“What’s up with the red asterisks?” and the decline of humanity

a social commentary

I remember when we just moved to Scotland in 2002 (at the time of this writing it is 2018, so that was 16 years ago), then you were normally able to conduct business with people in a real human-kind of way.  By that I mean, you were able to talk to a representative face-to-face, discuss your particular needs and complete a transaction quite quickly (and sometimes even with a warm hand shake).  When we arrived we needed to acquire car insurance.  So I walked up to the local insurance broker, we discussed the product, he even gave me a full discount for having a clean driving record (just by going by my word), I wrote him a check and we were (as it goes) good to go.  Things were simpler then, because people treated other people with a degree of humanity.

Yes, there are risks to being human; we needed to trust each other when we work with each other, when we conduct business with each other.  The Insurance broker made a good decision to give me the discount (we remained his customer until he retired); however, it was a risky move (If it turned out that I was a bad driver it could have been a substantial cost to his company).  Now, I think, there have been many changes in our society which has limited risks to the point that there is little to no room for making necessary relationship risks.  These are the things that make business interactions meaningful and sweeter, losing these consequently gives little to no room for us to practice being human.

I am sure that I share my dislike for the ‘red asterisk’ with many others.  Now that we can no longer do business with other people, in the standard human way, we are forced to do business with computer programs.  Most online applications and forms use the dreaded ‘red asterisk’; this is where the program must have a certain input before preceding further.   If you do not successfully complete the ‘red asterisk’ fields then ‘you may not proceed’.  It is almost comical how rigid the ‘you may not proceed’ phenomenon is.  It reminds me of the famous ‘Soup Nazi’ sketch from the Jerry Seinfeld show in the mid-nineties.  In this sketch there is a soup kitchen where the customers were forced to abide by strict rules enforced by the soup chef, if the customers failed to abide by these rules then service would be refused with a militant shout, “no soup for you!”  This is a funny sketch because it illuminates how ridiculous and impractical such a situation would be.  It is apparent to the viewer that no one in their right mind would subject themselves to such treatment no matter how good the soup is.  But, that was over 20 years ago… was this sketch prophetic in nature… Are we there now?

Even now my wife sits next to be trying to book a holiday for when her parents come out to visit.  She just called the place as usual, but instead of getting through to a person, she is getting a machine that is strongly encouraging her to communicate with another machine via the internet to make her booking.  Is this a coincidence?  I think not!

A way in which we can describe this lack of humanity is to say that there is a lack of love.  How I got to this is by the following.  Humans are relational beings, there is little doubt about that, we need relationships to thrive and even survive, and the best of these relationships are considered loving relationships.  I have worked with autistic individuals for many years; autism describes individuals that have difficulty relating to other people in various social contexts.  Specialists suggest that intervention with autistic individuals is made to teach them how to interact with others in normal ways.  But why?  Why not just let them be.  It is because we (most of society) believe that having meaningful relationships is an important part of being human.  And the greatest and deepest, loving relationships need to be established in order to experience the fullness of being human.  Well, it seems to me that many of our institutions (businesses, etc) are suffering from the same condition.  We need to bring interactive relationship (i.e. humanity) back to business.

It should go without saying that institutions of social nature will only die if they suffer from such conditions.  I think of hospitals, schools, and of course the Church (amongst others).  Jesus warned the ancient church in Ephesus that they will no longer exist as a church unless they returned to practicing love (Revelation 2:4-5).

(I can’t help but wonder if automating our systems as an attempt to rescue us from current economic struggles is actually inadvertently harming us.  I have seen many businesses close due to the current shifts of automation.  I have seen humanity suffer as a consequence of these shifts.  Sometimes panicked solutions are only temporary fixes that will do worse in the long run.  My personal advice to those affected would be to make personal and business changes to adapt to the current changes.  Where there are needs, there will the reallocation of resources to meet these needs, businesses who want to remain ‘human’ need to be creative to find way to access these resources and stay alive.)

Robert, the assistant/youth pastor at Cornerstone preached a brilliant sermon that fits nicely with my argument, I will comment on it now.  He shared with us the dangers of technology (especially social media).  There is a real danger of losing the ability to have meaningful and real loving relationship, which is important for our well-being as humans.  He quoted Albert Einstein who said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.”  The word “idiots” is quite strong, but strategic.  As humans we are not only relational, but we are also intelligent.  Perhaps killing one aspect of our humanity, the relational, will have an adverse effect on our intellect.  Think about it, it takes some mental work to socialise.  If we stop socialising we stop exercising our minds.  Many today are physically ill because of modern sedentary lifestyles (the lack of physical engagement with the real world); perhaps many are also becoming ill because of the sedentary lifestyle of social media and the lack of real engagement with fellow humans.

And now another warning for the Church, Charles Spurgeon once said, “If the heart grows cold, everything will be coldly done.  When love declines, what cold preaching we have!  All moonlit light without heat; polished like marble, and as chill.  What cold singing we get, – pretty music, made by pipes and wind (‘hipster’ music now a day), but oh, how little soul-song! – how little singing in the Holy Ghost, making melody in the heart unto God!  And what poor praying!  Do you call it praying?  What little giving!  When the heart is cold, the hands can find nothing in the purse; and Christ’s Church, and Christ’s poor, and the heathen may perish, for we must needs hoard up for ourselves, and live to grow rich.  Is there anything that goes on as it ought to go when love waxes cold?”

We always knew that these days where coming.  Jesus said about these days with a further diagnosis, “And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:11-13).  It is clear from this passage that we are currently being lied to by a false system of truth.  We may think that we are well, but we are not.  We may thing that what we do gives us freedom, but no, the things that we do harm us.  The prognosis is clear, Do not let your humanity slip away (your love to grow cold).  Exercise your social skills on a regular basis, talk to people about important things, face-to-face.  It may be hard, like exercise is, but it will make you strong and give you the endurance to last till the end.

Remember that if you say that you are a Christian then you must believe that you have been given a new kind of life that is spiritual (see Ezekiel 36:26-27).  This complicates the picture even more.  The gospel is clear that it is God’s will to save humanity, and that he does so by using communities of believing disciples communicating the splendid details of Christ and His Cross to each other and to other people in the society around them.  This is salvation for humanity, and it requires us (the Church) being human (being loving) so that the world around us will know that we are legit (the real thing).  Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35).

Please consider this as a relevant conclusion and application for those who care about our societies:

“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

And now look at how deeply God loves us, he didn’t just send us a text, or liked our posts, he gave us His son,

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Out with the Old, in with the New

Earlier, I was on Instagram when I saw a post of someone throwing out old rubbish and clearing out the house. It is her way of clearing away clutter and stuff that has been building up. It was her cathartic measure to clear away the pains and difficulty of last year. It was a fresh start. It was a new beginning. Out with the old and in with the new.

I have been ruminating on this sentence for a while now, ‘Out with the old and in with the new’. For me it was not about my home, but about my soul and my way of living. It’s about the way I think and behave and speak. The way I choose to face life and solve issues and problems. I have so many old ways left (and will till I die) but this is no excuse for not making way for new ways.

The old ways of living for me often rear their ugly heads, and can at times, rule over me. The old way of trying to be heard… so I shout. The old way of feeling like I am not seen… so I seek to be seen in some foolish way. The old way of feeling intimidated by something or someone… so I judge them before they can judge me. The old way of trying this or that to get what I need often rears its ugly head.

Colossians 3:5 instructs us to “put to death anything that belongs to our earthly nature.” In other words, throw out anyways that belong to the old self; the non-new self. Get it out, purge it out! The message calls this earthly nature, “a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.” It’s time to get out of our lives the ways that are led by things and feelings and instead shape ourselves into the ways of God.

It’s a new year and it can begin in the new ways and not the old. Lay aside these habits of old and bring in the new ways of God. Walking in the newness of life is not something that Christ only offers us one time. We have the chance to walk in new life everyday if we choose.

Blessings,
Dani

New Music – Meditations of Celebration

Hello everyone,

I hope that you are having a wonderful Christmas celebration this year. This sees a new musical release. It is a meditative worship album called ‘Meditations of Celebration’. During a month long sabbatical in October ’17 Scott felt God leading him to write some simple songs that were easy to sing, around the theme of celebration. This album is the product of that season.

Check it out here: http://godsent2.com/foundation-music-project/

Blessing from Scott, Dani and the boys, serving in Shotts, Scotland.

10 Practical Ways to Serve Others

Tis the season to give!  At Cornerstone Scott shared a special message about the importance of humble and self-sacrificial service for others and for God.  At the end of the service, he suggested 10 practical ways to serve others.  I have included them here, please read, enjoy and act.

1. Be there for your friends, family and church
Romans 12:10, Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

2. Volunteer (with a willing and subservient heart) at your church
1 Peter 4:10-11, Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others

3. Donate items to or serve a good charity
Matthew 25:40, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

4. Encourage someone
1 Thessalonians 5:11, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

5. Feed or care for someone in need
Acts 20:35, In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak

6. Offer services, like babysitting, DIY, etc – for free!
Hebrews 13:16, And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

7. Help other people utilise their spiritual gifts
Philippians 2:3, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

8. Listen to people when they need to talk
James 1:19, Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…

9. Do random acts of kindness
Proverbs 11:24-25, One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly but comes to poverty.  25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.  (awesome!!!)

10. Desire opportunities to serve
Galatians 6:9, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Striking a Healthy Balance

The very well-known ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and others when talking about ‘the good life’, spoke in terms of how we ought to live, to behave and function, that we should act in a balanced manner. This is called the ‘Golden Mean’ or the ‘Goldilocks Principle’ (a term also used in Christian Apologetics to explain how well placed our world is in the greater scope of the universe as opposed to where it could have been with devastating results). As a Christian disciple of many years and as a veteran minister I have come to appreciate this principle in everyday life as well as a model for Christian service. Below is a quote from one of my favourite authors, the late Dallas Willard, a brilliant mind and a gift from God who served as a minister and an academic (as professor of Philosophy at University of Southern California). What he says is very simple but very powerful; we need to remember the simple things, lest we forget them and suffer.

“Now we must not worship without study, for ignorant worship is of limited value and can be very dangerous. We may develop “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2) and do great harm to ourselves and others. But worship must be added to study to complete the renewal of our mind through a willing absorption in the radiant person who is worthy of all praise. Study without worship is also dangerous, and the people of Jesus constantly suffer from its effects, especially in academic settings. To handle the things of God without worship is always to falsify them.”

Willard, D. (1998) The Divine Conspiracy, New York, NY, HarperCollins Publishers, p.362-363

Our House

It’s Wednesday night, also known as ‘youth night’. It meets at our house. It has for the last 15 years. I’m sitting here basking in the worship of young people. Young people that keep coming after all these years. Some people would say, “You guys have been out there for a long time, maybe it’s time to come back.” Others might say “Scotland, isn’t there is a greater need elsewhere.” Surely by now our families have asked on several occasions “When are you coming home?”

I’m sitting here thinking of all this as passionate, youthful, loud praises rise to God. I look over at my husband who has been faithful in getting the gospel out to these kids all these years. I feel so grateful to have someone who believes as passionately as I do about the Gospel.
As praises rise to the throne room of God I can’t help but think “Where do these kids keep coming from? And how is it they end up at our door?” I am filled with thankfulness to God, because, as these youth walk around Shotts there is one thing they know for sure. If they are looking for a safe haven, a place to be, someone to talk to, a door they know they can come to and be free to fall before God unashamed and unhindered it’s here. It is here it’s at our house!

As my husband has taught me, ministry and outreach is not a statistic programme, it is spirit lead. You go where God leads you and love who God has given you.

Mark 16:15,
…and then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”

blessings,
Danielle Key

What is going on in this crazy, upside-down, broken world?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.   Ephesians 6:12

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…  2 Timothy 3:1-4

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  1 John 2:15-17

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee!

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.  I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.  Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.  Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

1 John 2:18-29

Sitting down for a moment to reflect on God

I just sat down for the first time since I woke this morning.  I felt like I was going in circles.  Acting a bit manic by flitting from one job to the next.  I got a bit of adrenaline rush and started finishing all the little jobs that needed to be done.  I was actually like a crazy woman doing more than one project at a time.  After hours of organising and making phone calls, I heard a nice, confident voice say, “1 Kings 19:12 … ‘after the fire came a gentle whisper’; you’re getting a bit crazy and out of breath, come sit with me for a while.”  So, I did.

I sat with him and reflected on who he is.  He is great, he is strong, he is forever, he is able, he is kind, he is my friend.  He is all powerful, he is enough, he is patient, he is big so much bigger than anything I face or feel may be my demise.  He is everything.

Sit with him for a while.

Best Wishes,
Dani Key