Can Your Vulnerability Be A Gift?

This is the question that Researcher Dr Brene Brown answers. She states in her TED talk that there are two types of people. Those that feel worthy and those who well, don’t! Worthiness is a key motivator that underpins how we are in relationship with on another and how we lead! She explains that the worthy and those that feel unworthy view vulnerability differently, for one it’s a strength and for the other it has become a heavy yoke that can be often debilitating.

On the back of over a decade of research in this area, she wrote Dare to Lead. I have been listening to it and coupled with the free workbook has enabled me to dig deep, look at myself and how I work and lead. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing well ever is, it takes effort time, and courage.

If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.”

https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame/transcript?language=en

I am nearly at the end of the book, and it’s making me think deeply about leadership and self worth. It is profound and challenging and a process that you shouldn’t rush, but allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through it, bringing healing and new life.

Get Dare To Lead

Beyond The Pew Part 2

What Rev Don Robbins in some small way stands on the shoulders of the john wesleys, martin luthers, who had one thing in common. That is vision and ability to see what was possible, God birthed in these people a willingness to engage, a strength of character to overcome, a stubbornness to see what might be, actually become reality. It began with a faith in a God who loved people and that love is infectious

What I found at the Lighthouse where people who had been set adrift by the circumstances of their lives, and who were commonly drawn to the light from this Lighthouse based at st Georges crypt and part of st Georges church.

I was looking to see what God was doing and attempt to document it. I found God in this place, both within the volunteers and the members of this its community. The God in Jesus who walked the streets the ancient cities and towns of Israel, and met people where they were, without prejudice but with deep compassion.

the welcome at the crypt

What shone for me in this community, was its inclusivity, its christ centredness, its commitment speak of and live out a vibrant life giving expression of what it means to follow Jesus in todays world. The comunity is lead by an enthusiastic team headed by Rev Jon Swales.

Community personified

The above image was taken in November 2018 on a light house trip to York Cathedriel and annual presentation. York centre was filled with Christmas stalls and hundreds of people going on their way. In the midst of this was a local band was playing and everyone except the christians were standing still, it was the christians from this comunity, that saw an opportunity to celebrate, to dance, to the music to show joyfulness.

I remember marvelling how it demonstrated community, there was no them and us, just community, joy, love, kinship. To me at least this image speaks of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

As with any community there are difficulties, there are hills to climb, challenges to meet. Yet in this light house, nothing was too much effort, as an outsider, I loved the recurring experience of not quite being sure of who was receiving Gods love and who was offering it. It seemed to me at least the camera guy in the corner, that God was present and that was what mattered, whether in the giving and receiving of bread, or the sharing of prayer all of it mattered, all of it spoke to the tapestry of church woven in this place.

The images have been taken with permission from the light house team and in connection with myself at http://www.Lobecphotography.com

Beyond the Pew Part 1

There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.-Gandi

At the feeding of the four and five thousands, in the upper room at passover and the beach at breakfast time. Jesus illustrated who God was by meeting their physical needs. As they received from God they consumed more than nutrients for life, but a spiritual awareness of who God was that would possibly lead to a deeper spiritual awakening.

The redundant crypt of the church…might be the saving grace for these despairing people.

Rev D. Robbins- quote from the book Entertaining More Angels-

So in Leeds in the 1930s the Revd Don Robins, at that time priest of St Georges, in response to the poverty he saw. Opened up the crypt, a place for the dead to be buried and instead turned it into a place to offer a life line for people, and so began a story of resurrection that out of the tomb new life could be offered. That story has continued today, with the church crypt and community working in tandem. This is a story of the church on the margins, of meeting the needs in practical and spiritual ways, underpinned by the love of Christ.

 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Matthew 25:31-46

Fast forward to 2013 and the inception of the light house offering a church service to the community that had grown up around the crypt. The Rev Jon Swales continues to lead that team, in their ministering to the needs of the community around St Georges, to those for whom life circumstances had become difficult.

In 2013 realised that the ordinary church wasn’t speaking to many of our friends here.

Rev Roger Quick- Chaplin to the Homeless- excerpt from Entertaining More Angels

The Light House offers lunch bible study, worship, fellowship, education, trips and above all hope. Rooted not in the shifting sand of life but the solid rock of a more eternal perspective. This hope is one that is lived out, on the rough edges of life, where deeds speak louder than words, actions hold greater authenticity than sound bites. A place where trust is won, respect is forged in the fires of struggle. Any other hope not seasoned, tested, lived out, would fall on deaf ears, be discarded like a disused cardboard coffee cup.

See Beyond the Pew Part 2

Surviving Your Sabbatical

Spoiler: I survived, and am still here!

The Task

The goal of my sabbatical was to document new forms of discipleship visually. But in short my plans worked out how God wanted them too rather than how I had hoped they would! See beyond the pew for more info

Ministry as a church leader is unique with its pressures, and joys. But putting down the dumbbells of ministry is actually hard, accepting your not in control, and someone else may or may not pick up that dumbbell, is not easy. But it is necessary if the sabbatical has a chance of resourcing you and your churches. I found four ministers who held some of my work tow home i am so greatful and just accepted the rest would have to be put on hold for a few months!

Prior to the start date of the sabbatical, I remember sitting in five guys Resturant with a minister friend who offered some sage wisdom, they said:

at some point you will probably seriously wonder whether you should stay in ministry or not…

conversation over a lovely burger at 5guys!

Mental Health

I have already had such thoughts so didn’t think that would happen to me again, but they did. You see not being in the flow of church based ministry means you have space to think, and questions bubble up, doubts surface and old insecurities make an attempt to hijack your journey.

Now I was in a rough place emotionally and so for me and my family the sabbatical was came at the right moment. Around mid way through the sabbatical I felt able to produce the following video about my struggles with depression and the journey to wellness.

“Sabbatical helped me slay some demons, and heal as well as face yo to some hard realties.”

Spiritual Health

That’s where the decisions you made about what to do on your sabbatical help, to focus you, steady your path though sabbatical. Not all my plans worked out as I had hoped, Meetings and promises made before sabbatical didn’t flourish.

I never found a church to journey with over the time as I had hoped, didn’t feel very close to God throughout. But here is the rub, God was there. Looking back God used what i saw as failures and opportunities dissipating to create space, to force me to be still and know God is God.

I followed the Northumbria community daily office which has steadied this spiritual ship of mine, giving me rhythm to my day which was so important. I will share some wisdom my sister in law gave me, (she is a nun in the anglican church) In responding to doing a daily office, she replied:

“Just do what you can” -she said, “don’t worry if you don’t do it all, just do what your schedule allows. “

This was such a relief to me and has probably meant that the pattern I am in now has stuck and been maintained. I also went to the cairngorms to pray and take photos which was such a wonderful time of refreshing and photography.

Lobecphotography.com

Physical health:

Be careful, within the first month off sabbatical as I got a chest infection (haven’t had one in years) and the week after coming back from sabbatical I got a nasty cold which stopped me doing regular workouts because I feared getting another chest infection! So make sure you look after yourself.

One of my aims was to receive personal training for 10 sessions, which by the end of, I expected I would be ripped and be fit enough to do the SAS selection process. (yes I do have an overactive imagination). Left is real me and right is alternate me (badly) reimagined through the power of photoshop!

I did however do my ten sessions and apart from surprising the instructor at my lack of weight loss, I got a lot fitter and happier, I now do four workouts a week as a priority and set my apple watch for calories I should burn in a day. All this has brought my cholesterol down to normal, which it has not been for years. Plus I am noticeably quicker on my bike and have more energy for the day so time well spent.

The Greatest Gift

Image by Maciej Szewczyk from Pixabay

Chocolate, Jesus, friends and family, having Christmas off, to one side for a moment. A sabbatical is a gift, though it doesn’t always feel like it at the time, but looking back it is. It’s an unconditional gift of love. It is in my case the church reminding me that I am, under God cherished and loved. It doesn’t matter I didn’t get everything done, but i was able to be unencumbered buy the guilt of there is always something more to do, or there is always something that doesn’t get done.

That freedom, that love, has helped me untangle myself, to some degree, from things I had become a slave of the things that kept me awake at night.

Everyones Got secrets

The hidden torment of mental health issues in society is rightly being highlighted, and beginning to be de-stigmatised, which clearly is great and about time.

Though it might just be me, but I find myself wondering sometimes, as someone who has their own mental health issues. That does the reporting of the ‘hiddenness of depression’ actually do the sufferer and society a disservice and become a hindrance rather than a help?

Firstly I believe you can tell if you know people well enough, that something might not be  right. It may take you a bit of time, but open your eyes, get to know the people around you ask God to help you.

Secondly, I sometimes wonder if the “not being able to tell someone has depression” monologue, actually lets so called “healthy” people off the hook from being decent humans. Such meeting the stranger or acquaintance with compassion, rather than disdain, love instead of neglect, welcome instead of suspicion, acceptance rather than impatience, interest rather than prejudice.

Thirdly I would like to live in a society where at one level it didn’t matter, what I had or didn’t have going on inside of me, or indeed other people for that matter. That I was evolved enough to know when I have gone too far and make repatriation, or when I needed to step away and take a few deep breaths and for that to be ok. I believe there are places in society that can a place of acceptance of where people are at, understanding and tolerance and actually embody the love your neighbour stuff that Jesus spoke off.

We are surrounded by the hiddenness of peoples inner lives, pregnancy, love, joy, and yes all the other things that surround the dreaded term mental health issues. But we all have mental health, some days that health is good others perhaps not. Just like our physical health needs attention so does our mental health.

I am not trying to trivialise the issue but wherever you are reading this, take a moment to look around, because in this society, the change begins with you, I am not speaking about the big picture of what town you live in or country, but the part of community God has placed you in and with.

Finally many years ago I was walking through the high street of my then home town, and a stranger shouted at me, I didn’t hear her at first, but she repeated it. What she shouted was “hey, you have a lovely smile, so smile…” and you know I did, and  the person remains a stranger to me, but her words stayed with me. Be that person, try to bring out the best in others rather than the worst, recognise the need in others and help them, but first you need to open your eyes and make the first step. This is something I also need to do, so let’s all do act together as one.

 

 

 

 

 

Well That Sucks!!

This was turning into a ridiculously long facebook post. Instead I thought a blog post might be more a appropriate some how, even if it’s no less shorter! 

This morning I am around the 3 1/2 week point of  exercising 4x a week, with a variety of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Eating whole foods for breakfast, lunch and for snacks, with just ‘a few accidents’ with packets of Maltesers and chocolate bars. 

Physically I certainly feel fitter and stronger. But, yes there is a but, whilst my weight dipped initially by one or 2 pounds I find myself cruising to the end of September with the scales telling me i am actually 1/2 lb heavier than when I started! WHAT!!!!!

I have two options on this lengthly mystical journey towards being healthier and lighter and hear they are:

One option is to give up and just accept the inevitability of the direction of travel, as I pass those metaphorical health-warning road signs, which tell me there is danger ahead, in the form of health complications. To accept that these are unavoidable and that unless there is a magic wand, that can be wafted over me, I am doomed. Meaning I probably wont see my kids grow up and have families of there own, because the fat will have suffocated my internal organs, long before then! (bit overdramatic sorry)

The other option (Oh thank God for that), it is the road less traveled, it is one of painful self evaluation, to avoid an even more painful heart attack. I need to get real, acknowledge how bad I want/need this, and that no apple watch type tracker, or other aids is going to make me change, unless I change first. I have to acknowledge with vulcan-esk logic my foibles, my triggers, that make me eat rubbish or cause me to be too lazy to keep track of what I consume. 

Then like today, I draw a line on one side my most recent failures or false starts and on the other side, wisdom i have gained from those falls and a rededication to the journey I am on. My prayer is that those decisions for good, will ultimately outweigh those that cause me harm.

Today after my disappointment on the scales, I still went to my workout area, I still lifted those weights. But I did a few less so I had time to reflect on what went wrong learn from it  and ask the lord to help me carry on.

Keeping God Busy!

It is not that God has nothing to do! What I mean is that sometimes in our lives we might, experience moments of God being especially active with us! This week has been one of those weeks.

For me I caricature God or the angels working hard to help me avoid mistakes and helping me through tricky spots. I find it’s a positive way of looking at life’s bumpy roads and it makes me smile and reminds me of the bigger picture. 

On to this week, God has been busy with me through the words of earthly saints this week. Bringing new awareness into my life, painful at times but honest, leading me towards healing, pointing me to Jesus. One saint in particular helped reveal hidden things buried inside my heart.

Two saints have helped me begin transitioning to a healthier life style, (hense the photo!) these same saints have just inspired my boots off, by their openness and upholding of a vision of christian community and a church that is real. It makes me want to worship God in thankfulness. 

Another saint stood in front of people, and reminded us of a church that is so real it goes beyond social pleasantries. Together (I paraphrase) get into the hot tub of deeper relationships and deeper connection with the Lord. The image of church community being in a hot tub is a little awkward, but there is a deeper message of connectedness, breaking down of barriers, acceptance and the sheer delight of being in a hot tub. 

I post this on the seventh day, when according to the book of Genesis God rested because seeing all that had been done and declared it was good. This week has been a bit of a journey but I arrive today and echo the lords sentiment, it is good.

On one level it would be lovely for me to tell you, who these people were that God used, but that would discolour the purpose of their words and encouragement, which is to draw near to God, to abide in God, to glorify God. Ultimately to be reminded, that Gods’ love is sufficient and I am approved off. Amen to that.

This posts top photo is of my lunch yesterday. Which would normally be a packet of crisps and some can of tinned soup or maybe something more unhealthy. I found that it took me ages to eat what I had made, not because cheese bread sticks, crackers, carrots and red pepper humous, didn’t taste good, but it really, really filled me up and lasted until dinner! Which was not what I was expecting!

I wonder which saints you will speak through this week! Go well my brothers and sisters in Christ, and go with God, keeping your eyes open and ears tuned to Gods voice.

my aproval 1

Fact: You’re Inspirational.

Upon hearing the words you can be inspirational, I find my inner monologue quickly replies “Don’t be so stupid, how can you be inspirational?” 

My inner monologue tends to be quite direct!! It would continue to remind me, that if I lived in the world of superheroes, or a galaxy far far away, or how if i had a great skill, intellect or strength, than that would increase my chances of being inspiring.

Therein is the mistake, how we define inspiration can be too often fantasy, the stuff of fables and legends and unachievable. 

So we could simply acknowledge that inspirational events are only in the movies or on TV which is fine. Until it’s not! Inspiring others is deeply hard wired into us, we may not even notice it. For what inspiration looks like is as different as the grains of sand on a beach or our finger print. 

It maybe someone has told you, how you have inspired them, it is more likely that they don’t. To be inspired by someone or an event is an act of vulnerability, which leads to inner growth. 

I just wanted to acknowledge that for me inspiration, is the story of the person who has overcome adversity, or reframes difficulty positively, are the people in my life who run marathons, love unconditionally, and give me hope when I have none. Those who keep aiming me towards God rather than my inner monologue, which is changing, all be it slowly!

Today you may inspire someone and never know, you may lift someone, by a simple words, acts of kindness or interactions on social media. 

I think when we get to Heaven we might be surprised to see, in the playback of our lives, of how we have inspired others, and this side of glory we couldn’t even ever have realised we had. 

Thank you…

What Should Our Monument Look Like?

128 years ago Methodists were so well known, as was its leader John Wesley, that they built a monument and it offered water to feed animals just as the gospel waters the soul.

In summer of 2018 the trough offers sand rather than life giving water, people may remember methodism and even the Wesley brothers, but to the children its trough becomes a giant sand bucket. The landscape has changed, the monument is a memory of someone, or just ignored as life goes on around it.

May our impact as church not be seen only by the numerous plaques and monuments, but through our effort in discipling each generation that numbers more than the grains of sand in this awesome pop up beach.

I visited this site nearly 10 years ago and it was all paved, I was delighted to see it the way it is today, my concern was the metaphor of a monument to methodism that hasn’t effected its environment. Rather the environment evolved around it rather like an image of a small house between two luxury blocks of flats because the owner wouldn’t sell.  May as methodists we not make the same mistakes.

IMG_0558-Edit-1

What True Religion Looks Like

A man stands in the dock in the highest court in the land and is found guilty of murder. The Judge in her deliberations sentences him to life and because of this man’s crime, she declares all men in the land should be imprisoned immediately!

The view of the court was that this man was representative of all men, therefore his actions and punishment cover all men in that land! Some of you may wish that this story was true, however sadly it’s just an illustration.

I was in a brief conversation on Facebook recently in the aftermath of yet another act of terrorism and I was told that all religions should be banned. The person commenting wrote this with such venom that I was taken aback. It sprung a seed of an idea for today’s post.

The story at the beginning underlies the issue with what is wrong with the Facebook comment. Summed up in the maxim you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But more importantly you wouldn’t blame all humankind for the actions of one person, yet when someone Hijacks a religion for their personal ideology suddenly all of that religion is to blame. It simply isn’t congruent to bash a religion if we are not prepared to hold to the crazy idea suggested in the opening story.

So what does true religion look like, what are its hallmarks?  The Bible in the book of James chapter 1 says:

…“to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”

The Koran similarly declares:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask”…

(Chapter 2, Verse 177)

Hinduism, Buddisim, and so on and so forth declare something similar. So what can we people of faith and none about religion what yardstick can we measure it by? Other than that true religion and with it, true faith is more than a book of words, or pious religiosity, bigger than a body of people or vast temples, synagogues and cathedrals made by human hands.

The truth about religion is that it’s found in soup kitchens, and food banks, and in lived out generosity and the welcome embrace of the other. Or a Jesus puts it you will be known by your love for one another.

True religion’s adherents shine their collective light in the darkness, so that the other, whoever they may be, might find their way home, might know they’re cherished, may discover how much they are loved by the loving God, in whose hands we place our fragile lives.

Finally, faith is not the problem, people are not the problem, hate is. Hate tried to win, but hates delusion is that it can win, it may leave its scars, but even love can heal that. Faith, hope and love overcome and the most powerful, for which there is no law, is love. Let’s redouble our efforts that our religion matches the yardstick, of something that is lived out, transformative, refreshing and something that brings healing.

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