“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.

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.

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.

The think tank in me + you

So. I’m a thinker. I think about a lot of things. I probably think about things too much, sometimes without doing too much. I’ve been told that it’s kind of a habit somewhat normalized by plenty of us in the world today.

It’s an odd thought though to think a lot yet to do little about it. The truth is I’m getting better at doing things with those thoughts. What I’m discovering is that there’s actually a useful purpose behind some of those thoughts. One of those thoughts has been where writing steps in and creates something of those thoughts.

So the other morning an Instagram post from Jedidiah Jenkins @jedidiahjenkins got my attention. Jed is a guy who I found out about via my brother Andrew. Jed is a writer and Instagram personality. His book ”To Shake The Sleeping Self” sits here at home.

I’ve not read it yet but I see it sit there every day waiting to be read. I so badly want to read it because I can tell that from what Jed says on his Instagram feed that his words and indeed his thoughts are going to be so worth tapping in to.

So I mentioned Jed today because his latest Instagram post was something eerily similar to the things that I’ve been seeing in the past 4-5 months. Writing has been fun. Jed questioned how we know we should be writing?

For him and to a lesser extent I, it comes back to how your stuff is received. It’s one thing to put it out there and be brave enough in doing so. It’s another thing entirely to have it out there and creating any sort of impression on people. For it to make ANY sort of difference on just one person makes it a worthwhile experience and a purposeful exercise.

To have seen the ways in which things I’m writing have affected people has been an eye opener. Generally a lot of the feedback has been positive and the encouragement written about has been appreciated. I’ve also found that my words have been timely for others. Something that was needed and sought after.

I’ve learned within this time that these words aren’t just my words, they become your words and your friends words. Essentially they are words that are there for anyone they connect with.

The power in the words we write or even speak is not lost on me. It really does bring home the importance of the saying ”choose your words carefully!”.

My journey has only been 4-5 months long. It’s only just begun. I have no idea where the journey takes me or what it means but the lessons I’ve learned along the way already have been valuable. They have taught me deep, profound things about life.

At this point today I feel encouraged. I feel as though I simply need to remain focused on the things that I am doing. As a thinker, this is not easy.

Why?

Because my mind wants to think about what happens next? Next week. Next month. Next year. But I’m learning the value of simply letting things happen and embracing them. God tells us so often not to worry about tomorrow. I’m always drawn to Matthew 6:25-27

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%206:25-27&version=NLT

It’s a reminder to me, and if not all of us that we shouldn’t give too much concern for what tomorrow holds, instead focus on today and put all your efforts in to today.

When I look back on time I see the ways in which things usually do work out. When I look ahead all I see is the unknown but then when I look back i see a path which was created.

Like climbing a mountain – the road up looks daunting and slow but then from the top you see where you’ve come from and the view from where you now sit. It’s so much worth the effort and the determination to get there.

And it’s there that maybe the lesson is found?

The challenge is to worry less about where you’re going to end up and more about where you are right now. I believe God’s got me where I’m meant to be right now.

My challenge is to dig into that place and find the purpose for my situation. To worry less about what comes next and more on what I’m going to do now. I’ve seen the evidence of what happens when I follow the idea that this life is a story created and I just need to play my part.

So it’s a nice thing to see that my own story has similar episodes to others. It encourages me. It encourages me to keep doing the things that I am doing and know that there is a purpose in them.

It’s also kind of quirky the way that things can inspire you. The thought of an Instagram personality inspiring anyone is so modern day. If anything it shows you the value that does lie within social media when it’s used for good.

So when this ”thinker” thinks back over recent months he begins to see that it’s those thoughts that are coming alive – one tiny spark at a time. The challenge though is constant; to continue pressing in to those thoughts…..one day at a time.

Dear Friend – part II

Dear friend,

Life. It isn’t always fair. It isn’t always easy. But we do it anyway. We do it because….well we have to. We do it because inside ourselves a voice tells us to keep going. It tells us to keep fighting. It tells us it wants better. It tells us it wants more than this. It tells us we deserve better than this!

There is joy in the little things in life. Maybe we need to be reminded of this? There is something captivating about life and its offerings.

Friend, this morning I’m reminded that one of the keys to happiness is finding what makes you feel alive and acknowledging this. There are episodes all around us, opportunities each day to take this in.

Even if it’s just the morning coffee or tea ritual. In that moment you will find something of you that comes alive. Hold on to that feeling and remember it.

Maybe it’s just an opportunity to laugh with a friend. Hold on to it! Laughing is such a positive emotion. You need it. We ALL need it.

I’m reminded this week of how important we all are to each other. I’ve seen the value in being there for others. We don’t coexist by chance. Sometimes we need to be the words or examples for other people. What we say and do does matter! It matters because it has the ability to impact more than just ourselves.

Friend, like I said. I’ve seen the value of being there for others this week. But I’ve also seen the value in you. I said you are not defined by your adversity. It is true that you are greater than this.

Your value is measured in those that are closest to you. Only they know the true value of yourself. They say that we ourselves are our harshest critic and that it is our closest friends who’ll speak the greatest values of who we actually are.

Friend, today is another chapter. A new chapter. A new opportunity to continue your story. Stories change over time. Plot lines take on new directions always!

Remind yourself that your story is far from finished. Remind yourself that with each sunrise comes a powerful new opportunity, then when sunset comes be thankful for what was and don’t worry about what wasn’t.

Friend, take hold of what you can, be the difference maker today. Life is what you choose to make of it.

Friend, your story matters. You are more than you realise. Listen to your heart and quieten the noises around you.

Love is…..

There are few words more powerful than the word Love. It is a word that is essentially overused in the English language. We use it to just about describe anything that comes across our path that we find favour with, we even use it in ironic or sarcastic circumstances too, just to prove we really do overuse the word. But Love isn’t just a word, it is something which carries far more power than we often realise.

Often love is associated with the idea of simply loving someone or something. We show affection towards it. It becomes important to us. We believe that it carries more weight or for a better word……significance, than the things around us. We hold a value in this that far outmatches other things. But the truth is that love means many different things and it’s value to some will be far greater than it is to others.

Sadly love will not always represent what you hope for.  To some it will be a hard place. A bitter memory, a painful loss. But these places remind us of the power of love and what it carries, or did carry and how it doesn’t always work out the way it was intended. People are human, they’re aren’t faultless. People will have their own battles and you may not get a say in it. We as people are far from perfect and sadly people do get hurt inside places where love should’ve existed.

Perhaps Love’s greatest asset is the action and reasoning behind it. As an action it is powerful. It has the ability to connect one person with another where circumstances otherwise may not have done so. It takes only a moment to connect people. As simple as helping a mother lift a pram on to a train, yet the action remains in that mother’s mind for longer. Why? Because you showed something of your heart towards her in helping. To love by action is to commit towards something. You show a focus toward it. You have a reason for which you want to be in that moment. There is a value in giving your time to that moment.

Your friends and family are perhaps your best example of where you can show love like this. Growing up i had plenty of friends but there was always a core group, much smaller in number that were your true friends. You know the ones that you would literally stop for and be there for? This was them. They’re the friends that matter the most. Often, like with family, there isn’t anything you wouldn’t have done for them. Their situation was almost always more important than your own.

It’s a selfless love.

It’s never been about impressing others. Or wondering what you could get back in return. It’s a feeling that comes from within, like an extra sense, that channels you in to acting this way. This kind of relationship goes deeper than most. It means something far more significant than other relationships. You could go long periods of time without connecting with these friends or family and things still don’t seem to change. When you catch up it feels like you never drifted apart. These are bonds that we’re lucky to have. These are the bonds most people wish they could have. These are the bonds you should never take for granted.

But what about the world we live in today? It feels often like everyone is out to look after themselves. It can feel like everything has a price and that in order to step out and give someone your time would be at the expense of your own time.  Our time is precious, perhaps more so than ever? We live in a world now that leaves us short on time. It feels like work takes up 70 % of our lives, that sleep takes up 20%(probably less for some) and that the final 10% gets divvied up among ourselves, our partners, friends and family. Time has almost become like currency. We value it more than perhaps ever before.

What i see in the world today is that it is very important to look after yourself. It’s crucial to develop your path. Whether that be through your career, your family or even simply your future. There’s never been more importance placed on those things than there is today. All of this kind of feels a little out of line though. This type of world focuses a lot on looking out for ourselves and not to worry about the other guy, securing our own futures which in one sense is all well and good.  But is that really what we’re here for? Surely there’s more to life than this?? There has to be!

I think one of the greatest things you can give someone is your time. Earlier this year i felt God telling me that i needed to invest more time in those around me. I’ve always had time for friends and family but i haven’t always been the most open of people. Being introverted doesn’t help. You tend to come out of your quiet little corner every so often. It can feel like an effort to simply invest your time in people. But i’ve tried harder at it this year and its been a valuable experience.

What it’s taught me is that there is value in all of us. We’re all so different. So unique! We think differently. We believe different things. We hold different things closer to our hearts. However when we come together and chat, or listen, We’re not all that different afterall. What i once would’ve considered weird about someone, i now kind of view that as them simply being them and there’s nothing wrong in that. It what makes them unique.

It’s taught me that these experiences we share have a way of growing us.  We open our hearts, we share our stories, but perhaps more importantly we are actually showing value in them by investing our time. We show them that they matter and that who they are means something. It also reminds me that we people need other people. Not just to coexist but to remain sane. Trusted friends or colleagues have a good way of understanding us and keeping us on the right track. They have a way of picking you up if your a little down and pushing you towards the direction you should be heading in.

In all this though the question remains.

Love is…..???

Well, love is still the most powerful force on the planet. Love reaches in to places where others would fear to go. Love casts aside all fears, it breaks down barriers that seem unbreakable. Love is offering coffee and your time to someone. Love is respecting the beliefs of others despite what you may believe yourself. Love is positive action in a situation that cries out for help. It’s stepping in to a place where love is missing and offering exactly that, love.

We’re all in the world together, and it’s no accident. There are lessons to be learned for all of us, not just in love but in life. As much as we navigate this life ourselves we should embrace those around us. Learn from them. Listen to them. Encourage them, encourage each other because that’s how it should be. It really is that simple. Love is what you make it to be. If you invest in something or someone, do it with love. Do it because your heart tells you it’s the right thing to do and remember that acts of love are like gifts of kindness. They’re meant to be received.

 

 

 

Encouragement

Since sharing my writing in recent times two things have been made obvious. First, i have had a lot of friends and family who encourage me for what i have shared. One of the things about writing on your thoughts is that quite often many of these thoughts never become verbalised. They just store themselves up in a store room inside your head. A little like the spare room most families seem to have that simply fills itself with odds and ends. So to put them in to words……..that means something, to share those words with people then takes on another meaning all together.

 
It’s very much like offering people a portal into your mind. Which could be dangerous depending on what’s inside that head. Thankfully for me i would consider myself pretty sound. Pretty cool, calm and collected. Down to earth and level headed. So my mind is kind of a safe place to hang out inside of……i think???

 
The second thing that has become obvious for me during this writing process is that Encouragement seems to be the common theme in what i’m sharing. In no way was it a topic i sat down and said “Yeah you know what? i’m going to write some stuff on encouragement!”.

 
Nope. Simply didn’t happen that way.

 
It’s been a case of encouragement has been the path my mind has taken me down. I touched on it earlier that i seem to be this guy who’s always got others in mind even when i should probably worry more about myself. I love to remind others that they are important. That their story matters. Encouragement is something that simply comes naturally for me.

 
Encouraging people is a pretty simple and selfless act. It doesn’t take much. But the impact you can make on someone with a positive word can be anything. The possibilities are endless. It’s something that has been prominent in my own life in probably the past 7-8 years, probably longer still.

 
My church Pastor Matt has been in to me for a good chunk of this period, offering words of encouragement and affirmation. Not just to me, but to many of the people who call our church home. However actually receiving this encouragement is one thing. Making something of it is another all together. What these words do is allow you to grow. You see something of what is being said and realise there is truth in it. You build it up piece by piece and you benefit from it. That’s what encouragement should be. You should be able to use it for your own personal growth.

 
These days we live in a world that is as brilliant as it is stupid. A world that is as dangerous as it is safe. We live in a world that also is as inspiring as it is demeaning. Social media is a hotbed for much of this stuff. Social media is probably the most fascinating modern day gimmick, yet at the same time it represents all that is wrong with the world.

 
In my quest to write more i decided to use social media as an outlet to positively affect my mindset. How in the world could i achieve this?!?!

 
Instagram. Yeah, you heard right!

 
So i decided to use arguably the third or fourth most maligned social media app (behind Facebook and Twitter, though Tinder probably is close behind) to positively affect people?? Yeah i did. How? Well thank God for the hashtag! Because you can find a hashtag for basically anything and everything. Search words like hope, love, faith, encouragement and follow those tags and what you begin to find is inspiration. The world ain’t such a bad place after all!

 
What these Instagram posts do is affect your mindset. You start to see, read and think along the same line. Once it’s inside your mind you have a place that you can begin to expand your mind from.
What i have found since sharing my work is that there is a place for it. People need words that remind them of the good. They need words that resonate with their own minds. People need words that uplift them. They need words that remind them that we are all not so unalike. We all have issues. We all have concerns which plague us. Circumstances that challenge us. We all feel things, positive and negative. It’s life and what we feel or think isn’t unique to just ourselves.

 
We people need a reminder that we are all in this together and that we feel something. That is the beauty with sharing words. Words have a habit of connecting people to their own situation. Sometimes it can be a sentence, or maybe just a general theme of writing, but in this moment it can connect us. For me, being able to use my words and thoughts to encourage anyone is something that is not lost on me.

 
What’s also not lost on me is the power that words carry. Words when used incorrectly are like weapons. They can destroy a person in the wrong environment. However when words are used to encourage someone they carry a very different type of power. I’ve learned over the time that words are valuable. When they’re used to encourage their impact can be great. Never ever underestimate the power they carry and never ever underestimate the effect they can have on someone. And importantly never underestimate the impact your words can make on those around you.

 
Encouragement can be more than just words that are spoken. The fact that you took the opportunity to speak it in to someone will hopefully not be lost on them. Encouragement is as much about what you do as what you say. If you give people a reason to stand beside them it shows them purpose. It shows them you care enough to be in that place. People need other people and we need to be examples to others whether they be family, friends or colleagues. There is definitely a role we can all play.