Not one about anything…

The one about blog is using lent as an opportunity to rest, reconsider and reconnect. I’m checking out of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too because I know I need a change of pace, a different rhythm and a break from all that input and the constant desire to contribute to the output!

The blog archives will be accessible for those of you who want an opportunity to think about life in a different way during lent too…

Have a great few weeks…

The one about…feeling shy.

Were you ever shy as a child? Maybe you still are? Maybe the thought of having to start a conversation gives you the feeling (as our story at Tots put it) “like butterflies are fluttering around inside”…maybe walking into a room full of people leaves you wishing the ground would open up? For some people those feelings aren’t even overcomable (is that even a word?!) and they simply don’t start the conversation or don’t enter the room. Then there are those people, the loud crazy ones who seem to command attention and conversation, but what if sometimes those people are acting that way to hide feelings of insecurity and shyness! What if for others being on stage or ‘up front’ is fine, it’s fun; yet in a one-to-one they’re so unsure and uncomfortable…sometimes it’s hard to know who’s shy and who’s not!

We all deal with our feelings differently. We all devise methods of coping so that we can function in the world. Some people repress, some deny, some people react, some people transfer feelings onto others, the psychology complex! There are opinions about what’s healthy and what’s not when it comes to ‘coping mechanisms’ but what if some traits, some of the ways we act and some of the feelings we hold are just who we are? What if not every “feeling” or reaction needs to be worked on, to be improved or honed or challenged?

There’s a guy in the older section of the bible called Moses who, on first impressions is quite a confident, opinionated chap! He gets quite angry about injustice to the point of physically challenging and then killing someone! (Not exactly an avoider of confrontation!) He runs away, shocked by his own behaviour! In his solitary reflection he discovers a bush that’s burning and he hears the voice of God…asking him to confront the King! His response:

Moses replied, “I have never been a good speaker. I wasn’t one before you spoke to me, and I’m not one now. I am slow at speaking, and I can never think of what to say”.

Moses just doesn’t believe he is capable of what he’s been asked to do. As the story unfolds, Aaron(Moses brother) does the talking because Moses just refuses to do it!

What I love is that Moses is allowed to be Moses, shy, afraid and unsure. God encourages and suggests but doesn’t force Moses to be who he’s not and as it turns out his brother is up for that particular challenge!

We’re often left thinking we’re not good enough, that we need to be better or different or less or more or like someone else. Some feelings and reactions do need to be challenged if they’re damaging to others and there are times when it’s good to reflect on why we feel the way we do. When it comes to some feelings though (like feeling shy) what if we just let those feelings simply be? What if we love and accept ourselves as we are? Maybe as we embrace who we are we’ll find courage and confidence we weren’t aware we had and some of those feelings or reactions we thought were ours won’t have quite the same hold over us. Maybe accepting and loving all that makes us who we are is the only starting point for being fully alive.

The one about…feeling curious?????

They say “curiosity killed the cat”…it may be true but it’s left a bit of a negative vibe to the whole being curious thing!

There’s something beautifully childlike about curiosity…the endless “Why? Why? Why? Why?” from just about every 3 year old leaves most parents at some point snapping “just because…” or resorting to “why do you think?” which leaves the said three year old pondering “erm”….

Children are curious, they’re inquisitive, it’s how they learn. Their genuine interest in everything around them enables them to soak up information as they attempt to make sense of their world!

As adults we often lose this skill or maybe we just lose the desire? Maybe we see curiosity or questions as a sign of weakness? Maybe we don’t want to be seen to have a lack of knowledge! The Jewish tradition is intriguing when it comes to questions. Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes:

Judaism is the rarest of phenomena: a faith based on asking questions, sometimes deep and difficult ones that seem to shake the very foundations of faith itself.

Throughout the Torah the founding fathers of the Jewish faith question God as they wrestle with why Yahweh would choose to act the way it seems He has! It’s important to note that Jesus was a Jew! So embedded in all his conversation were questions and stories that induced more curiosity and intrigue than answers! Could it be that, instead of being a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge, questions and curiosity are in fact an art form? And that sometimes questions tell us more than answers ever do?

Why is this interesting? Well…who do you think are the most dangerous people in our world? Politicians? World Leaders? Religious fundamentalists? Those who believe their way is the only way? Those who carry an arrogant certainty about how it should be? Are they the people who do the most damage? Are they people who’ve stopped asking questions, who have stopped listening to others and instead are convinced that they know best?

So what if we were people who asked more questions? What if we were more interested in hearing other people’s stories than sharing our own? What if showing a genuine interest in what others think and why they think it led to a better understanding of the differences between us? What would that look like? I wonder if it’s possible to change the world by embracing inquisitiveness? Who knows!? Not me…I’m just curious!

The one about…The Greatest Showman!

Musicals…they’re a fascinating phenomena don’t you think…a bit like marmite; you either love them or hate them) because that needed clarifying?!?) I remember watching Mama Mia heavily pregnant with my 5th child (she arrived the next morning I seem to recall) I watched the first 20 minutes and then found myself getting up every time a song started! I’d wash up or make the sandwiches for school or pack the book bags…it didn’t capture me!

Then a few months ago I watched La La Land! Fifteen minutes in I wasn’t convinced but then it drew me in, stole my heart and completely broke me…if you’ve watched it, you’ll know because honestly I did not see that ending coming *sigh*…I was still recovering until I watched The Greatest Showman…

If you’ve not seen it, stop reading this and go watch it!! Honestly…it’s THE MOST UPLIFTING FILM EVER! (Possibly?!)

The story follows a creative dreamer and his pathway to success from the most unlikely of beginnings…the film embraces so much; love, death, status, success, failure, fame, dreams, hopes, risk, nightmare, imagination, temptation, choices, belonging, loss…its an abundance of life – alongside the occasional elephant!!

The story captures so much of what it is to be human, it speaks to the heart, it connects to something deep inside that wants to believe there’s so much more to life than what we currently experience. It challenges the question “who am I to….?” by yelling in response “who are you not to!”*

It opens up discussion about who’s in and who’s out, it turns upside down the belief that only the rich, famous or connected can succeed. In contrast it invites the rich, successful and famous to reconsider their path. It tells a story of belonging, where the lost are found and the renegades are restored. It challenges the status quo; the mediocre and invites you to risk it all; to come alive.

The story also carries a warning, a wake up call to those who become so involved in their own story they’ve stopped being interested in the stories of those around them. Or perhaps more accurately the wake up call is a reminder of the devastation that can ensue when we start to think that we’re the centre of the story, the main character, the greatest showman and in doing so we forget that actually we’re all in this together and we all have a part we must play if the story is to continue!

So why does it connect so deeply within us? Well, there’s another story, one that has been unfolding since the beginning of time, where an extravagantly reckless creator speaks a whole new world into being. This story embraces fully all that it means to be human. It invites us all to participate and invites us all to belong! It’s the story that connects deeply within us that whispers to us of what life could be, that evokes dreams and urges us into a new reality. Those ‘I’ve always wanted to try that’ feelings are your invitation to “risk it all” and “walk the tightrope” of adventure! This story has at its heart a divine force, a creative spirit that invites us to dream with our eyes wide open of world where love wins and truth reigns. In living for that world, that kingdom, we find that we come alive. It’s the story that’s so eloquently paraphrased by ‘Phillip Carlyle’:

“When I first met you I had an inheritance, acclaim, an invitation to every party in town. Now thanks to you all that’s gone. All that’s left is friendship, love and a worth that I adore. You brought joy into my life-into all our lives!”

That’s what the eternal story invites us to journey deeper into. A letting go of what we thought mattered, a stepping off the path we thought would take us where we wanted to be. This story invites us to follow a path that’s a little more unlikely, that sometimes doesn’t make sense but one that ultimately connects us with who we are and all that we’re meant to be! I think Jesus called it ‘life in all its fullness’!

*shout out to Marianne Williamson-A Return to Love!

The one about…feeling lonely! (Part 2)

The feeling lonely theme has stayed in my head, not in a bad way, just in a ‘I need to make more sense of this’ kind of way! Why do we not thrive when we’re alone? Why do we not embrace solitude and celebrate those feelings of isolation and loneliness? Why is it that those people who choose to completely withdraw from other human interaction are seen as a little bit strange? There’s something about being human that acknowledges being alone for too long isn’t quite how it should be!

There’s an ancient poem which explores the origins of the world. It starts with the concept of a force; an energy; a being that is already in existence which brings other things into existence. This force or energy is given the name God, Elohim to be precise! The poem begins:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said…

This God character “creates”, the word there is “bara” and its only ever used in Hebrew with the word for God…so right at the start of the poem we have a ‘creator God’. A few words later there is the mention of “spirit” a spirit that was hovering over the unformed creation. Then we discover that this God character can speak, to speak we need words. Why is this interesting? Later on,in the book this poem is found in, we have these words written:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

This is actually the beginning of a description of Jesus Christ, known as the Son of God, the promised messiah (but that’s a lot further on in the story!!)

What we’ve just identified here is what Christians call the Trinity. The Trinity is a highly mysterious concept but simply put its the relationship of energy, a relationship within a force, the relationship God has within himself and it existed before the creation of the world!

Now if we jump forward a few thousand years we get to 2012 when work among some of the most highly educated people on our planet reached a crucial point! Physicists discovered the missing particle that made sense of the origin of mass. This has by some been nicknamed the God particle!

The Higgs-Boson is one of a multitude of mind blowing concepts in the world of physics! Physicists have split the atom to find there are a crazy number of sub-atomic particles which act in ways they could never have imagined. Did you know there is a sub atomic particle called a Quork which can be in two places at the same time and if you split a Quork and take one half to London and the other to let’s say, Glasgow…if you reverse the spin of the half in Glasgow the other half in London will do the same!*

Sub-atomic particles have the best minds in the world saying “erm, what?!?” These same amazing minds are also beginning to use phrases to describe the universe at its core as a ‘relationship of energy’ and that this energy has ‘personality’; a mind of its own…the cleverest physicists are starting to sound a little poetic!

Why is this interesting?

It’s interesting because whichever way you approach the origin or life, whether you apply knowledge and logic and reason or whether you’re more comfortable with the mystery, spiritual or poetic, both bring us to a starting point which is of a ‘relationship of energy’. This relationship has existed since the origin of the world. As human beings we’re profoundly entwined in relationship, you could say it runs in our veins!

This is why loneliness doesn’t sit well with us…relationship is at the core of who we are so if there’s a disruption in relationship or a lack of relationship with others it saddens us, it doesn’t feel right and we feel lonely! I guess the good news within this is that loneliness, although at times real, raw and painful, doesn’t have to dominate who we are. There is a mystery we can delve into that suggests we are not alone. This mystery whispers to us that we are deeply connected to the earth, to each other and to the energy that holds this whole thing together! Loneliness does not get the last laugh!

*thanks Rob Bell for your wisdom! Check out “Rob Bell: Everything is Spiritual” on YouTube!! Mind blowing!

The one about…feeling lonely.

Lonely? Have you ever felt lonely? It’s defined as “sad because one has no friends or company”! It’s a strange feeling, one that doesn’t always seem to fit circumstances!You can be alone and not feel lonely! Yet you can feel lonely in the midst of a crowd of people. We can crave solitude and yet find that enforced solitude leaves us feeling broken and afraid! So, can loneliness ever be a positive experience and can we embrace moments of solitude and turn them into something useful?!

Richard Rohr offers a thought about solitude, or what he describes as “alert aloneness”…

Although true solitude—alert aloneness without diversions—can be challenging, it is often the necessary gateway to our deepest passions…

There is a thought, a suggestion that those moments of loneliness, despite the sadness it can invoke, are in-fact opportunities to discover who we really are.

So often we fill our lives with noise and activity, any moments we do get to be still, silent or alone we find ourselves checking Facebook or flicking through Twitter…we send a message or read an email; we fill our time doing anything to avoid the realisation that we feel lonely and in doing so we don’t allow the stillness in.

It’s not that the busyness and commotion are bad, they aren’t, so much of the ‘busyness’ is just life!The thing is, it’s often lived out of our ego or false self, the self we’ve created to function in the world! This “self” is also not bad or wrong, it’s necessary! It’s who we project into our relationships and interactions. The thing is that it’s not complete, it’s not true, it’s not who we really are, there’s more…so much more! We only discover this “true self” when we take time out; when we stop to think, to meditate, to be alone…it’s in this place of loneliness, or solitude or sometimes even lostness, that we find our way to our “deepest passions” and discover there’s so much more to who we are…and find that who we are is OK!

We need this time out to discover what we really think, to weigh up and evaluate all the “inputs” that we have coming into our lives. To ensure our thoughts are indeed our thoughts and not just the mimicking of someone else’s! This stillness is the place within ourselves where our false self meets our true self and the conversation begins! It’s where questions are raised, where discussions are held, where opinions are evaluated and honed, and within this internal dialogue we find that we’re not actually alone!

Maybe as we journey deeper into who we are we find there’s a whole new mystery waiting to be discovered; a truer you to give to the world and maybe that’s what we mean by soul and spirit and story!

The one about…feeling excited!

When was the last time you felt excited? That ‘I can’t wait; this is going to be so amazing’ kind of excitement that keeps you awake at night and carries you through the day?!

Excitement, it’s a feeling full of anticipation and expectation. To be excited requires hope; belief that something is going to be a certain way or faith that a moment is going to turn out as you imagine…

Children do excitement well! Birthdays; Christmas; holidays, sleepovers; play dates; McDonald’s; the next episode of Mako Mermaids (maybe that’s just my lot!) Children get excited! They carry the raw emotion, not bound up in ‘what ifs’ scarred by previous experiences or memories of past disappointments.

As adults we can lose that sense of excitement – we learn to manage our expectations. Maybe we’ve been let down one too many times and we’ve begun to think it’s not worth ‘getting our hopes up’…maybe we carry pain or sadness within us and those wounds cause us to feel guilty about looking forward with a smile. For some of us that ‘old friend’ fear that’s taken the driving seat and we’ve stopped looking forward with hope instead we’re moving ahead at best cautious, at worst down right afraid!

Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame apparently once said:

” When you’re young, you’re not afraid of what comes next. You’re excited by it!”

Too many of us have lost the excitement of simply being alive and instead we’re worrying about what’s next! What if we let excitement in? What if we allowed ourselves to engage with all that is good and hopeful and exciting?

Excitement invites us into mystery; it sparks an intrigue of the unknown, of something that could be amazing…excitement connects us into something bigger than our story, something almost spiritual! Excitement brings us joy in the ‘now’ and reminds us that hope and belief and faith are all part of what it really means to be fully human and fully alive!