Who is my neighbour?

do not smile at strangersWhilst on my summer holiday (France in case you’re wondering) I was chatting with some people who live in the English countryside. They had noticed that when in London, on trains, tubes and buses, people don’t talk to each other and worse, have headphones which are a further barrier to interacting with other people. In the countryside they said people talk to each other more. How do people travel around in the countryside I asked. In cars, by themselves I was told, which made me think, imagining the country folk on their own in their own little space with the car stereo on.

Living in the city is a very communal way of living. Due to so many people living in a small space, we are forced to interact with many more people than we might otherwise, even if it is in a somewhat anonymous manner. Even in the city people look out for and help strangers. Witness the mum with a buggy getting off a train and someone will be helping, or the street cleaner offering help to two old ladies who were lost in central London, or an elderly man having collapsed on the pavement being helped by passers by, or the verbal solidarity of passengers stuck on a train or on a platform waiting for a train which doesn’t seem to be coming.

In a society where more than a quarter of people don’t know the names of their next door neighbours (http://bit.ly/18g2IWj) and more who don’t trust them, I’d like to think we would still be friendly towards and help our ’neighbour’ which in one sense is everyone and especially those whom we encounter who are in need of our help.

As we go about our daily lives, may we keep our eyes open for those who could do with a little help. Who are you going to help today?

We’re all the same, but different

southallSome time ago I walked down the busy Uxbridge Road in Southall and found myself one of only 6 white people – everyone else was Asian and I felt a little conspicuous, but enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of a culture different to my own. London is a wonderfully diverse place.

Living, working and travelling around London you get to see and experience so many different people, cultures, races, religions. Walking down West Croydon’s main shopping street or Uxbridge Road in Southall you could be in a different country. Variety is good and allows us to experience things which are unusual to our normal way of life.

Despite the differences, the more we understand someone and get to know them the more we realise we’re the same in many respects. As people, we are very similar and have the same needs, desires, worries, hopes and fears. When all is stripped away we are simply that, people.

You could say we are one big community and everyone is our neighbour. How we treat people not like us goes a long in showing our true nature and what we consider important. How we relate to different cultures, races and religions can either expand our horizons or cause us to become insular.

We may be different in some respects but deep down aren’t we all the same?

Lay down your life

love=sacrificeGreater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what Jesus did for each one of us.

What does ‘laying down your life’ actually mean? I don’t think it means physically dying, although it could. It means laying aside what we want for the sake of others. It means putting on hold our needs while we seek to serve the needs of others. In our individualistic, self centred orientated world, thinking of others before ourselves is counter cultural. Promoting others’ interests over our own is not how to get ahead in this world. Perhaps we ought to consider how to get ahead in reaching out to people in love and sacrifice. Promoting what is good, positive, life affirming and builds up others. It’s not always about me.

Who can we lay down our life for today? Who is willing to lay down their life for you, to help you be the person you want to be? Who can you ask for help to change or help with the next challenge you face? Perhaps Jesus is worth asking, for he laid down his life for us all.

New beginnings

New beginningsThere are lots of new beginnings at this time of year and if you have children or work with children, September is a bit like January. It can be difficult changing from holiday mode to work mode and the longer you’ve been on holiday, the harder it is!

New beginnings are difficult because we move from something with which we’re familiar to perhaps something which is unknown. New schools, new jobs, new home, new relationships. I didn’t know what being married was like until I took the big step, but I’m loving it and I’m very glad I did. It was easier knowing someone was there to love me and look after me.

But if we don’t step out into something new, we’ll never have experiences which could well change our lives, for the better. If we want to be changed we may need help and be open to receive that help.

Throughout my life I have received the most help from Jesus. He made me the man I am today and I received help because I asked Jesus for help and allowed him to help me. I have faith that he will guide me, encourage me and challenge me. He helps me to be a better person day by day.

We receive help from all sorts of people, but for the biggest challenges, we need to seek help from those with the most resources and from those with the biggest capacities to love us. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what Jesus did for each one of us.

Who is willing to lay down their life for you, to help you be the person you want to be? Who can you ask for help to change or help with the next challenge you face?

Shouting for the ball…

Jordan Slam Dunk CompetitionA guest blog from Tom Rutter, our founder and Head Coach:

The Chicago Bulls are one of the best basketball team in the world. Probably most famous for having the great Michael Jordan on their team. In the closing seconds of a game, the most important thing for the Bulls was to get the ball to Michael Jordan. They had to get the ball to Jordan for two reasons:

Firstly he was the most likely to sink the ball into the hoop and second because most importantly, he is the only one who really wanted it!

Many where envious of Jordan’s wealth and popularity and many were jealous of the kind of sponsorship deals he had with companies such as Nike. However those same people don’t want the ball when it really matters most.  So often when there was only one point in it, when missing the last opportunity to score could be forever held against him, Jordan still shouted for the ball – and others in the team were grateful to let him have it!

Whether he scored or not, the sheer courage he demonstrated continues to inspire dedication from his fans, which far outlives the games in which he played.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something…but I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan.

Do you want the ball?

Can we answer, “Here am I, send me!”?


Spring Harvest 09 Kick London TeamLast week I wrote about going to unfamiliar places where it isn’t safe or known, but scary and challenging. These places are often where we develop most, where we are challenged and push ourselves to, and maybe beyond our limits.

It’s better when we don’t go there alone. There’s safety in numbers and 2 people make up the smallest team. We need to play our part and not be selfish – be givers as well as takers.

Each person is an important part of the whole but none less important. In football strikers score goals but defenders make the goals win matches. In rugby forwards build a platform for backs to score tries. It takes six people working seamlessly together to be successful in volleyball.

Supported by a team, we can achieve so much more than we could individually. When one falls down, the other is there to pick us up and set us going again. When we’re surrounded by a great cloud of team mates and supporters, it gives us that extra something to help us get the prize.

What part are we playing in the teams or groups we are in, to not only improve ourselves but also contribute to the needs and success of the whole?

New places can be scary

school to workBoth safe and challenging places are good places to be.

We’ve had some 15 year old work experience students with us this term and it reminded me of when I was a teacher and was visiting students in their work placements.

In school, in a familiar environment and amongst their friends, young people are confident and feel safe to be themselves. It’s a place where they can shine or it might mean it gives them the confidence to be badly behaved!

In the unfamiliarity of an adult workplace, in new surroundings and with adults all around, it can be a scary place but also a place where new skills can be learned, inspiration can be found and character built.

We often need others to push us beyond our own expectations of where we thought we would reach. We may need to go out of our comfortable and safe environment, to a place where we can find the limits of our character, skills, endurance and faith.

We also need someone to help us get there and continue. Someone whom we can trust, a guide and encourager, a friend and a truth teller.

I have mine, who is yours?

Where’s home?

HomeMany of us will be going away this summer, taking a break somewhere near or far. I’m off to France.

When travelling we see people outside of our usual home town and what’s usual for them feels unusual for us. What’s exciting for us may be mundane for them. We often feel, think and act differently when we’re away from home.

It’s the familiar things which make us feel confident, safe and most able to be ourselves. Where no-one knows us we may feel more able to take a risk or do something we don’t usually do at home.

Is there a better place than amongst those whom we love and where we have a sense of belonging, where we feel at home?

A sports team can be a place like this, if it’s functioning well and has the right values. Knowing we are loved, valued and accepted for who we are and what we contribute to the whole is an important part of our well being.

We may be a small part but with others we make a whole and we are all of equal worth. We should all have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.

There’s no place like home when home is where we are loved, where we belong and where the needs of others are as our own needs.

Persevering is not easy (especially in this heat)

heat-exhausted-runnerI’m not a great fan of the hot weather. Low to mid 20s are my limit, so the last few weeks have been too hot for me, but I’ve persevered and gone about everything as usual.

Made me think how easy it is to give up.

Giving up is very easy, we can do it without even trying. Doing something worthwhile usually takes effort. Persevering to the end, through failure, missed goals or letting people down definitely takes a lot of effort.

In sport, to become a champion always takes perseverance. People don’t become winners on the first attempt, it usually takes many years out of the public gaze and even many years in the public eye losing and almost getting there before the time finally comes when the trophy can be lifted or the medal is placed around a neck.

We didn’t see David Beckham or Jonny Wilkinson kicking thousands of balls on their own after others left. We didn’t see Andy Murray hitting innumerous balls over nets. Many of us hadn’t heard of Bradley Wiggins until he won the Tour de France. I’m sure they all failed a lot, but the more they persevered the more they were successful.

What we do mostly in secret produces what is seen in public. What we sow we will reap.

What will I need to persevere in this week?

England win the first Ashes test, but was it fair play?

We all like to be treated fairly. Go to any school playground, sports pitch or indeed many homes and before long you’ll hear ‘it’s not fair!” shouted loudly and with much passion. We all have a natural sense of justice , and we automatically know when we are on the receiving end of a referee’s wrong call, a parent’s decision going against us or a teacher/boss telling us off when we were innocent.

But how often do we admit to doing something wrong when no-one else notices, even if someone else is blamed? When the victims of our unfair play are shouting ‘it’s not fair’, how ready are we to admit to being in the wrong?

Perhaps Stuart Broad would be a good person to ask. In England’s second innings of the first test of the Ashes, most people think he hit the ball (it was clear on the replay) and he should have been out, but the umpire didn’t give him out and he stayed in, despite the shouts of the opposition Australians. Some people thought he should have done the right thing and ‘walked’, admitting he was out. However, others say, “Always play according to the umpire’s decision” and that’s the right thing to do, usually…

Broad staying in went a long way to helping England win. Did Broad himself think he had hit? His team mate, Jonathan Trott was given out by the umpire even though the replays showed he wasn’t out, ‘so that’s justice’ they say. Australians have a reputation for not admitting to being out, not walking. Agar was run out when he had 6 runs, he wasn’t given out and went on to get 98 in Australia’s first innings.

We all like to be treated fairly and perhaps the lesson from this cricket match is that if we don’t like being on the receiving end of injustice or unfair play, we should always do the right thing in an honest manner and treat others in a way we ourselves want to be treated. Wouldn’t that make for a better world?

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