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Dear All,

Just when we thought the weather couldn't get any worse; along came Storm Franklin! And, I don't know about you, but I thought the windows of the manse were going to come in as the lightning struct, the thunder clapped, and the rain battered against the glass. It certainly wasn't a night for an uninterrupted sleep. And the following day the clear up began.

Franklin was the third storm in a short period of time. And while we are not really used to having such extreme weather events like this in quick succession sometimes life can be a bit like that: one stormy situation quickly following another.

Since the beginning of the year, in addition to recognising the ongoing political events influencing our own nation, we have become more and more aware of the deepening crisis involving Ukraine and their eastern neighbours, Russia. We were being told that a storm was brewing but while diplomatic negotiations continued there was an uneasy sense of impending attack. And then, as though a potentially devastating storm touched land, Russian soldiers with a significant amount of war equipment entered Ukraine. What will become of this situation still remains an unknown. However, what I was always taught at school, and at church, is that actions speak louder than words.

For many years there has been a strain in relations between east and west; and now it is coming to a head. However, while we are not sure what the end result will be, what we do know is that God will work through these conflicts to bring new shoots of life, in ways we would not necessarily have expected.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus defined Himself by saying who He was and what His mission was. At the same time, He never sought to control or manipulate others to agree with Him; instead, He asked questions and invited others into conversation to help them see where they stood in relation to one another.
Jesus had an ability to stay connected with those who didn't understand Him or His mission and even those who opposed Him at every turn. He loved Peter, who undermined Jesus's mission and then betrayed Him and He frequently entered into heated debate with the religious leaders who were trying to trap Him; and then He accepted invitations to eat in their homes. Even on the cross, Jesus connected to His enemies by asking His Father to forgive them.
No one, I'm sure, would underestimate how tricky it is to retain a connection with those who are in dispute but every effort has to be made to do so. It is often too easy to give up our connections to people with whom we disagree in order to hold on to our convictions. These are early days of conflict and I pray that a resolution can be quickly found. However, no resolution will be possible if diplomatic contact is broken. Therefore, if you are feeling anxious about this whole sorry situation take time in prayer to God and find His peace and calmness. And pray for those who are on the receiving end of any atrocities which may occur.
Peace is a fragile state but it is something that we have enjoyed for several generations. May the negotiations for peace be stronger than the fight for war. Otherwise, we may end up with a world filled with storms like Fanklin.

Yours in Christ., Graham