Chocolate, theology and lifeboats…

One of my favourite stories is told by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie was a Dutch woman, a woman of great faith and a woman who spent much of the Second World War hiding Jews from the Nazis. She and many of her family were sent to a concentration camp where her beloved sister Betsie died. Her father also died in a camp and others of her family too.

After the war Corrie wrote books about her experiences and also about her journey of faith. Her words carry authority. She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to faith in difficult circumstances. She gave many talks.

One such talk was at a theological college where the students spent a lot of time analysing the Bible’s words. It got to the point where Corrie was listening to them dissecting it down to the last degree. She didn’t argue with them. Instead she brought them some chocolate. At the time chocolate was rare and much appreciated by the students.

After they had eaten it, she remarked they’d not said much about it. Slightly indignantly, the students said that they had thanked her for it. She shook her head. She remarked that the students hadn’t asked what the chocolatchocolatee was made of, didn’t look at the list of ingredients and argue about their individual merits and whether that’s what the manufacturer originally intended them to be.

And then she added – probably with a twinkle in her eye – ‘You just enjoyed it as a whole.’

They took her point.

Theology isn’t a bad thing. The study of why you believe what you believe is important when it comes to understanding. But when a discussion about religious dogma takes over from the practical application of faith, something has gone wrong.

I have some great friends who I enjoy talking about my faith with. Some are Christians, some are not. It’s interesting to talk faith and what lies behind it with others in a respectful listening way. I don’t have to agree with my Buddhist friend but I’m interested to hear what he has to say about what he believes. I recognise a sincere belief and faith when I hear it. I don’t actually agree on some points of theology with my Methodist and Anglican friends, but it’s interesting to hear why we believe what we believe.

However. Just talking ‘don’t butter no parsnips’ as one of my friends would say. It doesn’t get stuff done. This morning I saw a post on social media from one of my other friends of faith, a man whose words are wise ones and always worth listening to. He posted a picture which had these words on it: ‘Let us feed the hungry, house the homeless, stop the killing and provide medicine for the sick. When we have accomplished that, we can sit around and argue about religion.’

I’m always struck by the fact that Jesus was always incredibly gentle in his encounters with those who struggled on their journey of faith. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, brought love into loveless lives. He showed how we should live as people of faith.

Interestingly, he reserved his most scathing words for the religious who’d got tangled up in their religion and ritual, completely missing the point and failing to apply the principles to the practice.

By all means, study theology. By all means get a better understanding of what it’s all about. But take it as a whole and apply it to the world around us. A world desperate for light and love and life.

lifeboatMy Coastguard colleagues and their friends in the RNLI regularly rescue people who’ve got themselves in peril on the sea.

They don’t stop to ask those people where their passport is, who they voted for in the last election, whether they’re hyper-Calvinists, postmillennialists, whether they believe in infant baptism or whether they go to church twice on a Sunday. They see people who need help and they help them.

There are too many religious people rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. We need more of the people of faith who are quietly manning the lifeboats.

Breaking the ice…

Over the past three years I’ve got used to commuting to places on the train. In the beginning to was to London Waterloo. These days it’s to Southampton. Readers of this blog will know how much I value these journeys. The destination is important, but so is how you get there.

I sincerely hope I never lose the thrill of spotting deer jumping through fields of waving golden corn or the black-tipped ears of a hare twitching in the evening sunlight as it quietly rests in a field. The lazy but purposeful soaring of the hawk searching for an unsuspecting mouse to feed its young with or the ducks going with the flow of the river.

This week I had to drive to a different railway station from the usual one that I use. When I got there, I had to wait while a flock of young geese crossed the lane in front of me. The bus driver who also had to wait while they walked across the tarmac, exchanged a cheery grin and a wave with me at the unexpected traffic chaos they’d caused.

And a few days ago, IMG_2129as my train was homeward bound, I managed to capture a picture of a rainbow spread across the sky above the hill just outside Warminster.

There’s a reason why I refuse to work on a train. There’s a reason why I would also rather be on a train than driving down soulless dual carriageways and clogged up motorways.

I still find it quite strange though that the community of commuters I travel with can often act like no-one else exists in their universe. Perhaps for them that’s true. But I often look around at those travelling with me and wonder what they are doing and where they are going.

I love that account in the New Testament of Jesus getting into a conversation with the woman coming to get water from the well. She was a feisty character, up for debate and argument and also aware that her past life would probably meet with disapproval. And yet Jesus just starts a perfectly natural conversation with her that leads to her realising just how special this Man from Galilee is and why what he says matters. By the end of the conversation these two have become firm friends. And it started with Jesus asking for a drink of water. Such a simple thing. Such an amazing set of consequences…

I have made a few commuting friends on the new route. There’s the man whose Labrador is an endless source of entertaining stories – it’s the only dog I’ve ever known who got himself banned from obedience classes.

And there’s Jo who is always up for a chat about life, the problems of getting up early enough to put your washing out and whether it’s a Wine-In-The-Garden sort of evening.

But others who regularly get on the same train as me rarely get beyond a nod or a an occasional ‘Good morning.’ It’s almost like we’re afraid to speak to each other or engage with each other in case – heaven forfend – we start finding out about each other and became friends and LIKE each other. That would be shocking…

Except last Thursday I was sitting opposite a man who I’ve shared a train route with for many months now. We usually just smile at each other and occasionally nod a hello but nothing more than that. But on this occasion I was looking at updates on my phone for the cricket – because it was a little bit exciting. Having skittled the Australians out for just sixty runs (I’m never going to tire of reading, saying or hearing that), England had the chance to rack up a good score putting the game and indeed the series well beyond their opponents’ grasp.

As the train made its way towards Warminster though, the signal on my phone dropped and the page with the score on it disappeared. I put it down on the table with a sigh that must have been heard by the man opposite, as I suddenly realised he was looking at me and had seen what I was trying to find out on my phone. And then he grinned at me, turned his phone around to show me so I could see he was looking at exactly the same thing and said, ‘Here’s the score.’

From then on in of course, we started a whole conversation about cricket, from the Ashes of 2005, the various grounds where Tests have been played and what they were like, interspersed with telling each other the score as our respective phone signals dropped in and out.

From being total strangers, we became firm friends within a matter of minutes. From thinking we had nothing in common, we’ve now discovered a shared love of cricket and Wiltshire. We will now – no doubt – have more conversations when our paths cross on the train in the future. We might even – and I know this might shock the commuting world – actually deliberately sit next to each other to chat.

This kind of incident shows why relationships matter. It shows why it matters that we build bridges to each other. A fear of strangers might be about self-preservation and sometimes yes that matters too, but it also might put up a wall where there doesn’t actually need to be one.

Jesus once asked someone, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and made it clear that the answer wasn’t just those we know and like. It’s the stranger and lonely among us, it’s the prisoner and the free, it’s the people we find challenging. And it’s definitely the person sitting opposite or beside you on the train. Go on, give it go. Break the ice. But maybe, just maybe, you should make sure it’s not an Australian before you launch into a conversation about how brilliant the cricket is…

Contentment and chips

‘The trouble is,’ I said thoughtfully, picking a chip out of the basket on the table in front of me, ‘That too many people think that they will be happy if ONLY they could have this relationship, this job, this house. What they fail to realise is that they’ll never truly be happy because they’ll always be hankering after what they don’t have, rather than being happy with what they have now.’

My friend nodded equally thoughtfully as he took another chip.

It’s one of those lunches I really look forward to with a valued friend who will quite happily talk around subjects from the philosophical and spiritual to the flippant and frivolous.

Our schedules and time streams rarely cross but when they do, I always come away feeling blessed and fulfilled.

This particular day one of the topics of conversation was about ambition. I see nothing wrong with healthy ambition. I genuinely believe – as regular readers of this blog will know – that we should be living life in all its fullness. For a person of faith, I’m drawn again and again to John 10 v 10 where Jesus promises life in all its fullness. Even those people who don’t share the same faith as I do talk about how we only get this one opportunity at life and should make the most of everything it presents to us.

So there is nothing inherently wrong with ambition or wanting to better ourselves just as there is nothing inherently wrong with money. Where it goes wrong is where it becomes the top priority, when nothing else matters, we think our future happiness depends on it and we don’t care who we hurt or what we do to get it.

Similarly, there is nothing wrong with planning for the future. There’s nothing wrong with having a game plan for the next few years, But, again, it shouldn’t be allowed to rule your life and neither should you stake your happiness on a future that may or may not happen.

I’m always a bit saddened when I hear people saying they’ll be happy if only they can have this or that. If they could get married, or get further up the career ladder or buy the house of their dreams – yes then and only then will they be happy.

That kind of happiness is like trying to grasp at something that remains beyond your reach. It’s a happiness that depends on something you don’t have. It creates a yearning that makes it impossible to find any kind of peace of mind in where you are and what you are now.

The apostle Paul once wrote that he had learned in whatever state he was to be content. He talked about how he had lived in so many different places, geographically and metaphorically, that he had learned to be content, in the assurance that God would provide all of his needs.

I have a friend who says the most important thing is the now. ‘Enjoy the moment as it is and don’t think about other things,’ is his view. It’s a wise one.

If you spend all the time wishing for other things, you won’t see the happiness that is staring you in the face. And if you carry on yearning for the Promised Land, you may not realise you are already there. You might even walk out of it into the wilderness without even realising it’s what you’ve done.

This is not to negate genuine unhappiness and turmoil by the way – these things are very real and very real to so many people I know.

No. This is very gently suggesting that if you concentrate too much on your wants to the exclusion of all else, you will never be happy. How can you be? Your wants will never be satisfied. There’s always something more to be wanted.

Make the most of where you are. Be content in the now. Make plans but don’t be ruled by them. And above all, don’t hanker for something that may not be yours to have but be content where you are now. If your future plans work out, it’s a bonus but it’s a bonus that won’t be inexorably linked to a scale of happiness.

Happiness is linked to contentment. Contentment is being satisfied and thankful for what we have and where we are. Sometimes that’s about the time we can spend with friends. Sometimes it’s about getting onto the next rung of the career or property ladder.

And sometimes it’s just a bowl of chips…

French Fries in bowl. The file includes a excellent clipping path, so it's easy to work with these professionally retouched high quality image. Thank you for checking it out!

The footprints that you leave…

I love walking.

Those of you who have read this blog over the past couple of years know that I also loved my train journey commute to London Waterloo. I find myself enjoying the – albeit shorter – commute to Southampton that I now make. There is something very special about a journey that wends its way through the Wylye Valley and on through Hampshire by the Rivers Dun and then Test. And I never fail on the return journey to smile when I see the Westbury White Horse and know that I am nearly home.

So I do love train journeys.

However, there’s something extra special about experiencing the world from the perspective of a walk. The moment you’ve finished climbing a hill and suddenly realised the exertion has not only done you good but also given you a view that was worth the pounding heart and aching calf muscles.

There’s something special about the silence that’s suddenly broken by a lark breaking out of its cover and singing as it soars into the sky. Or coming across a duck with her brood of ducklings performing a perfect ballet apart from the hilarious straggler who’s always slightly behind everyone else. Or watching the changing landscape as you revisit a walk in different seasons.

10991560_10152929789874425_2102327934417485935_oA group of friends and I regularly get together to walk. We take it in turns to suggest where to go – at the moment we’re working our way through places in Wiltshire, although we do occasionally lapse into Wales. Next year I hope – finally – to get around to organising a group to take on the challenging (but well worth it) Imber Perimeter Path across the Salisbury Plain.

Walking clears the mind. It reminds me of the beauties of the place that I’m proud to call home. I half-jokingly call it Being a Tourist Where I Live. Most of all it gives me a sense of peace and well-being and a sense of place where I belong.

There’s an old adage that says you should take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints. I take a lot of pictures – as those of you who know me on Facebook will testify. And I hope I’ve left nothing behind other than the occasional fingernail lost on an old stile.

In our young people’s group at church, we’re currently running a series called Polar Explorers. It’s looking at how people of faith should have a positive impact on the world around them – the Kingdom Footprint. Over the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about that.

A man I’ve known for more than 15 years died last Friday. He was someone I met through work, but he became a real friend who I laughed and put the world to rights with on regular occasions. He was a brave and very funny man. Although I knew he’d been seriously ill, I and many others thought he had come through to the other side. As I read the many loving and sincere tributes on his Facebook page I began to realise just how much of a remarkable footprint Shaun leaves behind.

Shaun was a paramedic. His calm manner must have reassured many seriously injured people that everything would be all right because he was there. I also have no doubt that there are people alive today who wouldn’t be, if it wasn’t for him. Shaun’s footprint may not be one that can be easily seen but there is no doubt it is quietly felt in many lives and many corners of the country.shaun russell

A gentle footprint leaves no damage but instead leaves its quiet mark. Rather than stamping to make a big ‘look at me’ show leaving broken grass and smashed flowers in its wake, the gentle footprint can hardly be seen. And yet it leaves a lasting impression. The evidence that it was made is still there.

Shaun’s death is a terrible loss for his family and friends. No amount of footprints, however gentle, however lasting, will ever replace that cheeky smile and friendly face. And I bet, they, like me, would give a lot to have just one more hug.

As I think of him now, I remember the man who made me laugh. A lot. The man whose ordinary kindness (Come on Hev, I’ll put the kettle on’) helped me in a moment of real pain and unhappiness. The man whose lasting legacy of positive footprints in the world around him is an inspiration and a lesson in how life should be lived to the full for the benefit of others.

Thank you Shaun.  

Nothing’s ever wasted…

‘Hello, it’s Heather Skull from the press office. Skull. Yes. S-K-U-L-L’

Generally these days I find people are too polite to ask the question that probably goes through their mind: ‘Where on earth does the name Skull come from and how did she end up with it?’

Truth is that no-one quite knows where the name Skull did come from. There’s several branches of the family – some from Yorkshire, some from Wiltshire, some spelt with a ‘k’, some with a ‘c’ but all part of the same family. So. Sorry, I still can’t answer the question.

There’s something that the Skull clan is renowned for, particularly in my part of the family tree: hoarding things. My late grandfather was notorious for rescuing things out of the bin that my grandmother had put there. All our lofts are full of stuff that we can’t bear to get rid of. But more importantly, we ALL hold onto those things that might possibly come in useful one day.

I’m slightly better than I was about this because recycling facilities mean less of a guilt trip about where all my rubbish ends up. But I am still guilty of holding onto bits of old cameras and computers and leads and spare bits of cable because one day I am convinced I will need them and they will come in useful.

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On that day of course it’s more than likely I won’t be able to find them and will have to buy a new cable or computer lead anyway. But the principle remains, that all these things in a box will one day come in useful.

My Dad who is probably responsible for me being like this keeps all sorts of pots with things in it because they will come in useful. Annoyingly, they often do. If I ask the question, “Dad, have you got something that will….” he inevitably has.

Many years ago he rescued a small piece of paxolin (go on, Google it, you know you want to) about an inch square which he kept for many years because ‘it might come in useful’. In 1982 when he and I were building a railway in the loft, we needed a small piece of board to mount an electrical switch on. Dad, of course, had just the thing. A piece of board waiting for its moment to go from being rubbish to being recycled into something valuable. My mother was in slight despair though: “That’ll be his justification for keeping everything from here on in,” she remarked.

My grandmother was philosophical about Grandad’s tendency to say that nothing should ever be thrown away because it could still have a use. And in fact it spilled over into her faith. Grandma was one of those people whose faith was a natural part of who she was and what she did. And as a sceptical 18 year old I was silenced by her words when she told me quietly, but confidently, “Nothing is ever wasted. And everything happens for a reason.”

On the train a few mornings ago, I was thinking about the number of people that I know who are in the middle of painful and challenging experiences. And I found myself questioning, not for the first time, how these situations could ever have something good come out of them. How can these things happen for a reason?

Two years ago this week, I began writing this blog. I wrote the first one in the middle of a challenging and painful time – the scar is still not quite healed and still easily ripped open. But in it I talked about how we could better appreciate the delicate and multiple colours of the sunrise if we had first experienced the darkness of the previous night. (https://tractorgirl66.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/nobody-said-it-would-be-easy)

Life in all its fullness

Liz Dumain, one of the wisest people I know, once said that when Jesus talks about living life to the full, it means just that. It means the sad stuff as well as the stuff that makes us bound around wanting to punch the air with glee.

Life in its glorious and dizzying heights and in its depths of despair. How else can we know what it means to be a human fully alive? I’d hesitate to say to any of my suffering friends that this matters but I would still choose to rather live a full-life than flat-lining.

Real experiences make real people. Imagine the kind of people we would be if nothing bad ever happened to us. I’m not sure I can go along with the apostle James who writes in his letter in the New Testament that we should count it all joy when we go through difficult times, but I do see that trials and tricky points are character building. Paul – another apostle – who knew what it was to experience recurring emotional pain which he called his thorn in the flesh, said pain produces endurance, endurance character and character hope. Hope. A small word but a massive and sustaining promise.

Sometimes unexpectedly good things come out of bad moments. The painful experience of two years ago led me to start writing this Tractor Girl blog. The writings of someone trying to make sense of Stuff Life Brings. Through it, I’ve rediscovered a love of writing that I didn’t know I had. And suddenly, Grandma’s words ring true: Nothing’s wasted. And everything happens for a reason.

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What these painful scars and experiences also do – I believe – is give us an authority we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Authority and real empathy to be alongside those who also hurt so we can say ‘I know how you feel,’ and mean it sincerely. Because we really, really do.

While shared pain still hurts, it hurts slightly less when you can share it with someone who will weep with you because they know exactly how it feels like to want the world to go away for a while.

It’s the reason people of faith believe the presence of God is more keenly felt in the shadow than the sunlight.

A few hours later after musing all these things, I received a text from one of my friends, a person who experiences their own particular suffering and who I’ve tried to support. I’ve often felt helpless in the face of their difficulties and challenges, wanting to help and not knowing how to. It makes me wish I could call in the grownups to tell us it’ll all be better in the morning, before I remember that I am now the grownup and I’ve got no idea when or even if, it will ever be better.

The text said just five words. And suddenly I can see my much-loved and much-missed Grandma smiling at me as I begin to get just a tiny glimpse of why none of my own personal painful experiences have been wasted.

‘Thanks mate. You always understand.’

Better Late Than Never: The 12-Month Late Blog

NOTE: This time last year I was preparing to go to Zambia. At the time we were in the middle of European elections and I voted before I went. But while I was in Africa I wrote this blog. It was never published because of a difficult internet connection. Instead I put it to one side and forgot all about it until tonight when I re-read it and decided it was appropriate to publish it.

Written in May 2014. 

It’s a hot sunny afternoon in Zambia. We’re about a third of the way through a journey that will take most of the day. Lusaka, the capital, seems a long way behind and the city soon gave way to the grassy vistas, trees and farmsteads that make up the views I’ve come to associate with Africa.

The UK seems a long way away geographically and you would have forgiven me – perhaps – for wondering whether it’s a long way away culturally too. I hoped it would be different, because otherwise what’s the point of travelling to new places if they’re just the same as the ones I’ve left behind? The people, on the other hand, well… they’re not really that different.

Yesterday I was talking to the driver who’s very quickly become a friend. I’ve discovered he has a passion. For Liverpool Football Club. His dream is to see his team play – perhaps against Manchester United at Anfield. Or even better to see them play here in Zambia at the incredible Chinese-built stadium near Lusaka.

As we talked we shared our experiences of our own countries, finding more and more in common. The Zambian and the Briton. Only over the weather were we divided – I love the sunshine, he prefers to hide in the shade. But then, as he pointed out, Zambia has a lot of it whereas England has rain. And cold. And then more rain.

Then I noticed a few scattered holes in the road and remarked that in England they were called potholes. He laughed: “They’re called potholes here too,” he said. “And ours don’t get repaired either.”

We carried on comparing notes – he was fascinated to discover that the British education system is free and that only those who go on university have to find the money to study there. Here it’s free for primary school age children but older children have to pay to go to secondary school and it’s only the children of the wealthy who can afford to go on to university.

At one stage he said: “Zambia is a lovely country, but we are poor.”

I thought about that for a moment: “You might be poor in some ways,” I remarked, “But you are rich in the things that matter.”

He looked unconvinced.

“If you ca1A_The office todayme to England and waved at total strangers out of your car,” I explained,

“People would – in the main – look at you as if you were a bit strange and turn away.

“I’m smiling and waving at people here and they wave back. And everyone greets you as if they’ve known you a long time.”

I love the friendliness that means my attempts to write emails and even this blog are constantly interrupted by my new friends asking how I am.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I’ve made some friends amongst the commuting fraternity – but that’s the exception, not the norm.

I’ve often felt we were a suspicious lot in the UK, regarding outsiders as “Not from round here,” and treating them accordingly. In Wiltshire, and in many other places across the UK, there are quite a few places called Coldharbour, which I’m told, were where people were put when they first arrived at a village to make sure they were disease free. I wonder whether this shared memory is where the suspicion of outsiders comes from.

I’m currently travelling to see some work around tackling gender-based violence which is being led by the Anglican church in Zambia. My understanding is that much of the work is being done across whole families to bring about an realisation that all are valuable and all have worth. There is no such thing as an inferior human being.

Back in the UK, people are voting. Democracy is and always has been something worth fighting for. I’ve always thought that just because someone else’s viewpoint isn’t the same as my own doesn’t mean it’s not any less valid and I stand by that.

However, in an election which has seen people’s fears exploited by the closet and openly racist, it is worth reminding all that there is no such thing as an inferior or worthless human being.

And if you’ll forgive the slight misquote of the apostle Paul: “There is no Greek, no Jew, no slave, no free, no Briton, no Zambian, no politician, no political pundit, no voter, nor candidate, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

What is truth?

I love Yes Minister. And its successor, Yes Prime Minister. One of my favourite bits is when Jim Hacker realizes he will have to go back on something he’d promised to do. His private secretary Bernard Woolley listens sympathetically, before offering these words, ‘They were only political promises Minister.’

‘What do you mean?’ asks a bewildered Hacker.

‘I mean, like your manifesto promises, people understand,’ explained Bernard.

It makes me laugh again when I think of it. But I was reminded of that sketch this week when some friends were talking about politicians.

‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for,’ said one friend, ‘Whoever gets in always forgets about their promises or says the previous administration have mucked things up so badly that they need to sort that out before they can start making new things happen. How can we believe a word they say when they never do anything they promise to?’

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If you live in the UK, you cannot fail to notice that we’re now into the rush towards the election.

I’ve already found myself putting my head in my hands as I hear yet another politician explaining how their party will be the ones to sort out the economy, grapple with immigration, help the homeless, do away with the need for foodbanks, give compulsory days off when the sun is shining and unlimited chocolate supplies to writers of blogs.

I may have made a couple of those manifesto promises up, of course. But there is a feeling of cynicism that the political manifesto doesn’t contain real lasting truth. Just short-term promises that may or may not last the course.

And our distrust isn’t just limited to that.

Politicians. Estate Agents. Journalists. Three professions that people associate with spin and often accuse of bending the truth to suit their own purposes.

‘Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story,’ is often bandied about as a joke in newsrooms. Except that sometimes it isn’t a joke. And sometimes however much we pretend otherwise by calling it a fib, a bit of spin or an exaggeration, it is – in fact – a downright lie.

I once said – not very kindly I admit and in a rush of frustration – to a friend whose relationship with honesty had always been at best sketchy, ‘You wouldn’t know the truth if it got up and bit you.’ But sometimes I wondered whether this person truly believed their own lies and whether the ultimate success of the untruthful person is to believe their own spin. Or – perhaps as we’re being honest and transparent here – they need to believe their own lies to justify their behaviour to themselves.

But what is truth? And how do we find it? How do we pick out the truth in the spin and skewed words that fill our ears and our minds every day?

I’m not sure these are the right questions. We believe what we want to hear. We search for a truth that we want to believe. Or as one of my friends – quoting his father – often says, ‘We can only be easily led in the direction we want to go.’

So where is truth found? I believe that truth is only really truth when it’s backed up with action. Let me explain: I wrote previously about my friend Alan and how he showed his love for his daughter by fixing her car (The Mechanics of Grace, January 2015). Alan might tell his daughter he loves her and I’m sure she knows that. But the truth of that love is shown through his actions towards her.

That truth of a father’s love is easy to unpick. The truth of a political manifesto is harder to find.

Also the perfect political party is like the perfect church or a seat on the Friday afternoon train service to where I live: impossible to find. Finding truth in the everyday whether it is in the workplace or amongst our friends is also a tough place to be. Avoiding lies and half-truths and fibs and spin is also tough. If you think I’m wrong, wait until one of your friends says, ‘I’ve had my haircut. What do you think?’ Or you have to fill in your next timesheet or tax return.

We should still search out the truth. We should still tell the truth in a society that’s made an acceptable habit of avoiding it.

It is said that many years ago a group of monks wrestled with how to make an anagram out of the question asked by Pilate when Jesus was put on trial before him. The question – ‘What is truth?’ – apparently translates into Latin as ‘Quid est veritas?’. It’s said that the monks worked long and hard to create the answer ‘Est vir qui adest.’ Those words translate as ‘It’s the man who is here’ or ‘The man who stands before you.’

1_trapped15Jesus was and is a man who inspired truth. His own disciples burst out with things they couldn’t help themselves saying.

Faced with that honest truthful gaze, lies would be impossible and more than once people walked away rather than face it and its gentle challenge. And he also pointed out that it was truth that would set us free.

And on a bleak Friday many years ago a hard-bitten centurion watched a cruel execution and was led to shout out a truth he had only just realised: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God.’

So by all means, let’s challenge our politicians, governments and business leaders to be transparent and open in what they say and how they work. But let’s also remember that a commitment to honesty needs to begin a lot closer to home.

Now… ain’t THAT the truth…