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The Lectio Letter - Issue #77 - Why I don't (often) give practical advice followed by 3 pieces of practical advice
“You should remember that a word of good advice does not apply to every situation. Except this advice, of course.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich
“People who give the best are those who give of themselves – your time, talents, words, knowledge.”
― Omoakhuana Anthonia
“Advice; It’s more fun to give than receive “
— Malcolm Forbes
“The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.”
— Proverbs 12:26
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Well friends, with my proverbial tail tucked between my legs I have to confess this is the longest hiatus between Lectio letters since I began this project!
I firmly believed I’d have the margin to be reading and writing on our recently completed trip. As you can tell, I was wrong…my sincere apologies, regular broadcasting will now return.
This Issue’s article is all about my resistance to write “practical advice” articles followed by 3 pieces of advice! A contradiction of course, but hopefully it all makes sense as you read it.
For those in the TL;DR camp, my three pieces of universal(ish) advice are;
Stop worrying about what you can't change
Kindness can change your world
You've got more than you imagine
I hope you enjoy this Lectio article. Feel free to leave a comment or a question after you’ve read it, I love receiving those.
As I mentioned above, we have been on the road for over four weeks! Overall, it was a wonderful trip, sharing and connecting with some groups and communities we are a part of.
Sadly, Rachel’s grandmother passed away in the middle of the trip and a few days later she suffered some South East Asia food poisoning! But all in all, there were more highs than lows.
We began in Spain where Rachel is in her second year (of three) training to be a Spiritual Director. But we also planned in 48hrs before that started to celebrate our recent 14th Wedding anniversary!
After a quick overnight in London, we headed to Thailand to see family;
We then flew over to Taiwan which was the purpose of the second half of the trip. We led worship a number of times over the week for our organisation’s gathering there. It was a rich time of reconnection since we were there 8 years ago.
Finally, we had a short stop back in Thailand and Turkey before landing at home…!
Finally, I was grateful to spend some time with the Follower Community a few months ago. Matt Lewis who helps lead the community is releasing a series on conversations on prayer on their podcast series next week. Watch the promo below and subscribe to their podcast here.
I began (but haven’t finished) reading W.H. Vanstone’s 1977 book Love’s Endeavour, Loves Expense. Vanstone was well qualified to become an academic theologian but instead spent his life serving a local urban parish. This book is part autobiographical, part theological. He reflects on the costliness and nature of true self-giving in love. Both God’s self-giving love and the love we are called to live out in ministry.
From this review in the Church Times;
Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense is a concise but exacting meditation expressing its author’s conviction that “to love is to create and to create is to suffer.”
For Vanstone, God is not some inscrutable or imperious monarch detached from his handiwork, but one who is passionately involved in the laboured endeavour of integrating tragedy — that which has gone wrong — into the overall divine purpose.
Divine control will not necessarily prevent earthquakes, floods, and cancers, because that’s the way a world with ragged edges is; but it will seek to redeem it. This is the hallmark of God’s love.
The world is not to be understood as a pleasing bauble in the hands of the Almighty. It is a costly, precarious thing, for ever caught between the possibilities of triumph or tragedy, and calling forth from God unceasing commitment.
I appreciate this slowed-down song “There Will Be No Crying” by Cleo Soul
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” -Revelations 21:4
A Beautiful piece of music from Bill Laurance and Michael League — Where You Wish You Were Here
Lots of great soul and energy from the Monophonics who "I’ve mentioned before with their song Warpaint;
This last month travelling I’ve done nearly no cooking, but plenty of coffee making! I travelled with the Aeropress which I heartily recommend as the most space-efficient way to make coffee on the go.
James Hoffman is a well-respected coffee nerd with lots of online videos, here’s his tips on how to make a good Aeropress (tip; don’t lift it like the photo above)
While flying I watched the first couple of episodes of the book to Netflix adaption of All the light we cannot see. It’s well-made and captivating;
Worry Unkindness and Scarcity:
Why I don't (often) give practical advice followed by 3 pieces of practical Advice
There is this look I get sometimes when I am speaking. It is the pinnacle of non-verbal communication. Because I have received this look so many times, I've narrowed down fairly specifically what it means.
Get to the point.
It is not normally that what I speak about is particularly lengthy, although I'm sure there are times when I have tended to go on and on.
It's that, the things I am enthusiastic about tend to be abstractions to the practical every day of life. It is not because I am any more inoculated to the challenges and concerns of everyday life than other people. It is more that my curiosity is in what sits underneath the surface of these things. For example, what kind of view of God, does someone have that leads them to experience this kind of anxiety? What about the way that modern life is, leads everyone to feel overwhelmed?
I also tend to steer clear of extremely practical advice, because it is often so conditional. It depends on who you are, where you live, and what stage of life you're in… It seems like the conditions are nearly endless so what are the chances that I can come up with an application that truly serves people wherever they are? In my opinion, it is often better to consider the general causes, than try and solve the specific practical problems when writing to so many of you in different worlds.
In short, my approach to thinking things through tends to fall into the "let's take three steps backwards and try and get the bigger picture" way of doing things.
At the same time, like everyone else, I have arrived at a few maxims that are quite practical, and they've tended to be of service to me and others when I've been in one-on-one conversations. So I offer them to you here, with the caveat that despite sounding like Oprah-lite Proverbs, I believe that, when rooted in a deepening communion with God, they can truly be of practical service. I am positive that some of you have some very legitimate reasons why these don't apply to you, which is exactly why I tend to steer clear of offering practical advice to such a general audience… But with that extensive disclaimer, I offer you these three things;
1. Stop worrying about what you can't change
The more I walk, alongside people in their day-to-day lives, and consider the shape of my own, I am convinced that somehow, as humans, we are endlessly attracted to fear and worry about things entirely outside of our control.
It is not so much explicit worry, as the consistent noise of the world that surrounds us. For example, how many of us have been fixating on the terror unfolding in Israel and Gaza? But apart from offering a poorly formed prayer, how much can most of us truly offer that situation?
We fixate on grand political issues, pretending that our convictions and opinions on them make any real difference to our everyday lives other than giving us a vague sense that we might be right.
On the other hand, the things closest to us, friends, family, children, and our neighbours end up receiving much less than they desire or deserve.
The bottom line is that worrying about these larger things we can't control acts as a kind of numbing agent which convinces us that we are caring. Of course, care is important and prayer is vital but so often we go from one grand world issue to another distracting ourselves from the near relationships that we could use our limited emotional capacity to engage in.
These global worries and concerns can easily distract and numb us from the vital work of loving those in our immediate surroundings. We are distracted from paying attention to the fault lines in our marriages and the cost of vulnerability that going to a marriage counsellor would require.
We are distracted from paying undivided attention to the children, that are around us, sure that we have far too many things to consider and tasks to complete to really be truly present and engaged in their experience of the world.
We are distracted from selflessly serving our neighbours because we are convinced that the maintenance on our house or the extra bit of attention to our work email inbox is more enumerative than living alongside a Neighbour we have truly given our friendship to.
We are distracted by things we will never remember in 10 years time that are keeping us from things we will regret on our deathbed.
2. Kindness can change your world
Maybe you have experienced the opposite of kindness. A harsh judgemental expectation of the worst of you. A spitting cynicism that pierces your sense of the goodness in other human beings. Normally when we think of kindness, our mind leads us to experiences of unkindness.
In the defensive expectation of unkindness, we get tempted to act in pre-emptive strikes. But the generosity of kindness can transform your world and mine. I'm not talking only about the cultural performance of niceness or politeness. Those attributes masquerade as virtues while being exchanged “like for like” until real tension emerges and kindness evaporates.
Kindness is thinking the best, believing the best and being willing to engage in what previous generations have called forbearance. Kindness is the embodiment of the conviction that life is tough for all of us and that small gifts of kindness really can remake people's experience and emotional world bit by small bit. As the old saying goes, Kindness doesn't cost anything, and to add to that, unkindness will cost you more than you think.
3. You've got more than you imagine
Many in our hyper-connected fast-paced world struggle with being overwhelmed. Much of the overwhelm is created by our innate human limitedness experiencing the very inhuman pace and expectation of productivity in our world.
That being said, this ongoing overwhelm leads us to feel that we have less than we actually do. Less emotional energy, less capacity for connection, less money to give away, and less time to give to the people and causes we actually care about. While finding your boundaries and recognising the God-given limits of capacity is crucial, we all have a bit more than we imagine to give away to others. When we switch from a scarcity-way-of-thinking to a generosity-way-of-thinking we discover those who give generously of their time, emotional attention and money often receive back (maybe not in kind always) more or at least as much as they give.
I don't always follow my own advice, as those who live close to me would surely be able to tell you, but I do believe in it. I think these are some of the practical realities of living out of a deep assurance that we are loved and chosen in Jesus and called to express that through how we act, feel, think and speak. Maybe one or two of these have been helpful to you. If not, feel free to create your own ;)
How China is creating Flood resistant (Sponge) Cities
How the Italian Mafia is making millions from tinned tomatoes
A Libyan Photographer confronts loss in his devastated city
Warning: This is quite difficult to watch, but was very under reported and deserves awareness
Dying for Beginners
In modern British society, death is out of sight and behind closed doors. Many of us lack direct exposure to the dying process - with all sorts of potential emotional and spiritual consequences for how we grieve our loved ones, as well as how we prepare for our own deaths.
What does the dying process actually look like? A short animation by Emily Downe, and voiced by Dr Kathryn Mannix which guides you gently on a step by step journey through the process of dying.
Ink Art bleeds out from broken Ceramics
Rob Strati on Instagram here.
A woman lives on a floating island in Canada that she built with her late husband 31 years ago – it's a challenging life, but she isn't leaving anytime soon
Catherine King and Wayne Adams hand-built a floating home together in Canada 31 years ago.
The home is known as Freedom Cove and is made up of several buildings floating on Styrofoam.
As idyllic as it looks, the upkeep is tough work, which King is now doing solo after Adams' death.
Why Rapper’s stopped writing
Newsstands from around the world
See more by Trevor Traynor
If you enjoyed this newsletter, have a question, or suggestion, feel free to leave a comment;
Finally, if you think someone else would be interested and enjoy this, please do share it with them,
That’s all for now…