Thursday, 21 July 2005

It’s a Malteser Day!

I didn’t know why I got them yesterday at the grocery store, but the Naughty Chocolate Force led me to stock up on Maltesers. The time was about Noon-thirty, and I had yet to eat lunch. You know what your mother always warns: ‘Never do grocery shopping on an empty stomach.’ So I had been fasting. (?)

First, thank you to all who have been concerned and sent us your prayers. We are all safe and sound from today’s latest ‘incidents’. John did have to go into the office today. He has been going into the city since 11th June, and everything has been ‘back to business as usual’. But he has been going in via Blackfriars, which does not experience as heavy a traffic flow as other stations we normally use (Victoria, Charing Cross, London Bridge, Waterloo). He tried to find a station he could use that would make his walk to the office closer, so he wouldn’t be tempted to then connect by bus or the Tube.

He decided to come home early today, before the commuter crunch piled up with delays. So I collected him at our station shortly after 5pm. All the kids are safe as well and we are very thankful. At this evening’s press conference with Mayor Ken, he and the police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair pronounced that ‘London is back to business.’ We have been reminded by several public figures today that London and Londoners have endured and survived over 300 terrorist bombs throughout the three decades since the Troubles in the 1970’s. And we will continue to do so today. Our police and response services have been quick on the draw.

So about those Maltesers. It’s all beginning to make sense. I don’t usually eat these little chocolate malted marbles (click on today's title link to view hilarious advert). They are much like ‘Whoppers’ in the US, and made by Mars. But over here, the Brits describe the crunchy middle bit as: 'Honeycombed malt biscuit balls coated in milk chocolate (more biscuit than chocolate) hence they're "The lighter way to enjoy chocolate" ... They're a favorite with those watching their waistline.'

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Low odds that count

Sorry if my thoughts sound so disjointed today. It's not easy to figure out this world.

A praise Just learned last night that our friend's daughter regained consciousness yesterday. She had to have a leg amputated below the knee. Please continue to keep this family in your prayers. For privacy and respect I will not reveal their names, but God will know whom we are praying for. She is beginning to heal, but there is a long road ahead. Her injury will be a constant reminder.

In Anne Applebaum's column yesterday in the Washington Post, 'The Low-Odds Factor' (click on today's title link above), she writes that with 7-million people living in London, and all the millions that commute into London every day, that to have only something like 50 people die is a really low odd. As much as it pains me, I understand her rather choleric reasoning.

But who would have thought that out of all those millions, John and I would have somehow come to know, indirectly, two of the victims? We did not know Jamie Gordon, but some good friends at church had asked for prayers on Sunday, and are now grieving his loss. Our friend from the Diocese is someone we have met in person, and spoken with over the phone several times. She served us, as she serves so many others on a daily basis. Now her child is in hospital, critically injured, faced with a long rehab. Even if we are not in her family’s inner circle, our Christian family can hold them up in prayer for the long journey ahead.

I would really like to take a meal to her family, but I am learning that this is not something the British Christians are accustomed to. It makes them feel highly uncomfortable, and weighted down by the inconvenient prospect of having to return in kind some day. I’ve already been scolded for bringing too much food to what we American Christians fondly call ‘pot lucks’. So I am stepping out in faith that prayers to God are more powerful than comfort food (and they are, I just know it!).

By now, the authorities have found at least three of the London bombers, and are on the trail of the fourth and a fifth. Our large Muslim communities are shocked, saddened, and indeed outraged, that the bombers grew up in their midst. Several innocent Muslims were also victims. None of this makes any kind of sense. Some serious soul-searching is going on at Parliament as well as within our churches and communities. It is time to brush away the damage 'religion' has played in these events and get to the heart of the matter

How are we raising our kids in today's society? Some of us try to apply Christian principals to the parenting skills. But even kids raised in Christian churches can grow up to be holy terrors. How does this happen? Who torched those churches in Tennessee last week? Which neighbourhood kids stole and torched the latest car on our nearby green last week?

I get upset when I see journalists write about ‘Muslim terrorists’. When a Christian commits a heinous crime or act of terror, do the journalists write ‘Christian terrorists’? When we lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, we noted that the Afghan families had a stronger base for morality than some of the American families in our USAID compound or especially the Peace Corps workers who lived amongst the Afghan communities in Kandahar. It could make for delicate diplomacy, because our Afghan servants had eyes and ears to report what went on behind the closed doors of the American family homes. The Peace Corps members all drank, smoked, and slept around, and would come back to town highly inebriated after a wild party at the USAID compound. Why would the Afghan Muslims even want to model their behaviours after what they witnessed from the Americans? They thought we were stupid.

Our Muslim friends here in the UK (and US!) apply their Islamic principles to their children, and those principles are just as righteous to them as ours are to us. Have you noticed how your Muslim friends discipline and teach their children? They try just as hard to shield them from the sexual undertones and bad language of TV shows and movies as the rest of us. And yet their children can torch society as abhorrently as ours. Who are we to compare the scales of tragedy? For one family to have to mourn the loss of a mother, father, sister, brother, etc, is one too many. It only takes attending one funeral to know how de-sensitised we have become. Imagine having to attend multiple funerals in one day, as many are doing in our world.

Terror comes in many forms and today it seems to have spiralled out of control. That an angry young suicidal man can plough into a bunch of little kids and, as happened in Baghdad yesterday, kill them all is an outrage, not another news item.

It's time we all got a grip and figured out how to repair the damage that started it all in the first place. Where's the dialogue? And where's the leadership and action? We Americans might have got a clue when the tragedy at Columbine in Colorado happened. But complacency set in after the celebrity died down. A lot of bad stuff with messed up kids has happened since then. And after about three years of peace, there was a big bad riot in Belfast yesterday. Sadly, churches and other massive places of worship have not been the answers.

I will try to become more cheery before I write again. Maybe another day. Sorry.

Tuesday, 12 July 2005

Difficulties of the aftermath

Jamie Gordon has just been identified as one of those who died in the the T avistock Square bus bomb. (Please click today's title for the BBC's account of Jamie.)

Please keep his family, fiancée, and friends in your prayers.

The forensics teams and those workers who are labouring to recover and identify victims also need our continued prayers. They have been battling tremendous heat down in the tunnels, especially in the Picadilly Line Tube, not to mention gruesome work conditions. Families who are waiting to learn the fate of their missing loved ones have come from all over to stand vigil. Several families have flown into London from other countries.

Many of these families want to honour their religious beliefs that dictate immediate burial after death. But in atrocities such as this, it is not something so easily honoured, as authorities must be extremely careful and sure the victims are identified correctly.

British authorities, experienced in handling these delicate matters, learned the hard way with the TWA plane explosion over Lockerbie. One of the victim's families, in the throes of grief and anxious to bury their daughter, made a quick visual identification. The body was sent to the US, only to sadly reveal that the wrong victim had been sent home for burial. The situation and ensuing mistake made a sad event worse for more people than intended.

Sometimes after a tragedy has happened, the rest of us can carry on with our lives and try to 'get back to normal'. We forget about all those teams of caring people who have to witness and work on the accident site or crime scene for a time longer than the media is willing to report on. They are under tremendous pressure from many sides, trying to put all the vital pieces of information together so that those who are grieving can eventually carry on with the mourning process. The circumstances of their work are not as comfortable as our living rooms or dining tables, which most of us return to hours after a heinous incident has occurred.

Their work continues until the aftermath comes to a full stop.

And as for mourning, it never really comes to a full stop.

Sunday, 10 July 2005

Red poppies descending!

The sight of one million red poppies tumbling down from a Lancaster Bomber into the sunny blue sky was a thrilling and emotional moment! Their target was to land and bless a crowd of at least 250,000 attending the VE Day celebrations located on the Mall at Buckingham Palace this afternoon. And bless they did!

The VE Day occasion (please click on title for link), planned for some time, commemorated Britain’s victory in World War II 60 years ago. The Queen made a grand and heartfelt speech in honour of all the veterans and survivors. Veterans were there to pay tribute to fallen heroes. Flags were paraded with grand ceremony, including the flag of the United States.

The Horse Guards headed up all the usual pomp and circumstance: the Royals were on parade; a British actor fondly noted for his portrayal of Winston Churchill intoned the leader’s wisdom and wit; a big band production, complete with male and female dancers in WWII uniforms re-enacted the dance scenes of that era. The Brits are famous for whingeing that the American soldiers who came to help out in the war effort were ‘... over-paid, over-sexed, and over here!’, but there’s no doubt about the soft spot in their hearts for the Yanks who served. That mutual admiration was on display today, sixty years later.

VJ/VE Day was a timely reminder this year. Traditionally it highlights remembrance and thanksgiving. In light of the sad events of last Thursday, it serves as an aide memoir to the newer generations who are faced with living in today’s world. If we can bear one another up through the tragedies inflicted by terror, and re-write humanity with strokes of compassion and understanding, then we will carry on the heritage of freedom men like my father invested in and fought for.

As families begin to mourn, or help injured loved ones heal, may that visage of red poppies descending in today’s sunny blue skies be a blessing to carry them forward for a very long time.
Some prayer requests for God’s abiding love, strength, and presence:

  1. The family of Jamie Gordon, aged 30. Jamie is a work colleague of some friends from our church. He is one of those listed as missing and unaccounted for from Thursday’s bombings.
  2. The daughter of a dear sister in our Rochester Diocese is one of those still critically wounded in hospital. She is in her early twenties.
  3. John must go for his annual company-sponsored health appointment tomorrow afternoon. He has decided to walk from Charing Cross. I told him that after the long walk, he should have a terrific heart rate to record. He replied his heart rate would be even higher if he took a bus or the Tube. Praise God for walking!

Saturday, 9 July 2005

When love slips away

A couple of disjointed thoughts about the bombs …

  • Why did the terrorists, if they were Islamic, decide to include the Aldgate station, which is so highly populated by the Muslim community? Was this community hit because through generations its British Muslim citizens have embraced Western customs?
  • Why do Muslim mothers in our community have to feel afraid to leave their homes to go pick up their children from school, or even to go to the grocery store? They prefer to honour their religious beliefs by wearing their hijabs when out in public. But they feel marked when they do and suffer glaring stares. So sad.
  • Why did the terrorists only use five pounds of explosives at each site? Was this supposed to just be a dry run?
  • This is the first time ever the Queen has addressed a tragedy and made a public speech as quickly after the event.

Londoners are used to bombs due to:

  • The Blitz in 1940 and 1941. That horrible period is still widely remembered by many here. Those who lived through it, and share their testimonies reference it quite a bit at church events or during times of worship. My American government would not come to the aid of the British until after the heavy loss of American lives at Pearl Harbour.
  • Kent, the Garden of England, which is now my home, was the site of the Battle of Britain, also still vivid in many memories.
  • Unexploded ordinance from the Blitz is still being uncovered. Shortly after moving here, a bomb was unearthed just about a mile away from our house and the bomb squad was called out. Over 60 years since WWII ended. Exciting for me, as nothing like that ever happened in any of the neighbourhoods where I grew up in the States. But just ‘ho-hum’ here … ‘Now how about that cuppa tea, luv?’
  • The years of The Troubles and the terrorism of the IRA, which, embarrassingly enough for me, as some of my British and Irish friends have pointed out, were aided by Americans sympathetic to a cause not quite understood.
  • Tragic losses of life have occurred in major cities in the UK as late as November 2001, due to explosives attributed to and claimed by the IRA.

My husband remembers a day in the late-’90’s when he was working in Central London and heard a bomb blast across the street from his office. The bomb squad had been called in to deactivate a bomb placed in the MacDonald’s on Oxford Street by the IRA. The store was evacuated but the bomb specialist was killed while trying to diffuse the ordinance.

I went to choir rehearsal on Friday night, and not one mention of the tragedy was made. No one is going to let the terrorists take control.

That being said, not too many fancy using the Tube at present or anytime soon. We also feel a little nervous on the buses. Our transport system is such a huge way of life here:

  • car parks are extremely rare here;
  • It can take 1-and-a-half to 2 hours to just drive the 15 miles into Central London because of traffic congestion;
  • Petrol is now equivalent to $7-$8 per gallon, and the transport is a much less costly way to get around. But my American friends have difficulty relating to that, because now they are all whingeing about having to pay a paltry $2.20 at the pump. And they all drive huge gas-guzzling monsters because they get a false sense of security driving cars classed as trucks.

We all know how vulnerable our transport system is. John has to go into Charing Cross Monday, but he’s decided to walk the distance from there to his appointment rather than take the Tube.

On another sad note, I read today where a string of churches in Smyrna, Tennessee in the US were torched and set afire late this week. Although different denominations were represented, all the churches were predominantly Black congregations. The Church of Christ barely has a wall standing. The police chief of the town was not too quick to finger the atrocity as a ‘hate crime’. What an insult … what else could it be? Lightning?

There are terrorists everywhere. They do not necessarily come from other countries but operate from within our own borders. When are we going to get that? They hide behind religion, nationality, and skin colour. They are not all Muslim, Jew, Catholic or Protestant, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Trendy-Religious-Belief-of-the-Year, etc. They thrive on fear and share hatred as their common cause.

Somehow, our society has found a way to breed this hatred. No one wants to address this, because it's all too complicated, and that makes us all a bit guilty. I wish I knew the answers.

But I don’t. All I know is that I must love and care for others a lot more than I do, and extend my heart to more than those I just meet and get to know in church.

That's a lot of work. Any ideas?

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Our Refuge and Strength

It's been a long day. The bombs came as many were getting to work. But John and I, our family and loved ones are safe! (For good factual updates, please click on the link of today's title.)

It is early days, and there is still a lot to unfold from the tragedy. I re-visited what I wrote last Thursday (my last post), and much of the thinking applies, somewhat eerily, to today's events here in London.

When I am awake and the Lord refreshens my thought process, I will write more of what is happening here with those we love, live, and work with. This tragedy touches us all.

For now, I am thankful for all those who showed kindness and compassion to those in dire need today down in the tunnels, at the stations, and on the streets. Their tremendous responses and service will never be forgotten. Christ lived in them!

On days like today, the musical picture of God presented to us in Psalm 46 says it all. Lord, please keep all those who are suffering through this tragedy wrapped up in your arms of love and strength.
For the Choir Director: A Psalm of the Descendants of Korah, to be sung by soprano voices according to alamoth. A song.

Psalm 46 (NLT)

1 God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!


4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God himself lives in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
God will protect it at the break of day.
6 The nations are in an uproar,
and kingdoms crumble!
God thunders, and the earth melts!
7 The LORD Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.


8 Come, see the glorious works of the LORD:
See how he brings destruction upon the world
9 and causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear in two;
he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
11 The LORD Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.


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