“Words without thoughts never to heaven go”

June 10, 2020

We have words – to speak, to write, to read, to listen to.

We have an enormous number of them. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in 2019 we had 171,476 of them that we could use to communicate and express ourselves. Words are not the only way we communicate, but words are the big one.

On my fridge I have a few hundred magnetic words – ‘fridge poetry’. Maybe you have fridge poetry too.  Built-in fridges are no good for fridge poetry – and neither are under-the-counter fridges. Who wants to grovel on the floor to create their literary masterpieces? My fridge poetry includes a set of Shakespearian words and some of these words are ones we would not feel comfortable using today; words like ‘vouchsafe’, ‘naught’ and ‘codpiece’.

Language changes. Words are discarded and new words are created and adopted. Samuel Johnson would have been bemused by some of the entries in today’s dictionaries such as ‘motherboard’, ‘selfie’ or ‘feminism’. The English language has historically borrowed from other languages to add to the collection we have. With this many words at our disposal, we should be able to perfectly express ourselves. Surely we should be able to communicate every subtlety in our thoughts. Research suggests that the average person uses up to 7000 words in a day and has access to 20,000 words. And yet words so often seem to be an imperfect vehicle with which to express ourselves. The meaning that we want to share with others seems to slip between those words.

And who are the people we want to share our thoughts with? There are our families – both adults and children; our work colleagues; people we might share a train, bus or plane journey with; our friends; a medical professional. We choose the language we use depending on the audience and we are quite good at moving from one type of language to another, selecting different vocabularies and even using different pronunciation. But in all of these examples, we often feel that what we have actually said has not reflected exactly what was in our minds.

During the present coronavirus crisis – and other major crises throughout history – many people have shared their thoughts, their fears, their hopes and their helplessness with someone they perhaps hadn’t thought much about before – the God who claims to be their Creator. And in so doing, maybe the words were hard to find. Maybe it was difficult to choose the right words to truly share what they wanted to say. But there is evidence that points to over 3 million people attempting to do just that.2

If we really want to talk to God, not only will he listen, but he will also give us the words we need – even if we don’t think they sound holy enough. ‘Hello’ or ‘Listen to me God.’ or ‘Where are you God?’ are better prayers than no prayers at all. We are beginning a conversation.  All relationships begin with a few passing words, but the conversations get easier as more is shared. I find it is the same with prayer and, if I am finding it hard, sometimes a few words is all I can manage.

Maggie Mitchell info@because.uk.com

Maggie is an editor at Because

Headline quote from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
2 https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/1-may/news/uk/more-people-praying-during-lockdown-survey-suggests
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Is this the End of the World as I know it?

May 6, 2020

My mum’s question caught me off guard: “Will the end of the world be like this?” It was one week before the UK lockdown due to Covid-19, though we didn’t know that then. Social distancing had just begun, with everyone at risk being advised to self-isolate. We were walking down a beach on the east coast of England and we hardly saw anyone. Of the people we did see, all passed us with a gap of at least 2 metres between them and us.

The end of the world. I admit I’d never pictured it possibly ending like this. Where were the hordes of rampaging zombies? There were no ‘death stars’, anti-matter bombs, aliens or dinosaurs in view. Neither had any superheroes arrived, whether in the shape of Wonder Woman, Luke Skywalker, or even Arnold Swarzenegger. All of my life, I have been fed a diet that the end of the world will be a loud, heart-thumping unmissable event. Not a slow decay into distance and isolation.

For many years, cosmologists used to wonder whether the universe could end in a ‘Big Crunch,’ in which the expanding universe would eventually bounce back on itself and collapse back into an infinitesimal ‘singularity.’ Everything would be turned back into pure energy. Now that is a Hollywood way of ending the universe. Unfortunately, since the discovery of an elusive force called Dark Energy, most physicists now think the universe will die in a ‘Big Freeze’. Everything will get further and further apart, with the universe progressively getting darker and colder. A slow, unexciting and perhaps even tedious end.

Some excitable religious types believe that God will step in before the Big Freeze, opening up a different possibility for the Hollywood style ending. There will be a big showdown on this planet, with all opposed to God being wiped out. The Christian version of this has often appeared in popular media, but other religions also have proponents of this view. But I have often pondered: if Christians continually remind us that God is intrinsically graceful, is this really how he wants to end all things? Or is this how certain excitable human beings want it to end?

If I have a vote on the matter, then I would prefer the Hollywood ending rather than the tedious and shockingly boring alternative. In his comic masterpiece, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams has the Earth suddenly destroyed by some bureaucratic aliens, in order to build a new galactic highway. I’d even vote for that over an increasingly cold and lonely existence.

Even though I find it more attractive, I don’t think the end of the world will play out like some Hollywood blockbuster. Personally, I draw spiritual strength from the life of Jesus – and his story prompts a hope of something better. In the four different written down versions of Jesus’ life, we discover that it ends badly. The ruling authorities feel threatened by Jesus’ message and put a swift end to it – literally. He ends up being crucified by the Romans. Yet, the story doesn’t end there. Jesus is seen again – alive – giving his disciples instructions to tell the world that grace and forgiveness are the only way forward.  I didn’t see that one coming and nor, does it seem, did anyone else. It appears that God doesn’t play by our rules.

So where does that leave me? Clinging to hope. Whatever the end will be, I’m sure it will catch us all out. But I hope that it will be far better than what we can imagine, for God doesn’t play by our rules. All I can knowledgeably say about the end of the world is that it clearly didn’t happen today! My hope leaves me with a solid resolve: try to focus on today, for that’s where I have influence. Let God take care of the end of the world. After all, I’m sure God will do a far better job than any Hollywood director.

Ian Woodley info@because.uk.com

Photo by Tedward Quinn on Unsplash

Faith, hope and love

April 22, 2020

“The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love”. I didn’t write that, I read it in the copy of the Bible I keep by my bedside. And these three little words – faith, hope and love – have been on my mind today.

The first one came to me when I woke up this morning, too early to put the light on. As my wife slumbered next to me, I pulled up the news on my mobile and a headline caught my eye: “Coronavirus: Hope as Italy records first fall in active virus cases”. You’ve probably seen the story by now, but in a nutshell, the number of people in Italy infected by the virus has fallen for the first time since the outbreak over there started. The Italian authorities said that even though the reduction was small, only 20 fewer than the previous day, they were viewing it as a positive development. A slender hope, but hope nevertheless.

Elsewhere in Europe, there are other hopeful signs. In Germany, shops are reopening, and some school pupils are back in class. Poland started easing some restrictions from Sunday. And in Denmark there is a rush for haircuts as the lockdown in that country eases. Meanwhile, back in the UK, plans a for a ‘traffic light system’ to help Britain’s transition back to normal from as early as 11 May were widely leaked yesterday. Even though we have been in lockdown in many parts of Europe for a month or more, we are hopeful that things will come back to normal eventually.

Hope is wonderful thing and it is all around us right now, like Spring. I read a simple but profound definition of hope in a dictionary today, where it was described as, “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”.And that rings true to me when thinking about this crisis; I feel that sooner or later it will pass.

Time to move on to that second word, faith. The two words have similar meanings, for example that same dictionary defines faith as “confidence or trust in a person or thing”.1 My Bible takes it further saying, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for”.If you like, faith is an upgrade on hope. It is hope with oomph. Not just a feeling, but confidence or belief. Something we somehow know for certain.

One thing I know for certain is this: during the COVID-19 disaster, love abounds. It seems as though everywhere you look, you see examples of it. Sincere expressions of goodwill from one human being to another, from the front-line nurses putting their lives in harm’s way to save grievously sick patients, to the Perthshire village that converted an old telephone box into a help yourself larder for the needy. And the hundreds of tiny acts of kindness in between, too many to document but visible everywhere every day.

This is love in action. And when the pandemic is over, even if the traffic thunders along the roads again as before and the amount of air pollution returns to pre-Coronavirus levels – which I truly hope does not happen – I have faith in one thing: the love will remain.

I deliberately cut the opening quotation short, now’s the time to reveal the whole thing:

“The three most important things to have are faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of them is love”.3

Peter Mill info@because.uk.com

Peter is editor-in-chief at Because

1Dictionary.com
2The Bible – Hebrews 11:11 (NIRV)
3The Bible – 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NIRV)

The unlikely volunteer

March 27, 2020

Where would we be without our health workers, carers and all those who assist in the current crisis? Let’s continue to thank them and to rally around them.

Also, to thank the army of volunteers who have come forward at our time of need. Let’s not underestimate their contribution.

In a few weeks Christians remember an unexpected volunteer. One that came out of the blue. Someone that many people thought was distant, and too high and mighty to be concerned deeply about us. But they were wrong. I’m talking about God, who sent his Son to save us.

Jesus, God’s Son, volunteered to comfort us and to provide a life for us beyond this one. Of his own volition he chose to die in our stead, and, in so doing, gave us hope not only for this life, but also for a future beyond the grave.

He still volunteers to help us today. Not even death could stop him. He rose from the dead so he could continue to serve each and every one of us.

Thank God for volunteers.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

Love banishes fear

February 21, 2020

Fear can make us do terrible things.

I was filled with sadness this week when I read about how a bus containing evacuees from coronavirus-hit China was attacked in Ukraine. This was not a rational response, but as this crisis escalates the rational arguments are rapidly giving ground to emotional ones.

For many of us, our great fear is death itself. The end of life. Interestingly one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith for the last two thousand years has been its followers’ willingness to die for their faith. To give their lives for others no matter the cost.

At the root of this is the Christian belief that death is not the end. Through Jesus Christ, Christians believe that even in the darkest of circumstances there is always hope. Because of God’s love for us, there is life after death.

Love, not death, has the final word.
Gavin Henderson info@because.uk.com

Gavin is an editor at Because

 

There is hope

January 15, 2020

This morning, I watched the sun rise – again. In January you do not have to get up exceptionally early to see the beginning of a new day. We are just a few weeks into the beginning of a new year – a time that is touted as being one of the more depressing seasons.

In Britain and other Western nations, New Year comes at the coldest, darkest time in the calendar. At the moment of writing there are only eight hours of daylight, against sixteen hours of darkness. The spark of hope that accompanied the celebratory fireworks, as they followed the hour of midnight around the globe, has begun to fade. We once more become enmeshed in the everyday tasks of earning a living, looking after families – just getting on with the continuous task of being human – all that enthusiasm that created our resolutions for the year ahead might be beginning to fade.

It seems as though we are built for beginnings – moments that renew the hope we need that we can change things for the better – that there are better times ahead. And our lives can be seen as a catalogue of beginnings. There is the moment we were born – whenever that was. It may be a long time ago now and the candles may be getting too many for the cake.  We wish each other, ‘many happy returns’, expressing the wish that the year ahead will be kind and the next birthday celebration will be a joyful one. It doesn’t always work out that way but we hope.

Another beginning was the first day at a new school. You might remember it – putting on strange new clothes, filled with anticipation or fear about what lay ahead.  There were new things to do, new people to meet, new rules to follow – it was another new beginning. Marriage is another beginning, filled with hope for the future. We celebrate it with our closest friends, looking forward to a life spent together with someone we love.

Sometimes the hope that we have at the moment of these new beginnings is not fulfilled. Things maybe do not work out the way we had planned or anticipated. The resolutions from the New Year are forgotten. The year between one birthday and the next might carry any number of trials and difficulties. Marriages can end too quickly – and winter comes around again. But there will be a sunrise tomorrow. There will be another beginning, another new day, and that can be a source of hope that is repeated again – and again.

GK Chesterton found expression for this when he pictured a God who was so involved in His creation, so wrapped up in the continuing process of life and the hope that it embraces, that he wrote in his book, Orthodoxy, “Is it possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’, to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’, to the moon.”

Chesterton described this as the “eternal appetite of childhood”, suggesting a quality in the Creator that is worth emulating. We can look forward to the next sunrise – if hope accompanies a new beginning, then we don’t have to wait until the next new year in 2021.

Maggie Mitchell info@because.uk.com

Maggie is an editor at Because

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

The transfer window

December 27, 2019

In the world of European competitive football January 2020 is called the transfer window. It will be a period of feverish activity, speculation and surprises with clubs spending millions of pounds to strengthen their squads.

Yet the greatest transfer in history, which many have just celebrated, was the coming of Jesus from heaven to earth. He came not just to bring joy to one football club and its supporters, but rather he came to save the whole of world. His mission was to bring freedom, restore hope and give new life.

As we enter a new year and reflect on what lays in store for us, remember that Jesus in on your side.

David Gibbs info@because.uk.com

 

 

Manifesto of hope

November 22, 2019

A ‘manifesto of hope’ is how one of the political parties in the UK described their intended policies if they get elected to government.

One of the Christian claims is that a new kind of government is coming, one which will have Jesus Christ as the head. If you want to know more about his aims and policies (and what he has done about them), they have been recorded in the gospel accounts of the Bible.

Unlike many political parties in the world today, Jesus did not just promise change, he also gives us the power to make meaningful change in our life.

Turn to Jesus and find hope.

Gavin Henderson info@because.uk.com

Gavin is an editor at Because

Another one

November 1, 2019

‘You’re joking? Not another one!’ So said ‘Brenda from Bristol’ when Theresa May called a General Election in 2017. Now we are faced with yet another one and with it 6 weeks of electioneering before the poll on 12 December.

All candidates will be making promises of what they will do if elected in order to secure your vote: Brexit done and dusted by 31 January 2020; Brexit stopped altogether; a people’s vote to determine the way forward; more money for the NHS; more police on the streets; more choice in education or the closure of private schools; higher taxes on the wealthy, lower taxes on business. The promises go on and on. Will any of them come to fruition or are they as Mary Poppins once said, ‘pie crust promises – easily made and easily broken?’

The future after a General Election is uncertain, but the Christian Scriptures tell us of a future hope that is certain: one where every tear will be wiped from our eyes, and where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). But are these promises just ‘pie in the sky?’ Not according to the writer of the book of Revelation: he reassures us that these words are trustworthy and true (verse 5).

Although God doesn’t need our votes to bring this future about it’s one I vote for and want to be involved in – how about you?

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

[Image: Nottingham Post]

 

Hope in tragedy

October 25, 2019

We’ve all been shocked by the story of the eight women and thirty-one men who froze to death while trapped in a transport container. One can only imagine the horror and hopelessness of their final hours.

Our hearts go out to them as we think about it, and we’re appalled that people-trafficking could happen in our civilised world. A question comes to mind: are these victims of man’s inhumanity to man lost forever?

One of the Christian writers, a man called Paul, wrote that we are limited if we have hope only in the life we know. There must be more to it. And it’s true, isn’t it? As wonderful as our world is, it is hopeless when it comes to the personal and collective tragedies that happen.

Paul said the answer was Jesus. He is the hope of the dead. His resurrection to life was the precursor to a greater resurrection to come. And, therefore, for all those who die, there is hope.

Those 39 people who died such unfair and tragic deaths, there’s hope for them.

That hope is Jesus.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

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