Sunday, 5 December 2010

And on reflection...

... I'm already finding myself looking towards the end of the year, and into 2011. When I started this blog, it was with a lot of hope, that things just might change this year, in comparison to others. I quickly lost that excitement when I realised one key thing wasn't planning on doing any changing - me. Quite a disappointment when you realise that at first. But then something else took over, back around July, August time. God. I've never really understood until now that there is something life-changing about knowing God. It makes me wonder what I've really been up to all this time, seeing as I became a Christian about the age of 11. But if I'm fair on myself, then I can see that God's been doing a lot of prep-work with me, to lead me up to this year. For many people, the analogy they would use at this point is 'breaking down walls', clearing stuff out of the way. But in my case it's been different. Probably earlier this year, a fab guy I know called Andy gave me a picture from God - an image of what he believed God was saying to me. He described a wall being built, between me and the past. There was a window in the wall, so I could look at what had gone on, but there was going to be a clear separation. That was exciting to hear, because there are plenty of things that have gone on before that I would gladly be cut off from, but at the same time I know that internally my response was also 'but I don't know how that can happen'. And I'm not fully sure how it has happened, but that wall is definitely going up. I no longer have an overwhelming desire to define myself by my past, but have hope for the future. I've seen and experienced crazy, mad stuff whilst getting to know God better, and it's made me hungry for more. I've been given hope in bucketfuls, and am realising that there is so much more for me to experience and understand, and instead of looking back I'm rather impatient to see what's going to happen next! I've been asked to give my testimony at church soon, and I've got no idea where to begin as yet. But as it's not Sunday yet, I shan't worry about it... there's far too much to happen between now and then, and it's going to be so exciting!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Whatever happened to humility?

I've been listening to a number of conversations recently, where people have talked about how they wish everyone would get along together. They've mentioned initiatives, workshops, corporate values, charity sponsorship - just like in workplaces, churches, organisations, even homes up and down the country. We're all seeking for better relationships, and wishing that people would just be nicer to one another... but are left wondering why everyone else has to make it so difficult?

A lot of the approaches people take are about 'positive reinforcement' - encouraging the behaviours we want to see more of, and rewarding them accordingly. It's not wrong, and it can have some really good results, but I can't help but think we're missing a trick. Perhaps there isn't a need for fancy reward structures, maybe we don't have to ensure that everyone who possibly contributed is thanked from the front. Instead, how about we all take a turn at showing a little humility?

It's a word we don't hear very often at all, and it's got some quite negative connotations - around people having to 'bow and scrape', 'yes m'lady', 'no, please don't care about my feelings, it's all about you' - in other words, about being a martyr. But that isn't a fair description of the true meaning, which is 'a lack of vanity or self-importance'. In other words, letting go of the ego. It gets even easier to understand when we check out its opposites - arrogance, assertiveness, egoism, pretentiousness and pride. None of us would like to be thought of as arrogant, proud or pretentious, but that's what a lack of humility is all about. When we push to have things all our own way, when we insist that only we know what is right and shove all obstacles - including people - out of our way, when we give that look to someone in a meeting that says 'I told you so', when we gossip about others and blame them behind their back for problems in the office - all of these are typical examples of how we even unwittingly put others down just so we can feel better about ourselves. And our actions lead to a spiralling of further actions - so the person who was made to feel bad goes on to make someone else's life a misery, and so on and so forth. Before we know it, trust is lost, everyone's trying to protect themselves and gain what little glory they can, and we all feel trampled on as a result.

When the damage we cause is so obvious, why do we keep on doing it? It's not pleasant to be around, it doesn't fulfil our innate need to be in close, encouraging relationships with other humans, and we all finish the day feeling worse off for it. But equally, nothing is going to change unless we each make a choice to be different. We don't need another initiative, it's not time for 'National Humility Day', it's just about making one fresh decision at a time, about standing up for a different way of working, even if it feels a little embarrassing at first. So what if people laugh - is that really a reason not to do it?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Just when I could do with looking more holy...

There are days - well whole great big long life-sized periods of time - in my life when I wish I could just be a tad more holy. Times when I wish I hadn't sung the songs at church where I said with such enthusiasm 'You give and take away, my heart will choose to say blessed be Your Name'. Today was one of those days when, if I'm honest, I felt like I couldn't be bothered to say 'thank you God'.. mainly because it would have been through gritted teeth. 'Thank you God that I'm at work when I would rather be on holiday'. 'Thank you God that I need to pay the car tax this month when I would much rather spend money on other things'. 'Thank you God that I have been given even more work to do and would rather nick off early and have an ice cream in the park'. 'Thank you God that You have called me to show your grace to everyone even when it's THAT time of the month and, quite frankly, the world is annoying me simply by breathing'. The more pious of you could certainly remind me that I should be grateful that I have a job, a car, friends and colleagues to be around - and of course, there is a very small rational area of my brain that knows this. But because I am human, I have a tendency to take all of these things for granted, and want much more on top of them. I want a job where I get to do only the tasks that I like and not have to do things that make me feel uncomfortable like presenting project plans, just in case someone challenges my ideas and shows up what an idiot I am. I want a car where I don't have to spend lots of money running it, and which I can park for free in town so I can get up late rather than get the subway. I want people around me to constantly think I'm fab, to send me wee notes of encouragement or thanks for the job I've done, or nominate me for awards so that I can get lots of public recognition and then come over all shy and humble.

And then, when I read all of that, I want one more thing. To delete it all. To not accept that there's a challenge in all of it. To run away from the possibility that just maybe someone will read this, and ask me, 'so how's it going, have you talked to God about these things?' Because if I'm not careful, the answer will be 'no'. I didn't want to receive answers so I didn't ask. I hoped that if I didn't knock on the door there was no real danger of it opening. I hoped that if I didn't go looking for God, He wouldn't come looking for me. But, like in all great pantomines (and I'm definitely a fan of the genre), He's behind me. Watching me type. And, when I get into this reflective moment, I find there is something that I want to knoweven more than all of these worldly things. What does He think about me. About my wants. About my frustrations. About my internal desires to verbally slap some of the people I come across in my daily life. About the desires I have, good and bad, that I don't tell anyone else about. About the things that almost make me cry, they fill me with that much desperation and sadness. About the things that I wish other people cared more about, so I wouldn't have to feel embarrassed about my own passion for them.

Right now, I know I don't care about being holy. I just want to know God. I want to understand why people call him 'Father' God, like He's a daddy. So I'm going to ask Him.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


I've been on holiday for the past week - utter bliss. A whole week of living what almost feels like a completely different life, with no daily job to define the start and end of my waking hours. The change has been good, it's felt longer than it really was, and I've been glad for that. It's been a time of changes, and overall it's left me refreshed and hopeful.

The biggest of these changes has been my leaving the Glasgow Chamber Choir. Two years of mayhem and now the time has come to an end. There were a couple of reasons for going, mainly around what I think I am both capable of and wanting to do musically right now. But besides all that, I'm going to miss that bunch of nutters (I mean that in the nicest possible way.... they made me feel at home)! Someone who joined us at a meal out tonight commented on how friendly we all were, how well we get on. And it's so, so true - when you looked round the room, there's such a mixed bunch of people.... a retired lawyer, a lecturer in Theology, a climbing instructor, a wedding music planner, mothers and fathers, a sound engineer, students, finance specialists, music teachers, and many more besides. A whole bunch of people who perhaps would not normally cross each other's paths in everyday life, but because of the choir are good friends, united for their passion for music... and admittedly, for many, their passion for wine.... apparently the two go hand-in-hand??! (Yeah, music in one hand, glass in the other... nuff said, methinks)! And my life is blessed, totally enriched, by having known them. When I think of each one of them, I cannot help but consider how truly incredible the human race is. Every person is unique, and comes with gifts, abilities, thoughts and inspirations that are all their own - and when they share them with the rest of us, we so often become better people as a result. Don't get me wrong, I am fully aware of the darker sides of this world - but I choose to see the good, because it is SO good! Most people who know me will know I'm a Christian - and watching people gives me so much evidence towards a Creator-God. Look at us - we're amazing! Nevermind the phenomenal intricacies of the human body, just listen to human conversation, look at the creative arts, painting and music, watch someone think their way through a difficult situation and come to a great solution - it's awesome stuff, enough to make you giddy with the possibilities for our futures.

Because of all of this, I can't wait to go to work tomorrow - not just because I love my job (and I know what a gift it is to be able to say that, truly I do) but because I will meet so many fantastic people, some who I know already, and maybe some who I will meet for the first time. And they will be awesome, wonderful, gifted people, and I will be blessed for meeting them. Amazing!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Taste and see...

I have some truly awesome friends. I've been thinking about two of them in particular, and how they inspire me. Take friend number one...

... let's call her Amy, just for the fun of it. Every year, Amy takes time to review her goals in life, and she creates a long list for the year ahead. She also has longer-term aims, and she takes time to look at these too. Now when I she she creates a long list, I mean lonnnnnnngggg... some of us have two of three new year's resolutions - well Amy, she doesn't bother with these, she makes life plans instead, with swathes of ambitions, personal goals and career objectives. Because the difference between Amy and most of us is that she actually sets out to achieve them - and checks up on herself to see how she's progressing. It astounds me as to how someone can be so focused and driven - and yet seem to be having so much fun whilst doing it. She's tried to help me understand, talked me through some of the goal-setting techniques she's used, and reminded me of said ambitions at a later date.... and admittedly, I was pleasantly surprised that I had, in fact, managed to do some of the things on my list. But some of the other things on the list... I'd forgotten about them. I guess I wasn't quite so passionate about achieving them as I might have thought.

And then there's friend number two.... let's think of another name for her - okay, we'll call her Lucy. The thing that gets me all inspired when I think about Lucy is her calm acceptance of the people around her - with all their good points and icky hidden things, all their happy days and crappy days - and how excited she is about getting to know them and letting them know that they're okay. It's quite overwhelming to discover someone who loves you, even when they've heard your worst - and believe me, Lucy's heard my worst - and is absolutely convinced that you are an amazing human being. She seems to have an inexhaustable well of compassion for the yukkiest parts of humanity - of which I count myself as one - and an excitement about seeing them experience the best of life. There's a verse in the Bible - the book of James I think - where it talks about us standing alongside people who mourn and crying along with them, or with people who laugh and celebrating with them - Lucy's got that bit sussed, I think. But like with Amy, I watch Lucy and I wonder where it all comes from, this passion, this drive, that keeps her going even when she probably feels tired, or like she just can't love another person.

It's only when spend time looking at these people that I start to feel hungry for an impetus in my own life that leads me to feel passionate enough about something that I keep going until I succeed. I can't be like Amy, and have a huge list of things to achieve - even the idea of it overwhelms me and puts me off. But I think that Amy and Lucy both teach me something that I have to spend more time thinking about - they both keep going because what they are doing excites them. It's like they've had a taste of something good, and they need to keep going back for a little more. So that's my little goal for this week.... decide what tastes good and whether I am ready to go after a little bit more.....

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The first reasons why....

There was a girl - nay, a woman - who wanted to know what she could really achieve, if she only gave herself the chance. So many dreams, hopes, ideals, plenty of philosophising about how things could and should be... so much so that one day the woman decided to change her language. 'Could' and 'should' would be no more. 'Can', 'will' and 'want to' would need to be learnt and put in their place.
The plan was a good one, and the woman felt proud of herself. She even found the courage to fulfil one of the 'want to' items on her list... and a lovely nose piercing it was too. But then came her first lesson. Pride, she discovered, was not enough to succeed. In fact, it seemed to preceed what others referred to as a 'Fall'. Apparently the plan had fallen back into philosophising and dreaming.
So a new approach was needed. And the irrevocable truth was unleashed, with unbridled certainty, that 'this' was the way to ensure success... buy a new notebook. Fresh, clean pages, a pretty hardback cover, which would be entitled 'All The Reasons Why'. The notebook was beautiful, it looked good enough to share its contents with others. Although it's weird to share blank, white pages with others. So, as the notebook lay empty, so the fulfilment of her dreams laid empty.
One more step along the road she went.... and so the blog was introduced. But before it could be successful, she made a painful realisation... writing in the third person was never going to work. Nope. Not at all. Because if I do that, then it's too easy for me to forget that I'm talking about me, about what I am thinking and what that should mean for my life.
The road may be narrow, it may be winding in its path, yet I suspect that I will find a lot of people walking on it. Thank goodness? Or maybe thank God :o)