For me, presence is a grace offered in each moment. It allows whatever I am feeling to be transmuted into something useful, for myself, for the situation I may be in, and perhaps some greater good…Richard rohr , daily reflections
Another funeral, another search for the right words. I blurt out something panicked about no more suffering for the deceased, which I recognise immediately is little comfort for the mother who must keep living. I see her eyes glaze over, the brief opportunity for connection gone.
Us Christians, we can spiritualise anything it seems! By spiritualise I suppose I mean over-spiritualise! We are tempted to reassure ourselves by adding extra layers of meaning to the mundane. We can adeptly elevate the significance of everyday realities based on our faith in realities beyond what our eyes can see.
I’ve been on the receiving end of well-meaning attempts to spiritualise too. I’ve confided that my anxiety is affecting my sleep… to be told that I just need to trust God to be in control. I’ve confided the behavioural complexities of raising a traumatised child… to be told that simply modelling adoption into God’s family will outweigh any previous harm. But none of this speaks into my reality! I continue to ‘fail’ despite the exhortations to believe better and this just perpetuates guilt.
There is certainly a place for pointing each other back to simple trust, for clinging to our sure and certain future hope. But I am only beginning to grasp how much damage is done in Jesus’ name when we skip over the chances to sit with another human being in their pain. Be it the challenges of work, parenting, relationships, health… or the muddy depths of unshakeable grief, we must resist the temptation to over-spiritualise, to make meaning where there is none. Maybe the mundane is actually supposed to be mundane; maybe it is already holy, without being dressed up!
How many times have we spoken assurances that have left somebody feeling ‘less than’ at their point of desperation? Then, how many times have we automatically turned to questioning our own spiritual capacity when things get messy – are my prayers ineffective, why does the miracle not happen for me?
I think the miracle of our faith is exactly this; we can step into the mess without preparing a five-point defence. We can lean into our human experience without fearing that our certainties will crumble along with our circumstances. Actually, they might well crumble but honest faith expands to accommodate crumbling. Our faith is literally made for riding storms and it doesn’t need protecting from storms! When we over-spiritualise things that are inherently difficult we throw little buoyancy aids that soften the edges of experience but we are left lacking.
The truth is that we don’t have a ‘fix it’ saviour. We have a saviour who models love incarnate; crossing unthinkable boundaries and journeying ever downwards towards suffering. A saviour who willingly enters the grey spaces of life where questions abound and there are simply no easy answers. A saviour who validates the harsh and wonderful realities of being flesh and blood. A saviour who invites us to offer our un-judging presence alone because that can be the greatest gift for a hurting world.
The flights are booked for the 21st July. Elise, Elliot and Bow are psyching up for significant goodbyes, and some apprehension is setting in. Even positive change is tough!
Presence matters. The place where you spend your time, the people you invest in, the little patch of the world where you make a life – it matters.
For this next 2 years it matters that Elise is geographically close to her mum. It matters that the kids access the right support services at the right time.
It also matters that we carry on some presence in Klong Toey – there is unfinished work here that can’t be left without possible harm to some very precious people. This is still where we see our future. We are still deeply committed to our work with Urban Neighbours of Hope. By leaving Bangkok for a short time we are laying the foundations to be able to stay for a much longer time.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
We are looking for some new regular financial givers to join our support team. We know this requires a long-term view of mission beyond the next few years but we are trusting God to prompt those who share our heart for holding out Kingdom Hope in centres of urban poverty. Family life involves many seasons and we need committed financial supporters willing to travel our slightly unconventional route through these changing seasons.
We’ve been hit with some big unexpected costs in Thailand, including the house behind ours coming off it’s foundations and crashing through our back wall! With the prospect of setting up home in a second country when living costs are soaring, as well as the need to visit each other often enough to stay connected, we are still far short of our budget for 2022-2024. Any one-off gifts towards these costs will be very gratefully received.
This past few months has been one of the hardest periods in our eight years in Bangkok. The prospect of leaving, however temporarily, has coloured everything and led us back to the core beliefs and practices that brought us here originally. To say we’ve all been a bit emotional and highly strung would be an understatement! And yet there is still a longing to be near family, to retreat from the busyness for a while and get healthy.
We’ve savoured time with colleagues and neighbourhood friends recently; as two overthinkers who can get very task-focused we’ve had to be intentional about fostering a relational focus… and it has been great! It’s not been easy to lay down or handover some of our routine work responsibilities, but for us it has been a good discipline and a reminder that we are not indispensable.
Elliot and Sam’s school performances as Aladdin and Oliver respectively were a great success! They were super confident and really impressed us with their acting and singing. We also attended their prize giving ceremonies where both boys were awarded the Academic English prize for their year groups – having no TV but lots of books in the house has definitely paid off! Elliot also won the prize for non-native Thai language which is a brilliant achievement that his parents are quite jealous of!
Bow performed in a class assembly with some great drumming, impromptu dance moves and enthusiastically delivered lines! It was lovely to see her so well integrated and just bursting with pride. She is probably the least unsettled of the lot of us about the upcoming move but tends to process things more ‘in the moment.’
In defiance of all our careful planning for finishing the season well, Covid has visited our household! We had to face one of our greatest fears when Bow contracted the virus last week and became very unwell very quickly. Covid attacks the mitochondria and that is particular serious for patients with mitochondrial disease whose energy production is already compromised. All Bow’s usual symptoms worsened on top of fighting the actual virus so it has been a struggle for her to eat, walk, talk etc. Thank goodness for Daddy doctor staying up most the night and preventing a hospital stay. Thankfully she has turned a corner after two weeks and has some of her usual sparkle back!
Elliot has now returned from school camp with Covid so we are re-evaluating our last few weeks. At least the packing has begun early! We are still hoping to get away for a week with family (Jon’s sister and family live in the North of Thailand) before travelling to the UK.
pray with us
- Pray for long term health for Bow who is higher risk for complications from Covid. Pray that her medical care can safely transition to UK specialists without too much delay.
- Pray for us in the upheaval of an International move. Pray that even with illness in the mix, we will be able to say significant goodbyes and leave with clear consciences. Pray that worries about being apart, about workload and finances can stay in proportion and not compromise our commitment to be present in both places.
- Please pray for those we live alongside who don’t have the opportunity to travel to see family as we are doing and who live hand to mouth each day. Pray that our work and presence over many years will bear fruit and neighbours will recognise their God-given worth. Pray that God will be working in hearts and homes beyond our access and that transformation will happen from the bottom up in Bangkok. Pray that God will show us our small part to play in this.
2 thoughts on “Bracing for Change”
Ever since we met at the CMF Developing Health course you have been in my thoughts and prayers. Following your blogs, sporadically anyway, has meant you seem like close friends who I rarely see. It’s a small thing, but it feels like a glimpse of the Kingdom all its own.
I pray for a supernatural peace over this time. May the Holy Spirit rest on your children in a way that is remarkable and confidence inspiring and hopeful and joyous. May you say goodbyes in real, painful, healing, bidirectional ways, and may you see growth even as it feels days slip away from you. May Psalm 29 be your anthem, as the desert shakes, as the temple resonates with “Glory!”, and as strength and peace floods you.
(BTW the donor links above didn’t work for me.)
Thanks so much for your encouragement Chris, it means a lot! The links should be working now, appreciate you letting us know.