Movement

The commuter

 

In London people don’t so much walk as they do rush.

Regardless of whether you’re a highflying businessman, without a home, or one of this generation’s top minds, you’re all savages when it comes to getting where you’re going.

It’s a bit frightening to think about the selfishness people display when they are rushing about, particularly when you consider how much power that individual may possess over the welfare of others. I hope they don’t push people out of the way and step on the back of their heels when they’re in the boardroom or lecture theatre, that’s for sure.

What’s worse is the way you become normalised we are to this as Londoners. We may not like it, but we accept it and soon enough we imitate it. London’s pace and pushiness seeps into one’s psyche seemingly overnight; perhaps it is inhaled along with the fumes of vehicles and clouds of smoke.

But why are we in such a rush? Why are we so inconsiderate of other’s journeys? We care so desperately about our own agenda that we single-mindedly plough on through living breathing human beings, without thinking twice about where they might be going, or how they be feeling that day, or what might be happening in their personal lives.

My pastor said in his preach this Sunday “you are least likely to see need when you are in a rush”, and how true this is. When you are rushing, you are consumed with yourself, with your present ‘need’ of getting wherever. If you slow your pace a fraction, you will be amazed at how much more there is to take in than the slow man in front of you with a suitcase that you’re eager to overtake.

There are far greater needs in this city than speed.

 

The step counter

 

The advance of modern technology has made it possible to collect data on pretty much anything, including the amount of steps one takes in a day.

10,000 steps daily is given as the marker of an ‘active’ lifestyle, causing many people to take it upon themselves to try desperately hard to reach this target. They feel some sense of achievement, I believe, when they accomplish this number, as if it adds to their sense of worth. Perhaps it is consoling for them, making them feel that- at least today- they were a better person because they succeeded in fulfilling someone else’s definition of ‘active’.

We’re so busy counting our steps, have we bothered to stop and consider if our steps count? How are you spending your daily steps? With each step, what is achieved?

Are you walking around the office to get your extra steps, or to encourage that colleague you know is struggling?

Are you pacing through life hitting business targets, taking Instagram worthy pictures, and looking good? Or are you taking time to appreciate those around you, to look out for those who might need you?

What’s more valuable to you, do you think: completing 15000 steps in a day that you went to work, did your work, came home, went for a run, and interacted with no one on level deeper than ‘yeah good thanks, how was your weekend?’ or only completing 1500 steps in a day spent with someone you know is lonely?

 

The stranger

 

The density of the population in London means that pavements are often crowded, meaning as an observer you are never sure who is walking with whom, and who is walking alone. I have seen beauty and sorrow in this.

A man and woman may be walking along the same piece of pavement in the same direction; the man pulls a suitcase. At a first glance, one could judge that perhaps he has picked her up from the station, or he is visiting, or he is leaving. Then, one of their paces changes, and before you know it the man is yards in front of the lady you presumed to be connected to him.

This is beautiful because it reminds me of how we are united in our humanity; the fact that I could assume that two people had a relationship is a reminder to me that we all have the capability of forming relationships. Every person you walk past has a life of their own, in which there is a personal storyline of friendships, hobbies, jobs, and passions.

But it is saddening because so many people are isolated. For the huge amount of people, London can be a very lonely place. Most people are pursuing their own personal something with such diligence that anyone else is of secondary importance.

Why are our agendas more important than any others?

 

 

All of these observations of movement, and the problems I see within each, come back to the concept of community or lack thereof.

 

Without community, we walk alone. We rush, we set goals, we reach them, and we cross paths with people then go our separate ways. But what have we achieved?

 

Community ensures that when you fall, there is someone to pick you up. Community welcomes in the lonely, the ill, the anxious, all with open arms.

Community protects the individual, sees the individual, loves the individual.

Community ensures that you never walk alone.

Community makes your journey meaningful.

As we enter this Christmas season, I urge you to reflect on where you find your community, and to consider who might be looking to you to provide them with theirs.

 

I have found that all these pure and beautiful aspects of community in one man: Jesus Christ.

Jesus left the splendour of heaven in order to come to this earth, to live among his creation, and to die a death which would restore humanity into community with God.

We had been separated from God due to our human mess- our lying, our selfish hearts, our cruel thoughts-, for how could sin dwell with perfection? But, in taking the punishment for the sins of the world upon his shoulders as he died on the cross, Jesus took away the blame from us. When he rose from the dead three days later, this marked the triumph of God over death, and the hope for all who believe that we have been restored into a loving relationship, into community, with him forever.

Because Jesus lives, community is.

 

 

If you want to ask me anything about my beliefs, or to find out more about Jesus, do not hesitate to be in contact.

 

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Q&A

If you’ve been reading or listening to the news and found yourself, along with the rest of the world, asking “what’s wrong with humanity- where’re all the nice people at?” I think I’ve found your answer: they’re right here, in a small town called Morehead City.

Day 4 in North Carolina, and I’ve seen more smiles during this time than in 18 years of living in the UK…

Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, don’t worry Brits- we’re not that bad, but on a real level this place sure knows how to make you feel at home. It helps that I’m staying with an awesome, godly family who model hospitality superbly, but in general people here have been so pleasant.

I guess the small town scenario accommodates the forming of a community far better than a city is able, so I’m praying that my time here rubs off on me and leaves me five times more of a people-lover than I’ve been previously (not that I hate people or anything, but there’s always room for growth…).

Since being here I’ve not only enjoyed the infamous ‘Southern hospitality’ in the form of friendliness, but also eaten some phenomenal (and maybe more infamous) BBQ (aka. pulled pork), deep fried chicken, crab-cakes, crab dip, pimento cheese, potato salad, PLUS peanut butter up to my elbows. Not bad for 4 days work.

If you want the answer to another big question- that question being “What does a girl want?”- the above list of delicacies should give you a fairly good idea.

So everything is going just fine and dandy, and thanks for stopping by.

 

I also would like to share a little encouragement, if you’re interested:

While I was praying this morning I had a picture come to my mind of a daisy that was having the petals plucked off it to the sound of “he loves me, he loves me not…”. The words “HE LOVES ME” kept repeating in my mind, and I was reminded that God’s love is not a matter of ‘maybe’, or a question who’s answer leaves room for doubt. Rather, God’s love is a faithful promise, written in blood- a blood that abolished law and proclaims peace, speaking the language of mercy and of grace.

You are loved.

 

Community challenge

Yesterday I heard a preach on community that I found challenging on first listening, and even more so on further reflection.

Something that really stuck with me was the concept of being part of community in order to grow.

This is easy to agree with on the surface, but unpicking it reveals a summons to something deeper than the initial statement suggests.

Donnie Griggs, who was preaching (and was excellent), referenced Proverbs 27:17 among several scriptures used in illustration of reasons endorsing community.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

I got to thinking about this, and had two things hit me hard.

Firstly: in this world there are so many things there to ‘sharpen’ you. So many voices telling you how to live your life better, how to exercise, how to decorate your house, how to improve x, y and z. Personal trainers, life coaches, self-help articles and websites… the list goes on.
What all these ‘life-aids’ have in common is the distinct focus on self; on looking after number 1. They’re there to get you your best body, house, wedding, outfit. They’re there to help you do you, to your best standard, for your best interest. The message they sell bellows: “it’s all about you”. And we are drinking it in, lapping it up, loving the process of making ourselves fantastic.
This self oriented value system: is it sharpening us up, improving us as we so desire?
I fear, friends, that in truth our selfish attempts to self-improve, to self-sharp,  do the reverse.
Rather than being made sharp, we are being sanded down to a place of uselessness.
What I mean by this is that in looking after number 1, we focus so hard on ourselves that we forget the real help we need is going to come from other people, and not just people telling us how to make a beautiful life for ourselves, but by living in accountability with one another, calling each other out and supporting one another in good times and bad.

Which leads me on to my second point: the problem of pride.
One man sharpening another, means that we are to come alongside one another and point out areas of weakness (such as selfishness!) in a loving way. It means that as well as sharpening others, I myself am going to have to undergo some sharpening, and have some of my edges rubbed off.
I realise more and more how defensive I get when others begin to rub down my edges. I know it is actually for my good, but too often I am quick to shout them down with excuses such as “it’s just how I am, I like being unashamedly me”.
In reality there are many situations that I should be extremely ashamed of “just how I am”! Pride, irritability, hard-heartedness often override the gentleness, meekness and kindness that I pray so hard to grow in.
The truth is that I cannot grow in these things, without letting others help me, speaking into my life and revealing to me where I slip, in order that I can be helped up again- as oppose to slipping only further.

These things made me question: where am I trying to self-sharpen but it’s actually having the reverse effect? and: where am I avoiding community for fear of habits and behaviours I cultivate being sorted out?

I hope there is challenge in here for you too. Community is beautiful, let’s not shy from devoting time sharing our lives with others instead of wasting effort on self-help for selfish gain!

You can listen to the preach here– I highly recommend it.

 

Heart identity

This year a lot of my emotional, physical and spiritual energy has been focused on my identity. It is the human condition to examine ‘who am I?’; a question which dominates our inward looking psyches.

For a bible believing Christian, the answer is liberating, “the truth will set you free” (John 8:23). The truth being: it is not who you are or what you feel you have, or have not, made yourself; it is actually all about God, the one who made all things. The truth that my identity is found in Christ, meaning that there is no good or bad that I could do that would separate me from his love (Romans 8:31-39) sets me free from the value systems of this world, from the need to prove myself. Of course, it is not as simple as saying:“Yes, I believe” and BANG all the insecurities are washed away. We are called to make an active response, to choose every day to live in the light of this knowledge. This means that when the insecurities of “I’m not good enough because of…” or “I should have…” or “If only I had….” come to bully you, you make a decision to refuse to listen. To say no to these thoughts, and instead focus on who Jesus says you are- a precious child of his.

 

One of the biblical truths about the way God views us can be found in 1 Samuel 16:7:

“The Lord said to Samuel, “…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

This is a well-known scripture about the difference between the superficial human value system, and the infinite wisdom of creator God who knows each and every one of our hearts.

I have come across this verse countless times, but have always taken it at face value. Like “Yeah, great, we’re shallow and care about the outward, he cares about inward beauty, that’s cool, I’ll try to think about that too”. Fairly casual. Pretty dismissive, in fact, I just viewed as two completely different things. God is A, we think B. Try to be A. Done.

But when I re-read this verse a couple of days ago, I felt God prompting me on another level. If man is concerned with the outward, then what does that reveal about his heart? Instead of just thinking: ‘focus on the inside not out’ maybe, in order to get there, it would be helpful to consider what is already in my heart that means I choose to care more about what’s happening on the outside. To personalise this statement, and let God speak to me about what he sees in my heart.

This may seem like pretty basic stuff, and to an extent it is, but the fundamental stuff can sometimes be so obvious that it’s like a slap in the face when you truly listen to it.

God prompted me to not settle for trying to change my thoughts with a bish-bash-bosh approach, but to spend time pondering my own heart and what I am holding dear there. To reconsider thoughts and treasures I harbour, and whether or not they are glorifying to God. To catch myself when I am preoccupied with the way things outwardly appear, and to question why it matters. To work with God to get rid of things that are not helpful, which are not noble or pleasing to him (Philippians 4:8).

 

Identity will probably be a recurring theme in my theology-based posts, as God has spoken to me a lot about it, but that’s today’s ponder on the subject. Let me know what you think!