What if today was your last?

Waking up to yet another atrocity in London overnight, it’s hard not to find yourself silently despairing. Fear and hate has been given the spotlight, yet again.

Where’s the love? The patience? The kindness?

And this comes at a time when people are still searching for the people they love, feared lost in the tower block fire. As I looked at the smiling faces of some of these people this morning, some in family groups and others just a single photo, I was reminded, yet again, just how precious and fleeting life is.

Tragic, pointless loss of life. None of them woke up that morning expecting it to be their last. Very few of us do.

We make plans, set expectations, maybe procrastinate for a bit, but ultimately we expect to be around long enough to make good on the stuff we said we would. Or maybe we drift along for a time, letting life happen to us. Unconscious. Going with the flow.

What would you do today if you knew it would be your last? Who would you make sure to love on that extra bit more? What would you not do?

There’s a fine balance at play here because, given that all of expect to around next week, next month, next year, we can’t actually live all of today like it’s our last.

If today really was my last day on this planet you can be sure I wouldn’t spend it working. I’d almost certainly still write this email (although it would probably be painfully long as I tried to squeeze the next forty years of thoughts into a few hundred words!) but all the tedious little things that actually pay the bills? No chance!

Instead, much like you I imagine, today would be about the people I love.

I’d also be sure to eat a huge piece of the yummiest, most gluten-heavy, sugar-laced cake I could get my hands on, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences! ?  Oh and cheesecake. There would have to be cheesecake.

But I’d want to enjoy all of it with my children, my husband, my mum and dad and brothers and sisters. Get everyone together and have a giggle. Wear my favourite perfume. Enjoy good coffee followed by passionfruit cider on lots of ice. Play board games. Make lots of memories. Laugh. And love.

And those are the things we absolutely can bring into every single day, regardless of how many days we have left.

Life is precious and none of us knows how many days we have left to love on the people we care about most. The only solution is to love on them, every single day. Delight in the silly stuff, relish the ridiculous. Love bigly, and laugh.

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Guess what? Love’s STILL the antidote.

Did you hear the one about the Facebook page who promised to ban anyone using the new rainbow reaction (added by Facebook as a nod to Pride month) on their posts?

If so, I imagine it didn’t come as a massive shock to you to learn it was a Christian Facebook page. I took a look and in reaction to people trolling them with rainbows, they posted images of fire, calling on people to repent. And don’t even get me started on the comments. It was all terribly unpleasant.

Or maybe you’ve been caught up in the political crossfire recently? No matter who you support, it seems like you can’t express an opinion online right now without someone jumping on your every word and calling you out for being inhuman.

No matter how much we tend to avoid stepping into battles on social media (because let’s be honest, they can get brutal and too often it feels akin to smashing your head repeatedly against a brick wall!) you and I have a voice and we are called to use it.

But here’s the thought that kept rattling around my head yesterday morning … do it with love.

It echoes back to what we talked about yesterday. It’s less about what you say than how you say it.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I know it’s wishful thinking to imagine a world where every person steps into a conversation drenched in love. I know the Internet makes a delightful playground for people to give voice relatively anonymously and, as such, it doesn’t bring out the best in them too much of the time.

But if we’re going to be the change we want to see (to paraphrase the quote usually attributed to Gandhi but not actually said by him at all! ? ) it’s got to start somewhere, right?

So what if we personally, you and I, made a commitment to add love to every situation we stepped into? (Mostly at least. There are going to be times we don’t get it right!)

What might that look like? How might that love make a difference?

Just something to ponder on as we step into today but I’d love to hear what you think. ?

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Love is the only antidote

When I woke up yesterday morning to see one of my friends in the US had changed her Facebook profile to a union jack in the shape of a heart, I knew something bad had happened. The caption on her photo Pray for Manchester told me where and BBC news filled in the details.

Thanks to our increasingly connected world, whether it had been Manchester or Madrid, Newcastle or New York, we all know someone who knows someone who lives there. The world feels smaller, and not always in a good way.

As the stories of everyday heroes pour onto social media, the rest of us are left wondering what we can do to help. Sure, we can share the help line numbers (so that our someone who knows someone who knows someone has the information they need) or donate to the fundraising appeals. We can offer our prayers and show our support, but what can we actually do?

And yes, as the Jesus geek in the room, I should be advocating prayer as the most powerful thing we can offer and, logically at least, I know it is. But I still feel like there ought to be something we can actually do.

And it was as I was pondering on the helplessness of it all that a friend shared a post on my Facebook wall. (Thanks Richard. You’re a star and your timing was perfect! 🙂 )

And that’s when it hit me.

When there’s nothing we can actually do, we can still do love.

In a weird way, this sort of feels a little bit like the lead up to Christmas. (If you just rolled your eyes, hear me out.)

You know that feeling you get that everyone’s trying their best to be a little kinder and more loving? Of course it’s without the presents and the magic and the tinsel and with none of the excitement or music, but the love that underpins it all? Yeah, that.

Love is the only antidote to any of this.

Even as the list of confirmed dead children and teenagers grows.

Even when you see name of the daughter, whose mother was on national television appealing for any information about her child’s whereabouts, among the list of confirmed deceased.

Even as your heart feels like it can’t sink any deeper.

Even when you decide the only way you can mentally cope with this right now is to shut down the news and social media.

Even as you then feel guilty for doing so, because you know it’s off the richter scale more impossible and unthinkable for the poor parents and grandparents who’ve lost loved ones.

Even when you feel trite and silly for trying to get your head round any of this and start to wonder if you maybe shouldn’t have even tried.

Love is the only antidote.

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If you need an antidote to the hate and the stupid, read this …

Love from the centre of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:9-21

Between the decision here in the UK about whether or not we should stay in the EU and the political unrest in the US, not to mention the continuing heated debates around transgender bathrooms, it would be fair to say that there’s an awful lot of sludge running around right now. As such, when I received a cry for help from one of my long time friends and members of The League of Brilliance to do what I could to speak into the mess, I couldn’t resist rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.

Because how we as Jesus-lovers react during the hard times is massively indicative of our faith.

“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.” Matthew 12:34

Give you a shove, what falls out? That’s who you really are.

Because it’s easy to be loving and kind when everything is delightful. It’s a joy to serve the people you like. But what about the people who totally do your head in? The ones with whom you really cannot agree?

Love them? Pray for them? What was Jesus thinking?!?

When the pressure is on, the world is watching. We as Jesus-lovers are God’s hands and feet and heart and mouth pieces. His ambassadors and envoys. What kind of a God are we showing the world when we pour acid on an already volatile situation?

Now here’s the thing … much like Saul in his pre-Jesus days when he was rounding up Christians, people standing by their convictions in God’s name genuinely believe they are defending the faith. They’re not doing it to be asses. (Well, not mostly at least!) They read in the bible God’s call to speak truth and take that as a call to arms. To remain quiet when they see wrong-doing would be akin to condoning it. It’s a spiritual battle, they might remind you.

What did Jesus do when he came face to face with the leader of the opposition?

He quoted the bible at him.

“Ah, but let me show you what my bible says about *insert hot issue of the moment*” I can hear it now. We take verses out of context, reading them in a language that is a translation, and use that as our ammunition. But what if, in our bid to speak up for our faith, we’re fighting the wrong battle?

Do you know what the one central, overriding all encompassing theme is throughout the bible? Love.

Love your enemy.

Pray for those who persecute you.

If you must correct your brother, do it with love.

Whenever you speak, do so in a way that will lift another up.

Don’t repay evil with evil. On the contrary, repay evil with a blessing.

Do everything in love.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God loved the world so much, he sent Jesus. Not to condemn the world but to save it.

God is love.

And yes, I’m paraphrasing slightly but you know why? Because I wrote those off the top of my head because they are central to our faith.

We know this verses inside out and backwards so why is it so hard to live them?

Whatever hate and stupid you’re currently embroiled in, no matter which side you stand on, there is always fault on both sides. For every Trump supporter spouting vitriol you’ll find and equal and opposite Bernie fan. It’s Newton’s third law.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

But what if we coated every side with love? What if every conversation we had, every action we took, every moment of this day we stepped into was totally drenched in love?

What kind of a difference might that make?

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

There is hate and stupid in this world but you, with your love and God helping you, can be the very antidote you came here looking for. It’s time to shine!

Some straight talk about love and inspiration …

So I was in the shower, thinking about the day, wondering what little gem I might share with you this morning, when a quote about being inspired popped in my head:

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning” – Peter De Vries

It’s a funny thing, inspiration. Chase it too hard and it’ll run away and hide but wait for it to show up and you could be waiting forever!

And then I had another thought … It’s easy to step up and be the loving people God created us to be when we feel loved, but how about we see to it that we’re loved at nine o’clock every morning?

Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Because here’s the pinch that no one seems to talk about very often …

Sometimes God can feel very far away.

Sometimes I wonder if it is all actually going to be OK.

Sometimes it all feels totally pointless.

Sometimes I just don’t know.

“Hey, where’s the little hit of happiness in that?” Ha! Good question.

But don’t worry, it’s a coming. Because, you know what? Even when we feel like that, God’s still there, doing his thing, loving on us.

And I know that you probably know that, logically, academically. But what I really want is to know it deep in my very being.

Painted onto my heart with every sunset that makes me stop and smile. Sloshed onto my soul like how my youngest likes to cover every inch of his body with water from the hose on a baking hot day. So dripping wet with God’s love that I leave soggy wet footprints with every step I take.

Just imagine what that might look like. What a difference that could make in this world of ours.

And so I guess my challenge for you is this … what’s it going to take for that to be a reality for you? And what does that look like?

Just a little something for you to ponder on as you head into your day 🙂

If you find yourself getting freaked out by all the bad news stories, read this.

You remember how I told you last week that anyone who tells you they’re happy all of the time is either lying or bonkers? Well today, after a weekend of celebrations and happiness on social media (my entire Facebook feed is full of rainbows!) the reality of what’s happening in other parts of the world left me reeling.

It felt like a tale of two contrasts. Love and hate. Delight and despair. New families joined together while others were torn apart.

It left me feeling more ponderous and thoughtful than usual. Our British government tell us that we’re targets. There is an increase in violence across Europe. It’s being labelled the “struggle of our generation.”

And while history probably won’t prove you and I to be victims of this fight, I got to thinking if and how we might be part of a solution.

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Or so the song goes.

A couple of weeks ago it was my turn to do the preaching at church and I found myself in 1 John: “Let’s love one another, for love is from God … God is love.”

And this morning, as I was thinking about all of this stuff, I was reminded again of that statement. Sometimes it feels like we don’t know what to do, some days it can be really easy to get overwhelmed by the horrid stuff in this world but, if we can do nothing else, we can do love, right?

I mean, even when we’re having a bad day, we can do love.

And so today, as you get ready for a brand new week, I wanted to encourage you to do love, whatever that looks like in the context of who you come into contact with today.

Hug the people you care about. Smile at that random stranger on the street. Let her rabbit on about her weekend for an extra moment longer than you might ordinarily like to.

Do love. Because love wins 🙂

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

September 11th. The one day of the year, above almost all others, when I don’t really know what to say. Days like Remembrance Sunday are easier because, for most people, the events are so far off, it doesn’t hurt any more.

Plus, well, it’s a Sunday and I don’t publish the daily dose on a Sunday 😉

For a moment I considered saying nothing. Skipping a day and coming back tomorrow. It’s been less than a fortnight since the daily dose restarted so it’s not like I’ve been all that consistent.

But that felt a bit icky.

But then this thought popped in my head … love.

What do you say or do when you don’t know what to say or do?

What one thing has the ability to cover over a multitude of sins?

What’s that command that Jesus gave, the one that knocked all the others out of the ring?

Love.

Whatever that looks like for you today. Love.

It’s not the kinda magic that can bring back loved ones or remove hurt from your memory, but the world starts to look a whole lot kinder from the other side of a hug and a smile. Don’t you think?

Love as a verb, a doing word. Here’s to doing love today 🙂

Do you think it’s possible to live in a world that’s inherently good?

Imagine the scene … you or someone you love is out for the evening. A few drinks. A little dance in a local club. All good.

And then someone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Your stomach in knots, you take a deep breath and tell the guy that it’s not acceptable for his hands to go there.

And then he beats you up and breaks your nose!

Seriously?!?

You couldn’t make it up. This happened to a young lady from Oxford. She has the bruises to prove it.

What kind of world would someone need to live in, to believe that that’s the way to treat another human?

It’s easy to blame up-bringing and society but we’ve both heard too many stories of perfectly lovely children with nice families suddenly flipping one day and going bonkers, to believe that it’s all about nurture.

Sure, as parents, we do our best and I really, really hope that it helps our young ones develop into well rounded, kind, loving adults, but it’s never a dead cert. There are too many unknown factors and outside influences that we can’t control. And don’t even get me started on the media and the messages we unconsciously inflict on our loved ones.

Yeah, when I said yesterday that all this gets a bit messy in my brain, I really wasn’t kidding! 😉

But then I got to thinking … if we all value kindness and love so much, why can’t we change the world around us?

If people are inherently good and made in God’s image, can that be encouraged and fostered so that, over time, it really does become like heaven on earth?

Paul talked about us being new creations. Jesus announced that the kingdom is right here, right now.

And yet the same bible that makes those promises also talks about how all of creation is groaning in anticipation. Paul talks about doing what he really doesn’t want to do and you can often hear his pain coming right off the page.

Maybe the messy conflict in my head isn’t that surprising after all? 😉

I have no answers to this one but am compelled to believe that, as conflicted and messy as we are, ultimately (God helping us) we are to live by Jesus’s teaching:

Love God and love other people.

People of faith are commended throughout the bible but of faith, hope and love, the greatest of these is love so here’s to loving, even when we feel like our faith is shaky and our hope might run out.

Because as The Beatles once sang,

Love is all you need.

You might just be amazed at what you find under the hood!

Sat in church yesterday morning and the chap preaching started telling us a story from his days managing a children’s home. This came after a story about the time he and his wife bought a new house so as to accommodate four brothers they’d been asked to foster.

Did you ever listen to someone and find yourself realising that there is so much about them that you really don’t know?

Yeah, that 😉

This gentleman is in his 60s. A fairly quiet, unassuming man. He met his wife when he was older than average. They couldn’t have children of their own so they adopted then fostered. This after she’d already mothered five children with her first husband.

The stories they could tell!

But, other than the occasional gem (like yesterday’s) they generally don’t. I know bits of their story but it’s pretty clear that I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Look around you. Every person you pass on the street has a story.

Reminds me of that Native American proverb:

“Don’t judge a man until you walk a mile in his shoes.”

But more not judging someone, I find it absolutely fascinating to think of all the things that other people have going on and it’s usually impossible to tell.

Get to know someone and the two of you might share stuff with each other but how honest are you really, even with the people who think they know you really well?

And if there’s stuff that you don’t let anyone else in on, the same is almost certainly true for the people around you. Don’t you think?

People are amazing. Every single one, made in her creator’s image.

Makes you pause and think for a moment, doesn’t it?

A reminder for those days when you’re glad it’s over!

Did you ever have one of those days where you go to bed thankful that the day’s over so at least you can’t say the wrong thing any more?

And not in a feeling sorry for yourself kinda way. You’ve just had one of those days.

Maybe you had an argument with someone you love, largely because you were tired and being grumpy, and you totally tried to turn it round and blame them? Or maybe that’s just me 😉

And in that moment you have a choice …

You can either run with the blaming them routine and enjoy an evening of arguments and crossness.

Or you can do the really uncomfortable thing where you have to face up to what you were doing and say sorry, hoping that they love you enough to forgive you and put the evening back on track.

Yeah, that.

We all have them, it’s just that usually we don’t write about them in an email and send it out into the world.

Steve Furtick said:

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

(Incidentally, I didn’t even know who Steve Furtick was until I just Googled him, despite having versions of that quote rattling around my brain for ages. He’s a Jesus freak too and I’m looking forward to digging into his books.)

What would your today looked like if you stopped believing that everyone else has it so together?

How might you smile more knowing that the person next to you, while they have quirks and foibles different to yours (because you’re you and they’re them) is actually just as messed up as you are?!? 😉

Seriously, stop beating yourself up. You’re brilliant! And sometimes, a mess, and gloriously human.

And made in God’s image.

And he doesn’t need a do over! 😉