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Jesus, Secrets and Lies- Part 2

Okay confession.

One of the things  I fear more than life itself is the thought of letting people down. It’s one of those relics that has stayed with me from a time when I had very little control over my life. Growing up, I lived in an environment that was built on a lot of pain; physically and emotionally; and so one of the ways I learned to cope was by presenting a picture of emotional wellness that was actually really really far from reality.  Just the possibility of being seen in someones eyes as less of a person was super difficult and so whenever I found myself  in a conversation with someone, I always imagined this other Joel standing there smiling, with  a sort of glassy  tension behind his eyes and a restrained painful laugh that was reactive, but incredibly hollow.

I’ve literally spent most of my life always mentally cutting and editing my conversations before they went  LIVE.  I was always very noticeably thinking of the next step, always straining  to keep this virtual reality version of myself public so the real me can be safe and hidden from everyone. I didn’t want to be found out to be this broken insecure guy.

Over the last few months I have been so privileged to sit and eat with so many friends, listening to their stories. It’s been amazing because I’ve also realised that I am not as alone as I thought. This planet is full of people who themselves have this constantly unfolding narrative that is intensely personal, rich and powerful, but like me a lot of folks simply see these stories as dirty, shameful  and beyond understanding; and so those narratives remain untold.

For example, my friend Michael. For years he silently felt that the only option in this life was to live disconnected from his family and friends. He believed with all his heart that his story did not matter. One day Michael realised that his narrative, his life, was simply too much. He was literally on the edge of making a decision that was so absolutely final that in the blink of an eye he was in danger of disappearing forever. He believed that the world would’ve been happier for it.  I will share with you what I shared with Michael.

Remember last week in Jesus, Pizza and Community we talked about how Jesus in Luke had this process he used a lot with the people he met.  In chapter 10 he sent out his apostles or messengers telling them,

 “When you enter a town and are received, eat what is  set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’

I mentioned that Step one was, Eat with people — eat their food; listen to their story. Today step two is simply this; As you eat; Heal, which is all about your story.

The truth is, your story is so important. These stories teaches us important lessons about being caring, about love, patience, hope for you, hope for our neighbours, hope for all mankind. Not only are the fairytale ending stories important; but so are the stories of the good, the bad; Stories of injustice and of justice. That divorce you went through is important. The abuse you and I suffered, the challenges you are going through right now; are important stories. They are all important because you’re important to God.

So step one: Eat-eat their food, listen to their story
Step two: as you eat heal-share your story
and finally as you heal say: The kingdom of God is at your doorstep which is all about God’s story. We will talk about that more next week.

Oh by the way! Michael is doing fine. See you next week…..

You can also see the video for this blog here. Jesus, secrets and lies

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Jesus, pizza and community- Part 1

When I moved to Potters Bar one of the first  things I did was join a gym.

It was too cold to play basket ball, I don’t know anything about football, so the gym felt like the most logical thing really. The fact is I’d been eating a lot of food since getting here.

As a church community we had been asking ourselves – what is Jesus telling us about how we should live. We weren’t interested in all the theological noise that sometimes fills our heads with numbers and times- leaving us all  nervous and shattered in our beds clutching a calculator in one hand and a flashlight  in the other- waiting for the impending doom.

We knew that somewhere -Jesus was shouting out an answer that was so much better; So incredibly real and natural and with a grand sense of community. One day over dinner, Peter- an Aussie, a juggernaut of a wizard in all things, shared something with me that has totally overtaken my understanding of Jesus. I will now share this with you in my own simple Joelian way…

Jesus had  this thing he did…..
It was like his three step chat up line
He used it a lot in his dealings with people
What I love about this philosophy was how incredibly easy it was.

In Luke 10- Jesus sends out his messengers on a mission of peace. At that time about everyone hated everyone. No one loved the government. There was constant disagreements amongst neighbours and so Jesus sends these people out with a mission of peace saying..

“When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’

Step one: Eat with people – their food; Listen to their story…

Stories is such a favourite of mine. As a child my memories of life were’t always happy ones, but what made it wonderful was mealtime. My sister Jermaine was the sort of girl who loved to tease. Our mother would cook the most delicious lunches’- and I remember always eating it very slowly  never wanting it to end. And after the plates had been cleared  something mysterious would then happen. Jermaine having hid a slice of pie in a napkin would wait patiently for us to be done with ours to finally whip her slice out. Then in absolute playful torture Jermaine would then start to eat that slice of pie……. very……..very…… slowly……. in our faces as we looked on.

Practical joker. But those mealtimes was always excellent for creating amazing memories and listening to the million things that had happened that day in the lives of my sisters.

Many years later, I’ve come to this place where I understand one simple thing. When Jesus said Eat with people – their food;  I get this sense that he understood …… he knew that – Eating is all about listening. If he didn’t listen to people’s stories then it would’ve been hard to really know someone. People like Matthew for instance – a man who was probably well acquainted with eating on his own. In the bible he is described as being hated by his community a social outcast Yet…….Jesus took the opportunity to go to his house, recline, share a meal and listen to his story.

I don’t want to be the sort of person that arrives at a place where life is no longer interested in being a place of creation, friendship, memories of moments spent together and shared stories. Sadly, today , the sharing of stories seem to be in danger of being washed out by the invasion of screen reflections and status updates. Our desire to share appear deeply tinted in half truths and colourful rendering that tells a version of the real story. But this life we live was not created just so that we can be alone. Family and community have always been virtues that flowed from Gods heart.

So consider this advice. Sit, break bread,  listen to the stories that are all around us. And as you eat, Heal. We’ll talk more about that next week.

You can also see the video for this blog here.  Jesus, Pizza and Community


The most awesome Christmas message ever

Can you believe it? Another year is almost gone. Wow!

It’s at this time of year that I sometimes feel particularly ancient. Life gets really crazy when you get to a certain age. Questions flood into your mind at ridiculous speeds. They’d be the sort of questions that really grate on you because they’ve been put on hold for years with a queue of other more important things in front of them.

So I would say to myself, “All the other stuff can wait”.

I’ve got the time.
I’ve got the time to love.

And I’m not talking about the weak xxx we sometimes lazily put at the end of messages that somehow telepathically imbue onto the receiver all the love in the world that can be had in one moment. What I mean is the kind of love that is tangible. The patient love. The sort of love that slows… down… enough… Love that forgets the time love.

It destroys me every time I think about it, but there is a problem. Everyday it seems like perhaps the universe has forgotten this simple concept of love. We’ve forgotten about this love because in many instances we’ve replaced it with hate. It’s a cruel and uncertain world.

Sometimes we think that this type of terror only exists in far away places, in war-torn cities, when the truth is that this poisonous love exists right here in our communities. This love seems happiest when being obscene and destructive.

It loves anger.
It loves the idea of hurting others.
It pursues the elevation and affection of one’s own ideas.
It loves the wobble of its own swagger.
It is so drunk off its own vapour that this love is blind and angered by everything that shouts difference.
So it seems that we just can’t seem to slow down enough to Love.

As this year comes to an end, I am reminded of my time with friends. Those I haven’t said “I love you” to. I think to myself, “Have I slowed down enough to see you?” Am I content on only showing love that is:

Time limited
A love that only shows up in eulogies or heart-felt messages on the inside of Christmas cards?

Or am I able to love by preserving my friendships, by protecting those who cannot protect themselves, by trusting enough?

There is so little time. So I’ve decided that I’d rather spend these moments lighting this dark world with hope and slow down enough to really enjoy it, feel it, experience it, share it, with YOU…

Massive Love everyone