Ancient prayers and renewed thoughts

I came across this Franciscan Prayer on a memory stick when looking for some research notes – it struck me that sometimes ancient words have the power to create new thoughts within us. With all the pain in the world at the moment words of encouragement, hope and inspiration are medicine for our souls.  I pray that today these ancient words of prayer will resonate and reinvigorate your soul:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,

half truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may live deep within your heart.

 

May God bless you with anger at injustice,

oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

 

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who

suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,

so that you may reach out your hand

to comfort them, and to turn their pain in to joy.

 

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

to believe that you can make a difference in this world,

so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

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?

Faith moves mountains 🏔

img_3342.jpg

Have faith in God.

Have faith in yourself.

God has faith in you.

Ever thought that?

Never thought that?

Thought worth thinking, that.

Believe for the best.

Believe you can do it.

You’ll get through it.

Trust in yourself.

Trust God’s help.

He’ll see you through.

Mindful Reflection

img_3334.png

It’s that day of the year again: you know the one where we think back and look forward?!

Reflecting back is great, and helpful, and we ought to do it more. Looking back is NOT about living in the past – it IS about learning from the past in order to move forward today.

As we reflect on this year, what learning can we share with others for the coming year?

Happy New Year

Stuart

On the journey there are valleys to pass through

Every adventure commences with great excitement and expectation. The heroes band together, united in their quest, hungry for success to greet and embrace them with the warmth of an old friend.

In life there are wide pastures where we can relax; enjoy the people we love; stop for refreshment; etc. In the pastures we are refreshed and restored. We smile, laugh and experience joy again.

white sheep on farm
The Pasture

Life also has it’s mountains. These are the situations that develop strength in our ‘life muscles’ as we climb through life’s difficulties -and we climb with hope because we know there’s a great view to see at the top. On the mountain top we can stop; we take in the wide panorama of how life has led us to these moments and we are generally grateful for the positive and negative experiences we have faced.

accomplishment action adult adventure
The Mountain

But what is there in-between the pasture and the mountaintop? What if we are neither on the mountain or playing in the pasture? Where are we then?

For a lot of people the in-between feels like a valley, and that’s not a great place to be. The valley is where the sun cannot reach; it can feel like utter darkness (how often have you heard someone say ‘I was in a really dark place’ when they are coming out of a life-struggle?); it can feel oppressive, hopeless, joyless, or worse. It can be a place where you feel isolated and lonely.

adventure arid arizona barren
The Valley

So how do we cope with life’s valleys? Here’s my three tips:

The Valley experiences WILL pass (and you don’t need to forget them)

Remember that our hard times will pass: they are not eternal – they ARE temporal. Time does heal, and we do find ways to keep on moving forward (and it’s okay to look back and remember where you’ve come from, as well as look forward to where you’re heading!).

The Valley teaches us about reality

In the valley the candyfloss of positive thinking and empty optimism is blown away and we are left with what is real – real emotions; real thoughts; real experiences. It blows away the dross of empty wisdom and meaningless clichés, as well as showing us the depth of friendships and relationship we really have. Although in the short/medium term this can be a painful process, in the long term our lives can only benefit from this raw sense of experiential reality.

The Valley is a transitional Place

This is a truth worth holding onto: the Valley is not a place we are meant to dwell in – it is a place to pass through. Humanity cannot dwell in darkness for long – we are created to live in the light. It is a place to walk through – not to sit in. It is a place to learn in – not to live in.

Are you in a valley of life right now? Is the darkness pressing into your mind or your heart? Are life’s struggles tipping your emotions into a dark place?

Keep stepping forward towards the mountain or the pastures. You will get there eventually, even if it feels tough right now. Keep on keeping on – the valley won’t last forever.

 

 

 

 

Partnership & perseverance move mountains (or fridges!)

The fridge stood in the middle of the room where the delivery guy had left it. It was huge! I unfortunately am not huge. How on earth would I move this fridge?

We’ve all had days like this: days when there’s something in our lives that appear to be immovable. It might be a big white fridge, a debt, or a housing issue. We each have our own ‘barriers to progression’ or ‘monsters to fight’. We all have complex issues facing us in our workplace or in our business. Life can be full of the immovable!

But back to the fridge…

So my fridge was intimidatingly large standing there in the middle of the room. I decided to start trying to move it. Sometimes you just need to make a start.

Sometimes you just need to make a start!

I pushed and pulled; I rocked it and tried to walk it… and I began to move it! Making a start on something is always the first step to moving the problem. But I got tired. My muscles ached. My hands got sore. My mind began telling me I couldn’t shift it. I needed help!

Sometimes you just need to ask for help!

I asked for help. A friend came round and moving the big white fridge became easier. I still felt the weight of it, but it became manageable and movable.

But what if we hadn’t been able to move the fridge? We couldn’t just leave it in the middle of the room. We would have kept on trying until that fridge was moved, plugged in, and working as it was designed to work. We would have persevered!

Sometimes you just need to persevere!

We all have the metaphorical fridge in the middle of the room. Who can you help today to move theirs?

 

018 Why the character of your heart really matters

I have been thinking much recently about what is important regarding how we conduct ourselves when life goes pear-shaped and messed up.

The bible has much to say about the importance of looking after your heart (not-least because it is the wellspring of life!). In the bible there’s this story about a prophet called Samuel. The story tells how Sam is sent to find and anoint a new king (a death-worthy mission when you consider the current king is still very much alive and well!). Sam visits a family with plenty of strong lads who look ‘kingly’ They all stand before him and one by one they are rejected. In the story God tells Samuel not to look at the outward appearance when trying to choose a new king. Why?

Because God looks at the heart! Therefore, so should he!

Whatever we face in life, the state of our heart is really important. It’s not enough to ‘get the job done at any cost’ – the state of your heart while you are working really matters to God, and it ought to matter to us too. We don’t often hear people talking about integrity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. In today’s world we see business and political leaders treating others like they are of no value at all (did someone say Trump?!). How we treat other people matters – it really matters!

Whatever you have on at the moment, do it with a heart filled with good character and integrity. Treat those around you well. Don’t burn your bridges – you might need to meet those people again in a context where they are the power-holders. Act out of kindness, humility and concern for ‘the other’. Let your heart burn with love. It will not only help you get great results, it will bless those around you, and at the same time it will cause your heart to swell with joy!

 

 

I have a dream you can’t let go of

I woke up this morning with Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in my head.

What would’ve happened if Dr King had not pursued the dream?

What would’ve happened if he listened to those around him who said ‘its too big a dream to achieve’?

What would’ve happened if He just stayed silent?

I’ll tell you what would’ve happened:

Equality today would look less equal!

Humanity would feel less human!

Dr King would have lived an ordinary life.

Why settle for ordinary when you can live your dream? Whatever the dream, if it benefits others – hold it, live it, and word to make it a reality.

017 Optimism and the Death of a good man

Did you know that today is Good Friday? Arguably the most important day in the Christian calendar! Strange then that I have found myself thinking about optimism when my faith path leads me to the crucifixion today. Perhaps this is not as strange as you might think.

Optimists get a hard time these days: we are accused of being unrealistic in our thinking; we are told that life is not ‘pollyanna’ and that optimism is a mask for what’s happening underneath (Imagine the serene swan gracefully gliding down the river, while underneath the water they are paddling like crazy!!).

pexels-photo-133442.jpeg

Optimism is not about denying reality – it is about believing that good can come out of our sometimes harsh realities. I am no stranger to pain, death, loss and grumpiness. In life I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly, and understand the showdowns of life. Optimism is about seeing past the pain to healing. It is seeing hope in helplessness. And it is believing in better and rejecting the bitter.

Which leads me to the good guy suffering a gory death on a Roman cross, naked for all to see – what good could possibly come out of that?!

There’s this little verse in a letter to some Hebrews which says,

(Jesus)…who for the joy set before him endured the cross.

It seem Jesus was looking past the pain towards the joy of possibilities. The cross was not the end – it was THE means to an end. Jesus knew and believed that his death would result in new life for the countless millions who would choose to follow him back into relationship with God the Father (Did you know that one in every three humans on the planet claim to follow Jesus today?).

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737.png

Perhaps Jesus was an optimist. Perhaps he simply had faith in God to make all things new. Perhaps he didn’t even see the whole picture, but just somehow knew it would all work out for the good.

Whatever you are going through today, may you find strength in God and your own heart to look past the pain to see the possibilities of joy that are on the other side. And may God bless you with all you need to keep stepping forward one step, and one day, at a time.

016 Litter Trays, Sand therapy & the value you give to yourself

I have had a number of conversations recently about the value of ‘things’; the value we add to those around us; and the value of learning. I love the idea of Adding Value – I first came across it in a little book by John Maxwell called 360 Leader. This book impacted me with it’s core idea of adding value wherever you are in life and work. It looks at adding value regardless (or in spite of) your position or role.

Value is important. But more importantly… YOU are important.

Why is it so hard for us to accept our own importance and value? We look at celebrities, scientists, teachers, business people, etc, and we think I’m nowhere near as cool, famous, valued, important, clever (add your own chatter-box-mind description) as they are.

The good news is this – that thought is so off the mark! We are made for so much more than being the little guy with nothing of value to give to the world. We are each here for a purpose. You have a destiny; a reason for being. You have value to add to those around you. So why do we think we do not. I think the answer is in the litter tray!

At work this week we got a small shipment of cat litter trays. A pile of blue plastic trays in which you put a load of tiny white stones in which your cat will then deposit all its crap! Do you ever feel like a litter tray? Do you ever have those days when you feel that you’re being dumped on?! Days when you feel crap. Days when you feel that no one values who you really are. Days when you don’t want to show other people who you really are. Those days can easily become weeks, months or even years. Years of being dumped on and undervalued.

So why is a therapy centre receiving a shipment of litter trays?

Our training manager runs courses on “Sand-play therapy“. Sand Play therapy aims to help people overcome life difficulties and traumas by encouraging the client to create a therapeutic world in the sand to safely explore and be in control of processing life. Our cat litter trays which are used for cat-waste are transformed into something which helps people to recover from life’s traumas – they find their true value whilst adding value to others!

They find their true value whilst adding value to others

How do you value YOU?

Life is full of ups and downs. At the moment do you feel life people just ‘dump on you’ and make you feel of little value? Are you feeling that you have value to offer and give to others (through firstly attributing value to yourself)?

Don’t let yourself be someone elses’ dumping ground – position yourself to be a person of value; be someone who adds value to those around you. Just like I need to choose how to use the blue plastic trays, each of us needs to choose how we will use our lives.

Let your true value shine out. Let your sense of purpose rise up so that others see your skills; your accumulated knowledge of the world; your experiences; your funny stories; your musical genius. Whatever it is that makes you, YOU…let it out. Unleash yourself on the world and look for opportunities to add value and to be valued.