What if life really is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story?

Be warned … this post is probably going to make you stop reading this blog.

And part of me is very nervous about writing this one, because I love you dearly and I don’t want to make you cross and think that I’ve lost it and suddenly, have stopped caring.

Because that so isn’t the case. Seriously. I adore you. Making you smile is one of the highlights of my day 🙂

With that said, there’s something I really need to share with you.

It’s about Jesus.

But first, what prompted this post was something I read on Happier:

“Listening to Joel Osteen talk about having faith instead of fear. I love all traditions that speak of love. Being non-religious, I choose what makes me happy.”

And lots of that I agree with. I’m all about love and want nothing more than for us to be a people who reclaim Christianity as the love-soaked faith instead of being known for hypocrisy and condemnation.

I believe God loves every single person on this planet, even the people we don’t like very much.

God is love and I see the bible as a love story.

There’s one person though who is central to that love story … Jesus.

The older I get, the less I see life as black and white. In my teens I would have told you that without Jesus in your life, if you hadn’t prayed the prayer, you were headed to hell.

These days, I’m more grey (literally as well as theologically!)

I don’t have a place for hell. Why would a God who loves unconditionally have this place of torment that he sends some of his children to? There are days when I’m a terrible parent but even I wouldn’t do that!

I don’t believe that ‘praying the prayer’ is a magic catch all phrase that secures you an eternity in heaven. What if it’s actually about the journey? And a faith that can bring heaven to earth?

I don’t know why all the disasters and tragedies in the world happen. The glib ‘correct’ answer is that we live in a sinful world, yada yada. But what about when that ‘sinful world’ sees your daughter waking up crying in case the man breaks in again? Or your best friend dying when his children are still only little?

I’m not even sure if my God is the God anymore. I mean, I believe in one God, but who’s to say that all of the ideas and pictures in my head of God are actually correct? What if the different religions and traditions in the world all give glimpses of God?

There is only one certainty I can hold on to and his name is Jesus.

I am certain that, regardless of your religious beliefs (or non-beliefs) God loves you unconditionally and wanted a way to prove that and Jesus is that proof.

It’s not politically correct to be certain about anything these days. You might be sitting there rolling your eyes, fearful that I’ve become one of those raging fundamentalists about to stand in a street corner wearing a ‘You need Jesus or you’re going to hell!’ tshirt.

But what if it were possible to be certain about something and still not know how it all works out in the end?

What if Jesus is central to the story, every story, but in ways that traditional Christianity hasn’t even begun to imagine possible?

Ghandi is quoted as saying that he loved Jesus (despite being a Hindu and not very fond of Christians – largely because they were nothing like the Jesus he fell in love with!)

I’ve heard stories of Muslims who met Jesus in their dreams.

And I have a Buddhist friend who heard God telling her that he loves her, even though she had no real belief in the concept of a God.

The more stories like this I hear, the more convinced I become that, while Jesus is the hero of this love epic, life is more like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book than a regular novel you read from beginning to end.

Just because you might be living the chapter that includes being wooed and romanced and your best friend is on the bit where Jesus isn’t even on the scene, doesn’t mean you’re reading different books. What if you’re just on different sub-plots?

What if life really is a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ story but with all stories ultimately leading to Jesus?

What would that look like? And how might that affect how you do love?

Just something to think about really 🙂

The one blog post that no-one really wants to write …

September 11th. It’s one of those days that you wish fell on a weekend so that, as the author of a week-day daily blog, you don’t have to try and find the right thing to say.

I don’t think it matters where in the world you live, September 11th will forever be ingrained in our minds. It’s like the day Princess Diana died … everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.

Writers with a far better way with words than me will capture the feeling of today just beautifully so I’m not going to even try.

Instead, I just wanted to take a moment today to remind us both to go and do something lovely with someone you care about.

(Or even someone you don’t care about particularly. There’s something fun about being kind to a random stranger.)

It doesn’t need to be some grand gesture. You’re not trying to change the world with your one action.

“Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa.

We talked last week about small actions, day after day, making a massive impact on the world. What if you started that right now, today?

One small act of love.

Then another.

And another.

Together, you and I can change the world. Seriously. You can do that. I believe in you.

You just need to start, small. One act of love.

 

The one infection you might just love everyone to get …

We’re told to wash our hands and use a tissue and don’t pick your nose and all that jazz because, who wants to spread germs and disease and icky stuff like that?

(And, in case you speak to my dad, please assure him that I agree with all of the above!)

But how cool would it be to spread love and kindness and happiness as easily as my six year old spreads a cold?

I went to see About Time with my husband again yesterday. I loved it so much when we saw it 6 days ago, I told him I just had to see it again. (It was so good, I’d watch it again today but I’ve already promised him I’d not make him come with me a third time and I don’t really want to go on my own!)

One of the takeaways from the first time I watched it was this idea of making the most of every moment. Keeping your eyes open for the things in any and every day that can put a smile on your face.

But yesterday I noticed something I missed the first time round. Something important …

When the lead character Tim decided to (in his words) “relish the remarkable ride” that is daily life, he didn’t just make his day to day life happier.

He improved the lives of the people around him.

His children, his wife, co-workers, random people serving him, his clients. Everyone had a sparkle of sunshine in their day, all because he chose to see it and grab a hold of it and enjoy it.

When you and I make a decision to see the good things, or the funny things, or the daft things … any thing that brings some light to our day, we too are in serious danger of infecting the people around us with light and happiness and wonder and joy.

When you and I choose to grab onto the wonder that is God working, when we really step into and own what it means to be his child, his work of art, his creation, it can not help but spread and infect and touch the lives of the people around us.

What if it’s not about trying to love more? What if it’s not about trying to be happy? What if it’s not about a big effort to remember? What if it’s not about striving?

What if it’s simply about showing up, each and every day, with our eyes wide open to see (and hear and smell and taste) the little glimmers of light that God brings into our day to day lives?

If we really lived that kind of life, we wouldn’t need to strive or try and remember or ask God to help us love, it would all just come fizzing over the top, like a bottle of pop that’s been shaken up.

Messy and sticky and getting into and onto everything!

Sounds rather fun to me 😉

The one thing you need to know before searching for your perfect day

A couple of nights ago, I took my eldest daughter to the cinema. Again. It’s become something of a habit for the two of us. We both love a good movie.

It’s the stories I love the most. They kind of grip me and, even if the story is really silly, I just need to know how it all works out.

And I got to thinking about why stories are so popular.

At first I thought it was just about the people but I loved Cars (although Cars 2 was even better!) and there isn’t a single human in sight throughout the whole film.

So maybe it’s about the relationships? And the idea of good triumphing over evil. Happy endings.

Nope, for me at least, it really is all about the people.

Because even in Cars, where there are no people, the characters take on human traits. They can walk and talk and feel and fall in (and out!) of love.

If we’re made in God’s image, what does our fascination with human stories say about our creator?

I guess you could say he is the ultimate story teller and having seen some of those action scenes in Percy Jackson the other day, I’m pretty sure his battle scenes would give them a run for their money.

We love stories because we are fascinated with people.

Could it be that we are fascinated with people because God is too?

What would your today look like if you woke up knowing that God is fascinated by you?

I imagine him sat their, watching your day unfold, smiling to himself with delight, not unlike the way a parent might watch her child take his first steps.

We talked yesterday about plans and purpose but I could not let us go even one more step further in this journey without first pausing to remind you of just how loved and treasured you really are.

Until next time, keep smiling.

 

The 15 second secret to being the person God created you to be …

The children have broken up for the summer and last week I was on the phone and, yes, you’ve guessed it, within seconds of speaking, one of them needed me.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a child whose parent is on the phone, must be in want of a drink. And a snack. And help pulling down his trousers!

Let’s just say that I wasn’t my usual bright and cheery self. I made my apologies, went and sorted whatever drama was occurring and then came back.

It was a business call and we got to talking about how to shift the less than calm atmosphere. And of course it didn’t take long for Joel Osteen’s quote to come up in conversation:

“Whatever follows ‘I am’ is going to come looking for you.”

Too often we tell ourselves, ‘I’m scared.’ ‘I’m stuck.’ ‘I’m stressed out because the children are off school and it’s hard work juggling having fun with them at the same time as running a business from home.’

What if you weren’t scared?

What if you weren’t stuck?

What if you weren’t stressed out?

What if instead of telling ourselves what we are, based on the circumstances on any given day, we instead reminded ourselves of who God says we are and stepped into those shoes?

What would that look like?

“I am God’s child. I am his precious work of art. I am loved. I am more than capable through God’s strength. I am treasured and so delighted over, he sings songs about me.”

And no, I didn’t make that up. God said it first, in the bible. But he didn’t say it just once or twice. The whole book is a love story with reminder after reminder after reminder of how much we are loved.

Because we are human and he knows how easy it is for us to forget!

So how about we start our week by picking one or two God penned ‘I ams’, writing them down and sticking them up somewhere so we can’t help but see them. On the wall over your desk or on your white board? Perfect!

But don’t just put them up and forget about them. Look at them. Read them. Mentally chew over the words and allow them to really get to you.

And until the next time, keep smiling 🙂

I want to love Jesus but honestly, it’s a bit of a struggle …

I don’t think this battle between what we want to do and what we do do is a new thing.

Paul struggled with it and I mean, he was Paul. So if he got himself in a pickle from time to time, it’s really too much to expect that we won’t! Not that I’m putting him on a pedestal or anything, that’s a wobbly place for anyone.

But if you had to list out holy people who did cool stuff for God, I’m pretty sure Paul would make most Christian’s lists.

So what do you do when God feels far away?

Or how about when you really, really want to love Jesus but it all just falls a bit flat?

Well, I have another question for you …

What do you do when your partner feels far away? Or if you don’t have a significant other, how about your mum or dad? If they’re feeling a bit distant, what do you do?

And what about those times when, you still really love them, but it’s all just feeling a bit meh?

Do we give up? Decide that we can’t have really loved them after all, otherwise we wouldn’t be feeling like this?

Or do we try something else?

Quite the little question master today aren’t I? (Although yes, that one’s a rhetorical one!)

Seriously though, God’s your dad. Jesus is described as a dear friend or like a brother. I don’t know what your relationship is like with your dad or your brother and if it’s not perfect, me saying that might make you wince.

But imagine what you’d like a relationship with a dad and brother to look like. Picture it in it’s dream-dream scenario.

That’s you, God and Jesus, hanging out, doing your thing.

So what if, when he’s feeling far away and you want to love him but are struggling, you just show up. Tell him how you’re feeling? Be real about it?

What would that look like?

 

What I learned about loving unconditionally from a half-naked Jessie J

I was at the gym on the cross-trainer (that’s the one with the funny arms that go back and forth at the same time as your feet are going up and down. Well weird!) when I happened to glance over at the screen of an exercise bike.

Because it wasn’t being used by anyone, it was showing the default music channel and that’s when I saw the silhouette of a scantily clad female person striking a pose.

The music started and the silhouette danced and sang. You know what the average female pop stars videos are like. We don’t dress them dowdy or in sweaters up to here. She was effectively dancing in her underwear.

It was at this point that the internal debate in my head started up. Why do they feel the need to wear so little in order to sell a record? What does this say about us as a culture that the slim, pretty, half-naked ones are the ones who make it big?

Blah, blah, blah!

And then I recognised Jessie J.

And without even consciously thinking about it, something clicked in my head. Because Jessie can sing. She has a fab voice. And yes, the song was a bit average and not one that I can remember the tune of now I’m home but, because it was her and I like and respect her, suddenly it was different.

And that was when I told myself off for being so judgemental and unloving!

Because it’s easy to love and show compassion when the other person is someone we respect or is like us in some way. Loving the people who are different is when things get messy.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

(And yes, I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone right now!) Here’s to loving, even when it’s difficult.

When dreaming turns to despair and a messy, painful kind of love.

I was fast asleep, enjoying the start of what promised to be a fab dream.

I dreamed that I was getting ready for bed. My fella had snuck up behind me, kissed my neck, lovely. So I went to the bathroom, calling back to him on my way, chit-chatting, all was well with the world.

“Oooh, you’ve run yourself a bath? Very nice.”

I glanced in the bath and realised that no, this was the kid’s bath water from earlier, we just hadn’t pulled the plug out yet.

And then I saw something pink in the bottom of the bath. My son.

Suddenly the dream turned to horror. I grabbed him and shouted to my husband and I’m filled with utter despair.

And then I woke up.

And I’m at that place in between where you suddenly realise that it was just a dream so you’re flooded with relief but, at the same time, it just happened so it feels real and you’re beside yourself.

You can’t think.

Eventually though, your breathing slows down and the thoughts come crashing in.

So after getting up and checking on all three of the children, whispering to God in my head to please look after them, that I love them so much, please let them be ok, I laid back in bed wondering what it all meant.

Because dreams have got to mean something don’t they?

If nothing else they’re like a reflection of the party that goes on inside your head when the thinking is shut off.

But what does that say about me as a parent?!?

(Thankfully it’s only now as I’m awake and writing this that I have that realisation. If I’d have thought about that at 2am I’d probably still be crying now!)

I kept replaying the scene over in my mind and as I did so I noticed something:

My son is five years old, nearly six. And he’s a big lad. Tall. The Michael that I pulled from the bath in my dream was a baby. It was him, but it was him as a baby.

That awful ache in my heart is still there. Thinking about it makes me cry and pray and beg.

But honestly? That it was him as a baby also made me feel a whole lot better. Because he didn’t drown as a baby. I’d just checked on him in his room. He’s okay.

So what am I meant to do with this dream? Like, what was the point of it?

And that’s when I thought of you. And this place. Because at 2am I felt hugely compelled to get up immediately and write.

Writing this now some 8 hours later I’m feeling slightly uneasy.

Because I didn’t get up. Instead I lay in bed thinking stuff over. What would have been the result had I followed that nudge and got up and wrote?

Only God knows.

I know that at 2am I had thoughts enough for at least three blog posts but is there something else that I missed out on? Obviously I really hope not. All I can do now is say sorry and move on.

(Between you and I, I added a P.S. to that sorry that went something along the lines of ‘if it was something really cool and important for someone, can you pop it in my head now anyway please?’)

Us women are very good at feeling guilty, even more so than the men it seems. That’s why one of my resolves this year (and one that clearly I needed reminding of!) is to say sorry and move on. No more of the incessant beating oneself up. It doesn’t undo stuff and it doesn’t help!

But that wasn’t the thought I ended on.

The final thought I remember as I drifted off to sleep was one of God’s love. But not the nicey nice, trite sounding ‘God loves you’ kind of love that feels sickly sweet but empty.

This was a love that hurts.

The kind of hurt that you feel in your heart when life (or a dream) forces you to deal with losing someone you love.

That love isn’t neat or sweet or nice or red hearts and flowers.

It’s raw. And painful. And messy.

It bubbles up inside of you, uncontrollably.

And when it turns out to be just a dream, it changes you.

Leaves you feeling thankful for another day.

Sees you giving your son an extra kiss on the head or really looking at him, seeing him properly. And reminds you just how much you love him.

And that love, that ache, that yearning in your heart? That’s how God feels when he thinks about you.

He’s not sat on a big ol’ throne up in heaven with a big stick like some Triton, scowling at you and barking threats.

He’s there right next to you, stroking your hair, whispering your name into the sunrise.

Yearning. Aching. Loving you.

Maybe you knew that already, in your head, but just maybe you needed reminding today?

I see love notes, scattered all over the universe, especially for you.

Reminding you every day that he loves you.

 

This has been the most uncomfortable post I’ve ever written (although after that 2am compulsion I couldn’t chicken out at the last hurdle!) and now I’m lost for words. I don’t have a neat, tidy succinct ending for you.

Love is messy like that I guess.

 

This year I resolve …

To love more.

To smile at a stranger every day. To make eye contact.

I promise to be in each moment.

No more multi-tasking or sharing myself out. If I’m talking to you, that is all I will be doing. If we’re playing a game, I will not be secretly lost in thought.

And when I mess up (because hey, I’m new at this and I know it will happen) no more feeling guilty. Yes I’ll say sorry and admit my mistakes. But no more introspection, beating myself up with ‘if onlys’ and hanging onto stuff that I should have dropped years ago.

(Because come on, if I really believe in Jesus, what’s the deal?!?)

Every day is a gift and I commit to finding the treasure in each one.

(Even on those days when it seems to be hidden really, really deep!)

Smile more. Cry. Feel.

And love.

Because the greatest of these is love.

Goodwill is for life … not just for Christmas? What if?

I was thinking about how nice this time of year is (parking and over-spending aside!) What with the twinkly lights, the music, oh and the Bailey’s coffee. Very nice. 😉

And yes, it gets stupidly busy and yes, it’s a bit stressful.

But people seem, I dunno, a little bit extra kind and tolerant? It’s fab!

So then I got to thinking (oooh, just a little bit more.) You know that song … I wish it could be Christmas every day? Well I don’t actually wish it could be Christmas, like, every single day, not in the way the song means … presents, fairy lights, excess food … but you know what would be really cool?

What if the extra kindness and tolerance lasted longer than the next month or so?

(And yes, I’m well aware that I won’t be the first person to wish such lofty ideals out loud. But hey, a girl’s gotta dream eh?)

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

So yes, it’s a lofty big dream but if I keep being extra sweet and kind and lovely and tolerant, and you do the same, and it rubs off on someone else.

And then … before we know it, it could be infectious!

What do you think? You game?