love

What's in a Name?

I'm thinking about names today.

Not just our actual birth name, or the name you have chosen for yourself, but how we are known in the world, and to those around us.

On this day - 22 July - in 1478 a man called Philip was born. He would become ruler of the  Burgundian Netherlands which is sort of the area which now incorporates among other locations, present-day Belgium, The Netherlands  and Luxembourg.

He was also titular Duke of Burgundy (1482 - 1506) in present-day France. And he was the first Habsburg King of the Spanish kingdom of Castile for a brief time in 1506, before his death in September of that year, when he was had the regnal title of Philip I. 

Philip the HandsomeHe was born into royalty and power. All these titles and territories were part of Philip's inheritance ... he was the son of  Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Mary of Burgundy, and he was less than four years old when his mother died, and upon her death, he inherited the Burgundian Netherlands. An arranged marriage in 1496 to Joanna, the second daughter of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, put him in line for more.

When her mother died in 1504, Joanna inherited the thrones of Castile and Aragon, and she became Queen of Castile which meant that Philip was proclaimed King in 1506, Sad story but when he died a few months later Joanna was left distraught with grief which gave her father, and her own son, Charles, an opportunity to seize power. Joanna was deemed insane and imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Life was harsh in those says. 

An aside here, Joanna was actually an elder sister to Catherine of Aragon, who would later become Queen of England, and the first of King Henry VIII's six wives!

But back to Philip ... he apparently was well known not just for his status and titles, but also for his good looks. He had fair hair and 'attractive grey-blue eyes' and so he became known as 'Philip the Handsome' or 'Philip the Fair'.

So, with all the things he did in his life, all the places he owned and the countries he reigned over, the obvious love he shared with his wife given her grief when he passed away, Philip's overriding legacy is that he was good looking!

Now, I don't know what he was like as a man, maybe he enjoyed that sort of admiration, perhaps he was vain and loved all the attention. But he might also be turning in his grave, wanting to shout out very loudly ...  'I WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST PRETTY!'

Which has got me thinking.

How do I want to be remembered? In fact, how do YOU want to be remembered when you have shuffled off this mortal coil?

What will our legacy be?

Philip is known as 'Philip the Handsome'. Do you want to be remembered just as 'Polly the Pretty' or 'George the Good Looking?' 

How about 'Rachel the Rich' or 'Fred the Financier'? 'Peter the Powerful'? 'Brenda the Business Owner'? 'Cathy the Clever'? 'Norah the Negative'?

'Patsy from the Posh House'? 'Bernard with the Big Car'? 'Dorcas of the Designer Outfits'? 

I've just picked names out of the blue here ... no offense intended. But you see what I'm getting at?

How do I want to be remembered?

'Cathy the Rich, Famous, gorgeous'?' The person who lived in a big house, drove a huge car, wore designer gear and had a huge bank account? The person who was defined by the job they did, but not much more? The man or woman who went to flash parties and showed off a lot?

Or would I rather my legacy be more meaningful?

'Cathy the Compassionate'?

'Philip the Protector?'

'Bernard the Brave'? 'Patsy the Prayerful'? 'Charles the Caring'? 'Keith the Kind'? 'Rachel the Respectful?' 'Fred the Forgiving'? 'George the Generous'? 'Harriet the Hospitable'? 'Laura the Loving'? 'Polly the Peaceful'? 'Thomas the Thankful'? 'Norah  ... the Positive'?

When people think about us, and about our name, what 'values' might they assign to us? What will they remember us for? Will they remember our smile, our kindness, our caring nature, the love we gave?  Or will they remember that we lived in the big house, drove the big car, was obsessed by our looks and our status in life with little thought of others?

What's in a Name?

As I remember Philip the Handsome today, I'm minded to also think on this ... and to maybe consider a change in my attitude and behaviour now, before it's too late.

What's in MY Name?

Big Thinking Stuff for a Thursday!

                                                                                                                                            


All we need is Love

Here's another one of my 'favourite films' moments.

Ok, so it's a bit unseasonal ... but today I'm thinking about the 2003 movie Love Actually.

It's associated with Christmas, of course, because it's set in that season. But as the title indicates, it's all really about love.

Love in different forms, unrequited love, love which is not returned, love which is complicated, people showing love and sharing love, love at different stages of life.

I love it!

Why am thinking about this ... in July?

Well it's not to do with the whole 'Christmas in July' thing, I can assure you!

No it's because there's a song in the movie, near the start of the film, which is one of my favourites.

And it was released as a single this day - July 7th - in 1967.

All you need is loveI'm talking, of course, about All you Need is Love, from the 'Fab Four' - the Beatles!

Although it was written by John Lennon, it was credited to the Lennon–McCartney song-writing partnership. Lennon apparently deliberately wrote lyrics that were simple because the song was actually written not just for the British market, but for s specific global event and it needed to have international appeal.

All you Need is Love was Britain's contribution to Our World, the world's first live global TV special. The Beatles were filmed performing the song at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967 and the programme was broadcast via satellite, and seen by over 400 million people in 25 countries. 

It's one of those songs that's in our psyche and in our history. It's certainly in mine.

Many of us can just sing along. It's a song which with the constant repetition of the chorus 'All you need is love' .. has a powerful message. And it's not about love we can't attain. It's about doing everything with love.

I mentioned that on Sunday, but it's definitely worth the repetition. 

So - combining one of my favourite songs, with a favoured movie... here it is - as featured in Love Actually.

It's a strong reminder of something that's really important, and which - if we all just tried to love a little bit more -  could change the world.

 

 

 


All that You Do

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we were all just a bit nicer and a bit kinder to each other? 

A little less self centred, a little more considerate of others?

If you've been reading this blog for the past few days you'll know that I'm a bit thoughtful at the moment ... and I've been thinking about the world we create.

Kindness is a big thing for me and in fact I'm beginning to work on a project about that with a friend - more about that later.

But today, as I continue to think about my impact on the world, my influence and the world I want to live in and to leave for others, I turn to the Bible for ultimate wisdom.

In the New Testament in one of Paul's letter to the Corinthians he says this ... 

Do everything in love ! Love without stopping!

Those words come from different translations of 1 Corinthians Chapter 16 verse 14, respectively the New International Version and The Message.

In the old King James Version it's put like this ...

Let all that you do be done with love.

Imagine what the world would be like if we all did even a little bit of that. 

What a perfect thought for a Sunday especially.

 

In love


Not Alone

I was chatting to a doctor recently who explained that one of the issues he sees more and more, especially with his older patients, is loneliness.

It's a real issue which affects not just their mental health but their physical wellbeing. 

This past year, with the coronavirus pandemic restricting our movements, many of us have become more lonely. Some have had to spend many hours on our own without company, friends, family. While some have, I'm sure, enjoyed doing their own thing without interruption, for some it's had a terrible effect on their wellbeing.

Governments across the world, including in the UK, are now recognising that this is having an impact on millions of people, and have realised that it is having and will have dreadful consequences for health services in the future. They've researched the subject, commissioned reports from experts and are devising policies to combat loneliness. 

Loneliness 'Networks', funding for charities working to alleviate people's loneliness, 'Let's Talk Loneliness' strategies ... and so on and so on...Some of those policies are being implemented, but when it comes to long term government plans, well it can all take quite a while to materialise.

And here's a thought.

What happens when the government and even charity priorities shift as they inevitably will? What happens when the funding dries up?

While I applaud the official research and the sentiments of support being expressed, and hope it will result in lonely people feeling ... well, not so lonely ... I think there's more to this than just policies and strategies. As well as all the 'official stuff' it's also down to us personally to make a difference in a lonely world.

One of the things that the pandemic taught us was that sometimes we have to work hard to help people out of their loneliness. Now restrictions are lifting we can do more than phoning people once a week or once a month, or dropping bags of groceries on the doorstep. Perhaps we all need just to think of others a bit more. Be a good neighbour, knock on the door, chat to someone in the street. Recognise that people may be hiding their loneliness with bravado, false smiles and fake humour.

Some people's problems go very deep and we can't solve everything for them, even with all the policies and strategies in the world, but we can walk alongside them, letting them know that whatever they are going through, they are not alone. Reaching out a hand of friendship, a listening ear and a neighbourly smile.

What a thought!

When someone is broken


A June Wedding

Mid June is a popular time for weddings. The prospect of  fine weather always helps of course although in Great Britain and the UK one can never count on a good day, even in summer. But I guess there's more chance of sunshine in June than at other times and these days, of course, the photographs of the day will be the lasting memories for many couples so a bit of sun goes a long way to making a happy Wedding Day!

In the past year, a few of my friends have had to postpone or scale down their wedding day plans because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, and I know for some that has been rather traumatic. 

But I also know for many couples who've had to change their plans it has meant they have focussed more on the day and the commitment they are making rather than the 'party'. And that has to be a good thing, doesn't it? 

Why am I thinking about weddings? Well ... it's because it was on this day - June 16th - in 1855 that a couple called William Booth and Catherine Mumford were married in a very scaled down simple ceremony in London. 

Stand by for a blatant plug for the first book I wrote!

William and Catherine BoothWilliam and Catherine Booth were the founders of The Salvation Army, which is now a global Christian church and charity movement working in more than 130 countries, but on their wedding day they were still 'seeking' their future. William was a struggling Christian evangelist and his travels across England had kept him and his fiancée apart for many months.  

There are no photos of the day itself, although the couple did get photographs taken across the years so we know what they looked like when they were young.

Their marriage would be the start not just of a busy family life (eventually they produced eight children) but also of their shared Christian service which would take them around the country, working first in the Methodist Church and finally in their own evangelistic ministry which would lead them back to London a decade later. It was in 1865 that they would create The East London Christian Mission which in 1878 became The Salvation Army.

Since their first meeting in 1852 William Booth and Catherine Mumford had regularly written letters and notes to each other and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage, as they were often separated by work and circumstances. And it was those letters, which are held in the British Library in London, which inspired me to write my first book.

WIlliam and Catherine front cover Sept 2013 Monarch books

'William and Catherine, the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' was published by Monarch (Lion Hudson) books in 2013 and it draws not just on that personal correspondence but also on my imagination.

Included in the book are extracts from the letters, with kind permission of the Booth Family and the British Library. As I read their notes and letters I learned, I think, a little about Catherine and William's characters and so, in addition to extracts from many of the couple's letters and the historical narrative, my story also includes some 'imaginative' excerpts - my 'storytelling', my ideas on how they would have reacted to certain circumstances and events in their lives, some insignificant but others which are important in the history of The Salvation Army.

Which brings me to June 16 1855 and that quiet wedding in London. This excerpt, this little 'story', is in Chapter 7 of my book and is my imagining, based on what I know happened on the day and my understanding of the couple involved, of what transpired on that rather chilly day in mid June.

The sun emerged from behind the early summer clouds as Catherine and William stepped over the threshold of the Stockwell Green Congregational Church.
Catherine clutched her new husband’s hand, feeling small yet secure. William looked down at Catherine’s sweet face and smiled. He could feel her shaking ever so slightly and a rush of protectiveness towards this woman overwhelmed him. He could hardly believe that, after all this time and so many obstacles, they were at last man and wife.
It had been a short and solemn service and blessing. Perfect. Catherine had been pale and had spoken quietly, her voice quivering as she repeated her vows of love and obedience. In contrast, William had found that his voice, which he was accustomed to using to rather larger congregations, had rung loudly around the church. As his “I do!” echoed around the building it had provoked a little giggle from his beloved. Then, in the cavernous chapel, William and Catherine had knelt at the altar and pledged themselves to God and to each other.
Behind Catherine, William noticed that his father-in-law, John Mumford, and his sister Emma, the only witnesses to the solemn ceremony, were now exiting the building and squinting in the watery sunshine. For a moment he regretted the absence of the rest of his family. Of course, it was unlikely that Ann would attend, but he had hoped that his mother and her namesake, his sister Mary, all those miles away in Nottingham, might have been able to make it, even at such short notice. However, he and Catherine had been thrilled when Emma had sent word that they would be able to afford for her, at any rate, to attend. He knew Catherine’s day was also slightly saddened by the fact that her own mother had been disinclined to attend the ceremony, but, as he held Catherine’s little gloved hand in his, he felt a rush of love and appreciation for her commitment to him.
Catherine pulled her shawl closer around her neck and shoulders. She shivered again. Even with layers of petticoats under her skirts she still felt the chill of the day. Maybe she should, after all, have worn her coat. The few days of milder weather in May hadn’t lasted and it was still chilly, even for mid-June.
Catherine turned to the Revd David Thomas, who had so kindly agreed to preside over this most sacred of ceremonies.
“Mr Thomas, thank you!” she announced, grasping his hand and shaking it wholeheartedly. No simpering little handshake for this gentleman. She remembered their previous debates and discussions about the place of women in church and society, and she knew he would expect this forwardness from her, even on this day.
Father Mumford was calling from the street. The Stockwell New Chapel was tucked away from the main thoroughfare and he had a cab waiting. William, Catherine, and Emma took their leave of the minister and made their way to the horse drawn vehicle. It was but a short drive back home to Russell Street in Brixton, where, regardless of her unwillingness to attend the actual service, William was sure that Mrs Mumford would be waiting with some light refreshments. Whatever her views on the marriage, and he still wasn’t quite sure of her, she loved her daughter unconditionally and would, he was sure, come around.
William reached out his hand to Catherine. She grasped it and he helped her into the carriage. Whatever the future held now, they were one. The Lord would determine their way, and, whatever happened, they would face it together.

If you fancy reading more, my book is still available all over the place, including from the usual online sites as well as the Lion Hudson website. 

Thanks!

*image The Salvation Army Heritage Centre


Smile Give Love

On the surface of things this looks like a simple thought for a Sunday.

I love the idea of Smiling, Giving and Loving more than anything else.

But actually it's a lot deeper than I first thought.

If we smile a bit more than we frown, cry and whine, imagine the happiness we could share.

If we give a bit more than we take out of life and spread around the good things we are given, rather than keeping everything to ourselves, then we will create a world that is more equal and just.

If we love more than we dislike and hate - well the world will just be a better place all round.

It's sometimes hard to do, but who knows what the outcome for our world might be if we all give it a go.

Ready to join me?

 

Happy Sunday thought


My Dad

Today I'm thinking about my Dad.

Why? Because today would have been his 100th birthday!

That seems incredible to me. He was born in 1921, when the 20th century was still relatively new. It feels like a universe away from 2021 ... with technology at our fingertips, the internet, air travel, modern medicine, social media. I could go on. In the past 100 years the world has 'developed' beyond imagination. 

DadWhen my Dad came into the world, The War to End all Wars had ended just a few years before ... and of course these days we know it as 'The First World War' so actually another global conflict would come within a couple of decades. And as a 19-year-old my Dad would be involved, fighting for our freedom! Dad RAFAfter a relatively privileged childhood in the lovely and quiet island of Jersey, as the beloved youngest son, that must have been such a shock to his system.

Five years and more later he was a civilian again and destined to spend his life as a farmer in his home island until God got involved and he became a Christian. He spoke so eloquently of the change that came into his life when he met Jesus and it altered his whole perspective on life and his future. With my Mum, who he would meet in those early days of his life as a Christian, he would devote himself to ministry in The Salvation Mum and DadArmy church, including working with Mum leading churches across the UK and then as missionaries in Africa. And raising four children. Often, I know, living on very little, sacrificing much for his family and just being wonderful really. Le Feuvres

Kind, a gentleman, hardworking, funny - his puns were more than 'Dad Jokes' - and loved by many, including those who came under his ministry and leadership and who he mentored and nurtured. 

But for me he was just my 'Dad' and I his little girl. 

If I take myself back in time in my head and heart I can still feel his hug, and see his smile, and hear him singing 'Here we go again, Happy as can be ... All Good Pals, and Jolly Good Company' in the car as we travelled along.  Teaching me to swim by holding my hands, gripped safely in his palms and gradually letting me go to fend for myself. I can still hear him encouraging me as he taught me to drive and being SO surprised when I passed first time, although he never let on that he wasn't sure I was ready for the test. I can still hear his laughter, his head tilted to one side as he smiled. I can still see him digging in the garden and working with the cows on that farm in Kenya, places I know he loved especially. Coming in at the end of the day, covered with African dust and dirt. Holidays on the beach in Jersey with his sand creations - tables we could sit at for lunch, like huge practical sandcastles. And on those glorious beaches in Kenya, playing table tennis with us kids. So many many memories  Dad with Honey

For years after he passed away aged just 63 I expected him to pop his head around a door with a smile saying 'Got you!' His sense of humour still lingers in my heart.

As I grow older, closing in on the age Dad was when he died ... or 'Promoted to Glory' as they say in The Salvation Army church to which he was devoted ... I think I appreciate him more and more. I have at times felt 'robbed' that we and the world didn't have him for longer, because he had so much to give in life, but I am grateful for the time we did have.

I am thankful that he was .. he is ... my father. I feel honoured to have had such Christian examples in my Dad and Mum and to have been raised with love. My brothers and I are very privileged to have love like that because I'm aware not everyone has that in their lives.


Dad and I graduationAnd although I still miss him every day, I thank God for my Dad. A man who was, in reality, from another era. In fact, his parents were Victorian so he was raised in a different world really and his life spanned some of the biggest changes of the 20th century. So apart from the war, Dad lived through challenging and tumultuous times! Heaven knows what he would have made of the internet and social media and all the stuff which surrounds us and determines our lives today. 

But I think Dad would have faced it all with strength and wisdom and humour, because he was that person throughout his life. 

SO Happy Birthday Dad!

I Love You!

 

 


June Blessings

It's the first day of June and it's the chance to head into a new month.

So all I want to say today is 'Be blessed!'

 

June 1 blessings


A Mother's Love

Today I want to talk about my Mum.

I know most people think that their Mother is the best Mum in the world ... but mine REALLY is.

She's an amazing person. A great woman. Although she's my mother, she's also my friend - we get on so well - and she's a great role model for me, not just as a woman but also as a Christian.

My mum is a person of deep faith and has lived her life for Jesus since she was in her late teens, often sacrificially. She and my Dad spent most of their married life in Christian ministry and my dad and mum have touched many lives down the years. She's hardworking, a great cook, not someone who pushes herself forward, kind and caring. Mum is a person of grace and love and although she's now aged, she is still sharing that love with her family, albeit a little quietly now.

Mum has also made so many sacrifices down the years for us, her children and her family, and for and her example of love and care I will always be grateful. I love her more than words can say and I'm so pleased we still have her with us and that it is now our turn to care and help her through her day.

It was Mum who first introduced me to the religious and inspirational poetry of Helen Steiner Rice, another woman of faith who had the ability to touch hearts and minds.

So today, on my Mum's birthday, here's a short line by the poet that I think sums up my mother ... it's a simple poem but profound in its sentiment. It inspires me to write ... but actually today it expresses  just what I want to say.

Happy Birthday Mum! Have a Wonderful Day!

Mother's love helen steiner riceve