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.

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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

Normal service now resuming (hopefully…)

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First of all, apologies for no posts in nearly a month… A lot has been happening!

Three weeks ago I started both a new job and a new course. The job is a part-time admin position, mainly taken so that I could afford to do the course. It’s been great fun so far, but as with all new jobs there is a lot to learn!

The new course is a Masters in Integrative Theology with the London School of Theology. Again, it is part-time and for me is being done entirely online, which is very new, hi-tech and exciting! Three weeks in, I’m starting to get used to what I need to do each week, and finally getting the idea of what the course is about (it’s the first year the course has run, so there wasn’t a great deal of information before we began!) In future posts I’ll hopefully be able to outline a bit more of what I’m learning and where the course is taking me mentally, but I’m still trying to get my head round it a little bit, so watch this space!

I’ve also been battling a demon cold and trying to re-establish a social life in the town I grew up in since I’ve moved home, so it’s been pretty full on the last couple of weeks. I’m settling into a new church where I already feel I am challenged and growing, and I’ve met some really lovely people. I’m looking forward to getting involved and serving the community there.

All of these exciting things going on means I find I now have less time for writing for fun, meaning I am afraid for now I will only be able to post once a week for the foreseeable future, and may miss some weeks entirely. I hope that things will start to settle down as I get more used to the rhythms of work, study and social-life-ness, and that will mean I’m able to post more often again. I enjoy writing this blog too much to let it go, especially now I’ve paid for a domain name!

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope what I write inspires, challenges and encourages you, it certainly does me as I’m writing it! Please continue to travel with me.

My Life in Your Service

my life in Your service

You guiding, teaching, learning, leading

me following, learning, longing

the interplay of melody and harmony

my life an unfinished song You are writing

a song that sings of the wonders You have done

my simple notes embellished and decorated

by Your grace notes

to create something beautiful

on my own, I am nothing

but the simple equation of

You

+

me,

Me

+

You,

becomes a multiplication

as You are so much greater

than the sum of all my parts

my simple digits

my ones and zeros

made a complex equation

me minus You equals nothing

me plus You equals everything

me plus You plus others equals fulfillment

and as the music plays

I shuffle around the floor

but when I let You lead

my dance is transformed

grace in my movements

flowing from Your love

I spin and turn

always secure in Your hold

trusting You know how to lead

trusting You know where I am going

my dance made beautiful by You

My life in Your service

a song

a sum

a dance

harmony

symmetry

grace

a new world coming

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Psalm 10

As I mentioned last week, Psalms 9 and 10 were most likely originally one psalm, and thematically, as well as structurally, there are a lot of similarities. David focuses here in this second part on the attitude and character of a wicked person, and how they may seem to prosper for a time, but shows that God is attentive to the cries of the oppressed and will bring justice.

Sometimes it seems that God just does not care. Sometimes it seems that the world is going to the dogs, evil people are threatening the innocent and everything just feels really messed up. Many situations nationally and worldwide spring to mind. David felt the same way. He describes for us a typical evil person: boastful, greedy, arrogant, deceitful, foul tongued, murderous, scheming and thieving.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that on occasion I can show any or all of these characteristics, but there is one right at the centre of David’s list, in verse 4, that is the key characteristic: ‘In the pride of his face, the wicked does not seek Him, all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”’

It is not what we do that makes us righteous or wicked, it is whom we believe in.

Because the truth is that God does see everything that goes on in the world. He does hear when we cry out to Him in pain and anguish. It breaks His heart to see the horrible things humans do to each other and to the planet. And when we cry out to Him, He will always respond. He will bring comfort with His presence, which is the thing we need most, and sometimes He will bring answers to our questions and relief to our distress.

I can’t answer the question of why there is suffering in the world, why evil seems to prosper or why there are natural disasters, diseases and wars. But David gives us an answer: one day this will all end. In verses 16-18 he says: ‘The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.’

God’s kingdom is coming. In some ways it is here already, little glimpses can be seen in the kindnesses we show to each other, when we imitate Jesus and sacrifice our selves to help those in need. We don’t do this to seek approval from God or to be made right with Him. We do this because we have been made right with Him by trusting Him and we want to love others because of the love He has shown us.

A few years ago I heard a talk given by the Rev Graham Cray at the Soul Survivor summer festival. One thing he said has stayed with me ever since, and for me it sums up this Psalm beautifully:

“God does not call us to be holy just to please Him. It does please Him, the Bible makes that clear, but He calls us to be holy so that the world sees the new world that’s coming right in the midst of the old world that’s broken.”