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A Work in Progress: Walking with Jesus

Raising Risk-Takers

Caution children s

A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are for.

(John A Shedd)

My Big Girl and I have been talking a lot about taking risks recently. As someone unused to failing or getting things wrong, this is a concept she struggles with. The issues now may be small- trying something potentially dangerous (using the kettle) or embarrassing (reading aloud in public) for the first time, for example- but they will only get bigger.

It is a natural instinct for parents to protect their children. But do we sometimes go too far? Do we sometimes insulate our children so much from the physical and emotional dangers of the world they live in that we teach them that ‘playing safe’ is what is most important?

I want to raise daughters that are willing to try something new for the first time, and not worry too much about whether they’re going to be any good at it or whether they’ll look silly. Daughters who invest in relationships that go beyond the superficial, who are prepared to share of themselves and be vulnerable, even if that may sometimes result in hurt and rejection. I long for my daughters to dream, to fly;  not to be intimidated by anything other than the familiar and mundane. Nothing world-changing (or life-changing) ever happened from staying in your comfort zone.

Easier said than done. For me, I think it means being prepared to let go a little, loosen the reins, let my girls get on with things even if none of us are sure how it’ll turn out. Maybe I need to stop thinking “But what if they get hurt? What if…. What if…”  and realise that- yes,  maybe they will, but that’s not the end of the world. It’s life; it’s normal. I won’t be able to protect them from everything forever. Far better to teach them how to handle hurt, failure, rejection. To show them that whether they succeed or fail, how I feel about them will not change- that they are loved for who they are, not for what they do. To praise the efforts, not the results. And to be there to pick up the pieces and reassure and comfort if it all goes belly up.

It also means leading by example- to walk boldly in God’s purposes for me and my life, tackling the rapids head on where necessary, not just pootling along in calm but insipid backwaters. Allowing my daughters to witness my failures as well as my successes, and to see that getting something wrong is not the worst thing that can happen; that it’s possible to come out the other side, perhaps a bit bruised and battered but hopefully a little bit wiser, too.

For those of us who try to walk where Jesus leads this represents a particular challenge as he often seems to delight in leading us far past where we feel comfortable and at home, stretching us, showing us that we are capable of so much more than we would ever have believed possible. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is this:

For I can do anything through Christ, who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13

If we can do anything, then surely doing nothing, never risking anything, never being prepared to try and fail and fall and get up and start all over again, is not an option. I pray that my girls and I will continue to learn together that some risks are worth taking.

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Quality not Quantity: It’s Not All About Numbers

We might moan about maths at school,  but we adults  like facts and figures. We like to record how long things take, how much they cost, how long it takes to get to a destination, how many people attended an event. Often, this data is useful. It provides us with objective information, quantifiable answers. But it’s not the whole story, or even, in my view, the most important part of it.

My team at The Princess Project are in the middle of running a parenting course. I was telling someone about it on Sunday at church. Can you guess the first question she asked me?

“How many people are coming along to the course?”

“Five.”

“Oh….well, there’ll probably be more next time!”

There’s nothing wrong with what this lovely lady said- she was being genuinely interested, and to be honest I would probably have asked the same thing. But I confess it got my hackles up a little and put me on the defensive. Why? Because the assumption was that the success of the course could only be measured by attendance figures, and I know that isn’t the case. I know that getting five young mums along to a parenting course for four weeks on the trot with children in tow is no mean feat. As  I get to know each of these mums individually I am seeing the impact that a little support and encouragement of their parenting skills is making. We could be running a course attended by fifty parents but if no lives were being affected by what they were learning, it would be pointless. If they were to be there in body but not engaged, the effect would be minimal.

This led me to ponder where else this principle of quality rather than quantity might be applied. At work, for example, I know that a few, committed, loyal clients are worth more to the business than several unbonded clients who shop around for the best deal.

At home, how I spend my time was what immediately sprang to mind- specifically, time I spend with my children. I might spend an hour in the same room as them, listening to them with one ear and halfheartedly interacting with them, priding myself on the ability to cook dinner, referee the bickering and comment on their latest masterpiece simultaneously, but wouldn’t even five minutes of undivided attention be better? No TV, no phone, no tablet, no Twitter, no chores, just Mummy all to themselves?

And what about  the time I spend with God? Perhaps ten minutes of focused attention and wholehearted reading, praying, or simply being still and listening is more meaningful than an hour-long quiet time with brain and heart disengaged, and me unchanged and unchallenged afterwards.

I think that the inevitable focus on data, statistics, and numbers is one of the reasons that I find writing grant applications so difficult. I understand that funders need quantifiable data and measurable outcomes. But I am convinced that some of  the most important things in life can’t be quantified.  I would argue that the question we should be asking is not ‘How many?’ or ‘How much?’ or ‘How long?’  but ‘What difference is it making?’

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Bee Yourself (Life Lessons from Disney Volume 2)

I was in the car today, listening to the radio, when an unwelcome voice came into my head.

“You are so old, listening to Radio 2! If people could see you they would think you are so sad…”

A trivial example, I know, but a couple of years ago I would probably have listened to that voice, and questioned my choices. (I still remember ageing about 10 years in my own eyes when I made the epic decision to switch from Radio 1 to Radio 2. It was Chris Moyles leaving that was the final straw. But I digress). In the last 2 years or so I’ve gradually started to become more comfortable in my own skin. Or, in the wise words of the fantastic Genie in Aladdin, to Bee Myself.

This is a lesson I have found particularly hard to learn. From childhood I have been taught that what people think of you really matters. That it doesn’t matter what’s going on indoors, as long as we put on a good show for those watching from the outside, and that they think well of us. “What would (insert name of easily outraged person here) think?!” I am gradually teaching myself a new answer to that question: “I really don’t care!”

Of course, we all care what people think of us to some extent, and it’s right that we consider the opinions and sensibilities of those we love and respect. But if we live our lives governed by other people’s ideas of who we should be and how we should behave, it will cripple us.

We all have different ideas about pretty much everything. What we spend our money on. What we watch on TV. How we bring up our children. We need to acknowledge those differences, but be OK with them. What’s right for one individual, one family, may well not be the right thing for another. When we are insecure about ourselves and the choices we make we often feel the need to make other people, who may do things differently, feel small. And at the end of the day that won’t make us feel any better, it’ll just make the other person feel a whole lot worse.

Jesus famously said

“Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Matthew 22:39

We tend to focus on the first part of that statement- but that is only half of the story. We need to learn to love ourselves. God loves us as we are now; he doesn’t need us to change first. And it’s his opinion that really counts. We may be a work in progress, and there will probably need to be some growing and changing that needs to happen so that we can do all we were made to do- but we don’t need a personality transplant for God to like us. He made me me, and you you; we were never meant to be the same.

So let’s cut each other, and ourselves, some slack. Let’s not worry too much about what other people think and just get on with being us- the real us, not the people we think others want us to be.

In the words of Sting, from the song ‘An Englishman in New York’:

“Be yourself, no matter what they say.”

 

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A Dream Delayed: building character along the way

DSCF1508

Do you have a dream for the future? If life right now is not all you had hoped it would be, do you get frustrated? Do you ever wonder when your dreams will be fulfilled, and question whether they will be at all? I think if we’re honest, we all do sometimes. I read a verse in the Bible this week that really spoke to me about this:

Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.

Psalm 105:19

If God has given us a dream, it will be fulfilled. If he has made us a promise, he will keep it. But in the meantime, we mustn’t expect just to sit around marking time, counting down the days. We have work to do. God has work to do in us. If we embark on a new career, we expect to do at least some training or preparation- go on a course, do some reading, maybe undertake some work experience.  And if God has given us a new dream, a new vision, there will be preparation to do there too. And not just in the revising, sitting-in-a-seminar-dozing-off kind of a way, but preparing our very selves. And that kind of preparation is a lot harder. It involves God showing us where change is needed, challenging bad attitudes, sanding down our rough edges and sharp corners. And it seems as though God often uses difficult circumstances and situations to bring about those kind of changes.

Take Joseph’s life as an example (you can read the whole story in Genesis 37 and 39-47). He had received dreams and visions from God from an early age, and he knew he was destined for greatness. But he could have been forgiven for thinking that God may have changed the plan for his life along the way. He was sold into slavery in a foreign country by his own jealous brothers, and then falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. He must have wondered what had gone wrong.  Joseph entered that time of testing and hardship as an arrogant young man, and emerged as a wise leader and a faithful servant of God. As Pharoah himself remarked

Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?

Genesis 41:38

He ended up in charge of the entire land of Egypt, second in rank only to Pharoah himself. I wonder how things might have looked if his dreams had been fulfilled immediately. If a brash teenager had been made ruler, one who hadn’t had years of learning dependency on God in the isolation of a prison cell; one who hadn’t been taught wisdom, humility and compassion. Given Pharoah’s penchant for impaling those who offended him (see Genesis 40:1-3,22) I don’t think things would have worked out all that well.

I am often impatient. If I know where I want my destination to be, where I think I am headed, I want to get there straight away, without any deviations or detours. But for God, and for our characters, the journey is at least as important as the destination. The journey is often less glamorous, and less public. It might be that no-one can see us trudging along other than God himself. But when we’re walking that path,  God will be building integrity in us; transforming us into the people we were made to be, and we long to be. In the words of Christine Caine

What we do in anonymity will build our inner world.

Becoming people of character and integrity cannot be rushed. We will be a work in progress until the day we go to be with Jesus. So take heart. God always keeps his promises. The bigger the plans he has for you, the more groundwork will need to be done first. So I will try not just to look ahead to the future, but to embrace the present. To serve God where he has put me, right now, even it’s not where I want to be forever.

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Fearless not Frozen

Yesterday, my husband and I took our girls to see Frozen, the new Disney extravaganza loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. We all thought it was fantastic, but the sequence above and the song it contains completely mesmerised me. In it the young snow queen, Elsa, starts to use the powers she was born with but has always been told she must hide away. As she starts to experiment, to draw pictures in the sky with frost and ice, and then to get more adventurous and conjure up an elaborate ice palace, you see her start to come alive, to become more confident as at last she is released to be the person she was created to be.

In ‘Let It Go’ she sings

The fears that once controlled me

Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through…

It brought tears to my eyes as I watched it (not hard, as I am a Disney girl through and through and  so emotionally labile I have been known to cry in certain adverts…!) But even after we’d left the cinema, back home, I kept coming back to this scene in the film. At the start of a new year, full of promise, hope, expectation and uncertainty, what a great reminder that we need to use the gifts we’ve been given. There is freedom  in being who we were made to be. And using our gifts helps us to hone them, to employ them more effectively. In the film it is only through using her powers that Elsa discovers just what she can do and how she can control them and use them for good.

I don’t think that anyone I know has the power to turn anything they touch to ice. We all however, without exception, have our own unique set of gifts and talents, and most of us will have some that we aren’t using. Maybe we’re afraid, like Elsa, of the reaction of those around us. We may be afraid of failing if we step out into something new. We may be comfortable carrying on doing what we know we can do, happier in our comfort zone than out of it.

For me, the challenge this year is to keep writing. To stop making excuses about being too busy (if I have time for Facebook and Candy Crush I have time to write, right?!) To stop worrying about what people think about my writing and just do it. To stop being afraid of not being good at it and keep on keeping on. To stop reading books about writing books and just get on with the blinking thing.

I don’t know what your ‘thing’ is, but I bet there’s something. In the words of Orrin Woodward

It’s not the gifts you don’t have that hold you back as much as the gifts you do have that you don’t use.

So let’s get out there in 2014 and be the unique and wonderful people who God created us to be, all different, all complementary, all with our own particular part to play, not afraid of failing but free to be who we really want to be, who we really are. Oh, and go and see Frozen. It’s great.

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You’ve got a Friend

 

The last few weeks have been rather strange ones for me. A tumble down the stairs whilst on holiday (note to self: rushing down a polished wooden staircase wearing a onesie with fleecy feet is not a good idea) resulted in what was thought to be a rather painful broken toe. At a routine follow-up appointment a flustered registrar informed me that it wasn’t actually broken, but there was a growth in the bone. They thought it was probably benign, but  weren’t sure. I was dispatched to the MRI department with a green slip of paper requesting an appointment, which reassuringly contained the words ‘Benign?? Malignant?? ***URGENT***’ !!! The scan was arranged with impressive speed, and then I had a 10-day wait for the results.

And that was what I found tricky. A little knowledge is very definitely a dangerous thing, and I inevitably extrapolated from animals (I’m a vet by profession) to people. Bone tumours in dogs and cats are generally bad news. Dr Google informed me that bone tumours in humans are not usually anything to worry about, but I guess that message didn’t quite get through to my subconscious. Rationally, I knew the probability was that all would be well. I knew that God was with me no matter what, and could and would use my circumstances for His glory if I allowed him to,  whatever those circumstances were. I was still reading my Bible, still praying, still just about keeping everything ticking over at home and work but that was about it. I am used to tackling life with enthusiasm and driving things forward, being proactive; now I was only doing what really needed to be done, and struggling even to do that.

And that’s where my friends came in.

I can often find it difficult to ask for help, but this time my hand was somewhat forced. I was unable to walk the children to school the first two weeks after my tumble as I couldn’t put any weight on my foot, so two lovely friends stepped in to walk them there and back for me. People kept kindly enquiring after my broken toe and so I told them what was going on. I was overwhelmed by people’s response. Words of support and offers of help at the school gate. Text messages reassuring me of people’s prayers. Bible verses offering encouragement and reassurance.

As so often is the case, my daily Bible reading seemed very topical and timely. Having worked through the book of Colossians, I had come to the final verses:

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and  the church in her house.

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Colossians 4:7-18

I found it striking the amount of time and space Paul devotes in this letter to personal greetings and news of his friends. We often associate Paul with dense and weighty theology, or view him as a lone visionary and evangelist and think of his ministry and mission as being a one-man affair. But more down-to-earth sections like this one from Colossians remind us how far from the truth this picture is. Paul was very much a team player. Yes, he was the one with the apostolic calling and often the one with the vision, but he makes it clear time and time again that he could not do it alone. He had a close relationship with God, but needed the support and encouragement of his friends as he journeyed through life.

And if that was true for Paul, one of the most influential people of all time, responsible for the spread of the Christian gospel out of the Middle East and into Europe and Asia, how much more is it true for all of us? For me?

We are not designed to live in isolation, as individual islands as the river of life flows around us. We are designed to live in community, in relationship with one another. To laugh with each other, cry with each other, love and support one another in good times and bad. These kinds of relationships require a degree of vulnerability that some of us find more difficult than others, but are essential to our wellbeing.

I found out on Monday that the lesion is indeed a benign one, and so nothing to worry about. A weight has been lifted from my mind that I wasn’t even aware I was carrying. Looking back I can see that the last few weeks have taught me many valuable lessons. That in all things, God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). That I can’t always do it on my own, and that I shouldn’t  be trying to. That the good health usually enjoyed by me and my family is something to be extremely thankful for, and not taken for granted. And most of all, that I am blessed with many wonderful friends. If any of you are reading this, know that I am thanking God for your presence in my life.

 

 

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An angel to watch over me

guardian angel

What comes to mind when you hear the word angel? Cute chubby figures with wings decorating a Christmas tree? Something akin to a fairy, but with a halo- and just as mythological? Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about angels. I’m pretty certain there’s been some concerted angel-action in my family over the last month or so, so I’ve been delving into the Bible to see what it has to say on the topic.

The very day I was beginning to ponder this, my morning Bible reading happened to be Psalm 91, which contains these verses:

If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

It always blows me away when God does that. Of all the verses in all the books in all the Bible, He directs me to just the right one…. (with apologies to Humphrey Bogart).

But let me backtrack a little and tell you why I started thinking about all this in the first place. My younger daughter is 5. A few weeks ago she was going through a spate of waking with nightmares. She was starting to get quite distressed when going to bed, as she was anxious about what the night would bring. The rest of the family prayed for her every night before she went to sleep, which seemed to settle her and allow her to drift off peacefully. We prayed that she would not be scared, that she would know that Jesus was right there with her when she slept, and was more powerful than any of the nasty, scary things she might dream about. We prayed for dreams filled with beautiful images. And we prayed that angels would watch over her as she slept.

One night a couple of weeks ago I woke to a very strange noise. I couldn’t quite place it, and was in that brain-addled state halfway between sleeping and waking when I saw a little figure standing in the doorway- again.

“Mummy,” said the figure, “Coco’s making a funny noise.”

Yes, I thought, that’s what I heard. My smaller munchkin has an interactive Chuggington train set in her bedroom, complete with talking trains. What I had heard was Coco saying “Chugger chugger, chugger chugger,” over and over again- very surreal!

I got up and took my little person’s hand and led her back into her bedroom. All was quiet again by this time. When I went to investigate, I found the offending train the right way up in the middle of the floor. It wasn’t touching anything that could have set it off. It hadn’t been played with or made any sort of sound for months.  I tucked my munchkin back in, prayed with her, and went back to bed. She went straight back to sleep.

I lay in bed, a little freaked out by these strange nocturnal toy antics. I was praying for my girl, lying in bed, worried that this was an escalation of the nightmares and that it represented some sort of spiritual attack. Then I heard God’s still, small voice whisper

“Don’t worry- it was me!”

“What do you mean?!” I replied.

And then it dawned on me that He had answered our prayers, completely and awesomely. He had sent His angel to wake up my little girl before she could suffer from another of her nightmares. Angels were watching over her, just as we’d prayed. In the morning, she didn’t even remember that she had woken up at all. And she hasn’t had a nightmare since.

The following Sunday I was praying with a member of our church ministry team for and about my girls. She told me that as she was praying, she could see both of my girls with their own angel looking out for them and protecting them. At that point I hadn’t mentioned  the episode I’ve just described.

In our cynical, all-knowing society, we don’t like things that we can’t explain. Or rather, things that do not have an empirical, rational explanation. I dare say that some people reading this post will not believe my interpretation of events, but prefer to put it down to a collection of random coincidences. They will be incredulous that someone with a scientific degree from Cambridge University would believe in God, let alone angels. But I do. And my world is richer for it. It means that I can be confident in the knowledge that the precious jewels of my life, my two daughters, are being looked out for by someone who loves them even more than I do. That’s the kind of God I believe in. One who flung stars into space, but can still take the time to reach down through time and space into a bedroom in Kent, and bring peace to a little girl’s sleep.

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Reflections on a low-tech summer

summertime walk

This summer has been for me a celebration of life in the slow lane. The beautiful weather (such a welcome, much-loved but, alas, frequently absent friend to us Brits)  meant that the munchkins and I have spent much of their summer holidays outdoors. We’ve been on lots of walks, picked blackberries, spent time with friends, been swimming, played in the garden, had water fights, got the paddling pool out, grown tomatoes.

At the end of July we travelled to France en famille to spend a fortnight camping in a sleepy part of the Northern Dordogne. I know camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it. We love being able to stay right in the middle of stunning scenery and spend two weeks effectively living outdoors. The girls love the fact they have a bit more freedom than at home.  I love the fact that Graham does all the cooking on the barbecue (and even does the washing up, too- result!) I love eating all our meals outside, and having loads of picnics. I also love the fact that we have no TV, no laptop, no wi-fi, no Facebook, no e-mails, no Twitter. Just a paperback, a bottle of rouge, and an impossibly big blue sky. Bliss.

I find the pace of life, snail-like compared to the rat race that is the South East of England, immensely therapeutic. There is time and space to think, reflect, dream, pray. God always tops up my dream-banks when we’re away on a holiday like that.

clouds at sunset

There is more time to spend with the children, too. We went swimming in lakes, gave them rides in the inflatable dinghy in the river at the bottom of the gorge, played tennis, played mini golf, taught them to play cards. It has become a family tradition for me to tell them made-up stories before bedtime when we’re camping, too. These stories feature my munchkins and their adventures with an assortment of talking animals-  this year we had stories about the herd of rather handsome red limousin cows that grazed in the field next to the campsite. That time snuggled up together in their tent bedroom is so precious. They won’t always be impressed with my ramblings about Colin the Clumsy Cow so I want to make the most of an appreciative audience while I still can. At home, we would be negotiating about when to turn off the TV. When we’re camping, they don’t even miss it.

limousin cows

And now, we’re back home. I always love the first night back- the novelty of lying in a comfortable bed, and of being able to go to the toilet in the night without having to first put my shoes on and go for a walk. But the challenge for me is to try to retain some of that tranquillity and serenity now we’re back home. To be disciplined with myself, to try not to do a million things at once, to choose how I spend my time wisely and carefully. It is our most precious and finite resource but so often I squander it doing pointless things- watching something mindless on the TV that I didn’t mean to watch, but it was on, so I did; spending an hour on Facebook looking at the holiday photos of people I barely know; playing a game on my phone; the list goes on. If I am a bit more choosy about what I spend my time on, and what I don’t, then maybe I will find that, even when I’m not on holiday, I have more to spend with those who really matter to me- especially my Daddy in heaven and my wonderful little family here on earth.

path in summer

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Lighten Up! The power of laughter

 

When my husband Graham and I were first married, life was quite stressful. In the space of 3 months I’d done my finals, moved house twice, got married, and started work as a newly qualified vet. Looking back on that time, I think there was one thing that helped (rescued?) our marriage more than anything else- Graham’s ‘melting’ skills.

Let me explain.

Wife comes home from work, exhausted, overwrought, near to tears, looking for an argument. Husband tells inappropriate joke, diffuses situation, perseveres with downright silliness until aforementioned wife cannot help herself but to smile (despite all her best efforts). Husband then continues until laughter ensues. Followed by hugs. Situation redeemed.

“Melted my wife!” he says triumphantly.

My husband is great at not taking himself too seriously. He is very good at seeing the funny side, especially if I am struggling to. Although this has bordered on irreverence at times (I never quite recovered from being made to watch his take on ‘liturgical dancing’ following a demonstration at church), it has led to lots and lots of shared laughter over the years.

And now he not only has one girl to melt, he has three. Our small munchkin doesn’t usually need much encouragement to find life funny- she usually starts us all off- but the larger munchkin has inherited her mummy’s tendency to take herself a little seriously at times, so is a much more satisfying subject for the practising of one’s melting techniques. If he can get through the frustrated

“DADDY! You’re SO ANNOYING!!!”

the wonderful giggle that he can coax out is well worth the effort.

All of this has started to rub off on me. I try not to take myself as seriously as I used to. Shared silliness has started to become the norm in our house. As Graham remarked a little wistfully when I told him I was writing this post,

“I don’t need to melt you as often as I used to…”

Seeing the funny side can prevent us from being crippled by that most British of fears- looking silly. If we’re not afraid to look ridiculous, if we can laugh at ourselves, then we often find that we worry less about what other people think of us. And perversely, if we are laughing at ourselves, it is much less likely other people will laugh at us anyway. People with an overinflated view of their own gravitas and importance and who aren’t prepared to join in with the joke are a much more tempting target.

If we’re jumping around the kitchen singing along to One Direction with our children using wooden spoons as microphones, all having fun together, who cares what other people think? We’re making memories, and that’s what counts. (What, you don’t do that?! It’s only us?!) The sound of my children’s laughter must be my favourite sound in all the world.

And it’s not only our homes and families that benefit from a healthy dose of laughter- our churches do, too. All too often Christians are stereotyped as being killjoys, miserable, anti-fun- and definitely as people who take ourselves too seriously. We absolutely must take God seriously- but not ourselves. As Jesus said,

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

That seems to me to be a call to enjoy the lives we have been given.

The Psalmist writes

We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.
Psalm 126:2
Wouldn’t it be amazing if those outside our churches could look at us and think the same.
So my challenge to you today is to make someone laugh. Smile at a stranger. ‘Melt’ your partner even when it would be more tempting to shout at them. Smiling and laughing are incredibly contagious- let’s start spreading some silliness, lighten up a bit, and who knows what may happen.
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On Eagles’ Wings

Last week, I gave a presentation. I was talking about The Princess Project, a subject dear to my heart. My talk was well received, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Nothing very remarkable there, you might think. But bear with me.

Let me take you back in time a few years. Let me introduce you to a young woman recently graduated from Cambridge University Vet School.  She has recently got married, moved to London, landed her dream job. And her confidence is at rock bottom. Carry on reading…

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