How about we dress for the faith we want?

A random tweet last Friday led to an idea which led to this video. Enjoy!

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loveel

P.S. If you enjoyed this, you’re going to love my weekly play thing, The Should Shover. Add your email address to the box over there on the right and bingo! 😉

Sometimes you’re just not meant to get over that wall!

Thanks to the wonders of technology, as this email lands in your inbox, I’ll be somewhere in the south of England, watching my youngest brother graduate from the RAF.

I’m super excited, and not least because I get to dress up fancy, but that’s a whole other story.

Nathaniel wants to be a fireman.

After he graduated from university, he did all the usual investigation into how one becomes a fireman. The local brigade didn’t have any jobs so he looked at the option of being an on call fireman but my parent’s house was too far out of town so that couldn’t happen.

Because it was seeming like fireman wasn’t going to happen, he applied to join the RAF as an officer. He did loads of fitness work leading up to the big day and eventually it was time to go through the testing process.

On one fateful day, he had to scale a wall. (Yes, literally. I love metaphors but this one was an actual wall.) He did it during the practice run but during the real thing, he couldn’t do it.

He was gutted!

And yes, I’m projecting somewhat. He was really grownup about it but after all that training and preparation, I’m pretty sure he was disappointed.

Fast forward months and months and I’m standing in his RAF graduation and next month, he starts his training to be a fireman.

What the what?!?

Sometimes you’re just not meant to get over that wall.

Sometimes getting over the wall would mean saying hello to a whole load of stuff that isn’t really what you want.

Sometimes, maybe, you have to get around the wall via an alternate route?

In Nathaniel’s case, that meant going home, applying to join the RAF (again!) but this time as a firefighter (wanted he wanted to do all along – hooray!)

In Nathaniel’s case it meant months of interviews and training and preparation (he even went for a run on Boxing Day!) before finally facing that wall again.

In Nathaniel’s case it meant getting slap bang in the centre of where God wanted him, the long way round.

And I couldn’t be prouder of him.

Sometimes you’re just not meant to get over that wall 🙂

loveel

What are you expecting?

Monday morning. A brand new week. What are you expecting?

Are you expecting a wonderful new week full of exciting opportunities?

Are you expecting a tough new week full of trials and tough stuff?

Sometimes life just happens but what if, some of the time, the stuff we expect is actually what ends up happening?

Maybe that sounds a little too woo woo and left of field for your liking? Possibly you fear it’s not biblical?

You know what? Sure, it might sound a little woo woo but the bible is littered with verses that talk about expectations. We’re told by James that we must pray expecting an answer and even Jesus told us to ask, believing that it will be given.

Is prayer something that is only valid if done with our eyes closed or with our hands together and head bowed?

If so, how was Paul able to tell us to pray continuously? I’m pretty sure his tent mending business might have suffered a little if he did all his work with his eyes closed!

What if every thought that enters your mind were prayer?

And those half whispered words? Yep, them too. The Holy Spirit can even take the aches and groans from our heart so I’m pretty sure he can use less that grammatically correct sentences.

So, if all of it is prayer, what if everything you think as you come into this new week were prayer too?

I’m not suggesting that, by expecting the week to be terrible, you’re actually praying for God to make it so, but what if you started this brand new week giving it to God, asking him to help you have the best week ever (whatever ‘best’ looks like for you and him) and expecting him to make it so?

Sure, bad stuff happens and some weeks were terrible.

But terrible is not the default setting so how about we go into the new week expecting stellar?

What might that look like?

loveel

Do you think God smiles?

Walking with Molly dog yesterday morning, we did our usual loop across the field. We’d already done a decent lap but there is something about wide open spaces that she loves so I like to find at least one field per walk.

I’d like to pretend that I do it for her benefit but that’s not true.

Watching her bound around the field in wider and wider circles makes me smile. Every single time. Without fail.

We walk across the fields for me because it brings a warm glow to my heart to watch her.

I love it because as she’s running around the field, she seems at her most natural. It’s like it’s what she was born to do and the sheer joy and abandon she displays is priceless.

And it was yesterday, as I was smiling, that I had a thought:

Does God’s heart warm a little when he sees you being totally you?

You know that moment when you’re totally all in? Fully absorbed and free to be, with absolute abandon?

Do you think it brings him pleasure?

We’re made in his image. That we love is because he loved first. Not sure if God has a sense of humour? Do you? Well yeah, where do you think you got that from?

So smiling as we watch another creature be fully all in?

I think it’s fair to say that we feel that because God does too.

What do you think?

loveel

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.

loveel

 

A vision of what might have been?

Out walking the dog this morning, I took a little wander around the lake, just round the corner from where I live. I usually skip the lake and go straight to the beach but you know what Mary Poppins said about change, so around the lake we went.

I kind of take it for granted too much of the time but it’s absolutely beautiful.

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It was as I was enjoying the view that I remembered the story of how it came to be. You’d never guess from looking at it, but the whole area, once upon a time, was used for heavy industrial work. Steel mostly. I’m guessing it would have been a bit of a mess.

Now though, thanks to the imagination (and hard work and money!) of people 25 years ago, it’s a local treasure. My three have grown up feeding the birds there (not to mention feeding themselves ice cream from the ice cream van, winter and summer!)

It’s fab!

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And this thought struck me … if us humans can take something that has become a bit of a mess and imagine a vision for something wonderful, how much more can God do?

Way back when, before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye, God painted a picture, his work of art, and he named it you.

You might feel like the art could use a touch up or a bit of restoration. Maybe some days it may feel like someone’s painted over the top and totally started over!

But strip back the layers, the hurt and frustration and tears, and underneath, you’re still that wonderful creation, sung into existence by one who loves you more than you and I can possibly comprehend.

Priceless 🙂

loveel

If we’re all basically narcissists at heart, how does that work when Jesus talks about “dying to self”?

One of my friends became an auntie at the weekend. Her sister named her daughter Ellyson, Elly for short. My first thought?

Ooooh, another El! 😉

We’d already heard of another El entering the world (and that time, she was a fully fledged Eleanor, just like me) so I was delighted!

It got me thinking though … deep down, we’re all just a little bit narcissistic aren’t we? Or maybe that’s just me?!? 😉

What’s that really about? And how does that work when Jesus talked about dying to self and the need to lose our life in order to save it?

I mean, if everyone who was friends with Jesus literally died for him, that would leave no one to love everyone else on God’s behalf so it can’t be that exactly.

What if “dying to self” was about every day, asking God to help us show up as the people he created us to be?

What if he never meant it as a negative thing (because if I’m being totally honest, I’ve always thought ‘carrying my cross’ and ‘dying to self’ sounded like an awful lot of hard work!)

What if he actually wanted it to be something that made day to day life better?

You being you, the “you on a good day you”, God’s best version of you, is an act of love and worship.

It’s like taking your time over a gourmet meal, enjoying every bite, and being sure to thank the chef.

It’s like walking around the Louvre, drinking in the colours and textures of the art, thankful to whoever invited you.

It’s like belly laughing with your children, free from distractions and stress and screens.

And sure, it should come naturally to us, seeing as it’s just us being us, but this is life and sometimes it’s not all that easy. It’s so, so much easier if you don’t try and do it alone.

What if “dying to self” was about saying “no more” to trying to do it alone?

That I could get on board with 🙂

How about you?

loveel

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?

loveel

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! 😉

loveel

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the easy wins

Sometimes you’ve just got to go with the easy wins

  • Like going to bed at a decent hour because you’re tired, instead of fighting it just a little longer because you still have stuff to do.
  • Like saying, “yes please” and “thank you” when someone kindly offers to help you out with something that you’ve been trying to figure out for ages.
  • Like choosing to write about the first idea that pops in your head, no matter how simple or too basic your brain might tell you it is, instead of hunting around for something smarter or funnier.
  • Like choosing to look for something to smile about (and not just because it’s International Day of Happiness!)
  • Like getting silly giddy pleasure from realising that it’s your brother’s birthday and also International Day of Happiness. OK, so maybe that’s just me. But still, pretty cool eh? 😉
  • Like taking time to have an extra coffee and really enjoying it, just because you can.

This life is all too often full of really tough stuff and it’s very easy to get lost, focussing on the doom and the gloom. But you know what?

If you allow yourself to set the bar just a little lower and accept that there are lots of things to smile about today, even if they’re silly, daft things like pretending you’re conducting the whole orchestra as you drive home from school listening to radio 3, it might just make your whole today a little bit brighter.

Sure, it won’t cure cancer or get your nominated for the next peace prize but that’s ok.

Life is about the little things, the seemingly ordinary day to day things. Bring smiles to those moments and you win.

So go on, give it a try. I dare you 😉

loveel