A voice in the darkness

Ever felt like you are stuck in a dark place? Then this post is written just for you….

Gods first words in the human story were words spoke in the darkness – words from the darkness. Spoken by God. Spoken to breathe life into the darkness.

Out of the darkness these words were uttered:

“Let… there… be… light!”

And there was light. The first light in the universe came from the voice of God in the darkness. Gods first breathe in the universe created light.

This was the beginning. The first beginning. The first of many beginnings. This is the work of God in our lives. God enters into the darkness, unperturbed or disturbed, to bring light, growth, love, joy, peace that surpasses understanding, and all other manner of blessings as he wills.

Whenever God wants us to grow he leads us into the darkness where we are led by the spirit into the place of deepening faith and holy trust. And into our darkness He speaks ever so gently… let there be light, and Christ enters our darkness. He walks in it with us to lead us through the dark wilderness into his promised land for our lives.

Where there is darkness today God is already at work. New life will spring up at the sound of his gentle voice. Do not listen for a booming voice in the darkness. Look for the still small voice of the Spirit speaking and breathing the new life of God. God is speaking light into your darkness.

The Onslaught of Christmas Stress

So it’s Christmas (almost!). That time of year when parental stress peaks temporarily; family conflicts fly off the handle; the busyness of consumerism feels like it will drown us!

Image result for crazy shoppers
Crazy consumer Christmas!

We cannot deny that for most people the time of glad tidings and joy is more like a giant tidal wave of tasks!  This seems to be the accepted norm of this time of year – “we’ve just got to keep going until Christmas and then we can flop” becomes our mantra.

But is this the way Christmas is meant to be?

As a I look at the original Christmas story there is definitely a lot to be stressed about.

Image result for mary and joseph
Couldn’t have been an easy first Christmas

Mary is travelling on a donkey! Joseph has been considering a silent divorce. They have no hotel booked – I mean, how negligent is that! There’s no hospital to give birth in – the best they can find is a stable! They are miles from their families and support structures (now that’s something many of us can identify with in todays’ working market!!). Stress, stress, stress.

Yet despite this they manage. They manage to get digs for the night. They manage to have a healthy birth in the stable. They are not short of helpful visitors. They cope.

Sometimes you just need to keep on going and you’ll find that you actually can cope.

For Joseph and Mary their coping mechanism was found in God. They found faith in what he told them, and surprisingly it did all work out. Maybe not as they intended. Maybe not as nice as they wanted. But it did all work out in the end.

Keep on Keeping on simply because…you can”

Perhaps like me, you just need to keep on keeping on. Perhaps we do need to just keep going until we can have the rest that Christmas provides us with. I’m looking forward to spending days with my wife and kids where we can just BE. Days with close friends to just laugh, and eat and drink and be fun!

Whatever you are facing I trust that you will keep on going. Keep going because you can. Keep going because somehow, in it all, you will grow stronger in life and faith.

020 Try being helpful

We live in a rather selfish world! Please don’t stop reading, I’m not having a go at anyone – I see so many people taking selfies; trying self-help programmes; promoting their own agendas at the expense of other people. Just look around at Facebook, Instagram or twitter and you’ll see what I mean. Life can be so full of self, so I have a small challenge for you:

Be helpful to others around you – look for opportunities to be HELPFUL.

Helping others takes the focus off ourselves, and helps us to break out of our own egotistical goals, to see the world from another persons’ perspective. Today I was working with a student (SEND needs) and his feet were really smelly. I had this strong conviction that I should not avoid the smell, but that I should clean his feet – and that’s what I did. I cleaned smelly feet today. That might not be your task today, but how could you give a helping hand?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Maybe you could make your grumpy boss a cup of their favorite tea?

Perhaps you could make dinner to give your wife a well earned half hour of quiet space?

Maybe you could…? – you fill in the blank there. Just try to be helpful. It helps others and makes them feels better; supported; special. And in the process… you might just feel a bit more happy and joyful in the process. The aim of helping is to help others, while the by-product is that it will lift your spirits too!

Be full of joy today as you help those around you.

This could be you

How I recently handled a big Disappointment

I recently had a major upset and disappointment in my career journey. I decided early on that I would not let it define me, but rather I would embrace the situation and navigate through it with my head held high, and my eyes on a more positive journey. I have listed some of the things that helped me. What would you add to the list, and what resonates with you?

1. When knocked down – Get up again every time!

2. Be positive – negativity helps no one!

3. Surround yourself with support – listen to those who say you can!

4. Believe in yourself – it helps those around you to believe in you!

5. Remember failure is not the end – it’s part of the journey of life

6. Learn from failure – but move on from it!

7. Keep on keeping on – your perseverance will be worth the effort

8. Be positive – negativity helps no one! 😉

9. Take advice – and filter it down to what helps

10. Accept help – the world is full of amazing, gifted people who can give you strength

11. Don’t be an egotist – remember we still need to look out for those around us

12. Identify your purpose – and move in that direction

13. Have faith.

14. Write down every idea you have – act on as many as you are able

What would you add to the list and what resonates with you?

019 How not to be bored or how to be bored (or 7 ideas for filling your Summer with relaxing stuff)

So in our house its the Summer holidays – we are 2 week into the holidays and already we are hearing the cries “I’m bored”. So today I took the proverbial bored bull by the horns and sat down with my kids to come up with a list of things they could do to fend off the beautiful beast of boredom. So here it is, our list of 7 un-boring things to do:

boy wearing black jacket holding electric guitar

Practice that instrument: does your kid play something? Have they a passion for piano? Do they go gaga for guitar, or are they ecstatic about the xylophone? Manipulate their passion to excel in and instrument or in using that wonderful singing voice.  Music fills a place and a heart with joy!

toddler reading book

Read a good book: I’m a mug for reading and for learning and I love that kids are like little knowledge sponges. I think there are few kids who don’t like a good book, but there are a lot of kids who don’t want to read books that don’t engage them. It took a while for my son to find books that engaged him when he was about 10-13 – then he found Lee Childs and BINGO he’s reading like a pro! I love talking with my kids about what they are reading, and more importantly about what they are observing and learning through their reading!

architecture building business cinema

A Trip to the Cinema: Kids climbing the walls? Do you need a break? Treat yourself and them to a movie. Once the lights are down they can enjoy the film and you might even manage 15 minutes sleep without anyone disturbing you, or even noticing.

bicycle bike biker cyclist

Bike Ride: What’s not to love? It’s exercise so its great for fun, health and your mental balance. It might even fill you with joy as you blow off the boredom cobwebs. Who am I kidding!!!! I hate bikes

bridge child children fashion

Go for a Walk: Now I’m back to good ideas. A walk allows you to slow the pace of life down. Choose somewhere you know the kids can run ahead a little bit (allowing you moments of peace). Give the kids a challenge: how many types of leaf can you find and identify? Lie down in the grass and see who can find the coolest animal shape in the clouds. Imagine you’re walking through Jurassic Park (might not be restful, but it wont be boring)

photograph of men having conversation seating on chair

Help your local coffee shop make a profit: Coffee is one of the gifts of God to the world, so it would be a sin not to indulge! My kids love when we go for a coffee, always hopeful that some cake will be thrown into the mix! Coffee shops are great for people-watching – one can learn so much about people and Hipsters when consuming coffee (or tea, or some other drinky thing!).

Bored

Get bored: My kids are ALWAYS telling me they are bored, and I now always respond with “It’s good to be bored – enjoy!” Someone once said that boredom is the birthplace of creativity (Ok, I admit that it’s only me who ever said that!). It is true though – when we allow our minds to wander around in boredom, our minds wander into places they might not otherwise have reached. Boredom allows us to mentally and intellectually go ‘off piste’. It helps us think where and how we don’t usually think. Embrace boredom and you will embrace creativity.

My 8 year old is currently building a house. Yes, you hear that right – building a house! She was bored last week and began to imagine a little house with rooms. She began collecting crafty bits and pieces and yesterday began constructing her house. She’s collected paper for the walls and carpets; loo rolls for cupboards; etc. All this came from boredom.

So I implore you to change how you view boredom – boredom is a pathway to joy. Embrace it like an old friend; wear it like a winter coat; wander in it’s directionless travel through the beautiful fields of your imagination – you never know what creative genius you will find.

we got bored

Things Jesus Modeled and Taught – Love

I had a chess set a long time ago, and I loved that little chess set. It was a rather funky, electronic board that meant I could play chess even when no one else in the family wanted to play – and that was always. So I played against the computer – an unseen opponent way smarter than myself (because truth be told, I ain’t that smart most of the time!). Anyway, I loved that chess board until way beyond the day it gave up the ghost and it could play no more.

Now I have different loves: I love my guitar (although I neglect it often). I have a strong attachment to my guitar and I’d be sad if it ever left me.

I love tasty food (but I don’t neglect that love!). Yet, I can live without food. I can fast; I can miss meals; I can go without – it truly doesn’t bother me. I love food, but I recognise that even when it’s tasty, It’s a means to an end of survival.

I am part of a family consisting of me, my wife, and my three children – I love my family beyond words. They are my deepest loves on this revolving planet in this great universe! If I ever lost them I would be a wreck, devastated with a hole in my heart. But despite my love, I still find that I do not treat them perfect, much as I try. I will let them down. There are times when I’ve not been there for them. There will be times when my love alone doesn’t seem to be enough for them. This is a deep love, but it is also an imperfect human love.

Jesus taught, spoke and modeled a life of love a LOT! But what he taught about love differs from the loves I’ve described above. He taught that there is a love so much MORE than the love we show. Many in the past have described or called it the unconditional love of God:

When you look at the love of Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) it is clear that God’s Love is a big love; a boundless love; a better love – it has no end to it. According to the God Book no matter what you do in life God never stops loving you. This does not equate to us acting how we want and God shrugging his shoulders with a ‘doesn’t matter what you do’ perspective – what we do really does matter to God, but what you do DOES NOT stop God from loving you – as already written: God’s Love is BOUNDLESS. I have seen this in my own life.

  • I have experienced loss and grief – God held me in his loving hands.
  • I have been an idiot and let people down – God gently led me lovingly back along the pathway called repentance into the wide street of reconciliation
  • I have experienced many failures – God loved me in the ditch and reached down many times to pick me up and set my feet on a secure path despite my failings
  • I have lived through horrendous abuse – God healed and restored my soul so that I could experience the joy of living well and happy

There is no part of your life that God cannot reach with his love if you will let him. He longs for you to open your heart to His goodness. The good book (the bible) tells us that Jesus ‘knocks at the door’ calling out for us to open our lives to Him (Revelation 3:20). Even while suffering on the Cross of crucifixion Jesus was still revealing boundless love – he cried out to God to forgive those who caused his suffering and impending death; he sees to it that John the beloved disciple will take care of of his mother; he assures the criminal on the cross next to him that he will enter paradise. This is the boundless depth of the love Jesus taught, spoke of, and lived out in his short time on earth!

The Good Book talks about how the invite to know God’s love is open to all today – it is an inclusive invite for all to come to God and experience His transforming love personally. Maybe today you can open the door to Jesus; open the door of your heart to the love of God; open the door to his healing work; open the door to happiness with Jesus in your corner.

His love is more. More than we have ever experienced – can you hear his love calling to you today?

Sometimes you just need to get out of your Church for your own good!

There are times in life when struggle seems to be the norm. Jesus himself taught his disciples that in this world you will have hardships. He also talked openly about the difficulties his followers would face. We would hope that during times like these we can retreat into the presence of God, as well as find support, comfort and good advice from the Church. The former is true: we can always retreat into the place of prayer where God is always available, always listening and always interested. But what if the difficulties you face are found in the Church? What if members of the very community that should gather around those who are hurting are actually taking on the role of the oppressor?

This can be one of the hardest things for a follower of Jesus to face: others who follow him acting in ways that do not honour him. Often these people will look and act similarly to Jesus, but they have lost sight of Jesus and how he treated others. They have lost sight of the core teaching of Jesus to love your neighbour as yourself. They have distanced themselves from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and will be failing to portray the fruit of the Spirit. despite these things they will present a form of religion that is likely to look authentic on the surface.

Such people are masters at manipulation and will highlight your errors to mask their own.

Such people will undermine your confidence at every turn.

Such people will put you down as they seek to remind you to stay in your place

What can you do to safeguard yourself from people like this?

Make sure you walk closely with Jesus yourself – do not be solely dependent upon your Church to grow your faith. It is important to grow in a faith community, but it is essential that you are personally connected with Jesus in order to see error and to grow strong in your faith

Have friendships outside your faith community – do not close yourself off from people outside the church. If your church expects you to do this you need to leave and find a healthier spiritual home. There are many great churches out there

Seek spiritual input from a variety of people and places. Don’t be afraid to occasionally visit other Churches, or to spend time with Christians from other theological persuasions – God will use these to challenge your thoughts and to grow your faith

Be strong in God and follow the convictions of your heart – sometimes he is just telling you to get out. If you think this is the case find some spiritual people outside your context to pray and talk with – I cannot tell you how important this is! I personally share my life joys and struggles with a handful of Godly people who help me to process life in a positive, accountable and spiritually practical manner

Get out! Do not stay in a manipulative faith context with the hope that it will improve – most times it does not!

The life that Jesus promised was not an easy life, but the Church that he builds is a Church that supports, not that oppresses. May your faith be grown strong as you lean on Jesus.