“What do you bring to the table?”

2020 has been a strange year. It’s been unique. It’s been unprecedented. I think we’ve heard that word an unprecedented amount of times too, which only confirms what a strange year it’s been.

I’ve found 2020 to be beneficial in its own unique way as well. I’ve found it thought provoking. I’ve found it one where perspective has been more useful than normal. I’ve found we’ve been asked to think outside the usual parameters we’re accustomed to.

Individually the same can be said. Like one Sunday morning as i sat there on zoom tuning in to the latest “church on the couch”, as has been for months now this year. We were asked a question. A short one. But it was thought provoking, and in a good way.

What do i bring to the table?

The question is very much also a saying. What is it we can contribute? What is it that we offer? What is it that we know we possess that is of use to others? In this context it is all about what we bring to God, the Father’s table?

For me it starts with a simplicity. I’m simple. I know what I want and I’m going focus on that and only that. I’m not asking for much. I’m simply asking for what I need.

There’s authenticity too. I carry something genuine and real and it is me. It is mine. Friends and acquaintances have often spoken of it. Of how I carry something like the fingerprints of Christ. He’s put that in me, I know so.

But as he’s mentored me he has shown me how to go further. To love, encourage and to show compassion. He’s helped me realise that life isn’t all about me. The need to respect and consider others is of equal importance to that of my own.

He’s given me a desire now to speak that in to others through writing and no doubt through words that I also speak. Being brave enough to be open and honest is a damn hard task. Not least because you essentially expose yourself to others. “ Expose” probably isn’t the greatest word to use because by now i feel it’s less exposed and more offering up what I’ve found to be good for me. In the earlier days it did feel more like exposure.

But in doing this he has shown me the value of doing just so. We humans are meant to co-exist. We’re meant to do life together and the value in community is so high. Perhaps it’s the emotive reaction that connection brings? Or maybe it’s simply that our circumstances feel familiar and empathy is felt? We’ve all been in these places at one point or another

When I think back to that desire the father has given me I don’t just see the desire he’s put in to me but equally the desire he has for me, and wow! When you see that it blows you away. His desire is borne totally out of love. Unconditional love. When I think about this I feel it’s hard for us to fully comprehend how much he loves us. We have an idea, but that idea is based on our own idea. I have a feeling he loves us even deeper than that.

His love for us is a lot like taking a ride somewhere. It’s been a journey. We’ve had to learn and discover the deepness of his love. The journey has taken us places, it’s given us emotions that have changed us and when you look back 10 years, 5 years, 2 years and then today and you see all these parts he has built up within you. They have made you stronger and wiser. They have taught you so much that you are not the same person you were earlier. It’s not possible to be the same person anymore.

If the Father has made us so perfectly in his image then it is our duty to best believe that his design is intentional and the things that make us who we are were truly meant to be. Our identity is something we need to embrace.

That brings me back to the question I’ve been asked a few times lately.

What do I bring to the table?

The saying has been around forever but in the context of our relationship with the Father i wonder if we’re truly aware of what we bring to the table? I’m aware of the things I bring. I mentioned them at the beginning.

Things like authenticity and genuineness were words given to me recently. I’ve seen it and know it to be true. Another word given to me which also sits in line with the others was presence. Presence is not something you practice. Presence is something you carry and if anything it is more of a reflection. It’s what people see.

I think those are three amazing things to bring to the table.

Authenticity

Genuineness

Presence

Each one of those I see mirror the way the Father also was. The beauty in this is that this is what he intended for me. I didn’t really ever work towards this, it just became a part of me as i matured. This is how the Father builds us up. This is how he built me up.

I want to finish with this. The other day I was reading out of Acts chapter 2. Here King David spoke of a Lord who he walks with so intimately. He knows that he is forever side by side with him. He speaks of his praises, his joy and the hope that is so strong.

I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’”

Acts of the Apostles 2:25-28 NLT

It’s my hope that we all find a place where we can each be thankful for his presence, praise him for the joy he has given us and continue to live in such strong hope that he is forever with us on this journey. We will not be shaken. He will not be moved.

Whatever it is that you bring to the table you should have a confidence in it. A confidence within yourself. Your value is found in the things that Christ has given you. And all you bring is all you need to bring. It is all he intended for you. It is all you need…..and it is yours to keep!

Owning your identity

So I’ve been thinking an awful lot lately about our identities and the way that our Father works within them.

Let’s start with the obvious. Our identity, which God has given us – is seen through the ways we use our gifts, which he has also given us. Our gifts become like our authority. God wants us to use that authority so that people may know and literally see our God given identity. He wants us to use it in a way that brings joy to his heart and glory to his name.

I feel such encouragement when I think about the way that my identity is found. I’m so profoundly lifted when I realise that the gifts he has given me are where my identity in Christ is revealed. The gifts are intended for me. They are for me to use in ways in which I can bless those i come across.

God has given us all gifts. Some are unique, others are intended for the right people. But all of us have an immense value that our Father wants us to not just discover, but use.

We find these gifts in so many ways. We find them in the way we serve tirelessly without seeking reward. We find them in the selfless faith we carry each and every day. We find them in the way our hearts desire for things. We find them in the things that make us come alive.

Some of us love like all of us only wish we could. It’s a love that looks easy, it looks like peace as well. It’s amazing! Love and peace feel like the dynamic duo we all seek and when we find it it is THE most brilliant feeling. To have someone shower you with their love and peace is a blessing you invaluably accept.

No matter what our identity entails it is all special and brilliant. After all, it’s God’s craftiness that has been at work, and his workmanship is unlike no other.

It’s so clearly part of his design for us and when i see this it draws me in closer and stronger with each day. He has a path he has set us on, he has us on his fingertips guiding and encouraging us. He walks beside us – forever in control. That right there is a powerful hope to hold on to. He is with us at ALL times so be on the lookout, listen for him.

Our Father has given us so much already. But perhaps the most exciting thing about what he has given us is that we literally have no comprehension of just what he can actually do and the depths that he would go in order to do so.

I was drawn to Ephesians 3:20 earlier and was simply struck in awe. It says

“ God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his spirit gently within us.” (MSG version)

This is amazing! It’s Marvellous! It leaves me sat in awe of just what he could do. What I know is this. You and I, we all have gifts intended for use. And when you see the way he is already using you then you begin to sense a little a tick of the magnitude of his plans for us.

He does this by using us, by living within us. So when we use our gifts it is like God showing us the things we are capable of. But not only that. He’s showing us who we really are intended to be.

It is such an encouragement when we realise that. It’s also an incredible blessing to be entrusted with. He gives us this when we are ready to use it. He equips us with what we can handle. We are a vessel created and crafted for that specific purpose. It’s up to us to discover that purpose and gifting.

As I’ve thought long and hard over the past weeks he’s shown how this all comes together for the good of his kingdom. I’ve seen this in the words spoken over me. I’ve seen this in the way the same things have been confirmed by others. Almost like twins who think the same things. Our Father has confirmed much in recent weeks like that. It’s exciting and empowering when that happens.

But as I finish this “lesson”, if we can call it that. I want to finish by empowering you to step out and use your own gifts. Listen to God. Listen for the finer details which will become the start of something with such great purpose. No gift is too small, insignificant or over used. There’s always a need for more of it.

I’m lucky right now that the sense of my gifting is so strong right now. But rather than make it about me I just want to listen to the things my Father in heaven reveals to me. That friends is what is worth sharing.

Riding the wave

A while ago I found my mind drawn back to a text message sent to me some 14 months ago. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of this memory. But i felt that God had placed it there for a reason.

For the first few days I would think back to it but not really take the time to investigate it. Kind of like procrastinating. We know we want to or would like to do something but just never get around to doing it. The thought stays there but it remains a thought, and that’s exactly what happened.

About a week later things had not really progressed but if I knew one thing it was that God has a habit of doing things in his time. So I asked myself why would God bring up the text message in my mind out of the blue? There simply had to be a reason for it and I knew it!

The text was from my pastor Matt. He had been spending time praying for me and during that time had seen a vision that represented God calling me in to a deeper place of intimacy with him. In this vision I had been in the water wanting to catch waves but not having the courage to do so.

I knew full well what that meant, but to be honest, what did that look like? I had no idea.What was i to do? How was I meant to go about it?

The waves represented the Holy Spirit. Essentially I needed to be bolder and catch those waves. Because in the vision the moment I did catch one I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic!

I wanted that SO much! I wanted to know I could do it. I wanted to experience what that reaction was.

So I prayed.

I prayed and meditated on those questions. On what it meant? And how I would go about it? I started looking intentionally for the answers and the truth was I found them right away. They weren’t ground breaking answers. They didn’t change many things at all but what I see now is they got my mind searching deeper and got me in to a routine of doing this.

Almost like my mind was being retrained – to look at things from a slightly different perspective. If I felt curious or unsure on something I began to see that this was my mind expanding.

A lot of what I was writing on in this period was from that initial perspective. A perspective that focused on encouraging and loving. A perspective that knew that in that place of honesty and vulnerability there were people out there who felt the same things or needed those words for themselves.

But as i started searching deeper for God’s intimacy I realised that I had stopped writing. That even though I had a lot on my heart, I wasn’t feeling moved to write things down. Instead I was being called to stop. To listen. To rest. To seek and find these reasons for the pause.

Even as I write this now my latest piece sits unfinished and here now is another piece put together so easily, almost as if God has placed it all on my heart right now, for this moment, this purpose.

The purpose is not just for me. It’s never about me. It may involve me but it’s never about me. It’s about God. It’s for God and it’s done with our Father, God.

What I realised when looking back at this text message was that what was spoken in to me that day is what has indeed happened since then. It’s been gradual and it’s been consistent and it has blessed me time after time again.

I still think about a time when I found it challenging even to write things that provided just a small window in to my thoughts and feelings. As introverted as i can be at times, this was a wild and yet bold step to make.

That feeling quadrupled in intensity when writing about thoughts became writing about deeper, more intimate matters such as what God has been doing in and around me.

But by this point it felt almost a necessity that I stepped in to that place and in some ways was actually an easier step to make because the words almost always come easier than when I write about other matters. Almost like God just laid it all out for me and I just needed to put it together.

The revelation in this experience for me was found in the way God had used that text message to show me what he had been doing since that day. At times we lose sight of some of the things he does for us, so to pull it back in and focus on things in hindsight was amazing! Because I could see HOW much he has done during this time.

I look at the way a COVID world has impacted this too. The routine of a Sunday spent in church, as good as it was, was changed. My focus – shifted, again.

Church has still been a big part of my Sunday just via Zoom and to be honest. I love it! Why? Well funnily enough it feels more intimate, it takes us deeper via the conversations we have. There is openness, vulnerability, honesty, love, kindness and inspiration. But perhaps the one thing that stands out most is that despite a world where isolation is a common theme now, it is community and family that are growing in this space.

Zoom has also challenged me to continue down this road I am on. I get to be Inspired and at the same time hopefully inspire and encourage others.

It’s also a proposition for the future. It’s a bold invitation to continue down this road. That as I step deeper in to him that there is a purpose that I will understand far better on another day.

The challenge today is definitely found in the connection we establish with others. Life has been altered. The opportunities are still there but they look different. They occur differently, none the least they are still there.

However I am so encouraged that I was drawn back to the original message so that I could see what God has done, and I’m eagerly awaiting what he wants to show me next.

The beauty of God is that he crafts us so intricately, so uniquely that we can have no idea what he is about to do next. But we can be safe in the knowledge that he’s always working within us.

I feel like the only thing left to say now is to encourage. We all have our own story. It is unique, it is something worth sharing and you can. But it is our story and what God has planned for each of us is going to be different for each of us. That’s what makes it unique.

But find encouragement even in the little things he does. A thousand small steps is a lot of steps In the right direction. So even if when it feels like he’s doing little, be encouraged that he’s doing something and piece by piece it will all make sense and you too will look back and see HOW much he actually has done.

As for me the shift is obvious. The fork in the road, long past. Those thousand small steps have left me in a place where I am ready for that next thousand steps as the journey continues

Encountering God

I’ve found myself lately focused on the ways in which I encounter God. For a few months I’ve been leaning far more intentionally on the ways in which I encounter him and then choose to interact with him. He’s taught me to listen more to those around me. To remind me that he uses every one of us as a means to speak to us.

I’ve always known that there’s an intentionality behind the people that God provides in our lives. They are there for a reason. They are there because they provide us with tools or gifts that we are open to receive. These people are our encouragement, our kick up the backside and they are the ones who watch out for us. They are many things. They are also the tools that God uses to equip us with what we need.

Originally this blog was entirely centred on the ways we encounter God and at a later point it will again. However i felt it was perhaps necessary to think about it in a different way. A way in which it affects us in a world that is now changing by the day. Why? Because things are changing quickly and the world we live in has a reality that is very different to the one of how we spent Christmas Day. So much has changed!

What’s clear is that this world is a very different world now. Our freedom is being challenged. Our simple, every day routines have been compromised. What we took for granted all of a sudden seems more valuable. Life feels a little more a gift than an entitlement. We’ve been reminded in the most brutal way that life is fragile and that it isn’t assured.

All those thoughts are just a little confronting to think about. But equally it’s a time to remind ourselves that God is still near. Things are still the same between he and I. They are still the same between God and yourselves. And it’s those encounters with God that we should be dearly looking for. He is there. He’s not gone anywhere. Right now I feel an encouragement to be more actively seeking him. To be mindful of the ways in which he is presenting himself to me.

There’s little doubt the feeling of seeking God more is a thought that has crossed all our minds lately. This is a world now that needs resolution. It needs restoration and healing. It is a world that is crying out for authority and there is none better than God.

Coronavirus has us all feeling a little anxious and concerned. Our daily lives aren’t just affected they are altered. We are learning to do things differently. We are learning to keep our space from people. We are learning to be mindful of the things we do and the way we go about that. We are retraining ourselves in our habits. It’s all a bit unique and different, and we as creatures of habit never like change.

There is though an encouragement. Because even amongst the fear we feel on our streets, our shopping malls and transport network there is something far greater than the strongest fear we can entertain.

God.

He’s not just our creator and father. He is our healer. This is the same God who moved mountains, parted seas and broke droughts. He has an infinite amount of power over this world.

So of course we should continue to ask him for healing of the sick. We should ask him for protection. We should ask that he will bring wisdom and clarity to our political leaders. We should ask him to provide strength and precision to our doctors and their teams, including nurses.

That is the God we encounter when we actively seek him. It is the God we know and have faith in. Even in these challenging times his promises are still so real. He has reminded me so much of that fact in recent months. That all it takes is a genuine heart that seeks him out and one that is willing to receive what he is offering.

So friends. Be open. Be open to the things he places on your heart. Be mindful of the ways in which he speaks to you. Know that there are people in your life for a very specific reason. Challenge yourself to be more open with them. Have a conversation with them, even if you’ve never done so yet. Just know that God has a reason for that moment. It’s all part of his design. And now perhaps more than ever his design needs you working towards it.

Love is spelled Light

Recently i shared a small snippet on what it means to be a light. It was a chance to share one of the things of my life for which I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for it because we live in a world that focuses on “ME”. It focuses on things we can get from life, whether it be wealth, status or just generally our wellbeing. All those things are nice, they are great actually. However there’s more to living than this.

I’ve found that one of the things I do naturally and effectively is to be a light. What does that mean exactly?

The idea of it comes from the book of Matthew in chapter 5:16 where it says;

“So don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that the commendable things you do will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:16 (Passion translation)

In a more general sense of the translation to be a light means to shine or to bring light to people’s lives. It means to encourage, empower and set an example. It means supporting or showing love to those around you.

It’s about shining a light on something, like in the same way a light shone in the darkness reveals the true identity of something.

I’ve found over time that people need other people. We carry burdens, we carry fragments of our past which even though are in our past they still touch, linger and affect our futures. It’s not always easy to see things for what they really are. We see them through the lens we get used to seeing them through. And this affects our ability to look forward.

I’ve found that i have a way with words. Almost always in a context of writing something. But I’ve learned also that sometimes those words need to be spoken. Words have meaning. They impact us.

While words spoken can have an impact, it is examples which impact more. Examples are best set by actions. Our presence can mean a lot to someone, just having someone being there fills a void that can be incredibly beneficial.

What is it we carry that is so beneficial?

We carry a presence which reflects the nature of who we are. It’s partially personality but if anything it’s more than that. It stems from the heart and your deepest desires. My heart seems to carry vast amounts of compassion, empathy and love. It’s hard to know why but it does.

It’s only been recent years that I’ve let that part of me really be seen. Not for fear of what others would think, but honestly? It was that I truly did not understand what it was that i carried within me.

It’s one thing to be nice to someone. I always found that easy. But it’s something far greater to step out and just be there for someone. Sometimes it’s just a message, a conversation. Even just a moment. What counts in that moment is the example. It’s the action which speaks loudest.

It’s like saying;

“Friend, nothing else matters. I support you. I want you to see that i am simply here for you”.

Nothing is expected in return for this isn’t about me. It’s about doing the very thing i believe we are here for. Each other.

We are here for each other.

That is what it means to be a light. I know that at the other end of the spectrum it is people’s words and presence which have encouraged me over time.

Sometimes we know where to go but can’t seem to find our way there. This is where we need other people. I don’t think its coincidence that the people in our lives are who they are. I think they all play a role in shaping who we are meant to become. It is their words, their encouragement, their constant presence and support which helps us find our way.

When I think about my presence I want to know that i made a difference. I want to know that I stopped and helped someone when they needed it.

Why?

Because not everyone will do it. People will be left to fend for themselves, or feel that their circumstances left them unworthy of a good deed. I see people made to pay continuously for their poor decisions. I see people living without belief of better days ahead. Of choosing to believe that hope is something they cannot touch because they feel they don’t deserve it.

But hope is a powerful thing. Hope is a presence that restores the broken, it recharges the defeated and it reminds the lost that you will find that place you desire once more.

That is why shining a light for all to see is so important.

My light is your hope. Light shines for all to see. Your hope shines brightest in the darkest moments, like the sun that rises after the night’s longest hour. I’m reminded of that every time the sun breaks out after a storm.

Friends as Christmas passes and a new year closes in remind yourself to think of those around you. Be encouraged that your presence can be someone else’s light.

The mindset

I often wondered what it was like to find a level of peace that existed beyond what I initially knew. It’s easy to say to someone “Cheer up!” Or “Look on the bright side dude!”. But when you feel that way it’s not always easy to simply pick yourself up and feel better about certain things or situations. On occasions there are but what’s more likely is that you will put on an act to look as if you’ve moved on, all the while you feel a sense of carrying that burden with you, it remains. It just sits in your back pocket waiting to come out again at a later point.

We’re really good at storing unnecessary things within us. We hold grudges. We hold disappointments. We hold bad experiences. We hold a lot of things that carry negative weight within us. It’s crazy that we do!! Why do it!?!? It’s doing no good for us so why focus on it? Why let it absorb so much energy? It would be so much better if we could just flush it away and know that it’s done with.

So how do we do that?

The truth is we’re flawed characters. We don’t have all the answers. That is how we end up where we are in the first place. We make decisions emotively. How we feel determines how we react. It feels as if we are built with defensive mechanisms within us. They seem to stem from our flawed personalities. We react in a imperfect manner. It’s proven in those moments we look back on and realise we didn’t react the way we should have or even would like to have.

I believe the key to difference starts in a similar place. It’s starts within us. It starts with our mindset. Our mind is our biggest weapon yet our most dangerous adversary. It can do both. Both brilliance and destruction. But there lies a real force in a mindset that is positive. There comes with it a real belief and determination to wherever you find yourself. A positive mindset is more proactive. It is more productive and it is far more healthy for us. I guess it stems from knowing what we want in life, or in that day or moment.

Ultimately though a positive mindset is the ability to think in a manner that chooses not to worry. It chooses to think in a forward thinking space. It determines a mindset that doesn’t let things get in the way. It focuses on a way and shuts out all thoughts around it that could unsettle those thoughts. It’s a mindset that requires strength and discipline because it’s obviously far easier to let our emotive selves control the way we think.

The level of peace I carry now stems from a shift in my mindset.

What did I do exactly?

Well first you need to identify your mindset and what dictates it. You need to figure out what it is that controls your thinking. Is it your job? Your family? Perhaps it’s your wealth or even your health?? But deep down there will be something that feels central to dictating the way you think and feel.

When you figure out what it is that dominates your mindset you have to ask yourself.

Is this a good thing? Or

Is this a bad thing?

I think it’s so important to fixate your mind on the good things in life . Things that make you happy, things that bring value to your life. Things that deep down inside of you feel right.

Equally though it is time to rid yourself of the things that you feel drag you down in life. This is your life, you decide what is good or bad for you in your life. Rid yourself of it. Don’t allow yourself to invest the time even thinking about it. Choose to say “No! I’m not going to focus on this.”. Choose to rid yourself of the negative energies in your life. Focus on the good and allow your mind to feel at peace. Your mind can have you sinking deeper by the day if you allow it to do so.

A healthy mind is wonderful basis to build upon. A healthy mind is a mind at peace, and a mind at peace is a mind that is making choices that deep down feel right and do good for you.

My mind feels at peace most of the time now, but I am human. That default mechanism has me emotively thinking some days but I am usually quick to slap that in the face and think with a mindset that is more positive for myself.

Perhaps a lot of that is to do with my Christian faith………….

Actually, it probably has a lot to do with that. Maybe faith has a lot to do with instilling a positive mindset?

If faith is the ability to trust in something you cannot physically see then that right there is a mindset that chooses to think outside our usual emotive ways. Instead it chooses to believe in a higher power greater than myself. It chooses to believe that what I feel or fear is merely my emotive state telling me otherwise. The challenge is always to trust the process.

Having God there helps a lot with this. I choose not worry about things that I can’t control. Instead giving them to God, and knowing that if I focus on what’s important then the rest will fall in to place. And it always does.

The old me would’ve let that fear or negative thought take control at some point. It would’ve highlighted to me how my reaction was always a certain way. A way that didn’t really help me with anything. Now though it is different. It starts with the mindset that sees me looking forward and positively. And with it a reminder every time of how much better, easier and enjoyable life is when you look at life through a positive lens.

So friends it’s a simple equation. The choice is yours. It’s like a fork in the road. Your mindset will control you. Which direction you want to send it is up to you.

Left or right? East or West? In the dark or the light? It’s your call. Even if you feel you’re in a good place right now let it reinforce the value of a positive mindset and be thankful you’re able to enforce it.

But perhaps it’s best put this way. Don’t think of it so much as a case of simply trying to find the good in any situation. But rather learn to look for the good. Even in situations which leave you feeling bummed or hopeless. Desperate or sad. Try and find something of value, something of good. It will help. It will help even if all it does is encourage you to think and react differently.

Understanding your heart

I have learned a lot from my own heart in the last 18 months. I feel like there was a journey that needed to be taken. I felt like soul searching wasn’t a cliche or throwaway line to be used, but more that it was a path that was in front of me and that the choice was mine. To go down the path. Or to watch from afar.

To go down the path was just a start. It was nothing more than a choice.

What was down that path?

What things would I see?

What things would i learn?

What lessons would impact me?

And perhaps most importantly what would I become of the impact?

Who would i discover inside of me?

Was I someone new? Different? A better person? Or just a better version of the one who already existed? Like a refined version.

The thing about the path, or rather the journey of my own heart is that you do learn a lot about yourself. Like any path you see things. You experience things. You feel things. It’s a journey that makes sure it impacts you. Hopefully for the better. For me i feel like it has definitely been a good thing.

A valuable thing in fact.

Not everything you learn is a good thing. There are things that seem hard, or harsh. There are things that will challenge you along the way, but those things exist to better you because by now we all know that we can overcome all things.

See, we are stronger than we realise. Our minds doubt what we are capable of. They tell us lies, they slant the truth or lead us to perceive things differently to how they really are. But it’s that same mind that holds the key. The key to whatever it is we’re searching for.

Perhaps that thing is our heart?

One thing I’ve found and learned is that it’s one thing to feel your heart but it is entirely another thing to understand it. Our heart is more than just a heartbeat that allows us to live. Importantly it’s an expression of who we really are.

When you begin to understand your heart you begin to understand yourself. I now see that. Your heart can be hidden if you let it. What people see of you isn’t always your true self. It kind of bugs me that we do this. That we reflect an image of ourselves that isn’t really us.

Why? Why even bother with the stupid smokescreen???

I wish i knew. I suspect it’s got a lot to do with our flawed personalities. That we’re too easily controlled by insecurity. That the image we present is just as valuable as the real us. It’s a crazy lie.

The search for one’s heart, our own heart – is a journey that forces you to critique yourself. You only find it when you reach a point where you discover who you really are and what it is that makes you tick. Only when you identify with your identity do you really understand yourself and therefore – your heart. When you reach that point life feels easier. It feels secure. Life feels as though you finally found the map to the trail that your life is.

The challenge therefore has to be to stay true to yourself. Forgetting the expectations placed on you the challenge is first to seek your heart.

To find it, reflect on it. To ask questions of it. To spend time alone just meditating on wherever the process takes you. Find places that relax you. Find places that don’t distract you. Take a walk or a drive and just find a place that allows you to switch off.

I’m reminded of a quote from author John Eldredge who said;

There is is something else I am after, out here in the wild. I am searching for an even more elusive prey….something that can only be found through the help of the wilderness. I am looking for my heart. ( Wild at Heart – John Eldredge)

The bottom line is that our hearts are more vital, more influential and more defining of ourselves than we perhaps ever realised. If our heart feels good, we feel good. If we understand our heart, we feel a sense of peace within us. It’s that vital!

But damn! It is elusive. Like in John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” the experience of finding your heart, and therefore yourself isn’t an easy one. It isn’t about any one moment. No lightbulb moments here.

If anything the experience tells me that it’s more likely to be a journey. It’s more likely that a combination of time, experiences and reflection are going to help. But the journey probably will be wild. Not least because in order to learn about yourself you need to confront yourself.

That’s not the easiest thing to do. But it may just be the best thing you do. So friends – be bold, be strong and remind yourself that you carry something so special, so desirable within you – your heart.

Learn to seek your heart. To listen to it, to understand it better. Take the time. Be patient with it because if you do will discover something magical of it.

From the heart


I completely fell for this quote when I read it. John Eldredge is a name I’ve only discovered in the last 12-18 months but already he feels like a trusted advisor. One day it was suggested to me I should look his name up and source out his books. One in particular was “Wild at Heart”. I was told it was a bit of a game changer. That it will be the best thing I’ll ever do. So i did it. Cue the following……

So what is it about this quote??

Caring for our own hearts isn’t selfishness. It’s about looking out for yourself. It’s about positioning yourself in a way that ensures that you are where you need to be, at least from a heart point of view. I wrote last time about the heart check and determining whether your thoughts, your actions and therefore your heart are in the right place.
I think its more than okay to be selfish in this regard because what you feel inside of you will reflect outwardly towards others. So if your heart is in a good place you are far more likely to reflect that heart on to others and it will be in a good way, a positive way. Chances are it will be done in a loving way.

But what happens when you feel inside that your heart is not where it needs to be? You feel discontentment. You feel edgy. You feel the sense of comfort is missing. Little things bother you and the bigger issues nag at you like you’re sick in the stomach. In these moments it’s okay to stop. To admit that you’re not happy. It’s about dissecting why you feel this way and what you can do to improve things. Sure, there may not be any bright, quick and easy solutions but small steps are just effective.

I completely agree with the sentiment that our hearts are allowed to be selfish places. Our hearts begin to love when they are in the right place. They can invest in things, grow relationships and fuel a fire deep within you and when that place is a good place then the heart is growing the way it was intended.

I’ve learned that a lot of what I do starts from the heart. I think it’s important to remember that for ourselves. The good things we do start from the heart. But be wary because we do let ourselves down sometimes. We say things or do things that we are not proud of. That doesn’t mean our hearts are in a bad place. It simply means we’re human and prone to mistakes. Our hearts are stronger than this though and with the right drive and determination we can move on from these moments.

I’ve also learned that there is a real power within us when we love. A heart that loves is truly at peace in that moment when it loves. There’s a contentment, a desire that can’t be broken – almost like a shield that protects that love from the forces designed to bring it down. It’s something we all want yet so many of us envy those who carry it.

But the truth may be that we all do carry it?

The truth may be that we simply haven’t allowed ourselves the chance to really, genuinely begin to love. See love doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t judge, it never boasts. Sometimes it doesn’t need words to be verbalised – it just does. Love is more than words, it is more than the sum of what can ever be offered. What you DO will ALWAYS count for more.

When they say that actions speak louder than words I feel that the phrase is well worn out. It’s been used for how long now?? It’s not that it’s lost it’s truth, it’s just that it’s a statement that probably isn’t as effective as it once was. But it’s truth is well worth remembering. “Doing” means to actively involve yourself in an action and when you DO something it has the ability to be impressionable on others, so make it count and make it a positive action.

I think it’s important to remember also that you control your heart. You can feel it inside of you when it’s in that happy place. You can feel it inside you when you’re discontent. So look out for yourselves. Surround yourself with people you know make you feel good. Surround yourselves with people you love and show you how to love. This is how we begin to love and this is how our heart was designed.

Reflection

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Part of that was intentional, to take a short break after unloading for like 9-10 months, but i wasn’t expecting the break to be this long. It was open ended actually. I’ve been dabbing in the process of creating ideas and that’s been about it the past few weeks.

I’ve felt the need to stop and rest. I’ve felt the need to assess and to consider whether the season of writing on specifically encouragement is over? Or maybe it never really ends? Perhaps it’s just chance to look at other things and write about them as well?

I chose the picture here for its reflection. Everything here looks still and perfect. The dark clouds are ominous but the surrounds are beautiful and take centre stage. The reflection here is pretty cool. It reminds me that you can see life in different ways when you reflect. The image of life will be similar but it will look slightly different as you interpret it differently.

For me the chance to reflect has been a chance to consolidate. It’s been a chance to simplify and remind myself of the things I want to be doing and the way i reflect in the eyes of others. Sometimes we move in life without thought as to what we’re doing. Like on autopilot or autocue. We do things because we do things. Sometimes we need that health check or as it was termed to me recently “the heart check”.

The heart check figures to determine where your heart lies. Do the internal decisions we make match up with the external declarations we make?? It’s a great question to ask ourselves!

The reflection we see always gives us something to look at, something to react towards. It’s gives us a place to determine what we see through our own eyes.

What do you see when you reflect? And does it match what you desire internally within your heart? Does your heart then match with the things you declare externally each day, week? It’s a question well worth asking ourselves.

As for me, my heart sits in a good place. My reflection is not far from where I’d like it to be. Sure, there are things to improve on but they are small things & its more the reminder to keep following basic principles

Photo cr: @vibfi

Thankful yet Grateful

We spend a lot of our time thinking about things that we’d like to change. We worry about where we’re heading in life. Is it where we hoped we’d be? And if it’s not we then worry about how we’re ever going to get to that place. I don’t think we’re ever satisfied! We always want more. Always believe there’s a next step to come.

Perhaps though we’re looking at things through the wrong lens? Maybe where we hoped we would be isn’t where we’re truly meant to be? What we thought was important suddenly seems a little less significant with the benefit of time or hindsight. Or maybe the older we get we learn to value things differently? Perspectives change over time and perhaps that’s part of the process?

Perspective though is a wonderful thing. Because among all the hopes and dreams we aspire towards its easy to lose sight of the things in our lives we should be thankful for. A thankful heart is a wonderful place to be in. Because in that moment everything is pushed aside and you are reminded of what really matters. It is a simple place but not always a place we remind ourselves to be in.

One of things i am thankful for occurs on one Sunday each month within my church. We meet downstairs for lunch afterwards. There we have so much fun. We joke, we share honest conversations. We encourage….we do a lot of things but mainly we are people who are showing a willingness and a value towards each other in that room. It feels very right every time we do this.

On this particular Sunday the question was put to us “what is something we are thankful for today?”. We went around the room, not one person had anything they couldn’t be thankful for. For some the things they were thankful for were simple things. For others there were bigger things. But for each person who spoke you could sense the value of what they were thankful for. It was a real nice place to be and a reminder that we are always in need of things that bring us comfort, support and opportunity.

Being thankful for something is an appreciation for a moment you find yourself in and realising the benefit or good that comes from that situation. The word thankful can also be used as grateful. Gratefulness is where you find an appreciation for your thankfulness. It’s like the moment you realise that what you were thankful for was actually something deeper, more significant to you and you gained a deeper appreciation for it. Gratefulness.

You can be thankful for the people you meet, or the food provided for you day to day. You can also be thankful for having great friends. But what if those great friends are there for you, look out for you, support you when you need it most? That there is something to be grateful for.

For me the friendships I’ve collected in life all mean something different to me. Each of them matter. They all play a role weather they believe it or not. They’ve all impacted me positively. That is something I am most thankful for.

There are then other friendships. Some of them are family. Others are like family, just not by blood. These types of friendships are deeper, more like carrying an unspoken bond. These are relationships in which not only am I thankful for but also grateful.

These are relationships in which there is more than just an appreciation for the friendship. There is respect. There is compassion, empathy, love, care, concern, hope and encouragement all rolled in there. If gratefulness was a river bed, well then this river would be overflowing!

The challenge for us all here is to remind ourselves. First, to remind ourselves to be thankful for big things and little things. For day to day things. To remind ourselves that our opportunities are provided for. But also there is a challenge there to find the things to be grateful for in those moments. Be thankful for family yet grateful for the time you are able to spend with that family.

Learn to appreciate the things that you are thankful for. Being thankful or grateful starts with the mind. It is an attitude. It is the ability to be mindful of your scenario. I think it also helps us to remain humble and honest of ourselves. It can have a way of also keeping us grounded. In fact a thankful heart probably teaches us more than the odd valuable lesson.

I want to finish with this quote:

“When asked if my cup is half full or half empty, my only response is I am thankful I even have a cup”.