March 2015

Pope FrancisDear Friends,

Those of you who are on the internet will know how infuriating it is to keep getting unsolicited emails. If Amazon don’t stop offering me the world, at a reasonable price of course, I will probably throw my computer out of the window at some stage in the near future.

As you know, it’s Lent – when traditionally we think about giving things up. The question is does giving up being wound up by unsolicited emails count? I suspect not, although giving up allowing myself to be wound up by things in general might be a very good long term plan. I sometimes manage to watch a program called ‘Room 101′ in which famous people tell the presenter what things they would like to banish from everyday life. The presenter, Frank Skinner, then decides which is most annoying and banishes it in Room 101 – it’s a silly program really but I find myself agreeing with quite a lot of the things that people want to stop. Unsolicited email would definitely be on my list, along with calls about accidents I’ve apparently had in the last two and a half years (I haven’t had an accident for years, though looking at my car you wouldn’t believe it) and I’d also add beetroot and parsnips – don’t ask – Oh all right then, I don’t like them and restaurants seem to be obsessed with putting them in vegetarian dishes at the moment (sorry to all you sweet veg lovers).

Having said all that I have to say that I do actually enjoy reading one of these unsolicited emails. It comes from an organisation called the Denison Forum, and although I don’t agree with everything they say they do sometimes have some interesting topical points of view. The last email for instance contained an article about Pope Francis’ ten top tips for bringing greater joy into life. It made me think and wonder again, as I often do in Lent, whether we shouldn’t be taking something up or adjusting the way we live in some way, rather than giving up chocolate. So below you’ll find the Pope’s top tips and some of the Denison Forum’s comments – let me know what you think.

Rule #1:
“Live and let live.” – “Move forward and let others do the same.”
He is right, of course – none of us can make life’s decisions for others. We are each responsible for our own relationship with our Lord and with others. We can pray for others, but we must then trust them to God.

Rule #2:
“Be giving of yourself to others.”
The pope wants us to be open and generous toward others, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. … We must give out to take in….A clenched fist cannot receive. …We can ask of every circumstance in life, How can I use this to benefit others?

Rule #3:
“Proceed calmly” in life… “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”
Our Father calls us to “be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). We find peace in the Prince of Peace.

Rule #4:
“A healthy sense of leisure.”
The pope warns that “consumerism has brought us anxiety” and stress. Our time is so “swallowed up” that we cannot share it with others. The pope’s admonition brings to mind John Wesley’s maxim: “Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry, because I never take on more than I can do with calmness of spirit.” (note to self: I must remember this one)

Rule #5:
“Sunday is for family.”
Francis believes that workers should have Sundays off so they can spend them with their families.

Rule #6:
Find ways to create dignified jobs for young people.
The pope noted, “We need to be creative with young people’. (And I would add not just in jobs but in every area of life).

Rule #7:
Respect and care for nature.
Francis called environmental degradation “one of the biggest challenges we have.” He added: “I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'”

Rule #8:
Stop being negative.
Pope Francis: “Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down.'” He believes that “letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.” Scripture teaches us: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Rather, we are to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Rule #9:
Respect the beliefs of others.
Francis: “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you.’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing.” (The Denison Forum disagreed with this. What do you think?)

Rule #10:
Work for peace.
The Pope noted that “we are living in a time of many wars,” and “the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive.” The Forum is obviously an evangelical organisation but at the end of the article they say: ‘Pope Francis is making a remarkable difference in our world. As the face of the Catholic Church, he is showing non-Christians the gracious, joyful face of Jesus.’ Do you agree?

What do you think? Is Pope Francis right? What would your ten top tips for a joyful Christian life be?

God Bless you in your deliberations, my friends.

With Love


PS If you want to find out more about the Denison Forum, or read this article in full, you can just type the name into a search engine. But beware – you will get emails every day!

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