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.

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.

015 Finding your purpose and some Japanese thinking (Ikigai)

I recently wrote about how knowing your purpose is a key to living in joy. But what if we don’t know our purpose? What if we’ve never been able to work it out? – Then this post will really, practically help you…

Maksud continued to wander the wilderness, the cold east wind blowing her hair across her face. Strands of her long black hair blew into her eyes as she battled against the wind and sand, still unsure of her destination. She looked up from the ground into the distance, something mystically arising within her soul: Something that felt like hope despite the harshness of her surroundings. She had heard in the distant past that sometimes hope defies reality. She stared hard into the distance, willing some glimmer to appear. Maksud reminded herself that sometimes a glimmer of hope is all you need to feed the thirsty longing of your soul. Just for a second she thought she saw a shadow through the blowing sands. 

Have you ever felt like Maksud? Your direction in life seems shrouded in shifting sands which blind you to the direction your life should take. It’s easy to feel like there’s no point – no purpose. It’s easy to feel that you are wandering while everyone else is ‘living a purposeful life’. Can I encourage you?

Let hope arise – sometimes hope defies (or changes) your reality

In this post I want to provide you with a practical idea based on a Japanese concept called ‘Ikigai‘ which may inspire hope to rise, and glimmers to appear in how you think about your purpose in life. You have something to offer the world that no one else can give. You are unique in the life experiences, education, skills, knowledge and ideas that fill you. No one else is like you, and no one else can give what you can give in the way that you can give it. In your life you will connect with people that others cannot connect with and you will speak into their lives in very unique ways. Understanding your sense of purpose is vital in this.

Seven Benefits of living your purpose

  1. You will be more focused – purpose directs your decisions, journey and destination because you will have a stronger sense of meaning in life
  2. You will be more passionate, with a deeper joy in living
  3. You will be more hopeful – it is a joy to know that every day you can do something (even a small thing) that is linked to your overall purpose in life
  4. Life is more straightforward – decisions are made through being purposeful
  5. You will be more motivated – you are able to move in the direction you want and will be doing what energises you
  6. You will be more resilient – having a stronger sense of purpose means that when life is tough (as it can be often!) you have strong reasons for weathering the storms and persevering to move forward
  7. Purpose has been linked with better health and stronger personal relationships

This list is not exhaustive – there are a great many benefits a purposeful life can give to you. So how can you practically work out your purpose? Here goes…

IKIGAI

In Japan there is a simple concept called Ikigai (loosely translated it means reason for being). The image below shows the 4 main parts of Ikigai. They are:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What do you enjoy?
  3. What does the world need?
  4. What can you get paid for?

img_9767Ikigai is the place where all four ‘spheres’ connect and overlap. The original concept of Ikigai does not place importance on what you can earn because true happiness in life is not about what you accumulate in life, but rather in how you live your life. The ‘earning’ part of the model is shown because we have to consider how to survive practically in life, and there is a monetary cost to that. It’s hard to feel fulfilled when your stomach is empty!

Ikigai is also not about knowing what career to choose – a career choice should come from having a sense of purpose.

Ikigai – A Purposeful Process

Get yourself a large sheet of paper and write the 4 questions across the top of the page (see the photo below for my example)

Ikigai lists

Make Lists

Next, start listing everything you love doing under the heading “What do I love?” – be exhaustive in the list. Take your time. You might need to come back to it many times (I spent weeks reflecting on this).

It can be helpful to talk with friends or family to get their ideas (but only write down what is true for you, not them!). This list is likely to be your longest list: add sports; musical interests; work ideas; creativity pursuits; tasks; everything you can think of that makes you feel happy!

Then do the same for the next three questions. Be sure to write as many things as you can think of. Put down everything you think is relevant to each question. Remember there is no wrong thing to write – you can always cross it out again – it’s vital to the process. Allow yourself to dream, but keep it real.

Look for ‘themes’

Once you have done this, look at each list and begin to look for what words or ideas reoccur – circle these as shown on my example – you should now be seeing how some of the initial ideas on the ‘love list’ are also on your other lists (if not, should they be?) – seeing words and phrases on 3-4 of the lists will help you see the parts of a greater ‘purpose’ or sense of meaning for you.

In the lists above, the person listed things like ‘inspiring others’, ‘telling stories’ and ‘teaching stuff’ – each of these could easily join together into the role of a Teacher. They also said they were good at ‘explaining things’ – a great teaching skill! They had always seen ‘public speaking’ as a presentation skill, but never as a teaching skill – this process changed their view and allowed their mind to open to wider possibilities!

Create a Purpose Statement for your life

Take the reoccurring statements from your first three lists and try to craft them into a statement of purpose for your life – this is perhaps the hardest part of the exercise. It will take time. You will need to draft , draft and redraft until you are content with the statement you have made. This part of the process took me over a month!

Ikigai does not guarantee that you will be happy in life, but the process will lead you to a clearer idea of what your purpose in life actually is. The purpose statement that flowed from the example above ended up being…

Inspiring others to learn from life through teaching, speaking and writing

Notice that this statement doesn’t mention their career – your career choices will flow from your sense of purpose. They could be a blogger, motivational speaker, teacher, life coach, youth worker, or a travelling preacher and still live their life ‘on purpose’.

Make choices based on your Purpose Statement

By the time you are reflecting on ‘What can I get paid for?’ you should have a ‘glimmer’ (or a clear insight) of what your purpose looks like. The person above knew before this point that they needed to work with young people and that they needed to be doing public speaking because it gave them a massive sense of happiness and energy.

If your purpose statement was about being fabulous in finances and impacting the banking world, you would not then choose a career path as a train driver. You would make choices that facilitate the fulfilling of your purpose. You would aim to work in finance, and to grow in depth of knowledge and experience with which you might make an impact. Growing in your purpose requires narrowing down your options – this is one of the ways you will become more focused.

Moving forward on Purpose

It is important to point out that purpose is not always about what career you have (although it can be). Purpose is about what gives your life meaning and this differs for each of us. Our situation in life can deeply influence our sense of purpose. A Japanese lady who was struggling with her purpose came to the conclusion that her purpose was to be the best mother to her children possible.

The key thing in finding purpose is about happiness – what will give you joy while you are giving yourself to the world around you? As you move forward keep on reflecting on your purpose – continue to draw on it in your life choices as you aim to live it out with passion, energy and meaning.

Mark Twain

I must point out that knowing your purpose does not make your life easier (it might make it harder!) – it makes it more fulfilled (but only when you life according to your purpose. Living out your purpose will require grit, determination and a lot of perseverance. Other people will always try to get you to live according to their purpose for your life – stay focused and stay on your track – it will be worth it in the end.

May you know an ever deepening sense of happiness as you  uncover your sense of purpose and give back to the world around you.

If you have found this article helpful please leave me a comment below, or drop me an email to let me know how it has helped you. You might also wish to share it with your friends, or on social media – this would be kind, and appreciated.  With warm regards, Stuart.

 

 

 

004 Smell

This is a really simple thing that brings joy, and it’s a rather simple one: The smell of                    can bring that little release of hope that sparks joy and causes our lips to lift skywards at the corners to create a little cheeky smile whilst the taste glands within the mouth begin to salivate with expectation!

I’m trying to get healthy and fit again by running each morning and boy do I struggle!! – my legs usually feel like lead; my lungs are bursting; my knee aches (I ain’t as young as I used to be!!). But…

…when I near a certain shop at around 6:30am that all changes. I feel lifted and strangely motivated to keep on keeping on.

The shop is our local bakery and the smell that floats down the street to greet this weary soul is just phenomenal! There is something amazing about the smell of fresh bread that is positively feeds my soul. I would go as far as saying that it is the inspiring scent of hope, inspiration and life. Somehow that smell makes me forget the pain in my knee as my focus is shifted to imagine the taste.

fresh bread

Perhaps that’s the important aspect of a wonderful strong scent: it shifts our focus towards something beautiful. I mentioned in a previous post that we are naturally drawn to focus on what’s not going well. Perhaps it’s because those things have the strongest emotional and mental impact upon us; perhaps it’s because we want to find solutions or resolve.

Regardless of why we do it: it is detrimental to our health and wellbeing to perpetually ponder the anti-positive. A wonderful strong scent can realign our heart and soul and dig out that well of joy which is locked up within us.

I need to say this because we need to know it – really know it:

We all need hope to rise

I recognise that there are times when life is not brilliant – I’ve have my fair share of reasons to focus on life’s problems, negative emotions and the baggage of life from my past – I have lots of that – we all do, but we don’t need to let them keep us down!

hope

We need to fight against them; overcome them and stand stronger and securer in who we were born to be. We were not brought into this world to be overcome. We were made to be overcomers!

We are made to be creatives; innovators; builders; designers.

We were created to write; draw; paint; laugh; love; have fun; enjoy life; fulfil our true potential; share; dance like crazy people; sing with abandon in the shower; etc.

In pursuing joy you are saying to all the problems of life: I. AM. STRONGER. THAN. YOUR. NEGATIVE. POWER. OVER. ME.

The smell of fresh baked bread reminds us of all that life can be: Fresh. Light. Wonderful. It has so much for us to taste and experience that is good. It shifts our focus and can help hope arise – we all need hope to rise.

Can you feel it rise today as you are reading?

Can you feel the fight rise within you for something beautiful and better?

Nurture that desire to rise. Let joy rise and give birth to hope within you. There is always hope. It drifts into our achy heavy-legged lives and gives us the taste for something good in our lives.

The smell of fresh baked bread reminds us of all that life can be: Fresh. Light. Wonderful

What about you? What smells evoke happiness, hope and joy? Perhaps it’s bacon, or coffee, or a certain perfume that reminds you of a happy times?  Whatever it is, savour it, enjoy it, and let it lift you up with hope and joy.

May joy rise within you today as the scent of hope drifts into your life.