This week, instead of making a ‘To Do’ list, I’m making a ‘To Be’ list.
We are not defined by a job title. The next time someone meets me for the first time with the question “so what do you do?” my answer is going to be, “I’m a dreamer, poet, runner, chef, philosopher, singer, escapologist, housekeeper, activist, writer, father, psychologist, son, walker, brother, coach, musician, meditator, counsellor, photographer, reader, student, dancer, dishwasher, teacher, explorer, sailor, seeker …”.
Truly humbling, the courage and compassion of health workers caring for Ebola patients. Unsung and unnamed, with no more obituary than ‘a nurse died’, these heroes risk their lives in the service of others.
The wonder and curiosity which welcomes what is new and regards it not as threatening but enriching life – that wonder is God. The confidence which leads us to abandon the shelter of our disguises and to open up the doors of our personality so that others may enter there, and both we and they be richer for the contact – that confidence is God. The vision which enables us to see the majesty of men, of all men including ourselves, piercing through the ugliness of the obscuring pathology to the beauty of the real person – that power of wisdom is God. H. A. Williams
Consider life through the metaphor of being in a trapeze act. As we move through the air with no safety net, we find our security whilst clinging to one trapeze or another. This trapeze can be in the form of a relationship, a job, money, or even something abstract like a belief. We are most at ease in our act if we keep one hand on the present trapeze until the other hand is firmly grasping the next trapeze. But sometimes we choose or are forced to release both hands before grasping the next trapeze. We find ourselves without security, we find ourselves in mid air. Sometimes we’re not just in mid air but in the midst of a triple somersault with no sight of the next trapeze. That time between trapezes can be scary, but mid air is where the talent and creativity of the artist is revealed. The freedom to spin, tumble and flip – to fly. And like a trapeze artist, we too must embrace the freedom and exhilaration of the time between trapezes. We too must embrace living in mid air.
The term unconditional love is like saying wet water. Affection with conditions attached isn’t love. When we say ‘I love you’ , are we are actually saying, ‘in this moment, under these conditions, I feel deep affection for you’? How easy it is for this mirage of love to disappear when the conditions change. Water never needs to be qualified as wet. Love never needs to be qualified as unconditional. Love is never conditional. Love is simply love. Love is rare.
Everyone knows what it’s like to be halted by fear. Fear of death or serious injury can stop you from skydiving. Fear of financial loss can stop you from starting a business. Fear of ridicule can stop you from living life to your own drumbeat.
I’m sleeping peacefully when suddenly I awake for no reason. Before I know it, my head is awash with a stew of anxiety and worries, my peaceful sleep torn to shreds. Illogical, non-sensical worries that in the light of day might only garner a few seconds of thought, now loom like giant shadows of twisted monsters in an old black and white horror movie. My heart is racing and I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of claustrophobia. My warm bed is no longer comforting but now stifling, my dark room not soothing but terrifying. Even to my adult brain, in the dead of night, these tigers are as real as childhood monsters under the bed. Why am I worrying? What do I really have to fear? I know that there are no monsters under the bed or tigers in the closet, but I toss and turn for hours, relieved to finally see the first rays of dawn streaming in. These nights don’t happen often, but when they do, I remind myself that in the morning light the shadows will be swept away, the monsters will disappear and the tigers will be gone.
We all have a tendency to judge and label outcomes as good or bad. We fear, avoid and complain about the bad. We desire and pursue the good. But is good always good and bad always bad?
A Chinese folk tale tells of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer’s neighbours came to comfort him on his bad luck, the farmer said, “Bad or good, it is what it is.” A week later, the old horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good or bad, it is what it is.” A few days later, as the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off and broke his leg. This time everyone spoke of the farmer’s bad luck. The farmer said, “Bad or good, it is what it is.” Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every young man except the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. Now the neighbours spoke of the good luck of the farmer who replied, “Good or bad, it is what it is.”
Everyone wants to be happy. For some, happiness is a state of euphoria or ecstasy, for me, happiness is more a state of contentment or satisfaction. So, what does the life guidebook (the bible) say about contentment?
1. Contentment is really, really valuable. Paul the apostle writes: “godliness with contentment is great gain”. Big promo for contentment here; Paul’s aim in life is to teach the importance of God and here he is adding contentment to the mix.
2. Contentment doesn’t come easily to us. Paul again writes: “I have learned the secret of being content”. So, contentment is a secret that must be learned. And, if contentment is really valuable then it must be worthwhile for us to try to learn this secret. So, where do we start?
3. Ditch our love of money. The writer of Hebrews says : “keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have”. This suggests that loving money is in conflict with being content. So, instead of loving money (and stuff), love God, love people and be content (happy).
I’ve decided to buy a suit. Why? Well after renting a suit for a wedding earlier this year and now needing a suit for another wedding, I’ve concluded that it makes financial sense to buy a suit, as long as it’s casual enough to be used more than twice a year.
So, easy financial decision, just go buy a casual suit, right? Well, maybe financial sense doesn’t equate to emotional sense, because, in my whole life, I don’t remember buying anything being this difficult. Maybe it’s because deep down I don’t really want to own a suit, but I just can’t seem to find anything that makes me want to part with my money. If it was outdoor clothing or a travel item, one hour on the internet and whatever I needed would be on its way to me. But after visits to numerous shops and hours online, my head is spinning and I’m no closer to finding the suit I need. Every suit seems to be either for heavy tweed for old men, bland grey for office workers or designer skinny for teenage boys.
- Life truly is a precious gift; I want to be thankful every day and I don’t want to waste a minute of my life being angry.
- If I walk one mile at a time, climb one step at a time and take one day at a time, I can walk across countries, climb mountains and survive life’s challenges.
- I haven’t figured out how to make loads of money in my sleep but I have figured out that I don’t need loads of money (or stuff) to be happy.
- Mental, spiritual and physical health is important; good food, meditation, prayer and exercise keeps me healthy.
- There are many other people like me pursuing an alternative to the consumption addicted, obese, medicated, destructive lifestyle that is commonplace.
“Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”
“And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse.”
Read this amazing letter from writer Charles Bukowski
click here: Letters of Note: People simply empty out.
With never more than what seemed like a few minutes without rain in the past week, and with the forecast for heavy rain this morning, I was really not looking forward to taking my tent down in the pouring rain. But I awoke to the sound of silence, no rain. I quickly took down the tent and packed it up. As I was putting it in the car, the heavens opened and down came the heavy rain. Perfect timing !! Thank you God.
Love your neighbour as yourself – commandment from Jesus
Love is such a powerful word. Yet what does it mean? The most universal meaning refers to a feeling – desire, gratitude, admiration, affection. Supposedly, we can’t control or chose our feelings and as such we can’t choose to love or not love someone. But yet we are commanded to love. Even though I agree that in loving someone, feelings can arise, I don’t think we would have been commanded to “have affectionate feelings for your neighbour”. In addition to a feeling, I think love is also a choice. I think our commandment is to make a choice about how we engage with others and what attitude we maintain. Whether it’s our neighbour or our romantic interest, love should also mean commitment, respect and kindness.
Sometimes you find that you have a person in your life who causes you anguish. A person who seems to feed on your pain. Just seeing their name in an email, or their phone number come up on your phone, causes your stomach to knot up. You fleetingly think “maybe this conversation will be different”, but it isn’t, every encounter leaves you worse off.
So you’ve turned the other cheek and now you’ve been repeatedly slapped on both cheeks. You can’t tolerate them. You can’t change them. You can’t bargain with them. Jesus says don’t resist them. What to do? Get away from them! As fast as possible! Run, don’t walk!
I have spent roughly a third of my life in each of three vastly different geographic regions and cultures, changing houses frequently. This has shaped the way I view the world and people. Though my country of origin still has the deepest emotional hold on me, nowhere ‘feels’ totally like home. This causes me to reflect on what is ‘home’. Eight months ago I sold my house and disposed of all my possessions other than my essentials which fit in a rucksack, giving me the freedom to travel (and change home) at will. At times, this freedom can feel homeless, no roots, no anchor. But I am exploring redefining ‘home’ for myself. After walking the Camino de Santiago and sleeping in a different bed every night, the second night in the same room suddenly felt like home. After seven months away, returning to England, to a different apartment, but seeing friends felt like home. The modern world of virtual meeting spaces of friends and family may mean that ‘home’ does not even have to be defined geographically. I think home is where I rest my spirit, where I am welcomed, where I am nourished – for a season – two days, two months, two years. For me, embracing the transient nature of our physical life on earth demands embracing change and acceptance that every thing is temporary. Not having to carry my home with me but being able to make my home wherever I am is very liberating. For those wandering spirits out there searching for a home, be still, breathe deeply, for in this moment and for this moment, you are home.
The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.
Like the Israelites, we can find ourselves in bondage – impoverished and abused. It can be a relationship, a job or some other situation that causes us pain, depression, anxiety or other illness. We cry out to God for rescue, to bring us comfort and peace. And like the Israelites we are rescued from bondage, set free from our situation. But the Israelites did not simply take two steps out of Egypt and into the promised land. The journey was long and arduous, taking decades. And likewise for us, our journey to healing and peace can be long and arduous.
They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, “Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians”? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’
When the Israelites were faced with obstacles – thirst, hunger, danger – they grumbled and cried out against God. They looked back at their life in bondage wistfully, wishing they were back in Egypt. So too when faced with obstacles – uncertainty, loneliness, sadness – we turn our minds back with doubt, gloss over our suffering of the past and even wish we could resurrect our life of bondage.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him
But as he did for the Israelites, God has a plan for us and is working for our good. After decades of wandering in the wilderness, learning to follow and trust God, the Israelites finally entered the promised land. So too must we persevere in our journey of healing (however short or long), following and trusting God and therein fully receive his promise of peace, abundance and life.
I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.