What if?

What do you do when you feel a thing tugging at you, refusing to let go? And you feel so unqualified to really have an answer, let alone the answer.

And so maybe you stumble forward, distracting yourself with other projects, procrastinating, until one day, maybe years and years later, that thing comes back.

It will not let you go.

And you thought that by now you’d feel better qualified to handle it but instead, you’ve just added to the list of reasons why there must surely, please God, be someone else who can do it.

But it will not let you go.

We read so much about legacy and worth and making a difference. The child prodigy and self-made millionaires leave us feeling like we’ve somehow missed our turn. We’re too late. All that’s left for us is more of the same old, same old.

“You’re doing ok. You’re a great mum. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself.”

And yet still it will not let you go.

A yearning. An ache. A thing, deep inside whispering into the very edges of your soul.

What if you were carefully and exactly put together, quirks and foibles and yearnings and all?

What if the whisper into your heart were God’s spirit talking to your spirit?

What if the ‘it’ that will not let you go were actually a ‘him’? Calling you forward. Holding you gently, even when it feels lonely and impossible?

What if God, in his infinite wisdom, doesn’t need anyone better qualified? What if he wants you, just as you are? To love on and whisper sweet nothings to?

What if it’s less about legacy and what you’ll leave behind when you’re gone, and more about being you, fully and wholly and completely you, in the here and now today?

And what if you just started, one foot in front of the other? Letting go of the ‘what ifs’ and the not knowing and just be?

What if?

What if the secret was to start with the easy win?

Loving can be really difficult. I mean, it’s wonderful and so necessary and can light us up, etcetera, etcetera, but sometimes it’s also really tricky.

There’s the balance between loving and being kind, but not being a door mat.

There’s the need to give love and show up for other people, whilst making sure that we put our own gas masks on first.

Loving from the saucer.

And then this morning I washed my car and this thought popped in my head …

You know how sometimes we over-think stuff? Look at love and how we’re showing up from all the different angles? Explore and poke at the possibilities?

What if we didn’t?

My car was absolutely filthy! It’s bright yellow paint could barely be seen through a film of dirt. So as I was driving home from taking the kids to school, I thought about washing it.

Ah, but I need to clean the inside too. Get rid of all the rubbish. Hoover. Dust. Maybe I should do that first and think about washing it after that?

All very dull and boring. The perfect job for a Friday morning – not!

So I grabbed a bucket and sponge, turned the Christmas music on and got to work on the outside.

It was actually quite fun (and didn’t take anything like as long as I feared it might.)

Rinsing it off with a hose was a giggle and then after taking it for a spin to dry it off, I even came back and picked up the rubbish and coats and shoes and random stuff from the back.

And it was about then that I thought about what would have happened if I done the boring cleaning piece first.

I’d have cleaned and hoover the inside, by which time I’d be so bored with it all, I’d have never got to the outside – the one thing that was so dirty it had inspired the whole clean up operation!

What if, instead of picking at and exploring and figuring out all the details, the best way, the most loving way to behave, we just showed up and did the easy stuff first?

Silly stuff so small that it almost feels irrelevant and like it wouldn’t matter.

What if life were actually made up of those silly, small moments?

How much easier might it be to love if we stopped worrying and just did that small stuff first?

Sometimes doing so might inspire even more action (like me picking up the rubbish inside my car after washing the outside) and other times it’ll just make someone else smile and we’ll leave it at that.

But surely showing up and doing the easy stuff has got to be a whole lot better than doing nothing?

And better than that, it might actually add up to make a massive difference. One person at a time.

What do you think? Worth a try eh? πŸ˜‰

Is there a connection between our capacity to love & the speed at which we’re travelling?

I’m on a bit of a space and productivity quest.

Space for fun and laughter and, well, sometimes just space to breathe, because life feels very busy right now and I’m not sure I’m convinced about how very wonderful that is.

And productivity because, if less really is more, I’d love to find that balance, the sweet spot.

After two days thinking about love (well, a whole weekend of it really but only the last two days showed up here in the daily dose) and realising yesterday that there is a real, solid correlation between our capacity to love and the speed at which we’re travelling, finding that sweet spot feels more important than ever.

I’m done with being the grumpy, stressy one.

I’m done with multi-tasking so I can squeeze more busy into the day.

I’m done with getting by.

I’m ready to really step up and enjoy each new day.

I’m ready to show my children, by example, what it looks like to smile at the sun rise and really thrive.

And if that sounds just a little more poetic than usual, you can totally blame a new writing app I’m playing with. I’m listening to gentle music as I write and it’s setting a beautiful scene πŸ™‚

What might your today look like if you really believed it were possible to thrive, every day?

What would you differently?

What would you allow yourself to make time for?

Today, I dare you to do all that stuff anyway, even if you don’t believe how thriving is actually possible yet.

As Christians we talk a lot about how to follow Christ means to take up your cross. To accept struggles and persecution. To be people who know what it is to hurt.

But Jesus also talked about his yoke being light. He promised rest and refreshment. He told us not to worry.

What might life look like if we took him at his word? Embraced those promises and really stepped into them and owned them?

You won’t know unless you try so go on, I dare you πŸ˜‰

The truth about what love really looks like

Occasional bouts of grumpiness aside, I like to think that I’m a pretty nice person. I sit here and write to you about love and Jesus and enjoying life moment by moment. All very nice and kind and lovely.

But there is something about running late that lets my narky side out to play and I become, for a short moment, not very nice or loving at all.

I didn’t realise it was running late specifically that did it until literally this morning but, having noticed, I’m starting to think that I might not be the only one.

So, regular scheduling is abandoned for today (I had a whole other email on half for you but we’ll save that for tomorrow) while we dig into this idea of love and what it really looks like when you’re running late or rushing about or feeling stressed.

Because it feels really important.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ but I’m let’s pretend it’s not just me) talk about love and how it’s the most important thing of all.

We have this burning desire to reinvent how this world sees and understands God’s love.

We’re starting to see that for real love to actually have an impact, it has to be actioned, one person at a time.

But then real life happens.

And we sigh because our middle child is crying again, only to find out that she’s only crying because she hurt herself and wants someone to rub her little pinky better.

And then we drive the kids to school and get narky and impatient with a grandmother because she walked out in front of the car and didn’t engage her brain to realise that it’s not just her grandchild who needs to get a move on and get to school if he’s not going to be late.

And then we check ourselves and feel really guilty for being so grumpy and un-loving.

Writing about love is easy. Seriously, writing to you each morning is one of the best parts of my day.

Talking about love is easy. I did it in church on Sunday and saw people nodding along. They agreed. They got it.

But real life, day to day love? So much easier to say and write about than it is to actually do.

Worse still, we can look around at what we see other people saying and writing about and it paints this picture of ease. People like me are guilty of this. We wax lyrical about love and kindness and encourage you to love, one person at a time.

But how often do you get to peep behind the curtain and see the reality of daily love in another person’s life?

Not all that often. Hardly ever.

And it can leave us feeling so inadequate. Like we don’t measure up and probably never will.

Would you like to know the reality?

The reality is that every single person on this planet, no matter how much they like to pretend otherwise, gets it wrong. Has a bad day. Snaps. Is narky and grumpy.

You don’t need to look around you to see how loving you are compared to other people. You only need to look to how much you’re loving, in that moment.

It helps if we can start to recognise our triggers (like me and running late) but ultimately, the only way we can love, day to day, is to just do it the best we can, moment by moment, God helping us.

Paul talks about how we can become more and more like Jesus each day. We don’t do that by trying harder or wishing more. We do that by asking God to help us and him giving us opportunities to practice.

There’s no magic bullet or quick fix. That’s not God’s way.

Instead it’s about showing up, every day, just as we are, putting one foot in front of the other, asking God to help us but accepting that we won’t get it right all the time.

Loving because we were loved first.

But knowing that God doesn’t need us to be kinder or more lovely in order for him to love us. He loves you because he loves you. End of.

So stop comparing yourself to anyone other than you and know that you’re not the only one who gets it wrong an awful lot of the time.

Welcome to the club. Pull up a chair. You’re in good company!

Why Jesus chose to totally ignore the marketing expert’s top advice. Or did he?

It’s been nearly four years since I first landed in the world of marketing, first as I worked on building Give A Brick, and then through various business iterations.

Ask any business owner the one piece of advice they hear the most often and they’ll probably say something about persistence and stickability.

This is good advice of course but it doesn’t have much practical application, beyond showing up each day, doing the work and not giving up.

What would be the most practical advice they were given do you think?

How about: Pick a niche. Be specific. Focus on serving one customer with one specific need before expanding that service to a wider client base.

And the idea I’ve been playing with for nearly a week is that Jesus totally ignored that advice. He’s allowed to of course. I just found it fascinating to think that some messages, like love, could be universal.

You can’t argue with a need for love so maybe that’s why it’s ok that he didn’t pick a niche. That and being the son of God and all. You might call it a bit of an unfair advantage πŸ˜‰

I was ready to write a whole piece on how love doesn’t need a niche etc. etc.

But what if I’m wrong?

Because as I wrote that sentence above about serving one customer before expanding, it suddenly occurred to me … isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? God too in fact.

From the very beginning of the bible, the story centres on one small part of the world and one very specific people group.

Jesus too spoke to a community who grew up as a part of that specific group. Sure, there are notable exceptions, like the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to perform long-distance healing, but for the most part, Jesus had his niche and he stuck to it.

That’s not to suggest that he didn’t have a wider remit.

Way back in the Old Testament, there’s a conversation about how working with just the Jews wasn’t enough for Jesus. But at the point where it all started, when the plan was put into action, Jesus had a very clear and specific target market.

It was only much later, when Peter had that vision about the different types of animals he could eat, that God’s original plan to love on everyone became clear.

So what does that mean for you and me?

Other than to make us smile to think that God loves us so much, he had it all planned out way back when, the real message here is that it’s OK to just love on the people around you.

You might have this overwhelming burning desire to love on the world, to be a walking, talking, practical example of God’s love, to un-write all the wrongs of the past. And that’s wonderful! And inspiring. And good on you πŸ™‚

But you don’t have to love on the whole world right now, today.

You can start with the very next person you come into contact with – whether that be face to face or on the phone or via email, Facebook or Twitter.

You don’t love on the whole world by loving on the whole world. You love on the whole world, one person at a time.

And sure, it’ll take longer than if you had the whole world on iMessage and could send a group text, but have you ever wondered why there are so many names in the bible? People matter to God.

Individuals, one at a time, are important to God.

And if it’s good enough for him, I reckon it’s good enough for us too πŸ˜‰

And so our challenge today is to love, one person at a time, even when it’s messy and hard going and tests our patience.

And remember, you don’t have to do it alone.

We love because God loved first so don’t forget to get him in on the act. Ask him to help you, to keep helping you.

Are you ready? Let’s go! πŸ™‚

Is there ever a time when “how are you?” really would be better served as a greeting?

Did you ever have one of those mornings where you woke up and your brain just couldn’t formulate a single coherent thought?

Where even a simple, mundane task like getting a drink for the kids would become like climbing Everest?

And yet when you venture into your day and you’re met with the usual, “Hello. How are you?” you’re all like, “Great thanks. How are you?”

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating …

“How are you?” is a question, not a greeting.

This morning was one of those morning, largely because I went to bed too late and had to get up at ten to five to take my eldest daughter to catch a bus to London.

My eldest daughter is ten, and she’s been stupidly excited about her trip to London with school. They’re packing so much into two days, she’ll need a week to recover. (Good job next week is half term!)

And I’m excited for her.

And I’m constantly looking at the clock, wondering where she is right now and what she’s doing, because they were banned from taking their phones. She has her iPod and I’m hoping if she finds some free wifi, she might spare a thought for home and send a quick iMessage but I’m not holding my breath!

And I can’t wait to hear all about it when she gets back.

And I keep thinking dark thoughts that I refuse to allow space in my brain for more than two seconds, let alone whisper aloud to anyone else.

And I’m doing some really fun stuff with her brother and sister while she’s away.

And I can’t wait for her to get home again.

“How are you?” “Great thanks, how are you?” πŸ˜‰

Sometimes life is far less complicated if we pretend.

Sometimes there are things we think in our heads that we can’t really imagine uttering out loud.

But what would it be like to be the person who actually let’s other people in?

What would it be like to admit that, actually, yes, I am missing my daughter and yes, although I wouldn’t dream of saying so to her, part of me is terrified that this is the one time the school takes a trip to London and something goes wrong.

Is there such a thing as being too honest and open?

We hear that honesty disarms people. Authenticity has become a buzz word but what if authenticity is more than updating Facebook about how much you love Game of Thrones?

What if real honesty is more to do with feelings and thoughts about the stuff that really matters to us?

I can geek out all day with Doctor Who references and I’m the queen of the sound bite, but if I can’t be really honest about what I actually think and feel and believe, how does that help make today a little brighter?

Today, for one day only, I dare us to think before we speak when asked the “how are you?” question.

Today, for one day only, I dare us to actually let someone else in. It doesn’t have to be something massive, it just has to be real.

And if it’s totally unimaginable for you, try starting with God. Tell him what’s really going on. And ask him to help you be real with another human.

If you can model real openness and honesty today, just imagine for a moment what that might do for the person you’re speaking to.

Sure, it’ll take a little time (God forbid, you might end up having an actual conversation with someone) but what if that turns out to be the one ray of delight in someone’s otherwise terrible day.

What if by being open and honest, you made today better for yourself and the people around you?

What might that look like?

Imagine the possibilities.

 

What if we had a God who was interested in the tiny stuff?

I can guess what you might be thinking … “we do!”

Or if today you’re feeling a little bit meh about it all, it might be more of a “yeah right” kind of thought.

Maybe it’s just me but I can know stuff logically, academically, in my head, but some days I just don’t feel it.

Some days, God feels really far away and sure, I remember the trite expression reeled off at church: “if God feels far away, who’s moved?” and that maybe sometimes helps, a little bit.

But some days I really just need a big, bold ‘in your face’ reminder.

Cloud porn often does it for me. The way the sun and the clouds play and turn the whole sky orangey pink? I imagine God up there with a great big paint brush, making everything beautiful, just for me.

That sounds terribly narcissistic doesn’t it?

I don’t mean it to. I just want to believe in a God who knows and loves me individually, just as I am. And who knows and loves you, just as you are.

Does he really have the capacity or desire to be actively interested in the little stuff?

There’s so much big stuff happening in the world, surely his efforts would be better served focussing on them?

World hunger. Poverty. Sex trafficking. Abuse. Cancer. Tragic accidents.

There’s so much awful stuff happening, it’s really easy to wonder how it is even possible to entertain the idea that God can really be interested in the little things in my fairly ordinary life, seeing as he hasn’t stepped in and made the bad stuff better.

I don’t have the answer to that.

I mean sure, I can pretend if you like, spout the same old line about living in a fallen world of sin and evil.

But I don’t think that does us any favours.

Instead, how about we keep our eyes open for those little reminders?

The love notes dotted across the universe? The silly stuff that makes us smile. A giggling child. An extra hug.

What if all of that stuff was a note from God, reminding you how much he loves you?

That stuff is there, whether we see it or not. Sometimes it just needs us to keep our eyes open. Expectant. Anticipating.

What might your today look like if you stepped into it, ready to see that love note?

How might your interactions with other people in your day be different? (Because yes, you can be the bearer of someone elses love note.)

It’s time to slow down just a little, pull back your shoulders and step into this brand new day.

Are you ready? Go! πŸ˜€

Just because you don’t feel like God loves you, it doesn’t change how much he does.

“Your office looks really tidy mummy.” Said by my eight year old, with more than a hint of surprise in her voice. “That’s the first time it’s been tidy since before when it was daddy’s study.”

Me: I tidy my office every Sunday.

Her: Do you? Well you didn’t do it this Sunday.

Me: Yes I did. It was tidy this morning too.

Her: Well I didn’t see it.

Me: Just because you didn’t see that it was tidy, doesn’t change the fact that it was.

It reminded me of two days ago when my daughter decided that everyone hated her. More specifically, she decided that I hated her.

I didn’t and don’t of course. And how she thought I felt about her didn’t change for one second how much I love her.

And then another ‘just because’ thought popped in my head …

Just because you don’t feel like God loves you, it doesn’t change how much he does.

We like to think that we’re in charge and can make a difference to the world but there is one thing we can not do and that is make someone love us.

I mean, sure, we can help the process along. I imagine my husband would have had a harder time falling in love with me if I’d refused to speak to him or spend time with him or said mean things to him.

But my children? My love for them just happened. There is nothing they did as tiny newborn infants that coerced me into loving them.

God is love. He wrote the book on it.

So if I, mere human that I am, have this ability to just love my children, how much more possible do you think that process might be for the author?

Just because you don’t feel like God loves you, doesn’t change how much he does.

 

 

What really happens when you say what you think instead of thinking what you should say?

Have you ever had that moment when you’re about to say something, and, for a split second, you’re ever so slightly fearful of what the reaction might be when you say it?

And in that moment you’re faced with a choice.

You can either speak up, stand by what you believe to be true and deal with the consequences.

Or, you can tone down what you think. Say it in a way that offers wiggle room. Compromise.

Now don’t get me wrong, there needs to be room in this life for compromise and saying things kindly and with respect.

But compromising your beliefs because you’re afraid of what the other person might think?

Not so clever.

Something rather fabulous happened yesterday …

While dropping off some Operation Christmas Child leaflets at one of the local schools, I got to chatting with one of the members of staff about God.

I knew already that she’s a Christian and goes to church but when the conversation turned to our frustrations, I had a rare moment of ‘think before I speak’ clarity.

In that moment, I was about to tell her how much the anti-gay marriage petitions earlier in the year did my head in.

It was as I opened my mouth to speak that the slight fear cropped up. I didn’t know where she stood on this emotive issue. “What is she going to think if I say that?!?”

But I said it anyway and guess what she said?

“I am so glad you said that! I feel exactly the same!”

She must have said those same words three or four times and from the way she spoke, it was like I had, unwittingly, released something. Her face lit up. It was just magical to watch.

What really happens when you say what you think instead of what you think someone wants you to say?

You give the other person permission to be real too.

There’s a vulnerability in letting go of the pretence. And yes, it can be scary but by modelling it, you allow others in, strengthen relationships and give this world a dose of dearly needed honesty.

There is nothing this world needs more than you showing up as you, the real you.

Loving. Being loved. Saying what you really think, with kindness and humility.

Be you.

Because you are God’s work of art, and he doesn’t need a do over πŸ™‚

The sour milk guide to loving unconditionally

Actually, that’s not strictly true. The milk wasn’t sour at all. But that’s the point.

I think I’d better explain …

Last week, I had an unopened carton of milk in my fridge. By the time I got round to opening it, it was the date that the label said the milk would go off.

I meant to pop off to the shops and get some more but I didn’t get round to it so I figured I’d give the out of date stuff a try.

Gave it a little sniff, smelt fine. A little sip, still just regular milk. So I carried on with making my latte as normal.

Four days later and the milk was almost gone and still, it hadn’t gone sour. Four days after the label told me it was past it’s ‘best before’ date.

And then this thought popped in my head …

How easy is it to act or treat people in a certain way, because of their label?

It’s one of the reasons I can not stand labels. Labels have started wars, ruined families, destroyed careers. People aren’t labels, they’re individuals with their own unique take on life.

But sometimes we can’t help ourselves and, even if we like to think of ourselves as open and kind and loving, we get sucked into the whole label trap. (Yes, yet again I’m writing to myself here!)

What would your conversations today sound like if each person was treated as an individual, with their own dreams and hopes and things that scare them?

What would this world look like if we could really ditch the labels?

And even as I write that, I can feel myself getting all too easily sucked into the ‘well at least I’m not as judgemental as x’ but then of course, right in that very second, making a judgement is exactly what I’m doing!

When did it all get so complicated?!?

God helping us, here’s to loving each person, regardless of the label. One person at a time, individually, leaving God to figure out the details.