Guest Post: Just Turn Around

Pip PearceThis is a guest post from the wonderful and inspiring Pip Pearce. I had the privilege of being Pip’s youth worker for a few years but as you can read I am incredibly blessed from having Pip as a friend in my life.  Pip lives in London, works as a PA for a radio producer and is studying part-time for her Art Therapy Masters.

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“I’m Marilyn and I’m terrified”, “I’m Damien and, no offence, but I don’t believe in God”. Isn’t it amazing how willing people can be to share snippets of their messy, mystified and often hurt existences, when simply asked their name?

A few months ago I made a pact with my (does-what-it-says-on-the-tin) Boldness Buddy to ‘just turn around’. Prior to this decisive step I had honed my ability to appease the growing itch within that told me I needed to make a positive impact upon the streets I beat (or pedalled) down each day. But being frustrated wasn’t enough. Frustration without action is useless.

What are the implications of those special three words that it’s just so easy to throw around…

I love you. Really? Show me how.

Three more words:

Just turn around.

I’m not claiming to have solved all the problems generated within this overly-busy, increasingly self-serving Western society around which I happily trot, simply with a command to change direction. But this personal challenge has started me on a journey to becoming the expression of love that I believe my world really needs.

The first time I saw Marilyn I smiled as I ran red-faced past her on my way to work. “Have you got the time?” she called out. I fumbled for my phone, “Um.. 8.46” (“Oh no! 8.46. I have to be sweat-free, composed and at my desk, 5 miles away from my current location, in 44 minutes. 43 minutes now.” I thought to myself. “No time”). As I panted onward, her words jangled round inside. Have I got the time?

‘Will I make the time?’ is perhaps the more pertinent question. ‘Yes’, I decided. ‘I will have the time’.

Tonight I finally decided to turn around when I passed Marilyn on her usual strip of road. I hopped off my bike, asked her if I could get her a cup of tea and sat down next to her. “Can I give you anything else?” I asked as I removed the teabag from her cup, her own hands shaky and gnarled, bent around the cigarette she lit and re-lit. “Just talking helps”. So I sat and listened. I was shocked at what Marilyn had to tell me about her lonely struggle through life. Wow. What an honour it is to sit and be included in someone’s journey, their reflections on life, even just for a moment. Why would I not do this more often…?

… Because I feel too self-conscious to step out of my own confines. Because my own comfort is more important than someone else’s momentary happiness. Because clearly I don’t think that that prompt to stop and see if I can make a difference in someone’s life is worth listening to and my actions suggest that really my desire to love others isn’t as great as I thought it was. I’m disgusted that as someone who knows they are loved, not just by family and friends, but by a God who went to inconceivable lengths to show his commitment to me, I can’t stop, turn around and engage with those who have been placed in my path.

A sentiment of the Mozambique-based missionary, Heidi Baker whose motto is to ‘stop for the one’ in her book, Always Enough, returns to my mind weekly. She saw the correlation between saying ‘no’ to someone in need for selfish reasons and the hardening of her own heart. ‘Just turn around’ is imperative to the softness of my being and my ability to change the world in which I live.

Even in this short period of time I have been ‘turning around’ I have found the good, loving heart that has motivated these steps out of my comfort zone, has been sucked out and replaced with a legalistic sense of duty that repulses me just as much as my inactivity. I constantly find I am reminding myself of my real motivation to love others. I love because I have been loved unconditionally. I love because everyone is worthy of the best love. My heart is softened and changed with every fresh revelation of this. How can I not share this good thing with others?

Love has cost.

The cost I have experienced at ‘just turning around’ has been minimal – mild discomfort as busy office-workers dodge past this pavement-impediment or at worst being told my offer wasn’t wanted. But such is my desire for authentic love that I want to grow into a person who is willing to pay the cost, however great, to show people how great is the depth of God’s love for them. So far I haven’t been disappointed as I’ve made small steps to turn around. Most often the experiences haven’t been what I expected them to be but boy, they have made my daily life richer and I trust I have left someone with a glimmer of hope they hadn’t had when they woke up that morning.

Just turn around today?

Truth for a Monday morning

Do you ever feel that no matter how hard you try you just can’t get things right?  You try your best but things keep going wrong?  That pretty much describes a lot of my attempts at life!  I usually have good intentions but before I know it I’ve got lazy or selfish and messed something up!

But not to worry – here are a few truths to help us through the week:

  1. God’s love is enough for us – no matter how hard things get, God’s love and grace will see us through.
  2. God’s power is made perfect in weakness – whatever flawed offering you give to God this week he will make it a perfect offering by combining it with his power.
  3. God removes all wrongdoing from us – however much bad things others have done to you, or whatever you have done to others or to yourself, God removes it so far away from us that it has no hold on us any more.  Put the past behind you and walk with God into whatever circumstances this week has to offer!

Do you hate sin?

John Wesley said,

“Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and love nothing but God, I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”

So I was thinking…how come the earth isn’t so radically changed?  How come the power of sin still grips the earth?

The answer, I believe, is that there are so few of us who seriously fear sin. who have an accurate view of the danger and destructiveness of sin.

I think most of us are quite happy to play around with sin as long as it doesn’t get us in too much trouble.  There are, of course, certain sins that would have negative consequences on our lives and so we have quite a motivation to steer clear of those.

However, there are so many subtle, small sins that we get so used to living with day by day.  Yet they have tangled and infected our lives like pondweed till we cannot even remember what it was like before the pondweed was there.  my desire is to take a much more serious view of sin.  I want to stamp it out from my life.  I want to recognise its damaging effects on my life, on my relationships and on my capacity to serve God.

You don’t need me to tell you what sin is.  If we truly want to rid our lives of sin we will put ourselves under God’s microscope and ask him to tell us what needs to change.  Then its just a matter of hating the sin that we find and doing everything we can to rid ourselves of the chains.

 

The evil within the Dawn Treader

On Monday night we went on a trip to the cinema in the capital city, Podgorica.  They have a fairly new mall  there – Delta City – it’s pretty smart and impressive with a cinema complex but just doesn’t feel like Montenegro to me.  Ah well, the times they are a changing.

Original Narnia Illustration

We went to watch the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I am a massive Narnia fan but, as with the other Narnian films, I was disappointed.  That is mainly because I am grumpy and difficult to please.  You can read my critique of the film next week, which gives you a bit longer to watch it before I spoil it for you – it is worth watching, honestly.

So there were 14 of us in the cinema, all from church or English conversation club friends.  It was nice to have it to ourselves.  Anya provided some entertainment when her tooth fell out and landed in her coca-cola bottle!  Less than two hours in coke and the tooth went brown!

The main theme of the film was inspiring – there is evil out there, it will tempt you from within, are you strong enough to overcome the evil within?  The main characters all had personal struggles, they are heroes but they struggle.  I do not believe that any of us are strong enough to overcome the evil within.  We are all broken and bad people and we need the love of God in us to overcome the evil within us.    I say the only way to stop the evil inside creeping out and hurting ourselves and other people is to surrender to God.  He knows what is best and when we invite him to guide us and help us then we can defeat the evil in our hearts and begin to shine.

Preaching in Kotor

Kotor is an idyllic town and an icon of the Montenegrin coast.  As you drop down to the bay from the mountains you feel like you’re entering a Norwegian fjord.  It has medieval city walls looping back up into the mountains that were built when the town was part of the Republic of Venice.  As you drive along your breath is taken away with every turn.

Kotor

There is a small group of Christian believers who meet together to worship each Sunday.  Leading the group at the moment is Dragan, an old friend from Niksic.  Like me in Niksic, he iscaring for the fellowship for a few months.  We wanted to go an spend some time with them so stayed over Saturday night and I taught at their meeting on Sunday morning.

Dragan, Mikica & Ilija

 

It has certainly been one of the highlights of our stay so far.  The number one reason is the welcome and hospitality we received from Dragan & Mikica.  It was amazing.  I could eulogise them for many paragraphs but I will hold back.  Suffice it to say that they are wonderful examples of Christian love and mission.  They work hard and laugh hard and are a beacon of light to those around them.  It was one of those occasions for a preacher when you know you received more than you gave.

Please pray for the Christians in Kotor.

This final picture is of a young man I met.  He is holding his picture of ‘God’ and was about to launch into a graphic re-telling of David & Goliath.  His favourite bit seemed to be when David cuts Goliath’s head off.  He really wanted us to be sure how it was done!

Matija and God

 

 

Minutes to Midnight: Part 3 – The Little Things Give You Away

It doesn’t matter how hard you try, what level of deception you can attain, or even how deluded you are.  There will always be things that give you away if you try and make out you are something you are not.

This haunting, damning song leaves the soul bare.  Written about New Orleans and hurricane Katrina it could be a slur on Bush and his political stance to the disaster although the line, ‘as a nation simply stares’ suggests a wider accusation.  The truth of the matter is, for all our huffing and puffing, most of us are apathetic and stand by as others suffer.  I yearn for a compassion that is not held back by pride, laziness and a lack of perseverance.  A compassion that actually takes action.  I can say I love but inaction gives me away.

Dads and Mums

Mum and dad popped in on their way back from a short break in the Cotswolds.  Last week they looked after Anya for us for a whole seven days.  They have been a great mum and dad, all the way through.

I look around and see lot of people, lots of kids, who have a rough time with their parents, if they have any time with them at all.  It really breaks my heart.  I can’t understand.

Everybody needs love.  And if you don’t get it from your parents where are you gonna look for it?

Sometimes I have the privilege of being a dad to someone for a few moments in their life and I believe that small gesture can sometimes be really significant.  When someone is hurting, sometimes all they need is a bit of love and acceptance.  I know that it’s not gonna sort out their life, cure depression or save the world but giving a bit of love can make a real difference.

I know that, despite my great parents, I need to know that I am loved and accepted by others and have valued those who have done that at very significant moments in my life and I am extremely thankful.

Everybody who is reading this:  there is at least one person who looks up to you.  Love them, accept them, you have no idea what a difference it could make to them.