Tag Archives: hope

Loss, Wilderness and Hope

There are moments in grief that can overwhelm us, where it seems that everything else moves out of focus, except for perhaps one thing. For me one the focus is one person or to be precise the lack of their presence.

The impact of this moment is not so much the length of its duration, but the power it has over you, to make simple things harder. Basic things like choosing what to eat or drink, or whether or not to reply to all the messages. Weariness is your companion yet sleeping for any decent length without waking up in between, seems impossible.

As you navigate the world in the bubble, of the moment people going about their business, seemingly oblivious that things are not quite right, colour is slightly desaturated, regular objects seem slightly out of focus.

How are people not panicking or looking bewilderedly at each other, is not quite clear!! Truth is, you realise, it is only you that is inhabiting this space. They do not share at this moment this parallel universe in space and time. They pass through it untouched and oblivious. For them, there are no visual clues. There are no flags at half-mast, no headlines in newspapers or breaking news on tv.

We watched her being taken away for the final time. We watched them load and unload her coffin, we heard tributes, and prayers we sang her favourite songs, we remembered her. We saw her take her last curtain call in the plain coloured walls of the crematorium. The blue velvet separated us from her, as eternity now does.

In what way will we meet again I am not sure, there is a concrete finality at this moment, and the beginnings of a journey into the wilderness.

The wilderness can be scary, it can be a place where you can rest, can refresh, can heal. The unhurried wilderness can be what is needed, though not always wanted. In this wild place, you can find others who too have journeyed into the wilderness and are making their way, charting their course.

In this emotional universe, you won’t pass out, or grow hungry, those things are taken care off. For our job is to remember, to mourn, to find our way back to gratitude and emotionally breath again, as we journey through the door of acceptance into the light of new beginnings.

Previous post in the theme of grief can be found at: https://godlifechurch.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/traveling-the-valley-of-shadows/

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 don’t! 

Worthiness is a key motivator that underpins how we navigate relationships with one 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.”

watch this

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

Update: I have now read it 3 times, and her other books are just as good, 

Get Dare To Lead

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.

Ministry as a church leader is unique with its pressures, and joys. But putting down the dumbbells of ministry is hard, accepting you are 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. Before the start date of the sabbatical, I remember sitting in five guys Restaurant with a minister friend who offered some sage wisdom, they said:

At some point, (during the sabbatical) 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 attempt to hijack your journey.

Now I was in a rough place emotionally and so for me and my family, the sabbatical 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 realities.”

Spiritual Health

That’s where the decisions you made about what to do on your sabbatical help, to focus you, steady your path through a 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, I didn’t feel very close to God throughout either. 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.

Lobecphotography.com

I followed the Northumbria community daily office which has steadied this spiritual ship of mine, giving me a 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.

Physical health:

Be careful, within the first month of 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 I was to get 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!

  • A classic before and after image, altered with photoshop and not remotely true to life. 🙂

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

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, 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 by 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Simple Powerful Hope

Hope

NOUN

  • A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

  • Grounds for believing that something good may happen. ‘he does see some hope for the future’

  • A feeling of trust.

Hope is a vessel where we place our desires, dreams and even our faith in God. It can appear vague, flimsy, incongruent and perhaps illogical. Yet living without hope is like peering into a black hole! Hopelessness is crippling, physically and psychologically. Hope, even the smallest kind against insurmountable odds or just existing in terrible conditions, gives life.

Yet exercising hope that is unrealistic can be crippling and destructive to the person. The best kind of hope is that which you consider to be possible. It is the scent you are following hoping that at the end of the journey you have begun you will find that hope realised. It could be as simple as your favourite dinner or something more meaningful, like social or political change.

Hope is both personal and corporate, it can be held by many or a few. Hope can be contrary to laws, you can have opposing hopes, one who would hope to harm you and one who would hope to survive.

Regardless what you hope in or for, it’s important to have a plan to see that hope fulfilled. The plan may or may not work! Yet looking back through the lens of hindsight the journey for hope can be as just as meaningful as the realisation of hope itself.

At key moments of the year such as getting ready for Christmas or Easter there is always a journey that is made. That journey defines the quality of hope, the emotional connection we have with that which is hoped for. In the journey we discover for ourselves how important that thing is, how much it means to us. Which in turn makes attaining or losing that hope more joyful or more painful.

At this kind of year especially I question my own sense of hope in the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for me, how it completely defines my life and work. How a decision when I was a rebellious, narrow-minded, conflicted, teenager set me on a path I still follow over 25 years later. How this hope has grown with me, and my understanding of this hope has deepened and reshaped my understanding of what God was doing all those thousands of years ago and today in the world. Because of that history it makes it easier for me to answer the question I conclude with:

Would I hold to this hope I have, if I was the only one hoping in all that Jesus offers through his death and resurrection?

I wonder what your answer is and why?

Have a great easter journey and a great Easter 2017.

 

Discarded and Dented

Discarded, dented, abandoned to the elements, not appearing to have any use. Yet it caught my eye, it somehow had its own beauty, that caused me to top consider it and take its photo.

It’s so easy to see the kettle the leaves the blurred bricks in the distance. In amongst all the starkness, and decay it’s easy to miss the green shoots around the base of the kettle. Even when all seems bleak there is still life, new fresh sometimes fragile life to be found.

If you feel like the kettle in the image today, look out for those shoots of new life, and take hold of them. Allow them to take you to somewhere new. Just because you might feel devalued there is always someone or who sees your value and knows your name.

 

 

www.glcphotography.co.uk

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