Tag Archives: Love

Veggie Theology

“All creatures of our God and King

Lift up your voice and with us sing

Sun, moon and stars rejoice on high

Praise to the Lord of light divine!”

 

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above you heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost”

 

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

 

 

What do you think of that? We sing these songs, and others like them, all the time, but do we ever think about what we’re singing?

 

My initial reasons for going veggie were purely ethical, and I was extremely surprised when my Christian boyfriend, now husband, told me that he was veggie for spiritual reasons. It hadn’t occurred to me that being veggie related at all to Christianity. However, over the years, I have come to appreciate the links between my faith and our relationship to animals.

 

Here is some research I did into the subject a few years ago for a workshop I was leading at a food justice gathering; if you want to study along, I’ve included links to each scripture I quote, which will open in a new window, or you can look them up in your own Bible:

 

A Brief Biblical History:

In the beginning, all things were made by and for God (Colossians 1:16).*

We were made together with the animals, but we alone were made ‘in God’s image’ and put in charge of other animals and the rest of the Earth. We were given grains and fruits to eat. God looked at it all and was pleased with it. (Genesis 1:24-31) Jesus is our model for how to be good rulers.

We were put in Eden to care for and work the Earth, in companionship with animals (Genesis 2:15-20).

We were permitted to eat animals as well as plants following the fall and flood, when much of the Earth was destroyed (Genesis 9:3).

When the law was given, animal welfare commands were put in place (for example Exodus 23:12 and 19, Deuteronomy 22:6-7 and 25:4).

 

God’s plan:

We often assume animals have no soul, but the most the Bible says explicitly is ‘who knows?’! (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21) There are strong hints that they do, in that the creation story uses the same original words for the bringing to life of other animals as for humans, but this is translated as soul for humans, and breath for animals.

In Isaiah 11 a return to Eden’s peace (restored relationships, not mere absence of conflict) is prophesied.

John 3:16 says that God so loved the ‘kosmos’… (meaning pretty much exactly what it does in English); God’s purpose in Jesus was far bigger than just humanity.

This is expanded in Romans 8:19-21 and Colossians 1:20 – all created things are waiting for salvation, via us, via Christ!

 

So that’s the Bible’s view of our relationship with animals. However, I don’t think it stops there, as the Bible also teaches us ethical principles:

 

Ethics:

How we treat others is important, so we should always think about our impacts on fellow human beings and how we can best live in love (Matthew 22:36-39 and 25:31-46, Romans 12:1-2, 1 John 4:16, and many more!).

Meat impacts on the lives of other humans in many ways. About 10% of the average Brit’s carbon footprint comes from meat and dairy; beef and milk in particular have huge carbon impacts associated with them as cattle produce a lot of methane, which is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. A vast amount of land is also being deforested globally for livestock farming, either directly for pasture or indirectly to grow animal feed, releasing more greenhouse gases, removing a carbon sink, and also often taking land away from indigenous people. All of this matters as climate change is already hitting the poorest and most vulnerable people hard through famines, land losses and natural disasters, and adding to human migration pressures. Meat production also requires up to 20kg grain per kg of meat produced (and a vast amount of water); whilst there are still so many people going hungry in the world, isn’t it unjust to make more food into less food just for our own personal preferences? The land we have could feed many more people if we used more of it to feed people directly, rather than feeding so many livestock and making a relatively small amount of meat. I’m convinced that being veggie reduces my impact on others, and that this is therefore another way I can choose to live with a slightly more Christlike attitude.

 

And yet in spite of this, I still hear people say some weird stuff about Christianity and veg(etari)anism. Here are a few, and why I think they’re false:

 

  • Animals were made for our use

Animals, along with us and all other created things, were made for God and God’s praise and pleasure (Psalm 24:1, Colossians 1:16).

This is the stunning truth we so often, so easily sing in church without even thinking about it; we are not the only part of God’s creation made for worship, but everything that has breath should praise the Lord! Are we helping or hindering that praise to rise..?

 

  • We were given dominion over the animals

Absolutely; but Christ is to be our example, not a crazed, exploitative human dictator! Philippians 2:6-11 sets out what this looks like, a life of selfless love and service.

 

  • Christian men should be ‘real men’ (… which means eating lots of meat)

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians must conform to Hollywood stereotypes, or indeed, eat meat. Being a good Christian man means Christ-like selfless love, not machismo (Ephesians 5:25-33).

There are no rules for the Christian – although not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12); we are under grace, not law, and this statement comes dangerously close to undermining this Gospel truth.

 

  • We are called to be responsible stewards of the Earth

Absolutely; but let’s go a bit further. Stewardship implies that we are guardians of a resource to be used wisely. However, Biblical language speaks far less of animals as a resource to be used, and far more as living beings made of the same flesh as we are, made for God’s praise.

We are called far beyond mere stewardship, to bring the whole cosmos, including its people and animals, to salvation and resurrection in Christ  – see John 3:16, Romans 8, Colossians 1.

 

  • Animals will not be resurrected

Says who? All the Bible says directly is ‘who knows?’(Ecclesiastes 3:19-21), but ‘living creatures’, probably representing all animals, are present in the vision of heavenly worship in Revelation 4.

 

  • God made us carnivores

God made us not only vegan but fruitarian! (Genesis 1:29)

We are also made with sufficient intelligence to understand our nutritional needs and creative enough to meet those needs fully in more compassionate ways than our mere instincts would permit.

 

  • If I stop eating meat, it won’t make a difference as everyone else will carry on

This is not a Christian attitude – our smallest acts make a difference in God’s kingdom (Matthew 25:40). Mother Theresa was once asked why she did what she did, as her work was only a drop in the ocean. She wisely replied ‘Yes, but the ocean is made of many drops.’

 

  • If I stop eating meat, farm animals will go extinct, so meat eating keeps them alive

We have managed to conserve all kinds of species of non-economic importance, and any visit to a farm park or petting zoo will tell you that we love domestic animals enough to preserve them in the very least as tourist attractions if nothing more. Humanity, made in God’s image, has a unique ability to conserve, and even improve upon, creation in its current state – Genesis 2:15.

 

  • Vegetarians have weak faith; Romans 14:2 says so

Read the rest of Romans 14 too. The context of this advice is that some Christians were avoiding meat altogether as they were worried about accidentally eating something unclean or becoming spiritually unclean by eating meat sacrificed to other gods; they were afraid of accidentally angering God, a sign that their faith in God’s saving grace was weak. Weak faith may be one reason for some people to abstain from certain activities, despite all things being permitted the Christian. However, whatever reason a person has for abstaining, to them, doing that activity would be wrong, and we should not attempt to force them to change their views in case we caused them to act against their conscience.

Many Christians are well aware that there are indeed no food laws to adhere to any more, and are not afraid of accidentally losing their salvation in Christ, but still have ethical reasons for boycotting certain foods for the sake of loving others as ourselves – from meat to non-Fairtrade chocolate.

 

  • We were commanded to eat meat

We were commanded in Eden to eat grains and fruits, and later permitted to eat meat after the fall and after the flood had destroyed much of the land – Genesis 1:29, Genesis 9:3.

 

… and therefore, if Jesus was sinless then meat eating cannot be said to be a sinful act in itself.

However, Jesus modelled deep, border-crossing compassion that gives us an example to work towards where love has no limits.

It is also true that issues like factory farming, climate change and global hunger did not exist in the same way in Jesus’ time; perhaps He would take different ethical stances in today’s globalised world..?

 

I’ll finish there, but if you want to explore more, this is an interesting organisation to check out. Here is a prayer to close, which blew my mind when I first read how ancient it was; its powerful, beautiful insight far pre-dates today’s mass-market mistreatment of animals and is all the more relevant today:

“The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Oh God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things,

Our brethren the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty

So that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

May we realise that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee,

And that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee in their place better than we in ours.”

– St Basil of Caesarea, 4th century church father

 

*I’m leaving aside questions over whether the Genesis account of creation was literal or figurative here; I do firmly believe it has a lot to teach us about God’s plan and intent and why things are as they are, and that that is not dependent upon it being literal.

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A decade vegan

I have been vegan for ten years this year! I was 24. I get asked about it a lot, so here’s my story:

I never actually went vegetarian.

I grew up a real meat lover in a normal omnivorous household. My favourite foods were roast dinners, steaks, seafood, and meat stews. And pizza. But it had to have pepperoni on it really. If I was taken out for dinner, it was always my mission to order the meatiest thing on the menu that I was allowed; the biggest steak, a whole chicken, a mixed grill… When my younger sister went vegetarian when we were older children, I mocked and criticised her mercilessly! Surely it was unnatural, we evolved to eat meat, we need it to be healthy..?

So, what happened?!

I’ve always been passionate about nature, science and the environment, so studying environmental science at A-Level and then university made perfect sense (if you’ve not come across it, environmental science is the scientific study of all aspects of the natural world; the physics, chemistry, biology and sociology behind weather and wildlife, geology, oceans, soils, landscapes and more, and the way they interact…). I was 17 when my A-Level ‘Env’ class studied a module on agriculture and food production. For the first time, I had to really look closely at the way my food was produced. I knew meat was made of dead animals; I unemotionally thought this a fact of life and quite natural. It wasn’t a surprise to me to learn about how animals are grown for food and slaughtered. What did shock me was how unnatural we have made the farming system, and how much of an impact it has upon the rest of the natural world.

The kind of farms I thought of as a child, small land holdings run by a family, keeping small flocks and herds of a range of farmyard animals, are largely consigned to history.

Today, most of our food is industrially mass produced. Animals do not have names. Large companies run the farms purely for profit. Many animals, chickens in particular, never see sunlight or reach anything near adulthood before slaughter, and have been selectively bred away from their natural shape and size to produce more meat or milk than their bodies can physically support, crippling them in various ways before their early slaughter. Those that are kept outdoors are kept on huge scales, and unable to be supported by grazing the land they live on, require feeding with tonnes of mass-produced animal feed. This has to be grown of course. To do this, vast amounts of land many times the size of the livestock farms themselves are required; land is constantly being deforested to grow more and more animal feed, including in the rainforests, and to keep producing the quantities of animal feed needed requires constant inputs of industrial fertilisers and pesticides to be produced and sprayed over the land. Gallons of water are needed to irrigate the feed crops, as well as to rear the livestock themselves and produce the meat. Both the production of feed and livestock farming cause shocking amounts of pollution; water pollution from run-off contaminated with fertilisers, pesticides, slurry and bacteria, impacting aquatic life and human health; air pollution from spraying agrochemicals and from ammonia from industrial poultry units; greenhouse gases from the methane the livestock produce, fertiliser production and transport of feed. In addition, stocking animals at high densities of the same species leads to disease outbreaks. In many places, this is mitigated by routinely feeding antibiotics to livestock, but this is leading to the rise of antibiotic-resistant disease in both animals and humans.

The more I learnt (and there is more), the more I became convinced that industrial livestock production was not environmentally sound. I cared deeply about the world we live in, so because I could no longer eat meat without knowing how it was produced, I felt I needed to make sure that any meat I ate had been produced to good environmental standards.

So I did some research, and decided that certified organically farmed meat was  produced in much more sensitive ways, with much higher environmental and welfare standards than factory-farmed meat. So I decided to go ‘organic vegetarian’ – vegetarian, unless the meat was organic. Because organic farming has higher standards it costs more to produce, so is more expensive. So I therefore ended up eating less, but better quality, meat. I was not at all vegetarian, but I was eating many more vegetarian dishes, and eating vegetarian food or seafood when eating out. I got used to eating a wider variety of foods, and to the vibrant flavours in vegetarian cooking, though I still loved my meat.

I lived like this for a couple of years before it occurred to me (or I had to admit to myself!) that eggs and dairy were also factory farmed, so for consistency if I was going to cut out all my support for intensive livestock farming, I’d have to go organic there too.

And this is where things got tricky.

Milk and eggs are ingredients in a lot of foods. Reading labels to find out if they contained animal ingredients, and if so, how they had been produced, got boring and time consuming. And the social impact – having to ask, before anyone fed me, ‘Is it organic?’! Nope.

I was living this awkward ‘organic vegan’ lifestyle when I moved to my second university. And it was here I met several real-life vegans, including the man who became my boyfriend and then husband. They seemed to have it a lot easier than me! They didn’t spend hours in the shops scouring ingredients lists. They could shop and eat out in normal shops and restaurants. They didn’t have to ask socially awkward questions – a simple ‘I’m vegan’ sufficed to explain their diets. And they could eat chocolate!! I’d previously assumed being vegan was miserable and difficult, and probably unhealthy, but the reality I encountered was anything but!

So, I gave it a try. I was helped by the discovery that, to me at least, soya milk tasted far, far better than the cows’ milk I’d hated the taste of all my life! I missed and craved all sorts of animal-based things. But I made what turns out to have been a very wise decision to be extremely gracious with myself; if I had a craving (for cheese or pork for example), I would wait a short while to see if the craving went away (as it sometimes would). If it didn’t, I would allow myself to go and get some (if I could find it organic!), eat and enjoy it, and then, be vegan again the following day. I found over time the cravings got fewer and further between, and went away more quickly. I found I was having to give into them less and less, and eventually, after a couple of years, I found I just wasn’t feeling the need to buy animal-based foods. Today, whilst I do remember what animal-based foods were like and that I enjoyed them, it no more occurs to me to eat them as it would for me to eat cardboard. It doesn’t register to me as food.

The final straw was unexpected. I was on a train, passing through some beautiful countryside, where a few extremely sleek and contented looking cattle were happily grazing in a huge, open landscape. I thought to myself as I passed, ‘This is how farming should be…’, and was just beginning to feel pleased with myself when I heard God say to me, ‘So who are you to cut short those happy lives?’. Wow. I was hit with the compassion for animals that I’d never really experienced before. It was a perspective I’d not even thought of, that yes these animals were living happily on such farms, but that in demanding meat from them, I was taking that happy life away prematurely. So. No more meat.

Over that time I’d also learnt more and more recipes. I’d got a lot more creative and adventurous with my cooking (and started writing recipes!), finding ways to produce my favourite meals, desserts and snacks without animal ingredients. I actually put on a lot of weight (this was a positive, I’d been underweight for years), mostly I think from baking more than ever!

The last thing to go was the seafood; I’d been convinced for a long time that this was free from the concerns of factory farming, which was largely true for wild-caught fish at least. However, much of our seafood is also farmed, with similar associated problems, plus requiring huge amounts of wild-caught small fish for feed, to the detriment of seabird populations (as a bird lover this is the killer for me!). And wild caught seafoods have a myriad of associated environmental and ethical issues of their own. I realised, reluctantly, that this was also an ethical minefield I was best off out of. In my 24 years to that point I concluded I’d already eaten my fair share of the world’s fish stocks, so I decided to stop. That was a little sad; however, there is so much good food still out there for me it really hasn’t been a major loss. Including chocolate. 😉

Most foods are not made from animals at all, and are therefore on the menu. Almost everything that is can be replaced straightforwardly, especially if you have a good grasp of what flavours and ingredients suit the cuisine you are cooking. For a long time, the only things I couldn’t replace were cheese (for sandwiches and crackers – I could make cheesy sauces and substitute tahini for melted cheese in many recipes), meringues and seafood. Hardly a hardship, especially gotten used to over a period of many years as in my case.

When I went vegan a decade ago, veganism was about where vegetarianism had been in the 1970s – very much a minority lifestyle, seen as a bit unusual, not generally well understood, and you’d have to go to a vegetarian restaurant if you wanted a good meal out, though you could find something to eat in most places, especially if you looked them up beforehand and explained what you did and didn’t eat. There was great icecream and chocolate and yogurt and cream cheese available out there, in specialist shops mostly, but other ‘cheese’ substitutes resembled vanilla-and-Wotsit/Cheeto-flavoured plasticine!

Over the past decade, veganism has grown by over 350% in the UK, and the revolution has been really noticeable the past couple of years. Today veganism is about where vegetarianism was when my sister went veggie as a kid around 20 years ago; you could find something to eat almost anywhere, it was normal for a restaurant to have vegetarian options marked on the menu, sometimes including desserts, and there were a few lazy options like ready meals available if you searched, most people knew a vegetarian, and people generally knew what being vegetarian meant.

We’ve discovered that coconut cream whips like double cream, that the water from a can of chickpeas froths up just like egg white and makes a mean meringue (admit it, egg white is just as gross in its original form…), and even cheeze is becoming edible as some sort of cheese, even if it rarely resembles the particular variety of dairy cheese it claims to mimic. I now have a few brands I buy regularly, after almost a decade cheese-free! And oh how I am having to re-learn the art of self-control now that new vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants are opening up all over town, and café after bakery after tearoom, that I have to walk past every day, now serve irresistible vegan cakes..! Waistline expanding.

My favourite foods today are thai curries and stir fries, chocolate ganache pies, and pretty much anything involving roast aubergines! And pizza. Especially with veggie pepperoni. 😉

As now a relative old-school vegan I’m having to up my game with baking and cooking, and re-learn what I thought were my limits. But over the years I’ve also discovered more and more reasons I’m convinced that veganism is a step in the right direction; it’s no longer just about the environment, though that remains my passion; it’s about loving my global neighbours, about walking kindly alongside other species, about health, about my worship and that of the rest of creation, about understanding others with special diets, and about a love of food and creativity.

Let’s see where things head over the next ten years; I hope we can really begin to shape the world into something a little better.

Looking for Europe: Reflections on the tour

Some thoughts on how it’s been following Switchfoot’s tour, now I’m home

I’ve been back a week as I write this, and I’m still fatigued and struggling to sleep this trip off. I was only one hour out at most, but this ‘jetlag’ has been extreme! I put it down to the last two nights spent in airports with almost no sleep, but actually the whole two weeks were intense, with a lot of travelling, a lot of ups and downs, and generally not enough sleep or food, and too much coffee. No wonder there’s a lot to sleep off! It’s felt like I got the authentic Switchfoot tour experience, feeling the strain of having a show almost every day, every day having to travel and wake up somewhere new, not getting a lot of time to take proper care of myself or settle into a place… but having the best time rocking out and meeting wonderful people, which made it so, so worthwhile. I got a taste of what the band experience, and that’s pretty special.

I could talk politics; the sadness of human borders causing refugees to sleep on Paris streets, and keeping SwitchFam apart from one another and their band… I could talk about mental illness adding challenges and shadows… but this isn’t the place just now.

So; some of my highlights:

  • That solo show! There just are no words. I can’t stop thinking about it! I feel whole. 🙂
  • SwitchFam –  this is a world I was only just beginning to get connected into back in 2015, but this time, touring with a ‘SwitchSister’ and meeting so many other ‘fam has been amazing. I’ve loved meeting everyone; we come from all over the world, but are brought together here, it’s really, truly special.
  • The Paris show, for being so insanely rocked out.
  • Basel – such a gorgeous city, and my memories of the VIP event, queue(!) and sound check are so precious.
  • Amsterdam Meet ‘n’ Greet; that was just legendary!
  • Cologne and Budapest crowds – just so much love and energy!
  • A38 boat – what a venue! Floating whilst Floating was so much fun, and it was a spectacular location.
  • The latest songs – I don’t ever want them to stop playing any of these!! They’re on fire.

Compared to the Fading West tour in 2015, the whole thing felt less linear. Not just the way we were back and forth, in and out of the continent, but also in the sense that I felt a clear progression in 2015. This time felt a more complex journey, physically, spiritually and relationally. Last time it had been a definite pilgrimage, moving from a beginning weighed down with baggage and ending in a sense of absolution. This time… God’s been at work without a doubt, but I’m still processing the lessons and experiences I’ve received. There’s been a lot happening. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot as a fan in those two years. I also felt like I was very quickly back to somewhere similar, relationally, to where I left off two years ago, if not right away. Jon again seemed to be getting more relaxed around us each time we met – though after the solo show I was less relaxed around him again. And it still bowls me over completely to think I’ve had the chance to really meet him and tell him what he is to me! What an honour. In two years I’ve never managed to get used to that. He seemed to spend a little less time in or working the crowd than previously; but then, I think that was because he was actually on stage playing guitar more, and that’s definitely a good thing. And all the guys seemed to be having more fun each time, and getting more into it; most noticeably Drew’s soloing and Romey’s guitar playing.

So, the whole business of following the guys on tour; what’s it all about? Appreciation. I think I communicated that and helped them feel loved. I’m sure of that with Drew at the very least. Jon seems so hard to reach though…

And family. I felt a long way from being anything remotely like friends with the guys, there’s far too much of a fame and fandom barrier and I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. But they do make me feel like part of the extended tour family. They certainly know we are a family, and they make us feel that too. It’s not just a name. Switchfoot people are the best, the band, the crew, the fans. We are all so different, living such different lives in different places, with different interests and personalities, sometimes so diverse we’d never normally come together. However, Switchfoot give us a really deep, profound connection, which throws us together and binds us to one another. We didn’t choose it; it just is. And we understand each other. Like any family, we have tensions and feuds at times. But there’s something much bigger than us that pulls us together and means we belong nonetheless.  We are one!

Would I do it again? I have to be honest; yes and no. Yes, because OF COURSE, plus I’m already booked for 3 more shows in 3 days! No, because I’m not sure I could cope with that crazy a travel itinerary, at least not just yet. I’d prefer to do something like the 2015 trip and take it a bit slower with more time to see the places we visit.

Do I love Switchfoot more for having done this? My fan love in a sense feels maxed out already… but on the other hand… they still amaze me! The new music is incredible live; I knew it would be so I was prepared for that, but to experience it has been amazingly powerful. But Jon as a solo artist… wow. When I thought I was already the most in awe I could be, he takes it to another level. It’s difficult to find words for as I’m pretty sure I love both his solo music and Switchfoot to the same extent, but in such different ways it can’t really be compared. Either way, finally getting to experience both has convinced me more than ever that I am, musically, home, that I’m committed for the long run now wherever things go, and could never find another artist I could connect with on such a deep level or want to build up in the same way. This is once in a lifetime for real 🙂

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Looking for Europe 6: in London, with Jon Foreman, for the first time

June 1st

Today. Wow.

We checked out of the hostel and pretty much spent the whole day travelling back to London for our emergency appointment with a Jon Foreman solo show! We had planned a morning in Köln and an afternoon in Brussels, but in the end had only about 30 minutes to get a drink in a café in the Brussels train station (featuring a rather awesome statue of a horse dressed as a zebra sat at one of the tables!!) before boarding the Eurostar. Once we got back we had to repack the car since we had an extra person to fit in that evening, and still had to actually properly pack away the tent, which we had hastily shoved wet into the car after BCDO. Miraculously that worked out pretty well!

Then we headed into London, with Jon’s music playing on the stereo. At one point we found ourselves following a white van, which had the words ‘all dead inside’ written on the back in the dirt – which was firstly a really weird thing to see written on the back of a van, and secondly a Jon lyric (I commented that ‘nothing left inside’ would have been more usual if you were going to stick a line of that song on a van…)! Driving in felt like a treasure hunt. London had a magic to it suddenly!

Unfortunately there was a horrible incident involving an unreliable satnav, car parking in London and a panic attack, but once we were all safely parked up and at the show in a little venue opposite Great Portland Street tube station, we met up with more wonderful SwitchFam and the magic returned.

The show was delayed starting because, having sold out despite being announced only two days beforehand, there was apparently a queue right round the block to get in and Jon wanted to get everyone inside before starting. My heart was happy at hearing that! I hope he feels the love, and realises how much he is wanted here. He came out on stage and explained, and then brought out Josh the guitar tech, and said he would guitar tech for him that night instead and let him play us a few songs whilst the venue filled up. Josh was very good, and seemed so happy to be playing in London! It was amazing of him to be doing that on what should have been his day off.

Eventually the show began! To begin we saw tour manager Chico in the crowd handing out paper on which to write our request set list, but the paper never reached us – I think it only got half way round the front few rows! We thought we might miss out on putting requests in but as the show went on we started to write requests on any bit of paper we could find and started passing them forward. Jon was picking up papers by the handful and only choosing one song each time, so we ended up putting our requests in multiple times as we saw ours passed over again and again! There were some funny awkward left/right jokes about which side of the stage was winning on the requests (‘… your left, my right..!’) And he started to have fun with what the requests were written on, reading out the wrong side of the notes (receipts, theatre tickets..!). I was torn between wanting to record the entire show, and just wanting to put the ghost machine away entirely and just fully immerse myself in the moment. After recording a couple of songs, the camera made the decision for me by declaring itself totally full, so I don’t have a lot of pictures or videos.

Jon played:

Caroline

Terminal – watch here

The World You Want

24

The Shadow Proves The Sunshine – watch here

Resurrect Me – ‘Can anyone play the guitar..? No, seriously?’ He pulled a girl up on stage to play whilst he jammed on the harmonica, and she was absolutely brilliant! I loved seeing the two of them jam together! There was a lot going on in him as he sang this one, he showed some real frustration, anger even, on the line ‘but I’m still waking up with myself’, it was intense.

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Live It Well

Wouldn’t It Be Nice – there was a disco ball!! 😀 Jon asked for the lights to be put out so we could just have that! He said it kind of made him think about asking a girl to skate at a roller disco and just how incredibly awkward that is when you’re 15 😀

This Is Home

Just Rob Me – at the request of one of my friends!

In My Arms – this was requested by a couple who had the song at their wedding; when Jon asked who, several of us admitted we’d had it at our weddings! He seemed honoured 🙂

The Blues! Wow! What a powerful song, I don’t think he’s played that in a long time but it was amazing

Only Hope – this he prefaced with a bizarre introduction involving hitchhiking, surfing and tomatoes, which had pretty much nothing to do with the song except ‘… and this song was on our next album.’ 😀 There was also a really funny moment when whistling broke out across the audience, he said there was an incognito whistle chorus group infiltrating the audience but they won’t let on who or where they are! 😀 He couldn’t see who was doing it, it was hilarious 😀 Watch it here and judge for yourself (It’s not my video so it’s infinitely better than any of mine, but it’s such a beautiful thing I had to share! More videos from the night on that channel too, and all brilliantly filmed 🙂 )

Cure For Pain – this was my request! It’s one of my absolute favourites of his, which I’ve never heard live but know that he does play. Plus it felt appropriate. He said as he picked the paper up ‘I’m going to play this one because it says ‘Cure For Pain – please??’ – so polite, so London!’ Score. 😀

House Of God Forever – he got some girls to sing together on the second verse, which was lovely. None of us were brave enough to sing on our own, but they dared to together. And they took a selfie on the stage afterwards, so sweet!

Dare You To Move

Vice Verses – Wowowowow!! This was the most beautiful performance of this I’ve ever seen. He was really feeling it for one thing; as he introduced it he talked about sitting on his rock in the ocean in the night, the place he goes to think and wrestle with the darkness, the only thing that doesn’t change… 😥 But the way he sang it too… My legs disappeared from under me almost completely! I really would have fallen under it except the stage was high and I didn’t want to miss anything, so I leaned onto the edge of the stage and just soaked it in, and the weak knees spread into head to toe happy shivers… wow!

Lean On Me – I got out my thank you banner, the only one I brought with me, and Jon bent down to it and gave me a sweet, emotional smile and put his hands together in a silent ‘thank you!’ 🙂

Your Love Is Strong

Here is a friend’s playlist of almost the whole show, including Josh! You won’t get the full effect of being there, but it is a little taste.

 

So that was my first ever solo show, finally 🙂

I was SO, SO happy!! Wowow*. I really don’t think I was prepared for how wonderful that would be, even after years of listening to Jon’s music, seeing him play with Switchfoot and at aftershows, and watching solo shows online. Nothing prepared me for the first-hand experience of being immersed in that beautiful voice, just minimally accompanied, for a full two hours, and how nice it would be to be a part of Jon’s inclusive, participatory performance style. I was absolutely blown away.

Afterwards me and the other ‘fam just had massive grins on our faces and I was literally bouncing and skipping, I felt like a little kid! I ended up just sat on the kerb outside the venue reliving it all inside, smiling and smiling in a happy dream. All is well. I felt so fully healed from the pain of missing the last show. I got everything I need…

And Jon so completely owns me now as a fan, I am 100% sold out, for life.

Yes.

Great Portland Street is now by far my favourite tube station!

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*I know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking I haven’t said ‘wow’ as many times as that show warranted 😀

Read Part 5 here

Looking for Europe 4: Basel, hidden treasure

May 29th-30th

Wow! Wowow! Basel is gorgeous!

We spent the morning in Paris, seeing the Seine and Notre Dame cathedral, battling too many stairs, and looking for food/Sprite/ icecream/ peace with varying degrees of success! We had some fun with Kitty Jon, and randomly bumped into a fellow fan from last night’s show, which was nice, and eventually got expensive but delicious sandwiches in a café.

Then it was off to Basel! The journey was beautiful, and unexpectedly, so was Basel!

We fell in love with the place almost instantly. After a few stressy days lugging suitcases, overspending and failing to find any grocery shops, we were rather too excited to see food shops, ramps, clean and unpotholed pavements, and finally feel like we were not going to get run over! We got a bit hyper; I think I ran into the first food shop we found, went straight up to the bread and said ‘it’s so nice to meet you!’ before buying some, and some fruit, and consuming the fruit almost immediately despite intending it for breakfast..! You’d think we’d never seen fruit or bread before! The town was pretty, and the hostel ‘amazeballs’ :P, situated in this courtyard complex of arty little businesses and full of surreal artwork itself. And I really wished I had the time, money and luggage to be able to go shopping, the shops were lovely! We ended the day goofing around in the hostel, dancing, internetting, making terrible puns and literally moonwalking on the ceiling!

On show day #4, we had a wonderful morning cooking and eating our own real food, during which time I think I finally shook off the tears and began to feel whole again, then an afternoon just wandering and seeing the town, eating far too much vegan icecream and taking too many pictures, it was so beautiful!

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We arrived at the venue just in time to find Jon giving an interview for a radio station, and he performed The Most Gorgeous Acoustic Version Of Float Ever Heard! Stunning 🙂 We saw the guys going in and out the venue again and spoke to Tim about their day off in the mountains, to Drew, to Mark Foreman as he and Jan were there – they’re so nice! And to Jon – I thanked him for Float and told him that’s the best acoustic version I’d ever heard. He said he’d not played it like that before, and I told him I really liked it (which was a huge understatement; my JonForemania was going through the roof!).

Eventually they disappeared off inside, and (alas, whilst we were out the room) sound checked Healer Of Souls and Hope Is The Anthem. When I heard them start Healer Of Souls I whooped, jumped and ran to the doorway, and applauded even though I was in another room! It was that great though 😀 And ‘Hope…’ was intensely beautiful; I’d just been talking to a fellow fan about which songs we’d most like to hear and those two songs were our respective picks, so it was very special. And then we got to go in, and they soundchecked Shadow Proves. Wowow; happy shivers. Jon was singing so, so well that day, and they were soloing like crazy and sounding incredible.

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Then it was time for Meet ‘n’ Greet. I was fangirling to Jon after the sound check, and he pulled me up first for a photo! I told him I was trying to rearrange our trains to get to his show as we were meant to be in Belgium that day, and he said ‘if it’s meant to happen it’ll happen.’ I got my ’10th show’ banner out (‘This is my last banner and it’s a special one; I never imagined I’d get to this!’) Tim said ‘Hey it’s Jon’s 10th show too!’ as he was holding it! Drew gave me a hug and asked how I was, I said ‘Much better!’, and he and Tim gave me sweet smiles and I thanked them. I then managed to show Jon my diary, where I had written out my survival strategy after my depressive episode at BCDO; I’d wanted to show him in Paris, but it had been too rushed and I’d felt too fragile. I showed him, and read to him, what I’d written about lyrics as a part of this, and told him that so many of the lyrics that met me in those moments were his, just one of many things he’s done for me, that I had been there in the dark with his songs meeting me and pointing me towards light and hope. He said it was good advice that he too could use… Ohhh..! Oh my heart.

At the end of Meet ‘n’ Greet he drew me this little picture – so random! I just asked him if he would draw me something and with no hesitation whatsoever that is what he drew! I got talking to Romey whilst he drew it so I only saw it afterwards! Romey asked to see it too, and laughed and shook his head when he saw it!

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I asked Romey was he vegan as rumoured, and he told me he wasn’t but was mostly veggie, so I asked how he found Paris as I almost didn’t eat and he laughed and said yeah he had to eat meat, and I told him Basel is amazing and that I’d eaten so much icecream! I also told him that I wasn’t getting much chance to talk to them but wanted to say how incredible they are all playing at the moment (which he laughed off!) and how honoured I am to be on this tour with them playing like this. Then… he asked after M!! (which he opened with ‘are you married?’ :D) I said yeah, he’s hard to miss, he was with me at the last tour (he remembered!!), and at BCDO (he hadn’t noticed him there). What a memory!!

Ah the show… alas the speakers were too far forward from the stage, so despite how incredible the sound check had been, we couldn’t hear the gorgeous vocals at all from the stage, bar what we could hear audibly 😦 It would have sounded much better from the back, but that would have meant not being at the front and getting to interact with the guys as they played. Unfortunately it meant I didn’t catch what Jon said to me as he addressed me a couple of times from the stage, though I know he thanked me for each flag, told the crowd I’d brought them from England, the artwork was beautiful, and mentioned ‘friends from England’.

 

He picked out so many people from the crowd this time, far from just me, it was lovely to see him making moments for people. They played Bull again, and finally played me Healer Of Souls (video here), and then played Vice Verses ‘for Jemima’, who was one of several fans wearing a Vice Verses t-shirt.

 

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There was no aftershow, I think too many people left straight afterwards, but we did get to speak to Jon again as he still came out to hang with us – and whilst we were there I found out from the ‘fam back home that his solo tickets were on sale!! I couldn’t believe I was literally there with him and he hadn’t told me! I told him he was in trouble 😀 but I forgave him immediately when he said he’d only just found out himself. That was funny. 😀 I told him I’d do whatever I could to rearrange plans, and he said again if it’s meant to be it’ll happen… let’s hope…

I booked the tickets when I got back! I ended up buying a whole new set of train tickets but it was clear it was going to be worth the expense to me. We walked back to the hostel via several adorable kitties and could hear crickets singing, and found some fun sculptures. Basel wins!

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Read part 3 here and Part 5 here

Looking for Europe 1: Amsterdam, and not getting run over

(May 23-26th)

Bicycles.

I didn’t notice immediately. It took me a few moments to register, as I woke up on a bus outside Eindhoven station in the Netherlands. A woman was cycling past towards the station, and as my brain slowly caught up with my eyes, I realised that she cycled past rows, upon rows, upon rows of bicycles. Bicycle racks on every single pavement I could see, heaving with bikes. Bikes piled on top of bikes. Bikes chained to or propped up against every available surface. Bikes parked on the pavements. Bikes sailing down the street. By the end of the day I think I had seen more bicycles in 24 hours than I had in the rest of my 34 years put together. And I cycle! Welcome to the Netherlands.

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I had caught the bus the previous evening in London, after taking a train straight from work at 4:30pm that afternoon. The real tour nerves had kicked in about T -2; sitting at my desk, I had glanced up at the clock. 2:45pm. Almost 3. That’s almost 4, and that’s almost 4:30… Suddenly it was all happening, really soon, and I freaked out! I felt so dizzy and emotional I had to leave my desk and go and sit quietly in the kitchen for a bit with a cup of tea and take some deep breaths. It passed, but it was spectacular. And before too long I was signing off at work and catching my train!

This first part of the great adventure I was alone; I was due to meet up with my tour buddy Jude in Amsterdam. Jude is a fellow crazy Switchfoot fanatic who I met on the last tour and we have become the best of friends through our shared love of the band and general nuttiness. But she was travelling separately, and meeting me there. So I spent the journey daydreaming, birdwatching, reminiscing about the last tour, wishing there would be another full moon during this tour, and sitting out on deck on the midnight ferry, on my own, watching the waves in the dark, and listening to Darkness from The Wonderlands

After waking to what appeared to be The Great Bicycle Explosion Of 2017 it was a fairly short journey on to Amsterdam, where after some confusion I eventually managed to locate Jude, and we in turn managed to locate the hostel. We decided to take another train out to Haarlem to see Corrie Ten Boom’s house there that afternoon. When we got to Haarlem, we made the mistake of asking the sat nav to give us directions to get to the house. After telling us it was a ten minute walk, as we expected, it then led us on a 45 minute wild expedition right out across the very pretty town, to a silly yellow scarecrow advertising a carwash, before telling us to turn around and go back a different way to pretty much where we started!! We got there – it was very close to the station in a different direction. 😀 The house was amazing and moving, but that’s another story. We returned to find Amsterdam heaving with crazy drunken football fans, so once we’d got some food we took refuge in the hostel for the night.

Then it was show day, number 1 of 7!!

After a slow start, trying to sleep off the journey and crazy crowd, we got some iced tea and coffee as it was hot already, then went on a boat tour of the canals, which was beautiful way to chill out and see some more of the city. And not get run over.

I have never been so convinced I was going to be run over before in my life! Amsterdam is not the place to be as a pedestrian. Stepping out onto the street from the (usually narrow and crowded) pavement you have to dodge bikes, trams, bikes, cars, bikes, taxis and motorbikes, several lanes of each and all going in different directions. The lanes are not clearly marked, the crossings can take ages, trams seemed to run both ways on all the lines, and bikes often don’t stop for the crossings anyway. Once you’ve survived crossing one lane of traffic there’s often only a tiny thin refuge to stand on whilst you wait to cross the next lane, easily missed, and even once you think you’ve crossed successfully you can easily find yourself standing in the middle of a cycle lane without realising it until you find a motorcycle hurtling towards you! Even the pavements are so much the domain of the bicycle that we often had to walk on the road to dodge round parked and piled bikes. There were some close calls, but I’m glad to report that we are both still three dimensional. Don’t get run over..!

Then it was time for the first VIP event.

We met up with a couple of friends outside the venue, and were enjoying meeting in person for the first time when Switchfoot showed up, coming and going between their bus and the venue! We got to chat to them briefly as they went back and forth, Jon first and then the other guys too. They recognised Jude from being at the Switchfoot Getaway the previous year, which was lovely, but unsurprisingly didn’t recognise me. They had had horrible flight problems so looked exhausted, apart from Tim who had been over already with his family on holiday. We thanked each other for being there, and I told them I was glad they arrived ok, sympathised with their travel problems, and thanked them for bringing the sunshine with them! I confess I turned to jelly a little bit after re-meeting Jon for the first time then, but it was just fine after that.

There were big delays so we ended up standing round for ages before going in, so we had plenty of time to meet other fans. People were there from the Netherlands, Sweden, Indonesia, Germany, USA and more, and were all lovely! 🙂 Suddenly we could hear Switchfoot soundchecking House Burns and Mess Of Me from inside. I had been chatting, but when I heard that I just got so happy that whatever I was saying went out my head and I just gravitated to the door with a big goofy grin on my face, I had to listen! And then we got to go in just as they were finishing Mess and I went to the front and rocked out and sang like it was a show! They said hi to us, played Dark Horses, and asked how we were. It was my Dutch friend’s birthday, so they got everyone to sing her happy birthday, then asked for requests – and got them all! Eventually they chose to play us Souvenirs 🙂

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After that we lined up for photos – my friends and I got to the back of the queue and conspired! We had a plan to get a silly VIP photo involving moustaches in honour of Chad, who was born in Amsterdam. We got chatting to Josh (the merch guy/ guitar tech) a bit while we waited, and he said the guys were going to the sea in Brighton tomorrow, and we told him they should find time to go to the west coast sometime, and maybe play Boardmasters too.

Then it was my turn! They didn’t try to introduce themselves, I just went in and said hi to Chad and Drew and got to chat to them for a moment. Jude filmed as I got out my letter to Jon. I showed the guys I had chocolate coffee beans and before I’d even finished saying it Jon was just like ‘Give, give!!’ 😀 I said I thought they might be needed after all the travel, and he said ‘oh yeah!’ 😀 Then I introduced myself properly (‘Hi, I’m Helen, I write to you too much – and I’ve done it again!’) I handed him my letter, then the one from the SwitchFam (I blanked and forgot who!), and letters from friends from Nepal and India, and then the DVD of our spoof tour video. I said ‘I don’t know if you saw this but Jude and I spoofed your silly tour vid…’ and Jon straightaway said ‘Yes we did, that was amazing! You guys did a great job, you left out no detail, it was all in there. You must have spent ages on it’ I laughed, ‘Yeah you have no idea, 6 months..!’ 😀 And he remarked on my daisies – then I got his real attention for a moment – ‘Yes they’re my favourite, they’ve been really meaningful to me since way before there was a connection with you. I was so happy when you released that song!’ And he said they were very meaningful to him too, and even more so since he named his daughter after them. That was so lovely 🙂 By this point I was really trembling! I took out the ‘Europe is Where The Light Shines Through’ banner (which got some wows!) and got my picture with it. Jon had his arm round me so could definitely feel me shaking, very embarrassing! Then he asked for a picture just with me and the flag, which I was kind of blown away by 😀

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Then I got out the way for my friend’s VIP. She had a birthday sign and confetti cannons – which hilariously failed to go off and resulted in the funniest sequence of photos! I filmed it, they sang her happy birthday and there was a funny moment of confusion with the cannons before they ended up throwing the confetti! They chatted whilst Jude came out and had some lovely chats with them, recognising her and crowning her ‘queen of the UK fam!’.

And then the moustaches came out! The guys loved them! Chad took one and everyone was like ‘no you don’t need one!’ Romey put his on his head. The guys took lots of their own photos and had fun goofing around with them, and then we got our own photos – it was so funny 😀

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And oh I was so happy and so full of love! I know I was giving off the wrong impression but it’s so hard not to with fan love at this kind of level.

We had time to run and get a takeaway and come back and line up. I got some amazing falafels, super spicy and messy! And I got to take a fried aubergine to a show. Never done that before.

The stage was super high but we got in first and went to the middle 🙂 Army Of Bones opened and were really good. I was really excited when I heard they would be opening for Switchfoot, that’s near perfect for me, especially as I had missed seeing Martin Smith’s previous band play with Switchfoot. It felt like I was getting a second chance. They didn’t give us any interaction, but Martin’s performance is so captivating and the music rocked! He spliced New Way To Be Human into Love Song For A City 🙂 I think even Jude, who isn’t really a fan, was impressed 🙂 By the end of their set people pressing in from the sides had got me even more central.

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Switchfoot opened with If The House Burns Down Tonight. I’ve got to admit that’s a bit of a weird opener; all the build up and then just that quiet ‘Ashes from the flames…’ before it gets going… but then it really does get going after that! It wasn’t an easy show to take pictures at, and in any case my friends were covered in cameras, so I just watched the show.

This show felt a little like Munich’s, with similar lighting, no crowd barrier, and a chilled and happy vibe, though this was I think mostly due to tired spaceyness rather than surfing this time! The venue had more climbing potential however, which Jon utilised! He went into the crowd a couple of times, including going up onto the balcony, over the side and down into the crowd in true nailbiting fashion during Love Alone Is Worth The Fight.

At my friend’s birthday request they played Your Love Is A Song, Drew giving it a killer solo.

Early on in the show, a guy called Peter held up a sign saying, in pictures, ‘Can I play guitar on The Sound?’ Jon took the sign, looked at it, figured out what it said and replied  ‘I think we’re going a little too fast; it’s early on in this relationship, maybe we can slow down and see where this goes?’ 😀 But later he did indeed get to play it, and he really rocked! He even got the beautiful Love Is The Movement guitar too!

They went very off piste from the original set list.  ‘I want to take this right back; it’s not on the set list… Chad, what would you do if I said ‘Al Pacino’..?’ And they played Gone – I never really thought of it as a rock song but wow it was quite heavy this time, all crunching, screaming guitars! It was brilliant!

All my banners came out at different points during the show; ‘Europe’ and ‘Where  I Belong (WIB)’ Jon held up, he took ‘Thank you’ to look at too. ‘Healer of Souls’ he just went ‘Ooh :/ ‘! Play the song Jon!!

The encore was amazing; they played Float (YESSS! So much fun!), I Won’t Let You Go (which had Jude in tears), and Dare You To Move (which is always going to make me happy!), so beautiful!

Overall there was a worshipful feel to the whole thing, it felt like we were really involved with the lyrics, personally and collectively…

Afterwards we stood and chatted to ‘fam for ages by the bus. Suddenly after a long wait I picked up Jon’s tweet: Aftershow in 15 minutes by the bus! Eeeee!! I was wearing the (still wet) WIB banner when he came out. He took us along the street to a bridge over a canal and stopped just as I was next to him, so I got front row! He played Vice Verses and All Of God’s Children, which were beautiful and deep, Just Rob Me (oh my goodness..!! Absolutely hilarious!), 24, and On Fire merging into Your Love Is Strong, it was really lovely. During Vice Verses we heard some funny noises in the street (car horns maybe?) joining in the song (‘It’s a duet!’ said Jon!) 😀 Boats passing by on the canal slowed down to watch, and despite how small the bridge is and how quiet the city seemed, several times we had to dodge bicycles and cars (Jon remarked ‘This bridge is busy!’). He looked at me at the end and I just said ‘thank you!’ 🙂

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Afterwards I walked back to the bus with him. There was all the usual hounding and selfie-taking, Jon masterfully steering the crowd towards the bus the whole time, so I stayed aside and just took it in. But I did get to thank him for playing so many songs that mean so much to me and he thanked me for being there. After that, we got to hang around and say goodbye to most the guys. Drew told me he put me in their Instagram, and they had – the picture of me with my flag, as well as them goofing around with the Chad moustaches! So sweet! We wished them safe travels and goodnight and see you at BCDO. They didn’t leave for us to wave them off, so eventually we left instead.

I ate my concert aubergine and fangirled online a bit, then it was a quick sleep before dashing to catch the bus back to London. Getting across Amsterdam proved a bit simpler this time, but the bus was not very comfortable. I picked up some iced tea on the way, and accidentally bought a fizzy kind, which was not right at all! I spent most of the journey getting glitter on the bus, and enjoying the memories.

It was extremely hot and the bus did not have much air conditioning, so it was disappointing to realise we were going back through the tunnel, not on the ferry. The result was we were sat in the tunnel carpark waiting to board for two and a half hours, going nowhere and getting ever hotter. And then I got the news: Switchfoot really are coming back this autumn, and are giving us a proper UK tour!! :O 😀 :’) Wowowow!! Everything got a bit surreal from there. I emerged back into the UK, and immediately saw a dense murmeration of midges over the roadside trees, and then witnessed grown men holding a sack race, and a bizarre junk shop full of weird statues, dummies and ornate lamps, as we entered London…

I love Switchfoot so much 🙂 Also, how many times did Jon shake my hand/ high five me?! Bring on the rest of the tour!!

Read Part 2 here

Singing dangerous prayers against the darkness

God’s taken me and my church on an amazing worship journey these past few weeks. We’ve been studying the first letter of John, and singing all the dangerous prayers. It’s all felt extremely timely.

I’ve found it very difficult to write recently; the political situation we’re in is unlike anything I’ve seen before and evolving rapidly. I wonder what I can say into the face of it that won’t be an irrelevance a week later, or what I have to add to the clamour of voices already speaking loudly, especially when I don’t think any of us have navigated anything like this before and none of us entirely know the way. If I’m honest, I’m fumbling along in the dark trying to find what love looks like just as much as anyone else!

 

But then, into our chaos, God speaks.

 

The teaching in church over the last few weeks has looked at 1 John, which was written to a church suffering from the effects of false claims, which were causing division in the church. Truth itself was under attack, and the Christian community was finding itself fractured. So John writes to assure the church that there is a real truth we can be sure of, in Jesus, and then sets out how we can know it better.

If we want to know where to walk, we need light to be able to see the path. Walking in the light as he calls it is not about whether or not we are ‘saved’, but about how well we know God. We must press into God to see clearly. Honesty and accountability are the path to better relationships with one another and with God, and when we are able to live in total honest openness like this, the truth can be seen and known and division healed. Before we leapt to making judgements of others, we must look honestly at ourselves and see the roots of the same problems in us. And all can be forgiven!

Jesus is our standard against which we must measure truth and love. The more we know Him, the more we can discern these things. And His love, real love, is a love that sacrifices itself, its own interests, and its very life for others and for the benefit of the wider community.

We live in dark times, as truth is under attack and we are being divided against one another. But we can face down and overcome the darkness by striving for closeness with God, personal purity coupled with a transparency and humility that keeps us on the right track and helps build connection with others, and sacrificial love.

 

And then the worship! I don’t know how intentional this has been (I like to think it has been), but most of the songs we have been singing these past few weeks have been the surrender songs*. Big, dangerous prayers, reminding us that we follow a God who became a perfect example of surrendered sacrifice and who is worth everything, and committing ourselves to laying down our lives for God’s work in the world. I say dangerous, because if we really take what we sing seriously and are prepared to let God take us up on our words, we could find ourselves called into painfully sacrificial love for the benefit of God’s people and plans. Laying down our lives is going to hurt! But here we are singing these words, over and over, and I believe truly desiring God’s will be done in and through us, whatever the cost.

And it’s not just been music; on one week we looked back at the bold prayers we’d been encouraged to pray a few months earlier, and to be encouraged by the answers we’d seen to keep up the bold prayers. One week as part of our worship we spent a while praying over our involvement in the world and in politics, that we as a church can bring light into the world.

And a holy silence has descended between these powerful songs as we have sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us. We can be a very reserved church at times, but it’s seemed the Spirit has been at work, breaking down our reservedness, and I’ve never heard this congregation sing so passionately or keep such profound silences.

 

It’s made me wonder about the implications for me personally; here I am, laying aside my claims to a career (which still eludes me) and an easy, comfortable life, and pledging myself to Christ in the battle for truth and love…. I just don’t know how my life and the world situations I find myself in will pan out. I’m aware it could get very difficult and unpleasant, but also that God is worth it all; though I wonder, am I brave enough, should it come to real sacrifice..?

But bigger than my own life, it has felt as if we are being commissioned as a community to face up to the darkness we face in this troubled world, and lay ourselves down in God’s service to work to bring light, and love, and truth, and restoration. Will we take up the call?

 

At the end of one of our worship sessions, an image came to me as we sang; I saw the church standing together, facing a great crowd of terrible dark monsters, but singing out against the darkness these songs of surrender. And the darkness cowered in fear as we sang!

 

* I mean, just look at these songs and lyrics! –
Jesus, be the centre (be my hope, be my song, be my path, be my guide, be the reason that I live…)
Jesus, all for Jesus (all I am and have and ever hope to be, all of my amvitions, hopes and plans, I surrender these into Your hands, for it’s only in Your will that I am free…)
Receive our adoration (we choose to leave it all behind and turn our eyes towards the prize, the upward call of God in Christ, You have our hearts, Lord, take our lives, receive our adoration Jesus, Lamb (sacrifice) of God, how wonderful You are…)
Amazing grace
Blessed be Your name (You give and take away, my heart will choose to say blessed be Your name…)
I surrender all I am to the Saviour who surrendered all for me
Take my life and let it be…
Mighty to save (take me as You find me, all my fears and failures, fill my life again, I give my life to follow everything I believe in, now I surrender…)
This is my desire (I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone, every breath that I take, every moment I’m awake, Lord have Your way in me…)
All to Jesus I surrender…
Jesus, lover of my soul (it’s not about me, as if You should do things my way, You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways…)