Seeking the truth in love

Famously, we are living in the era of ‘post-truth’ a phrase that ought to be enough to send fear into even the most courageous of hearts. Post-truth – makes it sound like ‘the truth’ doesn’t exist anymore and it some sense it doesn’t. The technological era has enabled people, groups and organisations to share whatever opinion they like and brand it as ‘news’ or ‘truth’ and share it with millions of people, who gobble it up and regurgitate it at their will. And we then take that ‘truth’ and brand ourselves with it like some flag of allegiance.

Yesterday evening, about the time Donald Trump was being sworn in as President of the USA, I was preaching to 800 or so teenagers at a local school. The theme was ‘Come Follow Me’ which struck me as particularly ironic, and in that talk I said: 

“For example, my truth is that Donald Trump is a mysoginistic, racist liar.

And yet…

women and people of colour voted for him, their truth is very different to mine…

And excuse me for getting political but we are living in a time where it is becoming more and more important for us to distinguish between the voices who are shouting out to us. The loudest or most retweeted or most viewed is not necessarily the right one. Often the quietest ones are: the most important, and the most vulnerable, and perhaps the ones telling the most truth.

Choose carefully people.”

 

A well used quote notes:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

(It is popularly attributed to Edmund Burke although no one seems to be able to prove it was actually him)

and it is a good sentiment for a time like now, where something or someone, causes such divide and has the potential to grow into what we might call evil.

But the danger in that, in feeling fuelled to do something, is in how we respond. Right now, anyone in a position of leadership, with authority and influence, has a responsibility to stand up and be a voice of truth. Not just their own brand of truth, but in a desperate seeking to see through the opinion, the spin and rhetoric and seek the actual truth. We need to model a way of living that does not spread more hate and anger but seeks to love in difference, to bring grace where there is judgment and humility where there is arrogance. And equally as important, we need to help others find their way through this mist of words.

Trump is a dangerous man – completely aside from what you think of him or his politics – just look at the way he has been able to gather the support of millions of Americans who on paper should despise him, to be where he is now. He has gone from a potential laughing stock to arguably the most powerful man in the world.

But far more than that, and here’s where I worry most, it is in how he affects his opponents. His words and his behavior have incited people to fear and hatred. And not just those with a tendency to discriminate, but actually all of us, ordinary people, who might be trying to live in love, and yet we find ourselves equally fuelled with anger and vitriol, it’s just pointed in a different direction. So how are we any different?

I’ve spent months thinking about this, about how to take a stand against the injustice that has come through the rise of Trump and Brexit, but without adding to that increasing fire of anger and hate. I, with others, started the Movement of Love and yet I am still angry and frustrated.

But. At the end of the day all I can come back to is that Jesus died for Donald Trump as much as he did for me. I am no more special than Donald Trump and if I think I am then I have missed the whole point of The Gospel (and perhaps in the wrong job).

Let us not sink to the level of those who hate, we are better than that – you are better than that, I am better than that. We were made for more. I saw singer Martyn Joseph in concert last night and he noted that there are no less kind people in the world today than there were yesterday. And that’s the thing, we all have the potential to be lovers or haters, to do acts of kindness or acts of discrimination.

Let’s choose for ourselves to be loving and kind and to bring people with us on a journey of hope for a better future.

 

#MovementOfLove

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In the last 12 hours I’ve gone through a range of emotions. Shock, horror, joy, deep sadness, frustration and anger, and now simply a passion to stir up love.

In those last 12 hours (I was up late…) I have read countless reactionary tweets, comment pieces, Facebook statuses and more, declaring the need to love not hate. Largely I think, because of what Brendan Cox wrote about his wife in his beautiful statement about her death. This is part of it:

‘I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.’

‘She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.

Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous’

 

I can’t read that statement without shedding a tear:

For Jo, though I never knew her.

For her family.

For the strength of her husband in that statement,

And of course tears of anger for what prompted it.

For the world – where in a week at least 100 people were killed or injured in Orlando, and the EU referendum campaign continues to spew vitriol and incite fear and hate (on both sides), refugees fleeing war and terror have died in their hundreds, and those are just the ones I have seen reported.

I find myself so deeply sad at the state of not just our nation, but our world.

…o0O0o…

Last night as I sat reading those tweets and news reports I found myself agreeing with every word they were saying and furiously tapping into my ipad as I sat in an hour long traffic jam, unable to do little else. I sat and listened to the furious hooting and shouting of other car owners and chanelled the apparent anger into my own piece on hate and love.

And then I stopped.

Along with 80,000 others I had just spent several hours in the company of Coldplay whose entire set (and much of their career too) was founded on a message of love, of unity, of tolerance and acceptance. We had all sung along at the top of our voices, chanted the lyrics, worn their badges with the simple logo ‘love’, we had been united in dance and song, were gathered in cheering the rousing words of Chris Martin as he talked of love and unity, and even sending out heartfelt words to Jo Cox’s family. And then here we were less than an hour later, with that message of love forgotten, charged with anger and taking it out on each other.

I stopped, realising that the words I was typing were not filled with love at all, I was writing about it yes, but I was angry and frustrated too just like everyone else in that car park and online.

…o0O0o…

Two weeks ago I preached my last sermon in a church that has loved us and nurtured us. It was on 1 Corinthians 13, perhaps the most well known passage on love in the bible. Part of that chapter says this on love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres          (or above in the picture in The Message version)

It seems so simple right? And of course we might say love is never simple, because people are complicated. But actually I think what we need right now is a simple message. We can point fingers and blame and not take responsibility, but here is something we can do. We can each of us, try to be patient, and kind, be more humble, less selfish, more peaceful, not listing the wrongs of others and so on…

And in some sense I wonder if we actually are delighting in evil too. The terrible acts that have happened this week give us a very reason to. We jolly well should be angry, we are almost expected to comment or post or wrote or complain, or shout at the terrible evil that has occurred, shouldn’t we? I mean what else can we do?

…o0O0o…

In this age, the power of the individual and the power of social media, of how one person’s actions can grow and be shared and have a huge impact is at our finger tips. So if you are angry about the state of our nation, of our world, of the terrible acts of hate committed in it, here’s what you can do – you can choose to love and you can tell people about it. You can choose to be kinder, to be more patient, more peaceful, hold less grudges, not point out other people’s wrongs…

We can point fingers at leaders, at the media, the church, organisations and more, but are we really any different? If we want to see a society more filled with love, WE are the ones that need to bring it. As individuals we can be united in this, we can make a difference. I’ve said several times recently, we need a #MovementOfLove – well I feel that more that ever today. Come on, let’s DO SOMETHING about it, stop complaining and commenting and pointing fingers, and get loving wherever you are. Let’s truly be a Movement Of Love…

 

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A Movement of Love | Preach 5th June 2016

Finally back online after moving house and the horror of no wi-fi for over a week, argh!! Busy few weeks moving, leaving our church and finishing college, and I have so much to write about but for now, here’s my preach from last weekend, our last one at The Point. It’s focussed on 1 Corinthians 13 and love with a bit of my testimony thrown in…

 

A Movement of Love

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You know what I think our society needs? A movement of love.

Over the last year or so the thing I have felt God talking to me about the most is, all about loving each other, loving people. Our culture now seems to be largely formed upon what is best for ‘the self’ and yet God’s word tells us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We seem to be doing ok with the loving ourselves bit, but what about our neighbour?

Individualism is the thing that rules us. We want what we want, and we want it now, often at the expense of others. And well, maybe you could say that’s a good thing, we won’t be lorded over by dictators or tyrants. We have freedom to act and live as we want, there is greater safety and support for the marginalised, we might say we are free to become who we were always meant to be.

But…

I feel that the more we do that the more we are isolating ourselves from each other. We have no responsibility for any other, no concern for our community or clan, no regard for our country, and yet we can feel free to tear down and criticise those who do.

Years ago people generally lived within an area, extended family were nearby, locals knew each other and looked out for each other. Now, how many of us even know who our neighbours are? I live in a tiny little rural village and here, if you are connected in, maybe through the school then you do live a bit like it once was. You walk to school and see people in the village, you get to know local characters, you chat to parents at the school gate, you have probably met the local Vicar, even if you are not a church goer. When I was injured people rallied to cook for us. When a local man dies, people gather. There is something here about respect for each other.

And yet, I know for many, they don’t know their neighbour, they don’t feel connected to their community, they don’t know what is going on locally. They just happen to live there, going in and out daily.

…o0O0o…

I wrote a while back about us living in bubbles and that’s what has happened, we live in our own individual bubbles, often unaware of the wider world, and when we do take an interest it is largely only because it might affect us.

and we love this right? we love that we get to do what we want and when we want to don’t we?

But…

There are thousands of people living and struggling every day with loneliness. Whether the elderly, isolated and perhaps less capable, stuck at home, no friends to talk to. There are thousands living daily with depression and mental illness, isolated and suffering, often alone. There are refugees in corners of the world who have lost everything and struggle daily just to live, just to feed their children. What happens to them? well now we have organisations and groups and governments to handle them right? We just palm off any sense of responsibility, or dare I say compassion, on to someone else, onto something else.

We need a movement of love.

…o0O0o…

These are our fellow human beings. In our communities, in our towns, in our villages, in our world. Because of course community means something else these days – we talk of the global community, the online community, and we need that, people need that, the lonely, isolated and suffering need that.

But how can it be that an elderly man can live in squalor and ask for help and after months is still waiting for it? How can it be that a sick woman, once with a life filled with friends and fun, is alone and isolated when she needs love the most? How can it be that a couple struggling, but desperately trying, to find work are treated as pariahs and penalised rather than supported? How can it be that troubled young people are looked upon with disdain and disrespect when they just need someone to love them.

We need a movement of love.

Of course we need organisations and bodies and support groups but above all:

we. just. need. to. love. people.

…o0O0o…

My Nan was in care home for about 5 years before she died. For the last year of her life I visited her once a week for about an hour. 1 hour a week – not much is it? Sometimes it was a chore, sometimes (often) she was very grumpy but I know she loved me visiting, just being there. In an average week she had 2 visitors – that’s 2 hours a week of just being with other people. How would you find that?

When I was out with my back injury, how many people came to see me? in 3 months – a handful.

This week I made a promise to God that if I passed any homeless people on the way to uni I would stop. I bought coffee and food for two men. And I just stopped to say Hi, ask them their names and bless them. One of them, Simon, was feeling unwell and so I offered to pray for him. When I left he gave me a smile that was full of love. Who is this man? why is he here on the street, begging, in freezing temperatures? He was once a baby, a child, how did he end up here? My heart breaks…

…o0O0o…

For goodness sake, where is our sense of community? Is it just a word we use for groups and programmes and technology? We need a movement of love that brings love and compassion back to the heart of our communities…

Ask yourself, do you know who your neighbour is? Do you know what their life is like? are there people you know who are sick and just need some human company? Do you have a relative in a care home? how often do you visit them? Do you know someone who has just had a new baby? Why not take them a meal, do some housework for them? Or just stop and talk to people. The homeless guy on the street? buy him a cuppa and ask him his name, he has a story. Make time to meet up with people for a chat, it’s so easy to overlook, we are all so busy but so vital that we do. 

It’s Valentines day, so how about we start a movement of love?

 

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Presents of Love ?

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Ok so I’m having a very bah-humbug moment, and it’s all about Christmas presents.

To be honest, it always happens around this time of year, shortly before Christmas, when I haven’t bought all the presents, I’ve given away my best ideas for the kids presents (for family to buy) and then get stressed. And the thing I focus on in that stress is:

‘WHY AM I DOING THIS?’

Now I will be honest that it only comes out when it all comes to a head like this, but… I do ask myself this question every year and then I bombard my husband with it all too.

‘WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?’

We don’t have that many presents to buy and we can afford to, it’s not the money I object to (well maybe a little bit) but the heart of it all. Christmas is about Jesus. A message of love. A message of hope. A message of joy. For me the most important thing about Christmas is spending time with the people I love and sharing some of that love with each other.

Years ago my Dad always got socks and pants at Christmas, every year without fail (a present which is banned in this house due to it’s mundanity) and I just think ‘what is that about?’ Go buy your own pants and socks! That’s not a Christmas present!

My husband laughs at me and say ‘but we are blessing people’ in giving gifts. Which yes, we are, and that sentiment I love, but giving someone an Amazon voucher or a pot plant or even cash does not in my book constitute blessing someone, it means conforming to a standard. A worldly standard that is based on expectations. A blessing would be really doing something thoughtful, actually spending time thinking about what would be a really nice gift for that person, or doing something for them rather than buying tat, even if it is expensive tat.

Of course I don’t actually do the thoughtful thing, largely because I don’t have the time. But I should.

I used to do things like baking, or making for people and it meant so much more because I was really sowing (or sewing!) love into those gifts, really thinking about the person they were going to. In fact what would be a real blessing now would be to give people my time. That’s the thing I have least of, and the thing that it’s so hard to give up and would mean the most, certainly from the perspective of giving.

This week I found myself buying gifts because I had to, not thoughtfully, or even just thinking whether they would like them, but because I have no time left and right now Amazon Prime is my best friend. Then we had a conversation about giving cash as a gift and this years rant began…

And look I am being a total hypocrite, I know. When people ask what I would like for Christmas I always say vouchers because I haven’t actually thought about what I would like and to be honest we don’t need anything anyway. But then isn’t that missing the whole point of giving a Christmas gift? I mean just even asking ‘what would I like’? That shouldn’t be how a Christmas present works! It should be given with love and thought and care and yes of course over the years I have had some really stonkers (they get regifted of course) but actually I think I’d rather that. I think truly we have all got caught up in the consumerism (yes I said it, you knew it was coming didn’t you) of it all and forgotten what it’s all about.

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Years ago I wrote a song about God’s ‘gift from heaven’ having been inspired by a Christmas sermon. These are some words from it:

You are the Saviour, You are the son

Sent to earth to save us, by God above.

Imagine his hurt and pain when every door was closed,

The Father sent his only son,

The gift for us he chose…

You are our gift from heaven,

Sent to save us all.

A gift from Heaven,

Jesus Lord of all…

It goes on, but that is the sentiment that gets me riled. God’s gift, the ultimate gift, was His Son. A gift that was full of love, given at great expense, but given also to us in our need. That’s what I want my Christmas gifts to reflect, not the 5 mins I’ve actually spent online choosing something almost at random.

…o0O0o…

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I’ve now had this Christmas present rant every year for the past 10 or so years. I make comments to my husband that we should buy everyone an Oxfam cow or twin a toilet for them, or do something different, and each year he gives me the ‘we are blessing people’ speech and I back down. So someone please, remind me of this post in about November next year. Perhaps I’ll actually listen to my own thinking and we’ll finally do something different…

I would really love to know peoples thoughts on this. Why do you give Christmas presents? What is the heart behind it? Would you rather get a gift you know you want or is a risky surprise better? do comment here or Facebook and Twitter

Pressure…

As I sit here watching Masterchef and seeing the pressure the contestants are under I have been thinking about the pressure I put on myself. In all situations. Even with this blog, I have had a hectic few weeks because of the school hols and being busy with commitments, and yet I am still thinking, I really need to post something…

I thought this was something that I had overcome. But perhaps that is what makes me, me…? Whatever I do, I throw myself into 100%, well more probably. I have to know everything about what I am doing, I embrace it, I dive right it. I do not do things by halves. I am sure this can be a good trait, in that I put my all into things, but sometimes I think I go too far. I put so much pressure on myself to do well. Failure is not an option, in anything.

It’s almost like I have to prove something. But to who? Is it to myself? To God? I don’t think I have sussed that one out yet.

I wrote a few weeks back about accepting a compliment and finding it hard. I think that is related to this too, in that perhaps I cannot accept when I do something well. Because I know I could do better.. Am I a perfectionist? Is that an unattractive quality? Am I not enough?

Ultimately none of it should matter, what should matter is that I do my best and I do it for God. I think I find it hard to accept that God will love me no matter what. Love has always been an issue for me, as I have written about before, but is this what this is about too? Love has a lot to answer for… that and our ability to both give it, and receive it.