Boxer shorts

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I live with 4 adorable men sized males.  Some weeks I pick up, wash, dry, fold and sort into piles at least 30 to 40 pairs of boxer shorts, it actually feels like twice that amount!!  I have a large load washing machine and I can easily fill it just with boxers!

Let me tell you how a simple pair of boxer shorts transformed into a symbol of dignity and compassion from a mundane chore.

I promised more accounts from our trip to Calais and Dunkirk.  One of the first days of our trip we heard about the need for boxer shorts (no briefs – the preference is very much boxer shorts)

We chatted about it with Brian & Diane our dynamic duo stationed in a caravan between Calais & Dunkirk for 6 weeks (on their way home just now – Brian took unpaid leave to go – hero or what?!). They have been our beach head of compassion from VCD if you like.  (follow their antics here). The area is littered with German WW2 bunkers and defence structures all along this part of Northern France.  The Dungannon to Dunkirk brigade have fundraised and galvanised support for the refugees and on our first night there we chatted about how to use some of the money to supply urgent needs.  The conversation quickly landed on boxer shorts.  A few phone calls later we had ordered 800 pairs of boxers direct from a supplier though our middle man in Dungannon to be delivered straight to the Calais.

One week later, by this time we’re back home but I’m still dreaming of the refugee’s most nights, and the 800 pairs of small & medium mens boxer shorts arrive at the Calais warehouse and within 3 hours they are ALL distributed.

800 felt like a lot to me.  But when you have over 3500 people in the Calais camp alone, it feels like a drop in a bucket.  800 pairs of boxers arrive, are sorted by volunteers, are delivered to the camp by more volunteers and are distributed with dignity and compassion by yet more volunteers.

Lets look at that chain of compassion.  2 men from rural Northern Ireland get broken hearts watching the scenes on the news of refugees arriving by the thousand, desperate, destitute and determined.  Nigel and Brian head off in a camper van full of donations with 2 others in Nov. They come back even more broken hearted and now equally focused on doing something  more to help.  They begin to tell the stories of the people they met, of the terrible conditions and the immediate needs and they began to gather more people, money and resources.  15 go out in February with another  camper van filled with donations. 2 are sent out in April for 6 weeks with a caravan full of donations and a dream to do more.  Small short-term teams join them during that time, more people from Vineyard Church Dungannon and others join in too including a team from Causeway Coast Vineyard and a couple from Emmanuel Church in Lurgan.  The kind generous donations are converted in this instance into 800 pairs of boxers.  The black bin liners full of donations have been delivered, sorted, distributed, and still the need grows.

So many people form the links on this compassion chain that provided a simple pair of boxer shorts.  Every person in this chain is vital, every £1 matters.  Every volunteer that makes the journey to Northern France to ‘do something’ matters.  Be it for 6 hours, 6 weeks or 6 months.

We cannot avert our eyes to wave of humanity who are already on our doorstep, to the hundreds arriving each day and the many more already heading our way.  We need to send aid in Syria and around that entire region, absolutely 100% we do.  But we also need aid and solutions for the mass exodus of humanity already on the move.

Will you take your place on the chain? Send money. Donate your stuff.  Rearrange your holiday plans.  Use your annual leave and go serve.  The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, His body has an opportunity no more than that a responsibility to be His light, to pour out His love, to share our wealth, to show mercy.

LET’S GO!!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???

 

You’re in? Great here’s some links below to help you or email me direct on michelle@vcdgn.co.uk if are thinking of going out and want some advice on planning your trip.

VCD Dungannon to Dunkirk Facebook Page – updated regularly with info on ways to help

Help Refugees Facebook Page – updated regularly with the most urgent needs.

The back story 


I’m often overwhelmed by a sense of powerlessness when I read about injustice or the casualties of war or the victims of disaster (man-made or nature).  My mantra is once you know about something that’s wrong then you must act, even in the smallest of ways, to do something. I refuse to be uninformed, to avert my eyes. This leads me to live in place of frustration, knowing that I could do more, should do more, that our western privilege bears a cost that we aren’t paying. 

Last week we travelled to Calais in Northern France; Jason, Micah, Matthew and I. We have dear friends Brian & Diane Cummings from our church who have given up 6 weeks to go and serve with the charities supporting the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk.  This is Brian’s third trip out in 6 months – when he came back after the 2nd trip (he took 14 others on that one) and told us that the church needed to be out there on a longer term and that he was going back for longer I thought he was a bit mad, but I could see the fire in his belly and the determination in his eyes would not surrender to my common sense, or even to Diane’s voice of reason!! 

Brian and Nigel Graham have pioneered our involvement.  These men are incredible in their ordinariness. Typical hard working, family men of as few of words as possible, preferring to just get on with it and get the job done. When you see men like them moved to tears by what they have seen, then you listen. We listened. We helped make plans, we promised our support and we said we might come out and visit them.

Our sons had a part to play. When they heard the February teams’ account of the living conditions that people where in and that there was ways to help they announced that they wanted to go next time. When they heard that Auntie Diane and Uncle Brian where going for 6 weeks they told us we had to take them! Not the best timing I thought – Matty has GCSE’s this month, Micah AS’s and Caleb A’levels. We scheduled it as best we could which sadly meant Caleb couldn’t come this time 😦

In the past couple of years since the refugee crisis has begun to affect us here in the UK, the information and vast swathe of opinion about what we should do/shouldn’t do, can do/can’t do is confusing to say the least. My confusion leads to indecision that soon breeds inaction. All the time there’s this still small voice, simple in its clarity. ‘The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof.’ Cutting through the arguments of immigration quotas, the in or out of Europe, the rights of our citizens over the rights of strangers, cutting through the selfish bias that raises its head in my heart to look after my own first, the fear of ISIS. ‘The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof’ (1 Cor 10) followed by “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, ” Matthew 25:35-36

These words cut through the confusing arguments and shine light on the humans caught up in the fray. This is God’s earth, His alone, how ridiculous our man made borders and possession of land must look to Him. What right have we to natural resources more than any other of His children? The only way to respond to our brothers and sisters stuck on our border is to clothe, feed and care for them until they are invited in. 

It was this still, becoming louder voice that lead me to Calais last week. 

The path home

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I get lost sometimes. I isolate myself. Shut myself off. Hide. I long to shrink, to take up less space. I try to become invisible and then before I know it, it’s difficult to make my way back. The light is dim, the path hidden, my mind confused. By far the most disorientating part is when I can’t find Jesus. I know He never leaves me. I know that He is the beginning and the end. That His love never fails. That His mercies are new every morning. I know that nothing can separate me from His love. I know all these things and more and yet when I’m lost, the facts start to drown out the truth.

(I didn’t intend to be this honest.)

I’ve loved Jesus as far back as I can remember, I surrendered my life to Him the first time when I was 7. I know His love like I know the shades of grey, purple and blue in the sky. But when I’m lost it feels like the further I am from myself the more difficult it is to sense Him. We are inextricably linked and never more is this evident than when I’ve wandered from who I really am and the link becomes tenuous and the panic creeps in. I need to get back. I long to sense Father God’s love. To have the truth drown out the facts. To see my Jesus.

The path back is a well worn one, when I find it. I borrow others carefully written prayers and melodies. I listen when I cannot yet sing. I allow the music and words to wash over me and my heart stirs. The blanket of Jesus presence gently falls on me. And soon all I see is Him. My fears that drove me to hide are fenced in by His love. My failings are awash in His grace. My weariness is erased as I sit and wait for His strength. This path is marked with clarity and revelation of who He is. There is always more on this path, a new part of Jesus to discover. A fresh truth to devour. He becomes large as I worship Him and the link between Him and I grows stronger. My faith expands. My spirit fills again and again with the Holy Spirit. I sing then because I cannot, not sing. My heart bursts, it burns with first love and sometimes this shadlowland world is illuminated with the white light of His glory.

And I’m back. I’m alive again. Never more alive than when I’m worshipping my Jesus.   Never more fully Michelle, than when I’m gazing on Him. The psalms are my beacons in the lost place. Hymns and songs are the lamps at my feet. And I realise that Jesus has walked me out of the hiding place, sat me down at His table at the place that He has prepared for me, in full view of all and everyone. His daughter.   Worship leads me home.

 

 

(soundtrack for this post Steffany Gretzinger – The Undoing)

 

This post first appeared on awakenvineyard.com blog  here in January 2015, I  accepted a kind invitation from my friends at Cincinnati Vineyard Womens Ministry to write a piece for them.

When fear tries to steal your soul 

  The news from Paris is rightly frightening and devastating. People intentionally and callously destroyed in the name of a depraved cause. A cause which funds itself  from selling children, girls and women into forced ‘marriages’ where they are raped, violated, abused and then often resold. A cause that can justify that, can justify the terror they reigned on Paris last night.  

It’s ok to be sad. To rage with righteous anger. To feel the weight of what’s happening in Syria and its borders. To be frustrated with the complexities and what’s the right thing to do. But let’s determine to not give fear a hold. 

You see I can feel it’s icy grip on my soul. Can you? Sadly I recognise it’s imprint. This past 3 weeks I’ve stood toe to toe with fear. Refusing to let it take hold of my heart. We have been battling fear as a family. The details too personal to share and to be honest the details are not as vital as what we are learning. I have heard fear’s voice, I have felt it clutching at my heart, taunting my mind – especially in the night. I don’t remember a time when I have recited scripture so vehemently. I wake up, feel the knot tighten in my stomach and I begin again …

‘there is no fear in love, perfect love casts out all fear’ 

And I repeat it until the knot begins to loosen, until the spiral of thoughts that steal my peace are quietened enough for my sleep to return. 

Fear will not define our family or any of our futures. I refuse to let it. In the middle of one of the hardest seasons of my life I cling to my God and His promises over our lives. He is absolutely and completely real; all those who doubt. He is near. Father God is visible in the kindness of our closest ‘people’. The Holy Spirit whispers hope and purpose and eternity into my weary soul. My Jesus is close, he really meant it when he said He’d never leave me or forsake me. 

So in the midst of the terror on our news, don’t be tempted to turn it off and bury your head under a pillow. Instead fight the fear that it can bring. Lean into praying with confidence like you maybe never have before. Do not let fear steal your soul, your peace, your dreams of a good future for you and your family, and their families families. We have an inheritance. We are the people of Father God and we will not be shaken. Take courage friends. Take courage, stand firm and fight fear with love, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. Let’s lead the way in this, let’s not let the fear bring terror. That’s the intention after all.  Let faith arise and our real enemy will be scattered. This is how we push back the darkness. Your Kingdom Come Lord. 

The tide is turning …

imageI bought a different newspaper today for the first time in 16 years!! And your question is – why are you blogging this??? The reason I chose a different paper, with an entirely different political stance than my usual? I was influenced by my 17 year old. No other person or commentator influenced my decision but the rational, challenging argument put forward by my son Caleb. It got me thinking…

The tide has turned. I am delighted to admit, I am being influenced by my sons.

I remember fondly the years when they were just mesmerised by me. When their faces lit up for their dad and I like for no one else in the whole world. When it was me who needed to answer every question, when it was our opinion that mattered the most. Who’s approval they longed for. Parents of pre-teens, savour this exhausting stage when you feel like the last drop of life is being sucked out of you! Savour it because it’s short and yes it is exhausting because that’s exactly what they’re doing, taking every bit of your influence before they spread their net to include the rest of their worlds.

Pour out all the good stuff in your heart, soul and mind. Pour it all out, refill it and pour it all out again.

1st year (year 8/age 11/ start of middle school/ 6th grade) is the year of gradual shift. New bigger school, new friends, teachers that treat them like the ‘adults-in-training’ that they are. Their minds start growing and expanding, and their hormones are just kicking in. As parents we begin to feel the pulling away – the tension in the apron strings.

TRUST THEM.

Trust yourself to loosen the strings. Remember all you’ve invested. Remember every ounce of yourself that you poured in. Trust that inside your ‘adult-in-training’ is an infinite amount of good, an infinite amount of hope, of love, of promise in them, about to be mined in the painful process of growing through the teenage years. Trust Jesus who loves them even more than you do – I know it’s difficult for us to fully except this truth – but it is the truth nonetheless. He does.

HELP THEM.

Help them find a few good influences to include in their nets. You can’t be too intentional about this. Be on the look out. Who of your friends do they connect with – encourage those connections. Youth groups that mirror your family values are vital at this stage too, inside and outside of church world. Your influence isn’t over, it continues but please accept the shift; for their sake more than yours. Lavish love on and encourage their friendships that BRING them life; think full-on positive affirmation.

1st through 3rd years are tense. It’s all readjustment, loosening the strings, trusting the influences, trusting each other and adjusting boundaries. Letting go is hard but absolutely essential. At times you will let go too much and you’LL have to grab on a bit more for another while. Other times it’ll feel too hard and painful and you’ll have to force yourself to let go again.

HOPE.

But hope is on its way.   There’s a stage coming, one that we’re right bang in the middle of right now. (5th, lower 6th, upper 6th/ 15, 16 &17 years). When one day you will realise that your wonderful, messy ‘adults-in-training’ are actually influencing you!! Yes it’s true. My boys inspire me. They challenge me – EVERY SINGLE DAY !! I mean they challenge me in a way that causes me to grow as a person not just as a parent. They challenge my less than gracious or loving attitude when it raises its head.   They challenge my pre-conceived notions that I present as truth. They challenge me to try new things. Sorry Matty but you haven’t succeeded in making me love dance music yet or Liverpool but you do challenge my belief that i’m always right 🙂  They inspire me to love the things they love. Films, superheroes, and to be more hospitable and inclusive (Micah). They inspire me to see God in a fresh way as they develop their own personal, intimate relationship with Jesus.

It feels like the tide is turning. We are in a season of a beautiful rushing in and out of influence and inspiration. We still give, but oh how we are receiving back too.

HOLD ON

Hold on parents of babies, and tinies, and little ones, and pre-teens, and just teens! The tide will turn, the days of giving out continue, but the days of rich receiving are on the way.