spontaneous football

ImageSpontaneous football is the best.  Turning up at the park with a ball and forming teams with whoever happens to be around.  (You can tell I’ve figured out the formula:  the more people you have playing, the less you have to run around the pitch.)  We’ve had some memorable matches this way with friends and with people who were strangers. 

 Feeling a bit weary of the daily requirement to kick a football with our boys when we were in Devon last week, we had a go at asking a group of nearby children and another family if they wanted to play.  Result!  Seven extra players.

 We knew nothing about them but we were soon cheering one another on and having a great time.  We assumed that we were the ones who weren’t local – but it turned out that only one of the children was from the village.  We were all strangers, really. (The father of the other family, we discovered afterwards, was a PE Master from Eton College.  That might explain why he was so good at football.  And polite.) 

 Lately, whenever I take time to think about what I really long for in life, I come up with the word ‘community’.  This might be partly due to the fact that we are living far away from our extended families or it might be because I had some really good experiences of sharing life with people in the past, but it seems a slightly strange thing for an introvert to long for.

 What is community?  For me, it’s a place where everyone is allowed to shine and all feel free to contribute the best that they are and have.  It’s holding yourself back so that others can have a go.  It’s allowing ownership by everyone, not just following the vision of a few.  More than anything it’s being vulnerable enough to admit that you need and value other people especially if you’re actually trying to build the kind of kingdom Jesus talked about.

 When you live in a family, it’s easy to think that community stops there.  (And there is a lot to learn about creating a community-like family.) But our kids don’t just want to play football with their parents- believe me!  I want to be the kind of person that is willing to ask strangers, ‘Would you like to join us?’  And I want to believe that if they say ‘yes’, it will be good for them and also for me.

 Another thing we did in Devon was to go to an indoor climbing centre.  Both of the boys climbed about halfway up the enormous wall a few times before coming down again.  This was fine with me – the heights were making me feel a bit queasy even at a distance.  When our youngest was having his turn – I went up to the viewing balcony, just to take his picture and I found myself at eye level with him as he clung to the handholds.  All I did was smile and say ‘you’re doing really well’ and that was enough to make him determinedly climb all the way to the top.  Honestly, I had no intention of spurring him on but that simple praise was seemingly all that was needed to push him to the top.

That’s what I think we can do in community for each other.  You’re doing really well.  Do you want to join in?


ImageOnce upon a time there was a really good Irish film called ‘Once’ that was made into an even better musical called ‘Once’ that we went to see just over a week ago (sadly, just once). 

 I loved it for lots of reasons:  the beautiful music, the quixotic heroine, the energy, the humour, the opposite-of-Hollywood-ending.  (If you don’t believe me about the music, you can hear a sample here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW8h7vKtxqw  )

 The story is simple and subtle and is built up slowly and almost imperceptibly through the music and the interplay between a small cast of characters.  It’s about an Irish busker and ‘hoover-fixer’ who is feeling stuck.  He meets a young Czech mother who is also struggling and through friendship and a shared love of music, they both enable each other to have the courage and hope to move forward.

 It’s about love, but not in the way that it is normally portrayed.  The two main characters (called simply, ‘guy’ and ‘girl’) are clearly drawn to each other and have a deep connection but ‘getting together’ in the usual Hollywood sense is not the most loving choice they can make.  They love each other enough to recognise and draw out the best in each other for the sake of the music they create.  They realise that their responsibilities mean that they will have to take a harder road, but their friendship empowers them to have the strength to do it.

 Life is full of these choices, usually on a smaller scale.  Which is the most loving choice, even if it is harder?  What will bring out the best in the other person?   Love isn’t as straightforward as we sometimes pretend that is.  ‘Love’s all very well, but in the hands of people it turns into soup,’ as one character says.

 Which kind of love do we want to believe in? The makes-me-happy in the moment kind of love or powerful force that can turn lives around and change the world? (They’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they can be.)

 ‘…Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice…’