Tag Archives: love

The Paradox of Reliability

What Is It?

Reliability is a value that works both internally and externally, outwardly it might look like: ‘Reliable cars that save you time and money on repairs, Reliable mail that gets delivered on time, vendors who show up on time and of course reliable friends and colleagues who do what they say’. .- extract from 8 ways to become the most realiable person un the room. 

Reliability– You do what you say you are going to do… deliver on commitments.”- Brene Brown

Being reliable because you are getting something in return is one thing, whether that’s money or the warmth and connection of friendship. But when there is no person or system checking up on ourselves, be that a boss or fitness tracker. But being reliable to your inner needs is something else harder to pin down. 

We are wired to survive, to live and overcome, to succeed, to have lives of meaning and connection. If that is lacking, if our actual inner needs are not being met, we do the next best thing to survive, the ultimate psychological life hack. 

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Jennifer Louden calls this life hack shadow comforts. Which are activities that allow us to numb what’s really going on for us, they help us keep up appearances. What we need to do is sit amongst the light and dark of our lives and own it, acknowledge it and learn from it. 

In contrast, real comforts are never numbing, they are always loving and always something that nurtures you. Just like when a child is picked up when they are crying and held safely in their carer or parents arms until they are ok. 

As I became aware of my shadow comforts and understood how they were just a quick fix and the comfort they offered was short-lived and for me had unintended negative consequences. 

I wanted to change, I saw shadow comforts to be used in emergency only activity, so for example, if I am tired and overworked, stressed and when I am working from emotional scarcity, I will have chocolate and coffee to keep me going or play on the Xbox or go shopping. I would avoid actually meeting my real needs. I used to live on that diet and still easily slip into old habits. The result of that diet over the years is that it left me broke, spiritually, emotionally, relationally.

Through reading on this idea of reliability in particular as a group of attributes that build trust from Brene’s work, I find that not building trust with myself utterly undermines, over time, the trust built externally! 

What Can We Do? 

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Reconnect with ourselves, find somewhere quiet and safe, where you can begin that work of reconnection and self-nurture.

Whether we are, a doctor, a waiter, a methodist minister, or man, women, gay, straight, nonbinary, husband, wife, we all are swirling ball of emotions, spiritual connection, of light and dark, joy and failure, of vulnerability, and of hope, and that part deserves and ultimately demands proper attention, 

I find my personhood is rooted in a God who says I am fearfully and wonderfully made, loved and lovable, imperfect and ok. When choosing the shadow comforts I know, that what I am communicating to myself, is a need to be nurtured, comforted and loved in a cherished and compassionate way. 

As infants we have all existed in a state when we couldn’t make sense of the world around us, where you and I didn’t have a clue what up and down was. All of us discovered what felt ok, and not ok. 

Real comfort is like what makes that infant feel loved, it is something that is experienced and felt. True comfort is known not as just one word or action, but a rainbow of connections that nurturer that inner person in all of us every single day.

previous post was Brave Boundaries all connecting into the work of Dr Brene Bown on trust-building. 

Crazy Love

Kid’s they spend your money, scream at you and lie to your face. You have to clean up their rooms and bodily secretions! You experience tiredness like you never knew, which doesnt help you not to slipp into shouting at them on a line from time to time to all of the time.

Yet, there is no question that you would give your last breath or go without that new item of clothing or shiny piece of technology because of how much you love with your children.

Isn’t it strange how just one kiss, one hug, one “thank you mummy or daddy” immediately transports you to a universe full of proud parent moments, which obscure and blots out the ruggedness or rudeness of day to day parenting?

God is clever with this parenting stuff, they look like us, so we see ourselves in them, and the author of love gives us this great bond of love that is both an embrace and protective shield.

However for some kids they don’t get that bond, that protection, they don’t feel it’s warmth or safety. Perhaps it’s not surprising that understanding God as love, or even as a parent, is near impossible for these little ones because for them that parental relationship has been so disfigured.

A parents love is the closest I have come to understanding Gods unconditional love. A love that takes our our arrogant presumptions that we know all that there is to know about God.

I used to see Gods unconditional love in the forgiveness I receive when I mess things up, but now to my surprise and delight I see it also in my interrelationship with my kids.

How secure Are Your Boundaries?

Creating healthy boundaries is vital, as part of our self-care as is brushing our teeth and having a wash. Not having healthy boundaries leads to ill health and disconnection and even mistrust of our selves and those around us.

5 myths about boundaries

  1. Myth: Boundaries push people away.
  2. Myth: Love has no boundaries. 
  3. Myth: Boundaries are selfish.
  4. Myth: Setting boundaries requires you to be mean.
  5. Myth: Boundaries require too much time.

Whats Is Ok And Not Ok.

The best definition of a personal boundary that I can find is “A boundary is what’s ok and what’s not ok. Dare to lead Dr Brene Brown. it is not ok to habitually Neglect our foundational needs. Normalised in such self-talk as not wanting to upset others, not wanting to be seen as different or awkward, It is bound up in orientating our self-esteem or worth externally rather than internally. It is telling yourself, ‘I need this’ to be happy, safe, complete, whole or loved and later discovering it doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Unhealthy boundaries are in part what leads to the disconnect we see rampant in our world in so many forms. We may wonder why we are too busy, overly exhausted, internally isolated and disconnected from important relationships, nature and meaningfulness. This disconnect can lead to depression read Lost Connections by Johann Hari

So what can we do? 

A builder doesn’t build without a frame of reference, without a plan, or have purchased the tools for the job. The builder needs wisdom, discernment, skill and courage to see the structure take form. The builder knows their worth.

Boundary setting and maintaining it is built on a foundation of trust, self-trust. A lack of healthy boundary setting erodes this trust internally and externally and makes the structure you just built unstable.

Living out the Boundary

Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Just be true to who you are, what you can and what you can not do. Without personal judgement. There is not a lot you can do about external judgement! 

Add to this commitment knowledge about what you are worth. Jesus said you are “more precious than the Lillies of the field or the birds of the air.” It was decided that you should be made in Gods image in the depths of eternity, from that place life burst forth, expressing itself in the diversity of our world. A world that includes you. 

Mix in courage and wisdom, know when to make adjustments to what you have created and when to stand firm, this comes with practice and learning from mistakes along the way.

 In her book Rising Strong As A Spiritual Practice Brene Brown tells how she met with a group of Rabbis and asked them if they believed people were doing the best the can. Most said no, then Brene says to the group, ‘so now God turns up and whispers in your ear, do you know what, that person who you think is the worst, is actually trying the best they can!’ 

This so profound and deeply challenging for us to hear and to get our heads around. perhaps the only way we can begin to live this out if from a bounded place, a place where our wells of compassion can overflow into the lives of others. 

Traveling The Valley Of Shadows

I gathered with loved ones to see a star. A star whose light was changing but was still beautiful and at times younger somehow. This star shone despite death’s dark shadow which loomed over the valley where we were, like storm clouds forming in the distance we each knew what was coming.

The line in psalm 23 The Lords My Shepherd, speaks of such a valley, the valley of the shadow of death. This psalm that is still fresh in the memory, one that we see written on cards or spoken at funerals. This is not a valley I am particularly familiar with, though I have repeated the psalm many times. There is another line in its narrative that reads.

“his rod and staff guides me…”

This line gives gives me a sense of forward motion, that it had a purpose. God knew my questions and heartache. Within such moments scripture was read, in the quiet prayerfulness of my private space, it was like holding onto the actual staff of the good shepherd. Just as a child holds it’s parents hand, walking and moving in synchronicity matching the gait of the step and each twist and turn.

To my surprise the valley was a place where love deepened. The shadows had not halted the growth of these precious blooms. Love was experienced in the nurses and doctors care, in the embrace of family, the quiet kiss good bye on the forehead, of the one whose starlight was passing from our awareness to something beyond. Love shone in the glisten of tear filled eyes, and the vigil kept day and night.

As we journeyed together there was occasional laughter, and abundant generosity, where people showed up the best of who they are, to pay respect to the one who was leaving so soon.

Silence would settle like a warm blanket between conversation, people lost in their own thoughts, or listening for the slightest change that indicated that her light was changing.

She was the star in the room, those gathered loved the star that was changing before our eyes, until we could no longer perceive her light anymore.

I am grateful for her light that guided me. However her light carries onwards, into the place Jesus prepares. We can discern the light in our relationships, in the reasons behind the choices we make, in the gifts we share. Giving our lives shape, depth of meaning, and teaching us values of substance that lead us forward.

Farewell Irene.

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow Of Love

The White Cup, the red heart, is perhaps one of those cute images of romance. Yet for some people the reality is a mere shadow of what was promised. I hope your valentines day lived up to the image you had in your mind.

Sometimes faith can be like that, the smiling people at church, the over joyful minister can sometimes hide a hidden reality. That life with or with out God can sometimes be a shadow of what might of been promised.

When those promises seem to have been broken we might want to walk away, or perhaps we stop trusting as much in God or people in general.

So when you hear stuff from the front of church, ask yourself did Jesus really say that? Fact check what you are hearing, discern if what you are listening too is in fact alternative facts!

Jesus never said all would be healed, or all would have incredible lives. He didn’t say it would not be hard at times. He did say he would be with you until the end of the age, that in him we can be fed, in him we can know life in all its fullness.

Perhaps I have become skeletal in my grand old age of 42, but as a people we need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, so that we can avoid the traps set by the cunningness of man. so that we keep travelling authentically with Jesus, that is sustaining, forgiving, loving and joyful.

 

The Church That Serves

When we think of social services, hospitals and schools we may well think that the government came up with the idea. Yet They weren’t first to the game, not by some way.

By 580 AD the church had a system for circulating consumables to the poor: associated with each parish was a diaconium or office of the deacon. Monasteries also often served as comprehensive social service agencies, acting as hospitals, homes for the aged, orphanages, and travellers’ aid stations.

In fact, all major religions impacted its society in similar ways wherever it found itself on the globe. As societies developed, because of better health care and education provided by faith-filled believers, wider society took up the burden of this work, modernising it and in some way taking it to the next level.

The western world not developing this until the mid 19 century nearly 2000 years after the Christian church at least, had been serving the poor and providing care and help on a wide scale.

Today, the church might lament sometimes a lack of social services for the spiritual needs as well as social, emotional and physical but it doesn’t mean our engagement has lessened our impact. It has re-engaged with workplace chaplains, with churches collecting for charities giving generously of its time and money to ventures such as food banks, clothing banks, credit unions and so on and so forth.

We should learn from our historical mistakes, but feel proud of the legacy we have begun in the country for people. A legacy that means people are healthier and better educated because of people willing to serve and whose driving principles was Jesus teaching about the value of others, and in that people came to know christ.

We continue as the body of the church, to serve the needs as we find them. Let’s never forget our calling in that regard, that at the heart of who and what we are as church, is summed up beautifully in Matthew’s gospel chapter 25: 31-46

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’….

However lets also not forget the verses after in verse 45 of chapter 25:

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

A chilling warning to us ever forgetting the calling Jesus has for us, echoed more softly in the parable of the good samaritan!

As church communities let us be encouraged by what we have achieved, but not complacent to think it’s perfect or that we are done. I fear we think we don’t have a place in these areas anymore that somehow we are not welcome.

Perhaps that is true for some, but for most, I believe and I have witnessed myself that the door is very much open to the great great great great great… great grandparent of social work. We lend a hand and helping once more alongside others, so that together we help those who are, hungry, thirsty, shivering, sick and those in prison and many, many more.

As the church of Christ, our fruitfulness is because the action of the holy Spirit in our lives. Whose intention is always to bless others and through us remind them of a narrative. A narrative that is so vast and yet so personal of a God who knows, loves and longs for us to flourish whether they realise it’s his call or not.

Together as surgeons and doctors and nurses and social workers, teachers… we are the church and have more to say than just about the spiritual things of life. May the church live out its vibrant Godly focus in all its diversity and richness. Not focusing on one aspect of church ministry or life, but truly embodying diversity as we engage our world.

One passing question, what part of society will you or I look back on in the next 50 years or so and say, we enabled that to happen, not for our glory but God’s?

Starting Over With God

There are moments for all of us when we need to, metaphorically speaking, press our restart button. This might be because of the day we have had, a decision we have made or something that has been done in our name or to us.

When we press restart on our tablet or computer the logo of its maker appears briefly as it boots into its operating system. As a person, I wonder what the logo in your reboot procedure looks like when you press restart

Mine is the cross like the in the image above. In amongst the chaos of a day littered around me and in the business of life I came to the Holy Cross Chapel to pray.

To restart for me at least, the cross is where I rebuild from, recognising my need for Christ’s love, hope and above all grace-filled forgiveness.

As you restart, wherever you are and in whatever way is helpful, may my God be with you and made known to you.

God bless. Andy

Get Your Faith Lift Here!

Has your faith become sanitised, tame, lukewarm? Is church ‘run of the mill’, no more challenging than what you might pick for breakfast in the morning? The video below that reminds us otherwise; the sheer challenge of the gospel, the agony of the early mission leaders to choose Jesus every single time.

Today in ISIS held land Christians are facing the kind of hate these early missionaries experienced. And just see what God does with that. The story is based a long time ago, but it could be a story and narrative that happens today. Not in our comfortable, westernised lives perhaps, but where people live in fear from those who would have them killed for their faith, this story is real and relevant.

Be warned, the story in this video is not for the faith hearted!

Finally, what does your faith mean to you?  How far would you go?  What would you give up for the sake of the gospel?  As you listen to the words, the story alongside blows you away.

%d bloggers like this: