Expecting – an advent poem

2014-11-30 22.04.25

And we wait

Excitement building as the nights draw in

the coca-cola advert the first clue

that the season is on its way

Soon enough

fairy lights will flicker on house fronts

and we will count down the days with chocolates

the weeks with candles

And the shopping begins

and dreams of what might be found

in stockings hung on mantlepieces

or at the foot of the bed

but do we really know

what we are waiting for

Think back

for one girl

there were nine months of waiting

a young expectant mother

knowing her life would change completely

unaware how completely her child would change the world

and as months pass

the expectation grows

“He will save His people”

Nine months from promise to fulfillment

or longer?

as the promise was made long before

clocks go back 700 years

A promis spoken

“unto us a son is given”

“prince of peace”

light in the darkness

hope is born in an expectant people

waiting

for the silence to be broken

for the promise to be fulfilled

the promise made long before

looking back through time

hints and clues along the way

back to the beginning

the birth of the world

the first people

a promise broken

and a new promise made

the offspring who would redeem

Son of God, Son of Man

and the years passed

until the time came for the child to be born

to live

to grow

to die

and live again

so now we look back

as we look forward

to the day of celebration

For He is here

yet He is coming

so in expectation we await

the promise fulfilled

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And soon it will be #Dressember…

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So last weekend I didn’t manage to write a post as I was in London. I had the amazing privilege to be present at the first UK conference of the International Justice Mission (IJM), called Make Darkness Light. I say privilege because I was humbled to hear of the brilliant work this charity is doing in some of the toughest places in the world.

I am not quite sure how I first heard about IJM. I think it was at a screening of the Nefarious film (produced by another great charity called Exodus Cry). After the film, there were stalls for various charities working to fight trafficking, and I signed up to a few mailing lists, including IJM’s.

I have been receiving IJM emails for some time now, and I confess the majority ended up in the deleted items file, unread. But then in the summer I was accepted onto a Masters course in Theology, and picked modules concerning social justice issues for my speciality. I had been interested in the issue of human trafficking for a number of years but always pushed it to the back of my mind because I didn’t really know what I could do about it. So in choosing the social justice modules I was admitting to myself that this was an issue I really cared about, and that it was high time I learnt what I could do to help.

The next email I received from IJM was an invitation to the conference. I straightaway knew I wanted to go, but even though tickets were not expensive, at the time I had no job and less money, and was unsure how I would be able to go. I mentioned it to my Dad, and he said to leave it for a week or to (there were a few weeks of early-bird discount left) and see what happened. Later that week we went out for coffee with my Nan. She asked if there was anything particular I wanted for my birthday this year. I couldn’t think of anything, but then my Dad mentioned the conference and my Nan offered to buy my ticket as a birthday present. A few days later I booked my ticket.

The whole day was full of heartbreaking stories mixed with great hope about what could be done to help. We lifted up in prayer the IJM staff, the victims, the perpetrators, and the local justice systems. Where we knew names, we prayed for individuals. Where we could not find the words, we let our tears be our prayers. We worshiped the God who is stronger than the powers of this world and who cares about the poor and the oppressed. And we were encouraged to act – to raise money, to raise awareness, to be a voice for the voiceless.

IJM work in some of the world’s poorest countries, where violence and oppression are a part of daily life, where millions of people are trapped in slavery, trafficked and forced to work in horrendous situations, stripped of their rights and their voice. When IJM hear of victims of slavery, sexual exploitation or violent oppression they work hard to rescue the victims, restore their health and dignity, get them counselling when needed, train them in new skills and help them to avoid becoming trapped again. But this is not all they do. They work closely with the local justice systems of that country to take the perpetrators to court, to try to prevent them from commiting the same crimes again. They do not win every case, but in working in the system they find all the loopholes, the corruption, the structures that keep the victims victims and allow the perpetrators to get away with their crimes. With this knowledge they can start to change the systems from the inside. They are also working with our government to keep the issue of slavery on the agenda.

Trafficking is a huge problem in our world, and I can’t not do something about it any more. In December I will be raising awareness of the issue of slavery and the work of IJM (and hopefully raising some money too!) by joining women all over the world in taking part in Dressember. For the 31 days of December, I will be wearing dresses everyday, to stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are victims of oppression.

I will be taking a photo of my outfit each day, and posting it online with the hashtag #Dressember. (if you want to see the pictures, they will appear on my old tumblr blog: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/squishymeanderings and on my personal twitter feed: @cerilouise_87)

I have also created a fundraising page at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Ceridressember if you would like to donate, and UK taxpayers can giftaid their donations. If you are in the USA, it’s better for you to sponsor me through Dressember’s own site, so you can do your tax-related thing… Go to http://www.dressemberfoundation.org, click on give, then ‘support a specific participant’ and search for me (Ceri Webb).

To find out more about the work of IJM and sign up to their mailing list, visit their website here: https://www.ijmuk.org

And ladies, It’s not to late to join us – check out the Dressember website for how you can get involved.

27 million people trapped in slavery is not okay. Speak up. Raise awareness. Be a voice for the voiceless.

face to face

Psalm 11

King David was a man of great faith, even when circumstances were not great. It makes me so happy that we have so many Psalms that were written by (or at least attributed to) him. They permit us to be so honest with God, as we can see that David never minced his words when it came to his emotions, his pain frustration and anger, he took it all to God, along with his praise and worship.

In this psalm we see that David is assured of God’s care for him, he takes refuge in God. People are telling him to be afraid, to flee his enemies, but David trusts in the LORD. He knows that God sees what is happening. David is sure that God will judge those who do wrong, and also that the righteous will be tested, purified, but ultimately they will get to see God.

We may not like the sound of the testing/purifying bit, but it is a promise that is repeated throughout Scripture. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is in 1 Peter 1:6-7: ‘In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ’. I haven’t had the easiest year, by any stretch of the imagination, but through it all I learned to cling ever tighter to my faith, to God who sees me through every trial. I know that I am stronger, that my faith is stronger, because of what I have been through, and I trust that that is honouring to God. Another of the many verses that have enocouraged me this year is Romans 8:28: ‘and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose’. When I look back on the last year, now, with a little bit of distance, I can see start to see the good in it.

See, the thing is, trials hurt, being purified in a fire is painful, but I want to be pure. I want to have my rough edges stripped away and to be made righteous by my faith in the One who created and loves me. Because there is a promise in this psalm that is echoed elsewhere in the Bible. The righteous will see God. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus promises something very similar, though his words are slightly different: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ I hope that I will have the courage to face any trial that comes my way if it means I become more like God and brings me closer to meeting Him face to face.

the empty hand

I am not incomplete

I do not feel like part of me is missing

I know that I am loved

And the One who made me

Made me enough

On my own

But sometimes

As I walk along

And my hand hangs by my side

And there is something missing

My hand needs another hand to hold

‘It is not good for man to be alone’

We are made for community

But more than that

We are built for relationships

Intimacy

I know that one day

My longing will be met

My hand won’t be empty

but treasured

held

and later, maybe,

smaller hands

will cling to mine

and call me home

But until then

I wait

and trust that it will be

worth the wait

for the hand made to hold mine