Home (is) – less – ness!

It is often said ‘home is where your heart is!’ However, when you are forced to leave your home due to unforeseen circumstances it is very disturbing to say the least. By contrast there are a number of people and groups who often travel and change their homes and environments for positive reasons!  

Photo by Oliver Smallman (imanoilgarch)

There are also lots of people without a permanent home because they are in a process of personal exploration and self-development. During such a season they are hoping to find out what they want from life and where they might become rooted in a home and local community.  

Home-less

At the age of twenty one I made a planned move to leave my parental home and take up a college residency in a one bed studio with a shared bathroom and communal room. My meals were provided by the student refectory which was an experience in itself. It was very exciting to leave my family home but also quite a challenge having to adjust to new surroundings and liaise and get on with fellow students. There is defiantly a less (minus) when changing homes in whatever circumstances that might be. However, if the move is considered successful then there will be benefits that enhances our life experience and enjoyment. 

Home-ness

To have a home as a base for everyday living and working is very necessary (ness.) It offers a form of stability during times of physical and emotional changes. Some people, for whatever reason, find a measure of stability living on the streets during the summer months and even through a harsh winter. I have often heard it said that being ‘on the road’ can be safer than living in a hostel or some form of accommodation that is frightening, intimidating and physically bruising.

Home-support

For over thirteen years I had the privilege of working in a supported housing project in Bury, Greater Manchester. I was part of a small and dedicated team that offered a home with structured support to those who found themselves homeless. The project was based initially in a large terrace house that acted as a nine bed hostel type accommodation. It then went on to develop into a twenty four bed space project that offered many individuals the opportunity to live in an independent flat with the hope of being able to qualify for their own social or private housing in the course of time.

I witnessed many individuals who for various reasons had experienced homelessness due to drug and alcohol abuse, fleeing domestic violence, moving on after being in prison or as an asylum seeker/refugee. In some cases unemployment and financial hardship often affected the ability to maintain a stable home. What I learnt during those years was that there was always a reason behind becoming homeless and it was important not to be too quick to judge and condemn.  What I also witnessed was numerous individuals turning their lives around and re-entering some form of normal living with great success.

Home-poor

We may be shocked to hear the words of Jesus in Mark 14: 7 saying to his disciples that I am with you for a short time but you will always have the ‘poor’ amongst you, but you can help them in my absence. In Matthew 25: 31 – 40 Jesus confused many by saying that those who were without food, clothes and homes had been helped. People were puzzled by Jesus’ words but he meant that ‘in his name and in his absence’ we can meet the needs of the ‘poor’ and ‘homeless.’

The church has a great history of supporting all people in distress alongside other faith groups, agencies and countless charities, supermarkets and food banks. Together, people sleeping rough can be homed and those in need of extra food can be provided for.

Throughout the world people who live in extreme poverty have to adapt to their conditions on a daily basis. It is ironic that many learn how to be content in such situations whilst supporting and being helped by immediate family and neighbours.

A further irony is that many wealthy people find themselves starved of love, relationships and a fulfilled meaning and purpose in life. Poverty and wealth are relative terms and experiences. To find a happy home with people we can love and are loved by is priceless and something which we all can aspire to achieve.  

Home-eternal

Photo from (pexels.com) by Michael M

One of the great tenants of the Christian faith and for those of other faiths, is a belief in a ‘heavenly home’ that awaits us when our earthly journey ends. It is something that we cannot prove but equally it is something that we cannot disproved. It is a hope and aspiration based on Holy Scripture and the life and resurrection of Christ

Consider afresh the place where you live and call home. May it offer each one of us safety, peace, happiness, with the promise of an everlasting home?

Graham

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Significance – Success! (4 min)

It is very inspiring and uplifting to read many stories on LinkedIn and other social and personal platforms about a person’s journey of success. However it begs the question about the true link of success to significance.

We could be quite unsuccessful in monetary and business terms yet in our own sphere of relationships very much esteemed, loved and significant. So let’s consider for a moment someone who has in their own way been very significant and successful.

Family

Born into a wealthy family in a city of great learning and raised with strong orthodox beliefs. It is not clear if the person married or had any children but acknowledged many special and meaningful relationships that reflected the love that can be found in a family.

Work

The person worked for a local authority and ‘cast a vote against opposition’ and witnessed the murder of a perceived trouble maker. During a time of travel a great change occurred that resulted in a dramatic spiritual experience. The person then went to a quiet place for reflection and contemplation and for around ten years not much was known of any personal activities.

For over twenty years the person continued to travel quite extensively and became involved with lots of people, establishing many places that brought much support to the local community. During this time many strong relationships were formed and there was also many occasions when the person was harassed, persecuted, imprisoned and even ship wrecked as well as being greatly loved and appreciated.

Such activity resulted in court appearances and house arrest. During these occasions many words were written to friends and local groups that in the course of time have become esteemed and valued. Quite a number of biographies have recorded many aspects of the person’s life events which have influenced millions over the intervening years.

Character

Any description of the person is quite unremarkable. Small in stature and not being blessed with natural beauty and even had a crooked nose. During appearances with people the demeanour was quite ordinary yet on other occasions the face was very angelic. Critics assessed the person’s writings as weighty and forceful and any speaking in public amounted to nothing.

Other descriptions have not been very complimentary but the person reflected very much their cultural characteristics whilst growing up. Other aspect of personality included a tender and loving side when dealing with difficult situations and often asked to be remembered to people known over times shared together.

This person, like all of us, had many faults but overall was warm and very human. Loved and chastened by many, an example of living a simple and sacrificial life at great personal cost to teach, support and care for people in community.

This person I have reflected on would have had to learn to live with their own perceived failures that they encountered and to work in and through any feelings of insignificance.

We all experience success in varying forms and at different seasons in life but whatever we ‘do and are’ it is significant especially to those who love and appreciate us.

Take a moment to think about how ‘significant and successful’ you think you are? If you find that difficult just ask your family, friends and work colleagues! 

I have introduced and welcomed you to the ‘significant and successful’ life of Saint Paul the Apostle.

Graham

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I say a little prayer!

Over 54 years ago in 1967 Burt Bacharach and Hal Davies wrote a song ‘I say a little pray’ which was a chart success for singer Dionne Warwick.

It was a simple song of love from one to another whilst waking, putting on make-up, combing hair and dressing. Then getting on a bus, going to work and during a coffee break time saying a little prayer for the person they loved.

I wonder if you have been watching the UEFA Euro 2020 finals that have been taking place during the month of June and July. On BBC sports I listened to a conversation between the presenter Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer about the lack of goals scored by the England forward Harry Kane. As retired goal scorers themselves Alan confessed how during his own spell of not scoring he would lose sleep but always ‘hoped and prayed’ that he would quickly score again. England successfully reached the final and drew 1–1 with Italy, only to lose 3-2 after extra time and penalties with Kane scoring a penalty.

Whilst watching many of the matches I have noticed that certain players make ‘The sign of the cross’ and look up to heaven with arms outstretched asking for God’s favour and help during the game and then often repeated when a player scored a goal. 

Recently I conducted a private survey in the local shopping area asking people a number of questions.

Have you ever prayed? In the main people said yes they had prayed.

If you have, what did you pray for? As you can imagine it varied but often around health, wealth, family and friends, world peace and stability.

Have you ever had a prayer answered?  This was a tricky one but most people said yes.

Do you believe in God? The reason I placed this question towards the end is that I expected that many people would admit to praying but not necessarily believing in God!! The majority of people said they believed in a God.

Is there anything I can pray for you now? I felt that offering up a personal prayer, where requested, was only polite after the questions asked.  Many were very happy and grateful to share a prayer request.

There was an interesting contrast between the old and younger generations. Older people had more of a faith background which had anchored them, even if they had left their faith or grown stronger in it.

Today many young people have grown up in a more secular society and have not attended church or been grounded in its teaching. Many do not believe in an ‘institutional God’ as represented in the church but still have a desire to pray. It can be argued that those without any faith background may be more hungry for God than those who have felt disillusioned with God, prayer and the church. 

For a moment let’s engage in a simple Prayer Test.

  • Have you ever prayed?
  • To whom would you pray to?
  • Holy scriptures give many examples of prayer to follow.
  • In prayer we confess our shortcomings, give thanks and ask for specific requests. 
  • Do you continue to pray?
  • Seeking to experience God’s personal presence.
  • Trusting that God will make a difference in every life situation.
  • So knowing a personal peace that passes both understanding and misunderstandings.
  • Prayer is irrelevant?
  • God cannot be proved and does not exist!
  • It’s a social construct that fosters control and a misuse of power over people!
  • We have the power! We need to grow up and move on from a concept of God and prayer!
  • Prayer is a gift we can share and offer up to God
  • Prayer represents a personal relationship with a mystical God.
  • We cannot hate or despise those we loving and compassionately pray for.
  • In prayer we are changed and can find inner healing, wholeness, hope and joy.

The bible teaches that prayer is an act of worship that reflects all the attributes of the human spirit in its approach to God and is a form of companionship one to another. The testimony of answered prayer is very significant as it is reflected in the building of the ‘Eternal Wall’ consisting of a million bricks.

Prayer is not a ‘natural response’ it has to have a spiritual dimension to it that connects an individual to the character and presence of God. The most popular and formal prayer, used throughout the world, is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and is known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’

  • The great debate about faith in God is compared to a simple trust in a heavenly Father whom we can love, honour and adore.
  • His kingdom is on earth and in heaven.
  • He offers forgiveness in exchange for confession and encourages us to forgive those who offend us.
  • He promises to provide our daily bread and when temptations face us, he helps us to overcome them.
  • God’s kingdom, power and glory are for ever and ever.  

Dionne’s song is also known as ‘I say a little prayer for you,’ so may I share a blessing as you continue your life journey that may include: waking, putting on make-up, combing hair and dressing. Then getting on a bus, going to work and during a coffee break time praying for the people you love and care for.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you? May the Lord’s presence be upon you and grant you his perfect peace.

Graham

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition of my book Blog 51 (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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Blog 52 – revisited

I don’t know about you but I love to climb a mountain and feel that sense of getting to the top after putting lots of energy and effort into getting there and then stopping for a while to enjoy the view.

Last month, whilst on holiday, I had the joy of ascending the 274 steps of Jacob’s ladder and then hoped to climb a further 48 steps going up to the Lookout tower nearby. Unfortunately the tower was closed due to Covid restrictions but on a clear day you can see, for many miles, the beautiful countryside of Somerset.

In my book Blog 51 there is a section at the end where you can complete your own blog 52 following eight steps. The point of the exercise is to think about various observations that you see near or far, low lying or from on high which are of interest to you and assess what benefit they might be individually and shared with others.

It was great to hear about Anne completing her own blog 52 which was the basis for her sharing Where is your true home on my WordPress site, July 2020, which was well received. 

In 2014 I was part of a pilgrimage group exploring special sites of significance in Israel. One such visit included a bus ride to the top of Mount Carmel and its beautiful chapel. However, at the lookout spot towards the coast we were not able to see anything due to heavy midst and light rain. Then to our amazement after about 20 minutes the rain ceased and the midst was blown away to reveal in the distance a view of the coast.

In 1 Kings 18 we read about the exploits of the prophet Elijah on Mount Carmel. His back story includes discussions with King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. He prophesied that there would be no rain for three years and faced up to 450 prophets of Baal in a contest to prove whose god/God was the most powerful. Through the offering of numerous sacrifices the God of Elijah eventually accepted Elijah’s sacrifice to show who was the most powerful God and later rain fell to end the three year drought.  

Before I attempted to climb Jacobs’s ladder and the tower I walked up and through the world famous Cheddar Gorge. There were many cyclists riding up the gorge with their heads down and legs working to a maximum effort. Then quite unexpectantly one cyclist went past very quickly, head held high and posture very relaxed. Shocked, I offered praise for such a mammoth effort only to be surprised by the response that the cyclists ease was due to the bike being powered by electric! Power from whatever source, when facing a challenge makes all the difference!

Lauren Daigle, a contemporary country and gospel singer, shares a beautiful song Look up child. Often when we are depressed or distracted we have a tendency to look and think in a downward manner. This contrasts to when we feel happy and content and find ourselves looking forward and upwards and feeling positive about life in general.

Having a firm faith in God from observations and conclusions, brings its own power to ascend ladders, towers and gorges.

May you observe life around you today, in a fresh and new way and even think about writing your own blog 52 and happily share it?

Graham

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Sabbath Rest (5min)

One of the constant challenges we face is how to find rest in the midst of a busy life? In the Judeo/Christian tradition much is said about rest in the context of work that includes the notion of a Sabbath-rest. Creation was completed in six days and on the seventh day God rested from his labour.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At this point it might be prudent to try to assess and define what being busy or restful might look like?

Busy

A teenager is busy preparing for exams and submitting in required course work for assessment. There is a preoccupation with forming meaningful relationships and seeking an understanding as to who they are in character and personality and what their future goals and ambitions might be.  

A young mother and father with children and jobs, are busy maintaining a tidy and functional home and providing income for their family. People in their mid-years with grown up children or no children are busy and at the peak of their working career carrying lots of concerns and responsibilities.

There are many examples of being busy in a good way and lots of times when we are stretched to our absolute maximum. To be busy is to be active in some form of life experience that fills the hours of day and night with joy and delight alongside its stresses and strains.

Rest

How do we seek and find a place of rest in the busy and sometimes manic life we experience? Rest can be defined as a place of calm that may include sitting or lying down to relax and chill! It includes a time set aside from our daily routine and responsibilities which offers us a measure of relaxation physically and emotionally and helps us to feel refreshed.

https://www.pexels.com/video/view-of-the-sea-from-an-island-beach-resort-4478740/

Can we rest I wonder, when we are active and be active when we are resting?

A Sabbath day will represent an opportunity for some form of rest or a break from the routine and responsibilities of work: body, mind and spirit. To have a rhythm to our rest is very important for our health and wellbeing. The challenge of a 24/7 society is that we have little respite for equilibrium to take place, which upsets that rhythm of rest that we all seek and require.  

It’s a conundrum that when we pursue and dream of a relaxing holiday, to be our Sabbath- rest, it can end up being one of the most stressful times of the year!

Tradition

In all my working career and ministry I have never formally taken a Sabbatical which offers an agreed period of time away from the normal activities of work. It can be used for reflection and to complete a given goal to enhance personal development and renewal. To compensate not taking a sabbatical, I have diligently tried to ensure that I have some form of weekly time off with my family and friends. This enables me to feel refreshed and ready to continue in all my work and commitments.

I also find it helpful to seek out friends or professional help with whom I can confide in. It enables me to share any stresses and strains that I may be carrying, so as to ensure that I maintain a healthy work, life and home balance.

In the busyness and restfulness of life it is important to recognise the value of stopping, reviewing and maintaining an equilibrium and passion for daily living and working. In Hebrews 4: 9-10 the apostle Paul outlines the importance of finding a Sabbath-rest just as God did from his works.

During this time of pandemic we have experienced periods of enforced isolation that has given us unexpected rest in one form or another. Equally it has increased our levels of anxiety and restlessness in various ways. In the coming months the teenager, parents and older adults will want to find a restorative rest that will sooth them mentally, spiritually and physically. 

Science  

Alongside tradition, there are a number of areas of scientific research that affirm the value of having times of rest from work. Rhett Power published (01/01/2017) a paper giving 12 reasons why it is important to take a day off work.

It’s a stress reducer and enables us to exercise.

It brings health benefits and enhances our immune system.

It offers up improved sleep and adds years to our life span.

It restores lost mental energy and brings greater creativity.

It helps us to be more productive and improve focus when in work.

It aids our short term memory and helps us to love our job again.

Think about your present areas of work and times of rest. Is there room for any realignment to increase your productivity and routines?

In the area of personal relationships you might be busy arguing and disputing various issues. You might harbour feelings of neglect, burn out and low self-confidence. Think about how giving yourself time to reflect and review might bring change and healing.

Wise words

Tradition has a value, as proven over many years and can change when required. If we disregard the worth of a particular tradition then we will lose the benefit it offers.

Science has produced many new and exciting pathways that have brought an improvement to every aspect of our lives. Yet there are many areas where such new findings have shown to be detrimental to the stability, peace and wellbeing of humanity and our planet.

Wise words from a revolutionary Rabbi, “can show us how to take a real rest.” We can implement such wisdom to our own work and life situations that will result in a better and more balanced ‘rhythm of rest.’

Take a Sabbath-rest.

Renew your faith in God and humanity.

Restore your energy and emotional levels.

Experience afresh, joy and inner happiness.

Shalom

Graham

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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Happiness Indicator

Two weeks ago I was asked by a local newspaper to offer up a fifty word summary on the value of being happy which was to celebrate the International Day of Happiness on the 20th March established by the United Nations.

It was quite a challenge and in this blog I want to expand my thinking and encourage you to consider your own assessment of how you experience being happy? For me, this picture represents a state of contentment and happiness in spite of the danger below.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin Pexels.com

In Proverb 15: 13, it says that ‘a happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit’ (NIV). What then, we may ask, makes for a happy heart and why does it show on our faces? I think we all know why heartache crushes the spirit!

Everybody wants to find and maintain a satisfactory level of happiness in all our relationships and experiences so avoiding sorrow and sadness.

Many national governments and local agencies recognise the importance of people being happy. It may be the case that such an initiative of having an international day of happiness, is due in part to the avalanche of unhappiness we experience and are exposed to daily in the media and at large.

The definition of one person’s happiness will be quite different for another. In defining happiness I think it is to experience feelings that are temporal and can represent a person’s characteristic but is definitely not dependent on particular happenings. The illusive state of happiness is always challenged by the realities of human existence in all its forms. However, I do believe that a process of ‘giving and receiving’ has a big part to play in finding and experiencing happiness.

The comedian Ken Dodd created a mythical band of ‘Diddy Men’ who had their own tickling sticks, with the intention of making people laugh and feel happy. Ken recorded a popular song Happiness that represented his life’s work and character. In his gigs that often lasted for many hours he would share a joke for his audience to receive and enjoy who in turn showed their appreciation by laughing and clapping. This ‘giving and receiving’ benefitted both parties and resulted in happy energy, laughter and appreciation.  

I have heard it said by many, that their happiness comes from being able to help people in differing ways. This formula of giving out to others enables us to receive back, which gives us a feeling of contentment and happiness in ourselves and in the happenings we incur in life.

I also think that to be happy is very much akin to being kind which can transform us into an attitude of thankfulness for life and living. There is an old saying: ‘be thankful for small mercies,’ which represents a grateful outlook on life that can produce a happy output which aids our general wellbeing body, mind and spirit. When we are thankful and experience a good measure of contentment then it firms up an inner joy and peace that is not dependent on good happenings around us.

Recently, I was reading some comments shared by Luke Shaw, a professional footballer, who was speaking about his relationship with his manger Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He expressed how happy he was because of the confidence that his manager had placed in him. This in turn helped him to enjoy his football with increased confidence and happiness in the games he played in. 

There are a number of ‘happiness indicators’ that are available online which can help us assess what levels of happiness we are at and with a measure of reasoning behind them. For a moment consider my own simple ‘happiness indicator’ and on a scale of 0 to 10 (10 being the highest) record what makes you happy at this present time?  In assessing the results, the scores will vary depending on the different seasons and circumstances we find ourselves in. 

Self-acceptance (________)  Money (________)   Relationships   (________)    Work (________) Love   (________)   Voluntary work     (________) Faith in God, philosophy or no God (________)       Other   (________)   

For me my anchor and faith in God gives me a sense of thankfulness and a quiet joy and peace. It gives me a strength within my inner core that acts as a basis for my temporal and continuous happiness.

In the Beatitudes it outlines certain experiences we may be facing. It then encourages us to take hold of different attitudes that will bring change to those life circumstances we face. In considering the fifth beatitude, ‘Blessed (happy) are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’, it highlights that in our giving of mercy (offering kindness and forgiveness) to others we will in turn be shown mercy that will make us feel happy.

As we draw to a close I would like to go back to those fifty words as mentioned at the beginning.

“To be happy is to experience feelings that are not permanent. We can find happiness within our inner core that is independent from happenings and is reflected in our character. To ‘give and receive’ plays a big part in experiencing happiness that will be clearly seen in our cheerful faces”.  

Cheerful faces Photo by Ketut Subiyanto Pexels.com

Have a happy and cheerful Easter and maybe take time to listen to Pharrell Williams song Happy and even join in the clapping!

Graham

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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Bridges and fences!

For a moment think about what your favourite bridge and most functional fence would be?

In all our relationships and life situations it is important to build bridges and fences that enable us to travel over certain terrain and maintain boundaries around our homes. In this blog I want us to consider what bridges and fences we are constructing and holding on to. Then to consider where it might be prudent to update and review their effectiveness so as to ensure a healthy life, work and home balance.

Bridges

The purpose of a bridge is to cross over a particular area of space. In design there are masonry and trussed arch bridges that include two piers which hold a deck to carry a road, canal (viaduct) or railway. A cantilever bridge is suspended and includes a counterbrace, portal frame and vertical member. In construction: a bridge may be supported by many arches and made of various materials such as stone, brick, concrete, iron, steel and wood.            

My favourite bridge is the Tower Bridge in London which I have ran over three times whilst taking part in the London marathon. It is a suspension bridge built from 1886-1894 and constructed from stone and steel over the river Thames which is close to the Tower of London. The two towers house the basale pivots and its machinery, which open as a drawbridge to allow sailing ships to pass underneath. 

Photo by John Smith Pexels.Com

My second bridge is the Menai suspension bridge that crosses the straits from Bangor to the Isle of Anglesey and was built by Thomas Telford in 1826. It was a great highlight for me to ride over it in 2012 having completed the journey from Manchester, in two days, with my good friend Trevor.  

 

The Tyne Bridge would be my third choice. I have travelled over it a few times during the Great North run that included a visit from the Red Arrows. The arch bridge crosses the River Tyne and links Newcastle upon Tyne to Gateshead. It is a similar design to the Forth Bridge in Scotland and was opened by King George V in 1928 and acts as a symbol of Tyneside.

Photo by Anthony Holmes Pexels.Com

There are many other spectacular bridges in the UK and throughout the world in design, purpose and composition but the bridge I most frequently use is a local steel bridge that crosses the river Mersey in Greater Manchester.

As you approach the bridge on your left, the flow of the river is fast yet mainly smooth on the surface. Just under the bridge is a weir that controls the flow of the water. At that point the river becomes turbulent and continues its journey beyond the bridge where the flow of water settles down to its former state.

Crossing that bridge reminds me that we are constantly negotiating smooth, fast, and disturbed waters and then want them to become calm and peaceful. It is important to value those bridges that take us safely over troubled waters and not to ‘burn them’ too quickly which might leave us stranded at a later date with nowhere to go.  

Fences

A fence acts as a border line separating one area from another. It is said that boundaries are some of the most disputed areas that people argue over. Many homes do not have fences but their walls represent a perimeter with doors acting as an access to and from them.

There are different types of fences that include upright poles with reeds, sticks and wattle or ones with barbed wire or sharpened upright pales. The fence may be temporary around a construction site or act as a picket fence or hoarding. They can be used as wooden stakes around a fortification, palisade, and stockade. A row of trees can help to restrict and act as a wind break and border line. A fenced area or enclosure is used for animals and known as a corral or paddock.

 

A few years ago I was renewing our house fence with the agreement of our neighbour and the help of my brother in law George. We dug the footings for two posts and set them in concrete. We placed two concrete slabs to act as a solid base and then inserted a waney lap fence, (1828mm x 15200mm) with a balustrade to complete the job. Subsequent maintenance work will be required alongside the replacing of an occasional fence.

 

At this time of year, in the Christian calendar, we engage in Shrove Tuesday and begin our spiritual reflection during Lent  from Ash Wednesday, which prepares us for our Easter celebration. In the book of Exodus (chapters 12-14) we read about the Passover and the journey of the Israelites fleeing the ‘fence’ of slavery and a miraculous crossing over the parted Red Sea into the land of Canaan with new boundaries to establish. 

In all our activities and reflections it is vital to build ‘relational bridges’ that enable us to cross over from one place to another. However, there will be times when it is necessary to close or draw up the bridge to preserve what we have.

Equally it is important to build and maintain fences that define our living and working boundaries. It is a fine balance, in the use of fences, to include where required or exclude for various personal, social and political reasons as exampled in China, Mexico and Berlin. (Check out my blog) Watch your Boundaries

So think about the bridges you have built? How are you using them when opened and closed and what, if any, changes and improvements you are bringing to them?

Similarly, think about the fences you have around you? In their inclusion and exclusion are they serving you well in maintaining appropriate boundaries where required, in all your human interactions?

Selah

Graham

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition of my book Blog 51 (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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Have you heard the one about hope?

In this blog I will share a joke, a quote and a bible verse.

A joke A teacher asked her students to use the word “beans” in a sentence. “My father grows beans” said one girl.” ”My mother cooks beans” said a boy. A third student spoke up, “we are all human beans.”  (Laugh factory .com)  

Photo by Viktor Smith pexels.com

As “human beings” we all need to have hope

When growing up I had a friend called Hope who lived nearby and was a bit older than me. In our times together, and with other friends, he always seemed to represent a measure of strength and safety, yet at times he could equally feel quite scary!

Hope is a very fundamental human aspiration. When we embrace hope it can be like making a fanciful wish which is not real and may be unrealistic and expedient in the scheme of things.

When we are hopeful we are sanguine in character expressing cheerfulness and confidence. We also feel buoyant, optimistic and bullish for all the endeavors and enterprises we enter into.

Hopeless

Looking back I wonder what things would have been like if there had been another friend who was called Hopeless. How would he or she have influenced my feelings? A sense of weakness, not being fearful when in their presence and finding that the friendship left me with a feeling of insecurity.

To feel hopeless can generate a sense of being bereft. We are deprived of that hope and comfort we look for in life situations. Hope in a very real way becomes blighted, ruined and thwarted.

A quote that comes from the Readers Digest: “But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars,” (Stars of Hope, by Martin Luther King Jr.)

It is so true, that in the rhythm of life the stars bring light into a dark place. Dawn pushes the night away to enable us to enjoy a bright new day. During these long dark nights we think about the lighter days and evenings to come. Spring is on its way, the bulbs are pushing through and the sound of the early morning birds will begin to be heard.  

Choices

In life we do, in a measure, have a capacity to choose. Where can we find hope when we feel hopeless? Having found hope how can we hold on to it, in the face of growing hopelessness?

Having a positive mindset and spirit will help. We can look at life in a more optimistic manner and seek to believe in what may happen cheerfully than embrace doom and gloom.

It is said that when we cling to fear it does not fully reflect the reality of life. The majority of the fear we feel and hold on to is more fantasy than reality. Fear looks to strangle us just like that large friendly snake that memorizes us whilst quietly squeezing us to death.

When we look to hope, it lifts us up to a point where even though we cannot see the reality of that which we long for, with perseverance, hope slowly emerges and represents joy and cheer. It is purposeful and can become a reality, so taking us into a brighter new day.

Hope value

Take account of the impact of the choices you take on a daily basis. Carefully consider what you are reading and the affect it has upon you.  Evaluate the worth and benefit of activities spent on social media. Be disciplined in the time you spend hearing ‘bad news’ which invariably feeds fear and a sense of hopelessness.

Place a ‘hope value’ on all that seems negative in thought, speech and action. Carefully consider your friends and those around you, because those who live in the land of ‘fear and hopelessness’ will challenge and affect your own thinking and acting.

A bible verse (Romans 15: 13)

My own story of hope, not only includes my good neighbour Hope but it is one that is anchored in a personal faith in Jesus, whose birth we have just celebrated. This blog is dedicated to my Dad, Henry, who knew my friend Hope and was a man full of faith and optimism and today I remember his birthday (22 January 1919).

As a historical man and rabbi Jesus brought lots of light into a dark world. He shared compassion and healing for many who lived without hope.

The crucified and risen Christ gives me a strength, light and comfort which I feel I can share with those around me in a very simple way. We are all looking, in one form or another, for hope in the midst of despair and ruin. We want to experience a new sense of cheer, confidence, optimism and buoyancy

Today: think about what you hear and how you speak. Assess what you share with others and what feeds your mind and soul. Seek a pathway that leads to Hope rather than Hopelessness.

Graham

Ps I couldn’t resist another joke. What happens to a frog’s car when it breaks down? It gets toad away. (Lol)

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition of my book Blog 51 (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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Audit 2020 (4 min)

An audit, not an Audi car unless you drive one, has an important place in many companies and organizations.

Audi car It is an official examination of yearly accounts or other activities. The purpose is to check that all the financial processes are correct for a given calendar year and ready to be submitted to Her Majesty’s government.

During an audit all levels of stock and products will be assessed to calculate that which has been sold and used compared to any losses and deficiencies that may have taken place. A concluding evaluation will be submitted to the company board or organizational management. Recommendations and adjustments may be suggested for future improvement of performance.

At this present time you might be happy driving your current car? However, if after its service and MOT the mechanic advices you that it would be better to replace it, how would you feel? Troubled or excited and what replacement would you consider? A good second hand car or a brand new Audi as seen in the photo?

Revolving door

Revolving door This revolving door at the Café Royal in London (photo by Oliver Smallman) has seen many people walk through it and enjoy its service and atmosphere as advertised: “a vibrant living room of London, the place to convene, converse and celebrate.” The door is both open and closed apart from a time when the hotel closes. A permanently closed door excludes people entering. When a door is open anyone can enter and leave when they so desire.

Life can be like a revolving door that both welcomes and excludes opportunities and difficulties. The sands of time never stand still, they are constantly changed by the tide and wind. In the drift of life we find that one door will open alongside another door that closes. A revolving door swirls with a natural and daily flow and only experiences trouble when people or luggage get stuck in between the sections of the door plus general wear and tear.

Weighing scales

On the eve of a new year it might be helpful to take a few moments to weight up the pros and cons that we have experienced in recent months. The use of weighting scales are vital when baking so that we produce a perfect cake! In using imaginary scales it can enable us to forge a balanced and consistent life in all the decisions and actions we look to take.

Scales

On the left hand side on your scales            On the right hand side of the scales

Identify all the closures and losses                                    Register all the good and new

that you have felt and experienced in 2020,                    experiences that have taken place

and what source of disappointment might they             in 2020, and identify them as a

be in the New Year?                                                               source of confidence for 2021.

Adjustment

During the last few months, especially in the light of all the restrictions enforced upon us at home, I have conducted my own audit related to my work, family and friends. I have considered the open and closed doors in front of me and I have weighed any advantages and disadvantages I have experienced and look to move into a period of adjustment with patience and excitement with three buzz words.

Let go When one door closes naturally or is shut abruptly in our faces, then it is important to set oneself free from the past and be thankful for all the good that has been gained from it.

Move forward Have a confidence that when one door has closed, another will open that allows us to press ahead into a new season planned or unplanned, that enables us to provide for ourselves and use our gifts and interests in a new and purposeful way.

Trust in the Lord I have a strong Christian faith that anchors me when I face those turbulent currents in life. The poem Footprints in the Sand reminds me that when we feel all alone, it is then that the Lord carries us as we trust in Him.

2020

As the year ends take a few moments to do your own audit which you may want to share with a loved one for further advice or support. As you prepare to enter 2021 think about the doors that are wide open to you or are completely shut? Look for the revolving door that continually changes so offering you different options to enter or leave at your discretion.

As a family we are having great delight in singing and doing silly actions with our grandson to that popular song, We’re Going on a Bear hunt.   The song reminds us that in the journeys of life, we might not be able to get over or around whatever we face, but invariably we have to go through them with faith, fortitude and a fresh hope.

As referenced you may already drive an Audi car and want to adjust and change to another car in the New Year. Your goal may even be to acquire a brand new Audi? Be wise and patient in making decisions. Consider your options and weigh up any advice you are given. Be bold and brave.

Get ready for a new adventure, 2021.

Graham

For further reading hit the links below for the second edition of my book Blog 51 (October 2020) in black and white or colour

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