Bronwyn Lea

Why It's Hard To Pray For Nepal (But I'm Trying Anyway)


I was half a world away, in my first year of high school, when the 1989 San Francisco earthquake hit. I remember watching television footage of chunks of the Bay Bridge collapsing on the decks below it, cars skidding like skittles.

I had no idea, then, that twenty five years later I would find myself living in shaking distance of the San Andreas Fault, and every time I drive across one of the long bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay, I wonder "will this be the day? The day of the Big One? Will my car be in the footage of this bridge crumpling into the sea?"

I try not to tell my Mom these things. She worries enough already.

And so it was, on Saturday morning, that I was making my way across one of those long bridges, imagining earthquakes and my imminent demise, when I heard the news of the earthquake which devastated Nepal. 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Over 4000 lives lost already, and tens of thousands more crushed physically, emotionally, and financially: their world literally shaken.

I have friends who have taught me to love Nepal. My sweet friend Katie worked there for some years in a home where children rescued from sex trafficking were being loved into wholeness. We have other friends (whose names I can't share) working at a missions hospital. I savor their newsletters. I pray for them, hoping in some way to partner with them in the work they are doing there.

I have prayed for Nepal many times, but this week-with my social media flooded with prompts to #PrayForNepal-I'm feeling stuck, and not sure how to pray.

My first instinct is to reach for the soul-notes I learned in the Church of England: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. But there's something about that prayer that jars right now: as if God were engaged in twisting the world's arms behind our backs until we, in our pain, cry "uncle".

This is the sticking point: the deep feeling that I need to pray, but the deep disquiet I feel that God could have prevented this, could have stopped this. Believing that God is mighty enough to help half way across the world necessarily means I also believe Him mighty enough to have made things go differently.

I just finished reading a treasure of a book: Karen Dabaghian's newly released Travelogue of the Interior. In it, she chronicles a journey God took her through the Psalms - a year spent marinating in, and learning to pray and write poetry in response to, God in the Psalms. The most arresting part of the book to me was her chapter on lament, which she describes this way:

"Lament... is the act of pouring out in thoughtfully crafted, brutally honest speech all the accusatory, self-serving, pain-drenched thoughts and emotions that fester in the deepest recesses of my soul when God doesn’t come through for me in the way I believe He is supposed to…. Lament is casting our full selves on the fathomless mercy of God, because only His mercy is big enough to bear witness to our bitter accusations and still let us live.”

So, this morning instead of praying for Nepal, I tried lamenting. Asking God WHY he let this happen and WHAT was he thinking and WHERE was he? My fingers skimmed through my bible, finding the passage in Luke 13 where Jesus talks about what conclusions could be drawn from a tragedy in his day when a tower in Siloam fell and killed many, too. I hunted for the verse somewhere which talks about God shaking the earth.

But at some point my fingers stilled and my breathing got slower, and I found myself in 1 John 1:5, and the reminder that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. No hint of caprice, no mean streak, no schadenfreude.

I found no answers to why this all happened, but I felt God gently point out that I'd come to prayer with no small amount of resentment: as if I cared more about those suffering than He does, as if I had purer motives than He, as if I had to try and persuade Him to do good for a change.


Instead of assuming that God is petulant and reluctant to bless, I needed a reminder that God is more than the giver of blessings, He is the Gift himself. And so, once again I'm on my knees asking that He would make it better, but... so much more importantly... that He would make it count. That His presence would be near. That even though we don't know the WHY, we know He is WITH.

My prayers feel puny, and my faith is small. Honestly, it felt more useful to send a donation to the missions hospital where my friends serve since I knew the money would at least be of practical help (you can donate too: here).

But I need to pray, too, reminding myself that I cannot outdo God in compassion or mercy. In the wake of this devastation, I know this much is true: He cares.

And so I pray.

This post first appeared here.

Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama raising three littles with her husband in California's earthquake country. She survives on buckets of grace, caffeine and laughter. She writes regularly about the holy and hilarious at and other wonderful online spots. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest

Why I Won’t Take a Stand on Gay Marriage

This post first appeared at

A few of my Christian friends have asked in the past months what my position is on gay marriage, or whether I was going to write about it. “I wish you would,” said one friend, “I feel very strongly about it.”

That’s exactly the problem, though. Everyone who’s talking about it seems to feel very strongly about it, whereas I have very mixed feelings, with a net result of apparent apathy.

It’s not that I’m really apathetic, though. I do have thoughts and I do care. I do believe that God has set limits around sexuality and yet I also have friends and family within the LGBT community (LGB friends, T relative) whom I love and do not want to see suffer prejudice or judgment.

And yet I won’t take a stand. I realize that writing this post in a public forum is probably just inviting cyberspace tomatoes to be thrown at me from every side, but for some reason I feel like I need to explain why I’m such a chicken.

I’m not willing to take a stand for gay marriage. I do not believe that we live in a Christian state, and I do not believe that Christian morals ought to be legislated, so my resistance is not because I think everyone ought by law to follow Judeo-Christian norms.

My unwillingness to endorse gay marriage is rather because if the boundary lines demarcating marriage and family are re-drawn, I can’t think of another place which is logically reasonable and good to draw them.

The best illustration I can think of for this is to make an argument that immediate family members ought to be allowed to get married too. If a brother and a sister are legal, consenting adults who love each other, if they are promising lifelong fidelity and commitment – why should they not be allowed to marry too? To say “it’s not natural” or “what about the children?” or “incest is morally repugnant” are all arguments which have been leveled against gay marriage, and those objections have been set aside as being irrelevant and unimportant. A couple’s human rights and the insistence that sexual relationships are private trump concerns about a couple’s ability to healthily and naturally procreate or the “questionable” nature of their relationship.

So why shouldn’t brothers and sisters be allowed to marry? If marriage lines are re-drawn to include gay marriage, I can’t see any logical or jurisprudential reason not to include many other categories of union too and legitimize it as marriage. In the absence of another good place to redefine marriage, I vote for retaining the default position.

(As an aside: I would probably prefer the terms “civil union” for everything that the state does to legitimize human partnerships, and keep a separate term for “marriage”, but that is not realistic. I would gladly be “civilly united” to my husband by the state, and then have a church blessing which counted as “marriage”. But even if those words are used or confused, I don’t think God is confused. I believe that God does bless marriage, but He is not confused about what He is blessing. I don’t imagine God would look down on a brother and sister getting “married” and say “now I’m in a pickle: they’re getting married and I’ve said that’s not a legitimate union but I have to bless it anyway because they used the “m” word.” But I digress).

So I’m not willing to take a stand in favor of gay marriage, but I’m not willing to take a stand against it either. I am not willing to devote large amounts of time to arguing about the 'sin of homosexuality' and how to interpret Leviticus.

Here’s why. I think the church is drawing the line in the sand in the wrong place. Too much of the discussion draws a line between homosexual-heterosexual, with the former being denounced as “sinful” and the latter as “blessed.” However, as far as I can see, the sexuality line God draws is around marriage. Husband and wife sex is seen as very, very good by him. Everything else gets the ix-nay with the worried concern of a parent who sees their children teetering on the edge of very dangerous precipices.

So here is my issue: the church is FULL of heterosexual people who are standing on the wrong side of the boundary. Statistics say there are more couples having pre-marital sex than not. The statistics on pornography among men and women are alarming. Co-habiting seems to be the norm, if not even the recommended thing among many. Adultery happens, and we say with a shrug “how awful, adultery happened.” And yet no-one is picketing outside churches to have those people thrown out. No-one is looking at them when they come to the communion table and thinking “you shouldn’t be taking that.” So why on earth should we call out and shame just a few?

I’m not willing to take a stand against gay marriage because I’m not willing to call out homosexuality as THE issue that draws the line in the sand. In fact, I’m not willing to call out sexuality as the line the church should draw in the sand, period.

As Sarah Bessey wisely said, I want to be known for what I am FOR, not what I am against. And this I know: Jesus hung out with all sorts of people. Greedy people, sexually tainted people, crass people – and he LOVED them. To those wanting to see the women caught in adultery called out and shamed for her sexual choices, he said “if you’re without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:1-12)

(To her, he said “I don’t condemn you either, go and sin no more…” but I take it that was between her and Jesus, and not for the rest of the synagogue to follow up on).

And so I’m officially declaring that I’m a chicken. I’m not willing to cast stones. But I’m not willing to move boundaries either. I am sure that is disappointing to almost everyone who wanted me to write on this topic. Get your tomatoes out already and prepare to aim. But more important than all is this: I hope you know what I’m FOR.

I’m for love, and I’m for marriage. Truly, I am.
I’m for the gospel and its call to radical transformation in ALL areas of life.
I’m for unconditional acceptance and deep friendship with WHOEVER God puts in my path.
I’m for grace.
I’m for equal ground at the foot of the cross.

That there is my chicken manifesto, and I’m sticking by it until The Lord convicts me otherwise.

Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama raising three littles with her husband in California. She survives on buckets of grace, caffeine and laughter. She writes regularly about the holy and hilarious at and other wonderful online spots. Connect with her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Publication date: March 31, 2015




Snuggling Always Helps

I expect I'll start vomiting within the next few hours.

Our eldest came down with something 48 hours ago: a debilitating bug which has emptied her in every way, and she is limp and pale in her Daddy's arms. We thought perhaps it was something she had eaten, but tonight after dinner our son stood up from dinner, and promptly divested himself of the evening's meal.

This means it's a bug, and since I've been doing the mopping of brows and floors, the bug is likely coming for me. But it's not here yet, and so for now when my son asked if I could please lie down with him as he went to sleep, I said yes. Of course. Yes, I will stay with you.

"What did you do today?" my husband asked when he got home.

"I took the kids to the doctor, and then I sat with them on the couch and read my book while they watched shows."

On a different day, a day of reading-on-the-couch while my kids watched TV might have felt like a terrible mommy fail - especially since it's the first day of Spring Break and the weather outside is glo.ri.ous. But today, sitting quietly on the couch with my daughter tucked under my wing was the best way I could love her as she drifted in and out of sleep. It was a gift to be present.

Half an hour after my boy suffered the first wave of the virus' onslaught, it was his turn to curl up close. I rubbed his back as he pressed his head into my chest, listening as his breathing slowed.

"Snuggling always helps," he whispered, moments before sleep took him.

Snuggling always helps. Yes. It does.

I can't answer my daughter's question of why this is happening to her, nor can I tell her how long it will last. But I can assure her I am nearby and that I love her, which is, come to think of it, just exactly the comfort God gives me when I'm bent double, weak and weeping. Though you pass through the waters, I will be with you, says Isaiah 43:2.

The presence of One who Loves us makes all the difference.

Just like my boy said: snuggling always helps. 

This post originally appeared here.