Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year Message from Canon Andrew White- “The Vicar of Baghdad”

Shema for the New Year I have been asked what are our words from Baghdad for the New Year.

It is simple it is the words of the Shema Israel.

The ultimate words in Judaism are also the Ultimate words for all Christians.

In Deut.6:3-9 Verse 4&5 “Hear oh Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is one. Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength.”

It may be like what you have heard me say before, well it is.

Love changes everything.

You want to see revival well love, you want to see your family change then love them.

You want to see difficult colleagues changed at work then love them.

It may sound easy but it is not.

At the very heart of the Message of Jesus was the call to Love.

It is a difficult thing to learn and begin by loving yourself.

Then and only then will we see people able to bring about love.

People often say to me how do you manage to do all your work in Iraq with all these terrible people. Well the answer is simple.

We just love!

Happy and Blessed New Year from all at St George’s Dojos Diner Baghdad

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Memories of a brother lost to alcohol

The churches in my hometown got together with a charity that provides temporary accommodation to  the 18-25 year old age group with the vision of providing a night-shelter.

God did amazing things and with little prayer all the funding was quickly in place along with over 90 volunteers including our local MP and some councilors (no publicity either). The only thing is that it can only run for two weeks for now.

God is good and I am convinced this is a signpost of something greater.

Serving the dispossessed is such a no-brainer Heart of the Father thing, I do wonder why the church misses this in so many towns, instead caught up in trivia of internal relationship and numbers of “bums-on-seats” and stuff like that…

The foregoing, though, is not the point of this post, but a rambling scene setter.

Because I am “less able” at present, I have been coordinating prayer for this ministry rather than physically serving there.

Every occasion that I spend time-serving the lost homeless, and at present I visit the shelter to pick up the vibe/latest news for prayer, I find myself remembering my brother Malcolm, killed by his addiction to alcohol back in 2005.

Up until my meeting with Jesus in 1995, he and I hated each other.

Then God did that remarkable thing that only He can do and He transformed my heart, draining the boil of hatred that festered within me and leaving only love in it’s place.

That same night, two men threw a paving slab through my drunken brother’s patio window, waking him from his drunken slumber (by this time his wife had left, taking their 3 kids), and as he stumbled down the stairs these two beat him to a pulp, leaving him for dead and stole his money.

The night I was born again, satan tried to kill my brother…

It turned out that neither my dad nor his wife were prepared to go and see him in hospital, I was told about this the morning after I met with Jesus and I went he next day.

In the ward, he was alone in the corner, curtains drawn around the bed with him unconscious. His jaw had been shattered and was rebuilt and held together with wire. More seriously, his brain was beaten and swollen, pressing against his skull.

I just wept and prayed over him, asking Jesus to heal him, then left.

The next day I went back to see him and his bed was empty, his brain swelling had quickly resolved overnight and he was down in the TV room smoking! Jesus had healed him!

We had time to talk, understand the roots of his resentment and eventually find a love for each other.

Over the next years he stayed with us and stole from us.

I watched him sink lower into desperate alcoholism.

I watched him surface, connect to a spirit filled church only to pull away because he could never submit the control he foolishly thought he had over his own life and dive back into the bottom of a bottle of whisky.

He tried to kill himself at least twice and was saved every time, even thanking God…

He would disappear as he was ashamed but, in answer to prayer, would appear when I really needed to connect. The circumstances were often so unlikely that it could only have been God moving.

He had surgery on a stomach ulcer and told to quit drinking, he didn’t and I won’t go on with the full story but despite the grace shown to him by our wonderful Father in heaven and His desire to see Malcolm free, my brother awoke one night coughing up the contents of his stomach as another ulcer tore open and it ruptured, leaving him to collapse choking in his own vomit and blood.

I will end this note with the eulogy I gave at his funeral, attended by my wife and kids, his ex-wife and 3 boys but none-other.

“I really wanted to say something to celebrate Malcolm’s life, I asked Andrew & Craig to tell me of good memories of their Dad, but I think that we have all found this hard due to the issues of this week just gone.

Up until 10 years ago I think it’s fair to say that a festering hate existed between Malcolm and I. Then one weekend while something happened to me that allowed me to let go of all that hate, Malcolm was beaten and left for dead in his living room. I found myself by his bed-side in hospital, and in that time we talked and we were able to set aside a lot of those issues that had led to the hate between us – I am grateful for that.

Malcolm was a restless person who always sought to be more than he was; he was never really content with who he was or what he had.

It seemed to me that the more he sought to be to others what he believed they wanted him to be… so the less satisfied he became with what he thought was the true Malcolm.

Years ago, he started drinking to “fit-in” with all the hard-working, high-earning bankers & dealers he worked with in the city of London. It must have been at that time that he discovered that the alcohol somehow dulled the pain of failing to be the person he thought others expected him to be.

The paradox of Malcolm’s life was that the more he drunk, the less pain he felt, but he more pain he caused to those around him.

A man called Eric Hoffer said “We run fastest and farthest when we run from ourselves.” Malcolm ran very fast indeed…

He found it very hard to accept the help offered by those who loved him; he seemed incapable of taking the help and counsel that would really have helped him. Instead his focus was often on the quick fix that provided short term relief but longer term difficulty. Consequently he began to live his life on his own, even with his family or friends around him. To quote Hoffer again:

“When we leave people on their own, we are delivering them into the hands of a ruthless taskmaster from whose bondage there is no escape. The individual who has to justify his existence by his own efforts is in eternal bondage to himself.”

My brother loved his family, he loved Carol, he loved Andrew, he loved Craig and he loved Lee. He even loved me! But he got confused about how to demonstrate his love, what love was meant to look like.

Jesus said that the second most important thing for any of us to do was to “love your neighbour as yourself”. The remarkable thing is that Malcolm lived by that instruction: He didn’t know how to show love to his family as he didn’t know how to love himself. He did to others what he did to himself; He sometimes hated others because he often hated himself. He found it difficult to tolerate those of us who challenged him about the choices he made because often he couldn’t tolerate the choices he made. He found it hard to forgive us for anything we may have done that hurt him because he couldn’t forgive the hurt he had done to himself.

So I am choosing to remember Malcolm as a man who left behind three wonderful sons who have the ability to reach out and obtain all the hope and promise that life offers. My prayer for them is that they can put down the pain and hurt that they have suffered and find that essential contentment of being themselves that comes from loving themselves in the knowledge that they are loved, important and capable men.

And for Malcolm, I hope that in the time before he succumbed to death he found the forgiveness, love and acceptance that had always been available to him from the One who really matters, because I personally believe that this was what my brother really was looking for.”

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Yes, me too Lord

I read a new post by Regina Forest  in her Thirsty? blog and felt compelled to respond as here:

So many times I have reasoned, tarried, wondered and delayed instead of simply saying Yes Lord. I want to be a yes-man for God, when He calls me, that I will simply say Yes Lord, here I am.

Instead of excusing myself by pointing to something important in my life that I have to do first, see the life ahead as putting Him and His will wholly and totally first. Do any of us, truly consistently live like that?

I know that He is the God of second (and many more) chances, but I would love to move into a life of simply not needing them.

Years ago, a guy prayed for me and told me that my issue us that I don’t trust Jesus enough…my wife was hurt by this on my behalf although I was quietly in agreement and without beating myself up, I can see a trail of evidence to support this in my life.

Sometimes I wonder why people look at me as such a “man of Faith” or a model to follow…it is generally unhelpful as I am just trying to follow Jesus and I know that I mess up, my Father knows that I mess up and He loves me just the same.

I just don’t like the idea of people following me (unless it is twitter!), I must simply point to Jesus, we all must if we love Him.

A colleague at work asked me about Christmas plans and I got to talking about stuff with a street pastor in the city where I work, getting hats, scarves, sleeping bags and stuff together to help and went on to speak of the night-shelter in my home town and how I will be supporting that enterprise.

She kind of looked at me with a little bit of shamed admiration saying she doesn’t know  how I have for all that. Truth is, I think, that I spent more time crashed out in front of a TV or asleep if I am not working…

I am far from the best husband and father in the world.

I am not perfect.

I am, however, loved.

I have faith, but like most of us, always need more!

I met a young lady who is managing a Christmas night-shelter we (the Churches in Redditch) supporting, she is radically transformed from a life of selling cocaine and street fighting to amazing service reaching out to rough-sleeping addicts and I am challenged… I know that is not my calling but I want to be that responsive.

Yes Lord, Here I am, Send me.

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O Lord, do I know You?

Not as You know me, that’s for sure.


Have I sought you as much as I might?

Not as much as You searched for me, that’s for sure.


O Jesus, I have met with You

Seen my sin die with You

Only for me to breathe in it’s stench of death again.


But you walk with me still

On this journey

Of light and shade

But never darkness

Never again

For you are with me

You told me so

Never to leave me

Never letting me go.


So here I am,

wrapped in White,

drenched in red,

beside You walking

even in the shade.


Walking with You

As You journey with me

where I sometimes lose sight of You,

but You are with me still.


You keep your promises…



…I am glad You are not a man.


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Why do I cry O Lord?

When the pain & suffering you have seen



Done to You

By man

By us

By me…

Why do I cry O Lord?

When it’s You who should

cry for what is done

that we lie

and so we die

word by word

lie by lie

to ourselves

to our friends

to You

and you cry

but so do I


And you cry, O Lord

as we turn away

hurt by hurt

by our neighbours

by each other

by ourselves

ears shut

from your Word

hurting us

hurting me

hurting you

and you cry

but so do I


Take me in, O Lord

by your cross

by your side

by your heart

by your grace

and I cry

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Filed under Me & Jesus, Poetry, Thinking aloud