” (Eph. 3:20 TLB)

God takes loss and turns it into abundance. In the ashes of my pain, I discovered the abundance of God’s love, His perfect character and His always faithful promises. When life left me hollowed out, He filled the space with His own presence. As I discovered, this is God’s specialty, giving beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. (Isa. 61:3 NKJV)

In the equation of loss becoming abundance, He uniquely illustrates for each of us His supreme renewal project, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24 NIV) He was speaking of Himself as the Seed, abused, crucified, buried in a dark tomb. Then the Seed came bursting forth alive, His resurrection beginning a great harvest of souls for God’s kingdom. Death gave way to life. Decay became deliverance.

A mighty tree once stood in my yard where now there is just a weathered stump. However new light floods a healthy garden where many seeds now flourish in abundance. In our memory’s landscape, the scar of a loss does not need to be a place of pain forever. It may be remembered, even mourned, but more significantly, it is a landmark telling where God met us and how He brought restoration and renewal out of the darkest places of our world.

Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Rock Unshakeable

nakwakto rapidsI recall the surreal sensation of  the rock island shaking beneath my feet. I was on  a house-sized island which stands defiantly against the churning current of Nakwakto Rapids. There are at least 250 kilometers of inland waterways that comprise the Seymour & Belize inlets on Canada’s west coast, and the only connection with the sea is through Nakwakto Rapids. When the tide is running, the rapids rip around the island at up to 18 knots (20 mph.), recorded as the fastest tidal surge in the world. Such forceful movement of seawater through narrow channels actually causes the island to tremble, thus its local name, Tremble Island.

If I hadn’t experienced it myself I would not have believed that a rock island of that size could be shaken. The movement beneath my feet threw off my equilibrium. I was used to walking on a moving boat, however moving land was another thing altogether. Although the shaking wasn’t visible to the eye, I still needed to brace my feet and hold on to trees. When the tide finally slackened I was relieved to get off the island to the man-made security of a boat.

Standing on Tremble Island taught me something. Nothing in this world is secure, not even the ground I walked on. The people, places and things I looked to as stable and safe always had the potential to let me down. Realizing this didn’t make me a pessimist, just a realist. The world was in constant flux and I was caught up in its movement, like it or not.

Not long after standing on Tremble Island, all that I depended on in my life was knocked out from under me. My marriage, bank account and health all disintegrated within a few months and I was left floundering, swept along in the rapids of abandonment and hardship. Those rapids washed me up on the one surety left. God had long been the focus of my life, but now in a deeper way I found Him to be the solid Rock when all other ground was sinking sand.

I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  (Psalm 40:1-2  NIV)

That firm place to stand is God Himself. He is the Rock, the foundation under girding all life. Jehovah is my rock, my fortress and my savior. I will hide in God, who is my rock and my refuge. (2 Samuel 22;2-3 LB)

There is a learning about God which can only occur in the slimy pit, the mud and mire of this often cruel world. When I think about that pain-filled period, I remember the deep anguish, the hurt, the fear, but most clear in my memory is the presence of God in those times. He was more real than any of my trials, comforting me when I lay sobbing on my bed, providing for my needs before I voiced them, giving me peace as I faced cancer treatments.

More than that, He was, and still is, the solid ground beneath my feet when all else was in turmoil around me. His loving closeness, His Spirit speaking to mine, the assurances in His Word,  kept me upright through the worst storm I had ever faced.

Tremble Island still stands, in spite of its trembling through each tide change. It stands because it is a very large rock with foundations that go deep. I expect I will tremble too, with each trial which may come, but I trust in the Rock my feet stand upon; steadfast, immovable, the foundation of my whole being, and I will be secure.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV)