When I look back on my childhood, I sometimes wonder whether my parents deliberately set out to embarrass me.
The frequency and intensity of mortifying moments seemed to be more than coincidental.
We didn’t have much money, so Mum made our clothes which was fine when we were little but some of the things I remember wearing as we started to get to the top of primary school or first years of high school just don’t bear thinking about.
I’d describe them to you, but I can’t afford the therapy I’d then have to undergo.
One wildly embarrassing thing I remember my Dad doing was that he kept talking about God. All the time.
He used to say grace in cafes and everything.
And when we walked down the road, he’d witter on about something in the Bible in his really loud voice (I’ve inherited it – sorry) and it felt as though everyone turned round to look.
That’s why this Deuteronomy passage always makes me smile:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (6:4-9)
I think you can tick that off the list, Dad. Both the impressing on your children and the walking along the road.
There’s value in repetition, in memorising and reciting.
And there’s power in knowing and understanding what’s important – the love that God has for us and that he calls us to reciprocate and to share with each other – and in reminding ourselves of it.
In my day job at Tearfund, I spend most of my time hearing and mulling over some of the most compelling stories in the world. Stories of loss, grief, despair, lack and poverty. Stories of provision, hope, community, grace, peace, love.
And it’s my privilege to take those stories and find ways to tell them that remind us of the strength and power of God’s love for us.
Like the people of Syria living in Lebanon and Jordan who told me of the appalling horrors they’d witnessed, which meant their children now live with nightmares, sleepwalking, panic attacks and trauma.
Or the women in Malawi who joined together to save their money and lend it to each other so they could set up small businesses to help them stop relying only on farming, now that climate change has ravaged their land.
And the people in Uganda who are sick of seeing their children die of preventable diseases like diarrhoea so they’ve organised themselves into a group that asked the council for the funding had been allocated to health services in their area and came up with their own development plan for a clinic.
There are moments, when I meet such people, when I have the tiniest glimpse into the intense passion of God’s love for us and it stops me in my tracks.
And my way of dealing with it is to tell the stories.
I feel like it’s my way of carrying out the Deuteronomy mandate to talk about the commandments of God.
Because those commandments are to love one another, to share what we have and to speak up for justice.
With colleagues as brainy and creative as mine, there are lots of ways to tell the stories. We tell them on Twitter. We post them on Facebook. We talk in churches. We tell them through visual images in the most beautiful photographs. We make digital animations and infographics.
Because they’re all about the love of God, and the world in which we believe he’s calling us to live.
A world where we see his kingdom coming and his will being done.
Right now, our stories are all about the senseless injustice of global hunger. The monstrous disparity that means one in eight people go to bed hungry even though there is enough food in the world for everyone.
Thousands of Christians will gather in Westminster on Saturday 8 June to share their stories, pray and worship together as a call to the nation to use our leadership of this year’s G8 to change the ending of the story for those one in eight people.
And then we’ll join with even more people, including those of all faiths and none, to gather in Hyde Park to celebrate the power of our shared story and ask the Prime Minister to write the next chapter in our name.
There’s a good ending to this story, if we’re faithful to the most important commandment of all.