When Home is Rubble and Shards of Glass

Pringle headhotby Pringle Franklin

A few weeks ago, my adult son ended up stranded. Due to circumstances which are not pertinent to this story, he found himself on the side of a mountain road. He had $5; no credit card; a backpack with three days worth of trail mix; two water bottles, a sleeping bag, and his cell phone. He had no means of transportation other than his two feet.

When he called me, he was sitting in a corn field. He was hungry, so he wandered over to an Ingle’s grocery and spent his last money to buy a tray of hot macaroni and cheese, along with a Dr. Pepper. Where would he find his next meal? He had no idea; but he knew better than to linger in the Ingle’s parking lot like a vagrant. He started walking, trying to come up with a plan of action. Hitch-hiking seemed like his best option.

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by Rembrandt

No mother or father wants to find their child in such a desperate situation. My heart was torn apart and, by 10 p.m. that night, I had driven to Western North Carolina and claimed my son. After a hot meal, a soothing shower, and a good night’s sleep, he came home.

Just writing that word — home — brings a sense of immense relief. My son was lucky: there was a place to which he could return, a place with family who could care for him and provide a warm bed. Such is not the case with the hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking a new life in Europe.

These pitiful men, women, and children have absolutely nothing — their home countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq have fallen into the grips of chaos and destruction, wide-spread poverty, religious warfare and persecution. Houses have turned to rubble; schools are non-existent; threats of violence and warfare invade daily routines. Things are unsupportable enough that people risk drowning and face extreme conditions in the hope of finding a better life in Europe.

thIronically, that hope is about as solid as a wisp of smoke.

European cities are already over-crowded; the socialist governments are already overburdened. To be honest, as a person who has lived in Paris for the past year, it would be easy to say, “There is no room at the Inn.”  The Metro trains, sidewalks, and parks are often unpleasantly full; there is already a tent city of homeless people living under a bridge in northern Paris.

At times, Paris doesn’t feel very French: the streets are bustling with people from every nation and tongue, wearing African robes, Islamic head scarves, Indian saris, speaking Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Farsi, and other “strange” languages that I cannot recognize. Forget the ideal of the melting pot: these ethnic identities are not being blended into a common cultural soup.

To be fair, many of the middle-aged Islamic immigrants have created successful kebob stands or small ethnic shops. But many of the adolescent males who have grown up in France have failed to assimilate. Les banlieus — the Parisian equivalent of high-rise ghetto villages — are packed with Africans and Middle Easterners who haven’t found their niche.

Knots of these young men overrun the tourist sites, aggressively hawking miniatures of the Eiffel Tower and fake Gucci handbags. Some operate near the Louvre or Notre Dame as pick pockets or con artists. And worst of all, an unknown number of these disenchanted souls have embraced radical Islam, as evidenced by the horrific attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine, the Kosher grocery store, and the recent Paris-bound train. (Thank God literally for those three young American men and their courageous impulse to rush the attacker.)

Who knows how many jihadis are hiding amongst the refugees currently overwhelming the immigration systems? This is an opportunity to implant more of the enemy among us. Naturally, the first impulse is to push back against the swells of humanity winnowing through the chinks in the border along the Mediterranean coast. The latest figures report that 320,000 migrants have reached Europe so far this year, with thousands more expected to arrive.th-1

The European Union is scrambling to develop a plan. The reaction among the 28 member countries covers the spectrum from “don’t help the migrants because it encourages more to come” to “force the Southern states of Italy and Greece to deal with them” to “create a policy in which each country will accept its share of the burden”.

France and Germany are working to convince each EU nation to accept a percentage of the migrants on the basis of human rights. The German economy actually needs workers, so any migrants who wind up there have a fighting chance. But jobs are scare in France and throughout much of the rest of Europe. Anxiety grows about this unexpected influx of people who arrive cold, starving, shoeless, and without local language skills. While committees in Brussels wrangle and politicians make impassioned speeches, thousands are suffering in inhumane conditions that may spread disease, violence, and crime. In some cases, such as Calais, law abiding citizens are attacking the migrants in an effort to make them move out of their communities. The situation is a powder keg, threatening the general welfare and safety of all.

There is no time for apathy, bureaucratic quicksand, or hard-hearted Nationalism. This crisis will continue to mushroom, and it must be dealt with swiftly.

But how? Like everyone else, I have been vainly wishing for practical and measured solutions.

Then God spoke into my heart recently during a time of silence; I was sitting quietly in his presence, simply being still. I was at peace, floating in the calming energy of his surrounding love when, out of the blue, I received startling information. To be honest, the teaching was not in line with my thinking, but I could not refute it because it was given as a spiritual truth.th-5

My mind’s eye saw the swarm of unwashed, hungry, swarthy migrants, such as the ones who have been breaking down barriers to sneak into commercial trucks bound from Calais to England. These desperate crowds defy order and civil law in search of a better life. Seen in a certain light, they are a threat to stability and prosperity. Yet the difficult teaching revealed was this: in God’s eyes, every life is sacred; every life is equally valued.

God sees the migrants as his children, each one beloved by him and known by him, no matter their race or religion. No matter if they even know him or love him. He is pained by their sorrows, their illnesses, their sufferings. He watches as they shiver in the cold of a rainy night without shelter or gnaw on roots of wild plants to quell the rumblings of their stomachs. And he calls us to recognize them as sacred products of his handiwork, as lovely and prized as the blushing roses in his garden.

I was extremely humbled by this revelation; it squelched the fearful side of me that naively wished all of the migrants would simply go back home. Thanks to the ravages of religious wars and political upheavals, many don’t have a home anymore; unlike my son, they have no hearthside with a boiling kettle and a loving mother or father waiting to receive them and bind up their wounds. There must be a holy solution to this tragedy because God has called us to be our brother’s keeper. He would not call us to carry more than we are capable of bearing. But we can only begin such as task by relying on the love of God and the strength of Jesus Christ.

Much of Western Europe is secular, and faith in the God of the Bible is viewed as an useless relic. Without that power of faith acted out in love, the boulder will be too heavy to lift. Humanitarian ethics will only take you so far; this crisis requires a miracle that only the love of God can provide. My prayer is that the universal church, the Vatican, and other followers of Christ around the globe will reach out across the chasm and offer help in the name of Jesus. Nothing short of this will do, or the entire world may suffer dearly for our lack of compassion.

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Will Hanging Out With Jesus Turn You Into a Coffee Mug?

by Pringle Franklintwitter

Allow me to introduce my friend, Jesus Christ. A look of interest flickers across your face, then disappears. Perhaps you feel threatened? After all, our human nature would gladly boast: “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” Popular poetry, to be sure, but isn’t the clay trying to unseat the potter at the wheel? Being the clay is uncomfortable. When a Higher Being holds you in his hands, he can roll and reshape you. Maybe you’re a porcelain lump longing to become a water pitcher. What are God’s hands doing, pushing and pulling you into a coffee mug? So you slide out from under God’s thumb.

Too bad. You’d make an ideal coffee mug. Jesus is gazing at you. His vivid eyes look lovingly in your direction. Ah, the possibilities! He sees you as you are now and as you could be. This is not the first moment Jesus has yearned for you. Have you not sensed him stepping into your path from time to time? He has an uncanny knack for finding his own when they need him most. Driven by love, he is relentless. He would slosh through raging rivers, crawl through tangles of briars, or wrestle ferocious wolves to reach you.

Presage of Illness

I should know. In the spring of 1998, Jesus saved my life. My family has a history of deadly skin cancer; the dermatologist examines my moles for cancer every six months. I was 34 years old when Jesus offered surprising medical advice. I had just completed a skin exam and received a perfect report when, during my morning prayer, Jesus urged me to go right back. “The doctor will think I am crazy,” I thought, bewildered. “Besides, I don’t have the time for another doctor visit.” I was preoccupied with preparing a dinner party.

For five days, every time I sat to pray, Jesus suggested that I return. It seemed ridiculous, but the inner voice grew more insistent each day. Finally, I decided to quit arguing and surrender. It’s a lucky thing because my doctor found a melanoma on my left shoulder blade. I have such a sprinkling of moles and freckles that he had overlooked it in the previous exam. Melanoma is aggressive, but we caught it before it had spread. Two years later, when my beloved father died of melanoma, I understood more fully what Jesus had done. The more time I spend alone with Jesus, the more I can distinguish his voice within. You don’t have to be a saint to hear him. Jesus meets us where we are, no matter how we have strayed.

An Affair to Forget

A friend cheated on her husband with another man. In his mercy, God used her anguish over the adultery as an opening: she ended the affair and became a Christian. She felt the comfort of receiving God’s forgiveness, and she intended to ask her husband’s forgiveness as well. But Jesus told her not to reveal the affair — not yet. For six long years, she yearned to unload her secret burden. She pleaded with Jesus. But the answer remained  — wait. One day when she was studying her Bible, she felt Jesus prompt her. Now was the time. Today. This exact moment. Trembling, she called her husband at work. She was weeping so hard she couldn’t choke out the words. Her husband rushed home, alarmed.  At long last, she tearfully confessed. His face blanched. Stunned, her husband was forced to admit his own secret: he was planning to rendez-vous at a hotel with a young woman from work. God’s timing was uncanny, and soon all was forgiven.

To Catch A Thief

Jesus helped another friend catch a thief. Construction crews were remodeling her kitchen. Near the project’s end, she spent an afternoon in deep prayer. In that quiet time, Jesus suggested that she should check her jewelry. What? Had she heard that right? The guys on the crew were all so nice. But she couldn’t ignore Jesus. She opened her drawer. Her diamond broach — a cherished gift from herPrecious diamond broach late husband — was gone. She gave a photo of the broach to the police, who forwarded it to area pawn shops. Within days, a day laborer from the project tried to sell the broach. The shop owner immediately recognized the piece as stolen. The thief was caught, and my friend recovered her sentimental pin. A surprised policeman told her she was unusually lucky. She knew better.

Do you see the common thread? Jesus talks to people who spend time with him. Faith kindles the fire, but discipline feeds it. The more you study the Bible, pray with praise and gratitude, and sit quietly with God, the more you will comprehend the power and the love of the Risen Christ. As Jeremiah 29:13 promises: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Even with such promises,  I can morph right back into that stubborn lump of clay when I’m anxious. Sometimes I fight the rhythm of the wheel, choosing to wobble off balance rather than softening under the divine hands. In the midst of my struggle, Jesus is standing nearby, whispering a word that I won’t receive. For example: the blue folder.

Lost and Found

My blue folder held the teaching material for a Bible study at my house, and I had misplaced it. In vain, I prayed and searched my house for a week. The morning of the meeting, I was in a panic, reshuffling through piles of mail, magazines, and clutter when it hit me: ask God again, then sit still and listen. I cleared my mind, forcing my breath to deepen. Quiet expectation replaced agitation. I felt better.

With my eyes closed, I saw my kitchen desk. I felt I should look behind it. However, I had searched that desk three times already. God didn’t seem to be helping: was he getting back at me for being disorganized? The class started in 15 minutes! Running in the other direction, I rushed around my bathroom, even searching under the sinks, when a moment of clarity struck me. Why wasn’t I looking where God had directed?

With robotic steps, I marched to the kitchen and stared at the built-in desk. Now that I had obeyed, I was given more information. Remove the drawers, I heard. Still in robot mode, I carefully took out the top drawer, only to find empty space. My arms removed the next drawer: still nothing. However, as I mechanically lifted the bottom drawer off its rollers, something scraped against it. My heart thumped. Could it be? Quickly I pulled the drawer clear of the desk. A hazy shape lay crushed in the back corner and, as I pulled it out, the blue folder was in my hands. I fell on my knees. God is so good!

Life can click into place when Jesus is in charge. Sometimes you can almost see his fingerprints all over your day. I wish it were always like that, but Jesus is untamable. He will not place priority on temporary demands when he has a whole cosmos to prepare for eternity. Still, he knows how it feels to be human and how much our little dramas consume us. While on earth, Jesus made miracles happen, but he also suffered hunger, fatigue, sorrow, pain, rejection, and a brutal death. He’s proof that being close to God does not inoculate us from trouble. Intimacy with Christ, however, does gives us the strength to recognize, embrace, and manifest the true good in this world. Our brightest days are better, our stormiest days are bearable, if we know that all things will work together for a higher purpose. Even if that means, in this life, we end up serving the world as a coffee mug.