LBTL – rich girl, poor girl – day 5: living words

Live below the line is a kinaesthetic exercise. It’s powerful because to some small degree you are experiencing something you usually just talk about, or sometimes look at. Inhabiting this small reflection of the inequality between rich girls and poor girls in our world this week has been challenging. The scandal has come alive in a new way. And as a result there have been a lot more words – blogs, conversations, thoughts… the challenge now is how do we live them out?


Extreme  poverty in our world is a massive problem. But we believe it can be overcome by prayer and action.

And so we want to do everything we can. Because transformation can and does happen – within communities and on a massive scale.

In the course of just three days we’ve read three headlines of systematic change:

The EU are considering giving Bangladesh preferential trading arrangements and Canadian companies have already signed new agreements.

Massive progress has been made for tax justice – admittedly not yet for poor countries – but the wheels look like they might be in motion now the British territories with financial centres now signing up to make their tax information available.

There’s even been progress for the IF campaign over land-grabbing too…

And on the ground the projects of organisations such as Christian Aid continue to make a difference where they are most felt – in the stories of individual lives.

All of this gives us new determination to keep giving, speaking out and campaigning, and absolute conviction that our prayers make a difference.

But in the light of this week’s changes and challenges, we’re also thinking perhaps that we have to make some more changes to our lifestyle choices with regard to food. Honestly. But it’s hard.

For one of us at least there’s really not much of a margin left to make these adjustments with at the moment. And many people around us have lovingly asked us whether we’re forgetting grace… or getting a bit extreme.

Just how narrow is the narrow path? And does it get narrower as you walk down it? And if so where does it end? How do we ensure that everything we sacrifice is a joyful response to grace, rather than a legalistic guilt offering?

This isn’t a new struggle.

As Christians we’re constantly wrestling to live out and embody God’s word. To seek to know him more and follow him more closely. And to seek to be a more accurate reflection of the perfect Living Word – Jesus.

Hands up  – we’re often not very good at it. The bar is high, the pressure’s on, and when we try and make it in our own strength, or seek to cover over our mistakes, we just don’t do it. Practicing what we preach falls by the wayside and instead of living out words of truth and life we embody our worst fearhypocrisy.

As followers of Jesus committed to pursuing a just world we’re constantly wrestling to apply his words to consumer practices, the amount of money we spend on ourselves, the discipline of campaigning, praying with an outward focus as much as for ourselves.

Hands up  – we don’t always get it right. The decisions are complex, we get tired and discouraged sometimes and when we try and make it in our own strength, or seek to cover over our mistakes, we just don’t manage it it. Hypocrisy the reprise.

That’s why we’re especially thankful today for grace, and the fact that the whole journey of this week has been surrounded by prayer and waiting on God for the answers of how to move forward in joy as well as sacrifice.

And the fact that we know he will always gives us the strength and joy to walk in anything he asks us to do.

It’s those words – his words – that we’re seeking to live out. Hands up time. We’ll follow wherever they lead. Every time. Even if it’s really hard. Because if he’s asking us to do something, he’ll give us what we need to do it.

This week, poor girl led a bible study for a local fellowship group on one of her most important inspirational life passages – Isaiah 58:6-12. In the context of a week of hunger, the words came alive in a new way.

But what struck her this time was not just the call to the kind of worship God accepts, or the unmissable call to sacrificially care for the poor, but the series of incredible promises that are spoken throughout this passage.

In the struggles of the Sanctuary’s journey to date, we have seen God ‘strengthen our frames’ and ‘satisfy our needs in a sun-scorched land’. It’s been hard sometimes but it’s been full of indescribable joy and enough testimonies to last a life time. Joy and testimonies we simply wouldn’t have experienced had we not walked through the struggle and suffering too.

And we’re not alone. Because we see this pattern of sacrifice, strengthening and joy in all the inspirational people we have the privilege of walking this journey with.

Today we spent morning worship praying for people who are working on the ground to lift people above the line.

And we want to particularly celebrate the lives and impact of four sets of them.

Because these living words particularly inspire us. Members of the Sanctuary’s core team are privileged to call them friends because they are bringing hope, love and justice where it is desperately needed – often against all odds.

Laura Bardwell and Basha in Bangladesh. Glenda Howieson and Phakamisa in South Africa. J and A and Pasca in the Central African Republic. Stephen and Mollie Brown and Iris Ministries in Cambodia.

There are many more… and these are the people we want to keep checking we’re in step with. This is the counter-culture we want to be part of.

Even though we’re here in the UK, we want to be in sync with the global perspective.

So tomorrow, rich girl and poor girl alike, are not going to ‘return to normal‘. Not even our version of it that some would call abnormal. Because that would still really be a ‘return to luxury‘ – and that leaves a bad taste just thinking about it. But we’re not going to live on rice and dal either!

There will simply be some small changes: another step forward on where the narrow way seems to be leading next.

We’re going to keep asking the uncomfortable questions. And keep waiting for the specific answers.

And then we’re going to keep trying to live those words out with everything we have – knowing that he will always give us the strength we need to serve and give as he guides and leads.

As we follow, we’ll see more and more transformation. And we know we’ll have more and more testimonies to share.

Thank you for continuing to come on this journey with us. The ever growing number of people associated with the Sanctuary, part of its family, being supported in prayer by it, or using its resources, all give us further hope that our words are bringing life.

So it’s onwards and upwards! For him and for each of his uniquely and equally precious 7 billion children.

A prayer inspired by Psalm 40 (NLT)

We have told all your people about your justice.
We have not been afraid to speak out,
as you, O Lord, well know.
We have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in our hearts;
We have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
We have told everyone in the great assembly
of your unfailing love and faithfulness.

Keep us speaking out Lord – even when it’s uncomfortable.
Give us the strength to live out your message – even when we’re weary.
Fill us with the confidence to keep praying – even when we’re discouraged.
Embolden us with the courage to declare your work as your work.
And above all keep us moving forward on this narrow path
For the sake of the lost, the poor and the broken
And for you – the living, beautiful word who is still – and always – mighty to save.

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