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.

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?

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.

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.

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…


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.




014 Knowing your purpose is a key to living in joy

Maksud wanders as if blown by the wind, from one experience to the next. Her mind always drawn by the desires of childhood hidden deep within her soul. She pushes them down and carries on. Recalling them cuts her heart and causes regret to spill like blood around her mind. But those dreams and those desires still linger, as if they have a life of their own, longing and striving to break free. 


It was eight years ago when I met with Paul. Paul was helping me to understand myself better in order to support me in making some choice changes to what my career looked like. At the end of the process he gave me a warning: make sure you choose roles that fit your sense of purpose. His reason was this: when you do not live out your purpose something within you either dies or struggles to get out

I believe firmly that we are all made for a purpose. Deep within each of us there are dreams and desires related to purpose that we need to be living. I don’t mean the desire for another human being. I don’t mean the desire to go on holiday to Italy.

The desires we are talking about are a deep rooted sense of why we are here.

Many of us lose these early on. As a youth worker in my former life I observed young people losing their dreams and hope. Each year older they get, the more serious they become about ‘real’ careers and ambitions. Each year natural thinking and creativity gets reduced until it becomes nothing more than a distant memory. Each year older we get the deeper our true selves can be buried in the mess of just getting through the days – can you relate to this?

Children have no problem saying when I get older I’m gonna be an astronaut, ballerina and record-breaking banana eater!!! As we get older we are less likely to share our deep dreams with others – this is a truth that swirls the sadness within me – we were made to dream, dare and do according to our sense of deep purpose. Mark Twain says the following:

Mark Twain

There’s a nugget of golden truth in this statement: it implies that we must dig out our purpose. We must endeavour to work our purpose out. I believe this is one of our key tasks of life: we are to find our purpose and to live it out

we are to find our purpose and to live it out

Yet many of us are just like Maksud: we wander through life wrestling with the thought that our dreams and desires are childish and foolish, but we cannot escape from them. We have negative voices in our heads telling us we could never do that thing we dream of. So we bury our desires. We walk through life according to someone else’s plans and expectations. We often also walk through life with the cacophonous noise of our critics (inner and actual) clanging in our minds – you may need to silence your critics to follow your purpose and seek out joy in life.

It is time to break free from the drudge that hinders and holds you back from the hope and joy of living your purpose! It’s time to dream. It’s time to step up and move forward.

How do I know this?

Because it is always time to start doing the right thing, and finding your purpose is definitely the right thing!

The word Maksud is Indonesian and means purpose, intent, point, intention, view, meaning.

Purpose requires us to intentionally find it. It gives us meaning and intention to our lives and it opens up that well of joy within you. Seek out your purpose.

When I began exploring why I am on this beautiful planet and then living on purpose it released me to be who I am. It releases joy within us and that keeps us persevering and moving forward even when it’s difficult.

I realised a few years ago that my overarching purpose is Inspiring others to learn from life through teaching, speaking and writing. I don’t need to be famous or rich to do this. I can do it in my everyday job. I can do it in conversations, blogs, Facebook posts, etc.

Your purpose may be something that integrates well with the life you live already – it’s not always a cataclysmic change (although for some it will be).


What one thing  can you do this week to uncover your purpose? Leave a comment to cement that thought? Or write it in your journal, phone, or task list.

Have you got ideas on how other readers can uncover their purpose? – please leave some comments and encourage others to boldly go into a life of purpose and joy. Purpose releases life and hope within us. It dwells beside the well of joy I mentioned in a previous post.

I hope that you will rediscover and share your sense of purpose regardless of how old or young you are.

May you dare to dream and live according to your personal purpose today and every day with passion, and hope



Somebody is calling you out of the crowd

We all have a favorite band, team, preacher, etc. We tend to follow their progress; listen to their music or teachings. We follow them, perhaps closely, perhaps from a distance. We invest our time, energy, and even our money in following them. Following others is a natural aspect of life.

We are all following someone or something.

So Jesus bursts on to the Galilean preaching circuit and begins speaking about a new way of living; a new way of being; a new life worth loving! His teaching pulls in the crowds and it all looks good. One could easily get lost in the crowd.

It’s easy to get lost or hide in the crowd.

So Jesus has a crowd-busting strategy: he calls individuals. The ones who are hiding in the crowd; the ones who are hiding their shame; the ones who are despised by everyone else.

Perhaps today he’s calling you and me.

So he calls this bloke Levi.

Tax-collecting, Roman-loving Levi.

Swindling, cheating double-dealing Levi.

He calls him out and he tells him FOLLOW ME.

And Levi gets up and follows just like that. Not only does he get up. He gives up…EVERYTHING! And he follows Jesus.

In the Gospels we see Levi a number of times. He not only followed Jesus practically through the streets, becoming one of his closest mates. We see him living his life for Jesus. He hangs on every word of Jesus, and putting those words into action. He follows Jesus with his life even after Jesus has died. He writes one of the Gospels. He follows Jesus with EVERYTHING.

Perhaps today he’s calling you and me to follow and give up everything.

May we hear his call and follow him with everything today