Ironically, Iconic!

Recently I was speaking to someone who mentioned that a member of their family had worked in a bookshop for over twenty years. The person sold many books both general and academic to students and the public. However, they ironically shared that he had never in his life actually read a whole book!

Irony, as a noun, is a particular form of humour that finds itself expressing the very opposite to its intended meaning. The conversation I refered to, also disclosed that the person’s favourite reading material was the old Dandy and Beano comics! So ironically, someone who sold books for a living, had never read one themselves and preferred to read comics!Dandy

So life is full, of Irony. Alongside bundles of joy and gladness, there is heartache and sadness. Life can be like a rollercoaster full of highs and lows, screams and laughter, eyes wide open or closed saying a prayer for it all to end soon.

Life is full of Icons also. At the Blackpool Pleasure Park in Lancashire England a new ride called Icon is about to open, costing over £16 million to construct. It promises to be one of the best rides ever: modern, scary, exhilarating and surely to become an Iconic ride itself!

Blackpool Icon

An Icon is derived from the Orthodox Church and shown in the form of pictures of Christ, the Virgin Mary or Saints. In the Greek an ‘icon’ means an image or likeness of something or someone.

Greek Icon

In reality life is full of Irony and Icons and may be expressed and experienced in an ‘Ironically Iconic manner.’

As spring, Easter and holidays are nearly upon us, we find that one of the world’s most adorned Icon is referenced and remembered in opposite ways. The ‘cross’ is central to the faith of millions. Yet many wear a ‘cross’ as a fashion statement rather than a religious symbol.

In the Easter story (1) we read of individuals who followed a teacher that seemed to be full of Irony, yet became Iconic. The Rabbi shared radical teaching and lifestyles which are rejected and accepted in equal measure. There is also a deep Irony that in the pursuit of ‘life and meaning’ (whatever that is for each one of us) we may find that we lose it? (2)

The opposite can be true, in that when we feel we have lost out on life (however that might be for each one of us) we end up finding ‘life’ in a new and fulfilling way. Consider a seed it has to die before it germinates and grows into something new. (3)

Germinating Seed

When people think about losing weight and apply certain diets and exercise regimes, it’s interesting how effective those aims and goals pan out. Often when concentrating on losing weight we find ourselves under more pressure and can ironically end up eating more as a comfort. When we are happy and busy doing normal things in life we may find, with a disciplined and balanced diet and lifestyle, that our weight is not an issue at all.

I love fruity Hot Cross buns which are seasonal and iconic at this time of the year.

Hot cross bun

The cross is ‘Iconic’ reflecting the ‘Ironic.’ How can someone be so despised and rejected and crucified on a cross, end up being the source of millions of people finding peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and contentment? The impossible has become and maintained a possible for so many!

There is a very interesting place in West Yorkshire where a number of ‘brothers’ have lived together as a community. Each brother has given up their individual aims and aspirations to concentrate on a spiritual life of worship, prayer and hospitality. It is maintained on a simple Benedictine code of life and practice. The community is based at Mirfield Monastery where many Icons abound. The community works to support people near and far in areas of education, hospitality, charity and other areas of particular need.

Mirfield brothers

In the rhythm of the community’s activities they will experience both business and quietness, stillness and noise. Often in the business of our own lives we may seek after and appreciate those times of quite, to rest and recuperate from the demands that life puts upon us.

This can compare to times when we are silent and quite but find that we do not experience true rest and peace internally because of the worries and concerns that we continually carry in our hearts and minds.

Ironically and Iconically we can learn a lot from a life of contemplation, silence, and meditation. Modern thinking about ‘mindfulness’ is often a rebranding of practises that are very old and have been of value for individuals and communities in all circumstances and situations.

In the Friendship Book 2018 (March 16th) it shares that such thinking and acting is about living in the moment, not being held back by the past or living in the fear of the future, for “Yard by yard, life’s awful hard, inch by inch, you’ll find it’s a cinch.” 

A life of simplicity, challenges a life of business.

A life of quite prayer and reflection, challenges a life of self-dependence.

A life of service to others, challenges a life of self- centeredness.

Mirfield Monastery has maintained a community of ‘brothers’ since 1892 which is rooted in Anglican tradition and a Benedictine round of worship, prayer and hospitality.

Mirfield Monastery

There is an Irony in their existence, for there seems to be a growing and renewed interest in religious communities which is opposite to modern thinking and places of work, rest and play!

At this Easter time enjoy the spring, Easter egg and that Hot Cross bun which reminds us of someone who continues to be ‘Ironically, Iconic.’


(1) Matthew 26 – 28 (2) Matthew 10 v 39 (3) Matthew 16 v 25

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Events Dictate to Diary dates!

At this time of year we all should have purchased and started to fill in our new diaries for 2018.

However, not everyone has or uses a personal or desk diary! Invitations, events, times and places may be held in our minds, on scrap paper or deposited with those around us for them to remember and remind us of what to do and where to go!

Conversely, many of us do use diaries in different forms, from the calendar on the phone or behind the door, to the pocket sized diary or a shared family or work desk diary. Meetings, activities, social arrangements and personal appointments are carefully referenced and constantly looked at so as to make sure we are where we should be on a specific day and time.

In having or not having some form of diary or calendar it may reflect our age, approach to life, responsibilities and preferences. We may choose to be organized or disorganized. We may find that we want to be in control or just go with the natural and daily flow of life with all its demands and opportunities.

You may have heard it is said, that if you want to get something done: ‘ask a busy person.’ A busy person is often in a better frame of mind and activity to organize what is required and be around to offer love and support where required.

A person who is not busy or in demand may find that their natural habit is to ‘put off’ what is asked of them. They often ‘procrastinate’ the ‘doing and completing’ of tasks, on their jobs list or in the dairy. Life is lived at a chilled pace and can easily pass them by but so often they are very happy and content within that lifestyle?

When using a diary or calendar we look forward to important functions and appointments. However, just because we put an event in our diaries does not guarantee that it will happen or that it will be a success in the way we desire!

Change can be very traumatic, especially when we incur redundancy, personal or family health concerns and the loss of loved ones.

The Munich Air Disaster is a point in question. Bobby Charlton, as a 20 year old footballer, spoke 60 years ago about the hopes of the young. “They could go about their business confident that when the sun rose in the morning, all their ambitions and hopes would still be alive. The young were immortal.” Tragically 23 people were killed in an unexpected plane crash as they returned home from a football match, with 21 surviving.


Events can also include times for personal friendships, work commitments, economic and environmental changes that may alter what we ‘purpose to happen.’ In the reality of ‘events dictating to diary dates’ our ability to reorganize, to accept, to adjust and come to terms with them may be overwhelming or straight forward?

Such changes can increase our stress levels and make us feel out of control. Equally we may find an internal and external strength that brings to us a greater maturity and understanding of what has happened around us.

In an instance we can find ourselves moving in opposite directions from peace to turmoil, from order to chaos, from having a bright hope for the future to a feeling of despair and lack of hope.

In our calendars and diaries we will have times highlighted to meet up with family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. Occasions for personal and collective socializing, times to be still, to come aside from the routine and seek a rest and solace from the demands of that life.

In recent days loneliness has been highlighted as a growing concern in the UK and beyond for all ages. In our maturing years when we work less and have more leisure time it can cause us to become more isolated if we don’t have a circle of good friends around us. When we retain friendships it strengthens us to navigate the ‘business and quietness’ of life. Also having a personal faith enables us to ‘anchor’ in the God of all events, seasons and diary dates.

So in entering into the second month of the year may we give thanks for our diaries and calendars that are being filled and may we be able to accommodate the changes that come our way expected or unexpected?

Consider for a moment how you may improve your organizational skills in 2018.

What areas of your life are arranged well?
Why is that so and what does it say about you at this present time?

What areas of your life do you ‘put off’ socially, at home or work?
Why is that so and what does it say about you at this present time?

We welcome the New Year, 2018.
The joy of living and all that it means.
From birth, to old age and the exciting teens.

So events, diary dates we plan them all,
And rearrange them when they change or fall.

Enjoy your Diary Dates.

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I’m sitting on the Veranda watching the world go by in Paradise!






I wonder where your Paradise might be and for what reason? Recently I was in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia. It is sub-tropical and the weather ranges from hot to hotter and includes for good measure lots of downpours especially in the rainy season. The nearest l have got to a Veranda in the UK has been on a balcony in someone’s flat or whilst holidaying in a room with a balcony and a sea view.

Veranda is a Portuguese word and describes a roofed, open air gallery or porch. The area is partly enclosed by a railing and extends across the front and side of a structure. There are many buildings in Australia and New Zealand that have verandas which came to prominence from the 1850’s. One particular style is known as a ‘Queenslander’ which adapts well to the sub-tropical climate as shown below.

There are many other places throughout the world where buildings have a veranda and before fridges enabled food to be kept cool under the floorboards in the heat of the day.

A lovely experience on a veranda is witnessing the early morning sun rise. The day unfolds with its own ‘time demands’ that will dictate how long we remain sat on the veranda. Meal time and evening gives us a further opportunity to observe the sun setting and feel the cool of the evening.

There is something special about being on our own, having time to eat, sleep, read and reflect. Equally it is wonderful when we have our special friends around us, chatting and having fun and laughter, serious debate and seeking to appreciate another person’s point of view.

Memories can be greeted as a friend or a disturbance of peace. We are taken to our ‘museum of memories’ where we recall happy times, challenging experiences and occasions where we have to place and let go of them so as to move forward in life. However looking back can be helpful as we learn from our mistakes and be thankful for our successes.

January 26 is Australia Day and in all the celebrations there will be the waving of the Australian Coat of Arms. On it are two of Australia’s most iconic animals, the kangaroo and emu.

It is believed the reason why they are included is because they both are unable to walk backwards, signifying Australia’s aspiration and intent as a nation to always move forward. It’s a lovely thought that we all can aspire to, taking those forward steps with our eyes fixed firmly on the future, leaving the past behind and not allowing any negativity to impact our present or future?

There is an interesting statement that reads: ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’ (1) We all are in the pursuit of contentment and happiness. Some of us look to material gain and certain experiences that maintain levels of happiness and contentment. Many of us are happy and content in the everyday activities that come our way, from sustaining a personal faith, to collecting the morning paper, taking the dog a walk, or just rocking in our chair on the veranda or balcony.

In Port Douglas there is a historic church called St Mary’s by the Sea.

It is said to be the third most popular church in Australia for getting married in. It is so beautiful and quaint and for those of us married, it would be a very romantic place to reaffirm our marital vows.

I attended the morning service and a time was given when each person introduced themselves and said where they came from. One man stood up and said he lived locally and for him it was Paradise. Straight away a second man, who also lived local, contradicted the first gentleman by saying: ‘No you don’t live in Paradise. Paradise is where you are and what you make of it!’ Whew, I thought the second chap had a good point and pondered on what he had said, albeit in an abrupt manner, and its application.

In Greater Manchester there is a restaurant called Paradise Spice and for some who like spicy food they may feel, in having a meal there, they have experienced a true taste of Paradise. However, for those who do not like spicy food it would have been the furthest place and experience from Paradise! One person’s paradise, happiness and contentment, is not necessarily someone else’s, but we can be grateful for that which affirms our individuality and uniqueness in our own place of Paradise!

If we are in a physical Paradise at the moment but not happy or content then we are not experiencing true Paradise. Conversely if we are in humble and meagre surroundings but feel a true sense of contentment and wellbeing then perhaps Paradise is not too far from us. For those of us with faith we have a promise of an eternal Paradise to come.

Go back to your veranda and balcony, either physically or in your mind’s eye. Appreciate your surroundings and given situation today.

If it’s almost perfect don’t forgot your relationships. Share your good fortune and maintain a personal contentment internally knowing that things can change very quickly. In the tropics the rain falls instantly and violently and can cause severe damage.

If your situation today is somewhat challenging but you have beautiful friendships they can represent your sense of Paradise and wellbeing in your local environment. May you find strength and be sustained within, so as to continually move forward like the Kangaroo and Emu.

Enjoy the moment of today and be thankful for times past, but don’t stare.
Move on, look forward to a future that is yours to have and hold.

Christmas greetings and a peacful New Year 2018.

(1) 1 Timothy 6 v 6

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One Another

One another, is a statement in the context of relationships.’

In the New Testament there are a number of ‘one another’ commands.

Each one is instructive and can be quite challenging in regards to how we may conduct ourselves in relationships and what we might expect back as a consequence of such encounters.


At this time in your life certain things may be concerning you. Health, Circumstances, Wealth, Relationships. Thoughts about the present, future and the past. You are important and valued by many. Be confident in who you are and try to reach out to others in that confidence knowing that as a result we may be uplifted ourselves.


‘Nobody is an island’ as the saying goes! Any concerns that we have personally will in some measure affect people around us. Consider for a moment five ‘one another’s’ that might be instructive and of some value to us.

Wait (1)

How precious it is to stop, slow down and take time to review our lives personally and with one another. Often events take control and we feel helpless. We have to play a waiting game for a particular outcome we want. There is value in waiting and stopping which might be forced or chosen. Even in a worst case scenario that may come our way we can adjust, recover and move forward in life again.

Greet (2)

There will be appointed times to gather together in a social, business, family, professional and personal manner. We say Hello and spend time together. Such times might be awkward, special, routine and detailed. Then a time will come to say Goodbye for a season, a short time and then forever.

Love (3)

To ‘love one another’ is referenced up to 14 times and is a very important statement related to meaningful relationships.

In the Greek, Love can be understood in four ways:
Agape, which is an unconditional love for all.
, a tender platonic love that is chosen and committed.
Eros, a passionate and romantic love.
Storage, a family love that is also unconditional.

Bear or Carry (4)

It is not easy to bear the load or carry the concerns of those we love or have a social or professional commitment to. In recognising how we have been supported and observing its benefit, we have a privilege and honour to bear and carry the burdens and concerns of those around us with the ongoing support from those who love us.

A very strong and potentially upsetting picture is seeing our loved one being carried by professional or family bearers in a funeral context. Such a picture reminds us that the person being carried has in one form or another been there for us in love and patience.

It’s one of the last honours we can see and be a part of when those we love are ‘carried’ for a last time having been taken from us.

Encourage (5)

When a person seeks to encourage others they are generous from within themselves. They have an inner confidence and strength to freely give to others as we would want others to give to ourselves!

On the 15th October 2017 I completed the Manchester Half Marathon and it was brilliant to be on the receiving end of so much heart felt encouragement. I was genuinely encouraged ‘to keep going,’ ‘to finish well,’ to be affirmed as ‘amazing,’ all this without having to give anything back. I was so grateful and it spured me on to complete the run confidently.

So let’s continue to Wait, Greet, Love, Bear and Encourage ‘One Another.’

From one Graham to many others.

References 1) 1 Corinthians 11 v 33: 2) I John 4 v 7: 3) Romans 16v 16: 4) Galatians 6 v 2: 5) Hebrews 10 v 25:

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I’m not religious, but I am spiritual!

Wisdom in the Market Place

Proverbs 1 in the Old Testament says that ‘Wisdom cries out aloud in the market place and public squares.’ Just think of all the open or enclosed spaces where debate takes place concerning the important and personal views of life and beyond. London as the capital of the UK. Regional cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham, alongside the villages and towns throughout the UK and worldwide.

Hello Chester

I’m not religious, but I am spiritual!

Recently I had a conversation with a man who said that he ‘wasn’t religious but he was spiritual.’ What he meant was that he didn’t go to church or a formal place of worship but had his own personal faith and belief!

Life is forever changing but in reality human beings remain, in essence, the same in thoughts, words and actions. We do our own thing. Challenge or ignore church and religious belief and actions. Yet world history shows us that people of Faith, even in the midst of troubles, have improved human existence in numerous ways!

What is being Religious?

Do you remember Maria from the Sound of Music?

She was mixed up and didn’t know what to do but decided to enter a Religious order to find a peace and purpose. I wonder how you would you define being Religious? Attending liturgical services and activities? Wearing specific clothes, speaking in a certain manner with associated actions and reactions?

What is it to be Spiritual?

A candle light often reflects the Light of God shining in a Dark world.

Brother Lawrence from the 17th century concentrated on Practising the Presence of God in a Carmelite Monastery. He meditated on the Bible for strength and guidance. He engaged in an active Prayer Life. He sought to reflect God’s presence by loving and serving his neighbours.

How were your Holidays 2017?

In the book of Acts chapters 16 to 17 we read about Paul’s second Journey travelling from Derbe, to Galatia, Philippi and then onto Athens

We don’t read about his time in the city as a Tourist! We find him debating on Mars Hill, arguing in the local Synagogue and market place. He spoke with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. In the Areopagus, a local court, he states ‘I perceive that in every way you are very religious and then observes that many worship ‘an unknown god.’

Wherever Paul travelled, he provoked a reaction to his teaching around the life and ministry of Jesus.

Many said to him No thanks I’m not interested. Perhaps a greater number would want to think about Faith another time. However, we read of Dionysius a member of the Areopagus (council) and Damaris a woman of lower status embracing Faith.

In a time when we think that many have given up ‘A’ or ‘The Faith,’ the Christian Gospel continues to reach out to all peoples, at all levels and at all times.

Think about what the man said; ‘I’m not religious, but I am spiritual’

You might say that you are not ‘religious or spiritual.’ However, in the pursuit of personal development, happiness and wellbeing, you might find that there is room for being ‘spiritually religious’ however that may impact and work out for you?

Travel Well.

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Traffic lights and Roundabouts

One of my early aspirations as a 17 year old was to pass my driving test as soon as possible.

I had many formal lessons and quite a few informal ones driving the family car under the guidance of my patient father Henry. I went on to successfully pass the test at a second attempt!

It was a great experience then, to be handed the keys of Dad’s car and drive unaccompanied navigating the traffic with its road signs, lights and roundabouts. Following that initial drive I’m glad to say that I returned home without any accidents or incidents to report.

When thinking of travelling safely on the roads, the function of traffic lights is to alternate the ‘right of way’ of users by the display of lights incorporating the standard colours of Red, Amber and Green.

Some early experiences of traffic lights involved the local police who controlled the flow of traffic around London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. In 1868 it was reported that a set of lights in London operated by gas had exploded and injured the controller.

A Traffic light is an active sign where we have to stop when on Red, wait for a while when it’s on Red and Amber and then proceed forward when they turn to Green. It represents the law of the land to provide safety and security on the roads for everyone.

An alternative to traffic lights is the Roundabout. It offers a different framework of law and traffic regulation. It is more relational and requires individual drivers to negotiate the flow of traffic with politeness, at times robustness and an appreciation of the other vehicles to ensure that no accidents takes place.

Invariably we approach them slowly, liaising with the other drivers, entering at one point and exiting at another so continuing our intended journey.

If you take a look at the You Tube video below you will see one of the craziest roundabouts in Europe, the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ in Paris. It seems extremely dangerous and drivers are less gracious and more defensive and offensive, to the point that any insurance premiums paid out due to an accident are shared 50/50 because of the higher risks involved.

Summer is in full flight and it reminds us how times, seasons and events change very quickly and it’s important to make the most of them. In that context we are constantly having to make important decisions and adjust to new situations. To Stop. Prepare and then move Forward in the flow of life’s journeys.

I wonder what it means for you to Stop or Slow down at this present time?

In writing this blog it is important to end a sentence with a full stop. It is used as part of a greater construction such as a paragraph. It gives a rest, an opportunity to start a new sentence with a continued or difference emphasis or meaning. This compares to a comma, which allows a continuation of words and acts as a refrain/breather in between various words.

Are there situations where you are having to stop or slow down such as ill health, a reordering of your wealth or other planned or unexpected events that have come to you? Red tells us to stop. It’s a signal we have to respond to directly. We may be forced into a situation that will slow us down and cause us to review what is required from us.

Are you in a period of Preparation and Negotiation at this present time?

It is said that preparation is vital for the completion of a good job done. In decorating a living room we have to set aside time to start the job. All furniture and fittings are removed or covered. The ceilings and walls are cleaned and cracks are filled so that all is ready for a fresh coat of paint for that beautifully restored living room to emerge.

The combination of Red and Amber alerts us to the reality that we soon have to get ready to move forward. Taking time to prepare and think about actions and reactions is very important. That preparation and negotiation may seem to go on for ever but just like the painting of the living room it will be a basis for a good job completed.

What does it mean for you to Go and move forward at this present time?

Are there small or large steps of Faith that you have to take in readiness for the next adventure in your life? Are you Hoping for something that you believe in but hasn’t materialised yet? A business plan, personal goals, financial calculations, relational decisions and actions. All have to be implemented at some cost but with that hope of a reward and a planned return with interest.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’
Hebrews 11 v 1

‘Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’
Rom 8 v 24 – 25

In thinking about physical traffic lights and roundabouts.

May we stop and slowdown in our mind, body and spirit.
May we prepare well for our next assignment?
May we be excited about moving forward in Faith, with Hope, realising new Horizons.


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Always in front of Everything!

Recently I was involved in a discussion with a daughter who spoke affectionately about her father and described him as someone who was ‘always in front of everything.’ This photo represents one of many daughter/father relationships that exist throughout the world.

In listening to what she had to say I wasn’t sure if she was complementing her Dad or registering a complaint! After further clarification she outlined that he had completed his ‘National Service’ with the British Army and such an experience, coupled with his character, accounted for a life that was very organized, punctual and ‘always in front of everything.’

In the closing years of his life the devoted daughter became his main carer yet his demands for things to be perfect, such as his dinner to be always on time, grew and only added to her cause for complaint!

I wonder if someone completed a 360 feedback /confidential assessment of you, as so often conducted in the workplace, would they portray you as someone who was ‘always in front’ or a person that so often ‘lagged behind’?

Whatever our life experiences and character, I strongly believe that we do have the capacity to change our mind set and actions. It has been suggested that it takes up to six weeks of sustained practise to change personal thinking and habits? During that time we will have to apply lots of self-discipline, concentration and particular strategies to implement change related to a given target or goal.

We all carry some form of ‘limiting beliefs,’ inherited or chosen by ourselves which impact upon our actions and reactions. We may practise ‘negativity and critical thinking’ as a norm, which will show itself in how we engage within society as a whole. Yes there is a time and place for critical thought and action but ultimately we have to place that alongside a ‘positive and proactive’ approach to life and real situations.

When reflecting on the comments of the daughter about her father and applying it to our own situations, many of us will be ‘constantly in front of everything.’ It is also the case that lots of us are more happy to ‘stop, take time to chill and go with the flow of life.’ I think we would all agree that there is plenty of room for both areas of thinking and acting.

At this point it might be helpful to consider what we carry in our ‘kit bags of life’ What empowers us to be in front and relaxed, whilst avoiding being behind and chasing everything. What strategies help us to maintain that healthy life balance?

Solutions Kit Bag!






Positive ‘Kit Bag’                                                                Negative ‘Kit Bag’

Strong self-belief                                                                        Poor self-belief

Lots of self-motivation                                                              Lack of self-motivation

Clear personal aims and goals                                                No clarity and direction

Realistic action planning                                                          No action planning

A willingness to work hard                                                      Not prepared to work hard

Enjoy rewards                                                                             Life is not fair

Contentment                                                                               Discontent

Having checked out what sort of ‘Solution Kit Bag’ we carry, it might be worth considering some other areas of our life:

  • Personal finances: Have you recently seen an independent financial adviser so as to ensure your financial affairs are in good shape? Ask yourself are those areas of debt you may be in, manageable or out of control?

  • Personal Pension Plan: The  last thing we think about when we are young is a pension plan! However, regularly saving over a long period of time will reap a timely reward. It’s amazing how many people do not invest in a pension plan however large or small. So why not start that saving plan from today?


  • Personal Will: It is equally shocking how many people do not make a will or ensure it is up to date. Your personal estate may be significant or very small but it is important to have a confidence that the legacy we leave is directed to those we want it to go to, rather than ending up in the governments pockets?

There are many more areas in life where it is wise to be well prepared and have things in ‘good order.’ Many of us do neglect issues that we know we should face up to and work in and through.

If we are able to share such important issues in confidence, it will help us clarify, reflect and review critical thinking and actions on a regular basis. This will enhance our ability to ‘always be upfront with everything,’ in the most possible ‘relaxed manner’ as exampled in the Father and Daughter relationship.


From Graham trying to be upfront and relaxed?

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