Because Blog

Unmasked

Am I the only one to get confused when wearing a mask? Recently I had my face mask on when I went for a cup of coffee. I tried to pay by using my phone, but it would not process. What was the problem? My phone’s security works by facial recognition and the mask obscured my face! I felt flustered and peered intently at the phone, thinking it would click in. People in the socially distanced line behind me were sniggering as they watched, and I too began to laugh.

Masks have a fascinating history and were worn for all sorts of reasons, and they still are. I remember watching a movie which featured a masquerade, a party where people wore elaborate masks to conceal who they were. The idea goes back to the theatres of ancient Greece and elsewhere, where actors would don a mask to get into character. Typically, they’d use a mask that featured a recognisable attribute of the role they were playing.

A friend of mine, who knew I was a Christian, asked me about God. What is he like? Would he please come out from behind his mask and identify himself? My friend was being sarcastic, but I had an answer. Jesus came, I said to him, to show us who God is, to reveal how God is love.

It’s something worth noting. If we want to know what God is like, how he thinks and how he cares for us, we look to the life of Jesus.

Jesus is God unmasked.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

Open for worship

What new places will you visit?

You, like me, may have experienced a sense of adventure and curiosity as the country continues to open up after its forced hibernation – what places shall we go and visit? Being cooped up for so long we’re ready to explore.

I will be hitting the back roads of Wales this summer (with most of the country sounding like they’re off to Cornwall). Let us know what places you plan to visit.

Talking of Wales, this weekend the devolved government decided it would open its places of worship again for up to 30 people. The late Welsh revivalist, Robert Evans, would be happy! Who knows, maybe I will pop into a church or two.

Some would say that’s not a bad idea. Not just because faith in something beyond the physical has helped numerous people up and down this country get through lockdown (see our blog on this here) but because of its other benefits.

Other benefits?

I’m always a little sceptical on postulations that religious belief or regular worship have some almost magical benefit. The cynic makes me question who’s really benefitting? So I decided to check out what these benefits were and whether they are legitimate.

My discoveries increased the probability of that trip to the pews of some local Welsh church. Turns out that I might be happier for it. The well-known Pew Research Centre continues to find that people who are active in congregations (religious meetings) are happier for it. And it’s not just religious people who are doing the research.

With no bias, “recently, scholars have applied more scientific rigour to their research on religion, and many of the studies that have been published in the past 30 years have found that religious people tend to live longer, get sick less often and are better able to cope with stress.”[1]

So maybe as we exercise this new-found curiosity to visit places we’ve never been before, maybe it’s worth checking out that local church we always walk by. Or go with that friend who has given us that awkward invitation to their faith community.

Who knows, in the long run we might be happier for it.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2012/278730/

What do you fear?

In a book called Search for Significance, by Robert McGee, he claims there are four key fears that we all suffer from and have to face up to. They are the fear of failure, rejection, punishment and shame. It is true that most of our fears relate to those four areas, but I suggest there is one more which needs to be added to the list: fear of death.

Fear is a paralysing emotion. It can affect our relationships and even hold us back, preventing us from realising our full potential. It can make us risk-averse, so we don’t take opportunities that come our way which we then regret later in life.

The question that we then have to ask ourselves is, why do we have these fears? Many of us will answer, they come from our childhood, from our culture, from past criticism, or risks taken that went wrong.

But I want to suggest a different reason we fear. We suffer from these fears when our focus is on ourselves. When our thought process is, what will people think of me if I fail? will they reject me? punish me or shame me? It is this inward focus and worry about what people think of us that is so often at the root of our fears.

We don’t have to go far in life to remember examples where we experienced this paralysis from fear. Just think of that time when you had to get up in front of people and speak! Public speaking is certainly one of the top fears that people have (some say even before death). The experience of all those eyes looking at us floods us with self-conscious thoughts. What impression will I make? What will these people think of me? When really the thought should be, how can I help people by what I am going to say? This focus on others, not on self, can make a real difference to the message and our fear levels.

But dealing with fear is not that easy, especially if life has been cruel to you. Maybe your parents and teachers overly criticised you, instead of encouraging you. Maybe you had an unpleasant boss who was never satisfied with your work. Maybe your relationships did not work out. Or maybe you failed tests and ran away from challenges. In short, you feel useless and worthless, often compensating by desperately seeking approval from the people in your life. So what can we do if we find ourselves in this position?

Like most problems, there has to be a first step of recognition, admitting to yourself that you have an issue. It’s after this acceptance you can then decide you want to do something about it. And there is somewhere you can turn for the kind of encouragement you need to soothe your fears. Because whether you know it or not, there is someone who believes in you, someone who loves you, someone who can help you with all your concerns. Someone bigger than your lack of confidence, your insecurities, your doubts and fears. What is more, this someone stands ready to help you, all you have to do is ask.

Because this someone promises to take your fear if you give it to him: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”[1] What this means is you can unload all your cares, worries, fears and doubts on him. Why? Because he cares about you!

This someone is the God of creation. And for those who are willing to give him a try, he gives us an awesome invitation, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”[2] When fear rules our life we feel weary and burdened, but what would it feel like to have that weight lifted?

And better still, when you start a relationship with God, he can even lift that final fear, the fear of death!

Life will become better over time when you let God carry the burdens of your life, when you share your life with him. All you need is the courage to take that first step and ask for God’s help. In God’s eyes, you were born to be a champion!

If you would like to reach out to us and find out how you can take that first step, we would love to hear from you.

Keith Hartrick info@because.uk.com

Keith is an editor at Because

[1] The Bible, 1 Peter 5.7
[2] The Bible, Matthew 11:28
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

This is the air we breathe

Sometimes

All I need is the air

That I breathe

And to love you

Do you recognise the song? It was popularized by the Hollies in the 1970s, and it was a hit for Simply Red some 20 years later.

The air that we breathe is in the headlines again this week, and, surprisingly, it’s good news. Apparently, air quality has got better during lockdown. Some have speculated as to whether high air pollution has been a contributing factor in the spread of coronavirus. But, with fewer cars on the road and with many factories closed, air quality in major cities like London and also in rural areas has improved hugely.

It’s late news in one way, for many of us have noticed the difference when walking, running or cycling. It’s great to breathe in the purer air, and I for one don’t relish returning to how things were before the outbreak.

Another song I like is “This is the air I breathe” by Michael Smith. It’s a Christian song which suggests that the more we breathe in the freedom of Jesus, the more we want to do so. It’s like our newly restored air quality: the more I breathe it in, the more I want to go for a walk and indulge in a long, slow intake of clean, fresh, unmasked air.

Sometimes it’s all we need.

And to love, of course.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

Moved with compassion

Every now and then, just when I’m not expecting it, I find myself watching a powerful and moving scene on TV. For example, I recently watched a 35-year-old Muslim stumble across some children living in poverty in São Paulo, Brazil. Disturbed by their living conditions, he decided to give them what he could – but he was in a race, where every penny counted. So, he gave away his “luxuries”, including a pack of cards and his water bottle. Emom, with his nephew Jamiul, were taking part in the BBC TV programme Race Across the World; they were racing on a fixed budget and funds were low. Faced with such poverty, he didn’t wait to find out why this had happened or seek to discover what faith they had. He was moved to act out of compassion.

The expression “moved with compassion” reminds me of a story that I’ve known for most of my life. Two thousand years ago, a man called Jesus was concerned about the plight of a large crowd on a hillside far from the nearest town.[1] Jesus was moved to act: the miraculous result was an event now called “the feeding of the 4000.” Now Emom didn’t have such resources to hand. I’m sure he would have treated those children to a banquet, if it had been possible. But he did what he could at the time.

Sometime later, after winning the competition, both Emom and Jamiul ‘put their money where their mouth is.’ They donated half of their winnings, £10,000, to charities helping children in poverty. Given how much they had struggled in order to win the competition, such generosity blows me away.  Their compassion makes me wonder: have I seen so many images of distressed children that I’ve become jaded by them? I know that I can’t solve all of the world’s problems. But am I helping with at least some of them?

Apparently, Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”[2] I’ve heard lots of times that giving is actually good for me. It makes me a ‘better’ person, which no doubt is true. Giving allows empathy to take hold in our hearts. So thank you, Emom, for reminding me of that truth. God bless you in all your endeavours.

Ian Woodley info@because.uk.com

[1] The Bible, Matthew chapter 15 verse 32.
[2] The Bible, The Acts of the Apostles chapter 20 verse 35.
Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash