What is loneliness?

Everyone gets lonely sometimes. Many people enjoy spending time on their own. In fact it can very satisfying and refreshing to spend time in one’s own thoughts. But, what if you spend too much time alone? What if it is not a choice but just a reality from one day to another?

Sometimes we can be in company yet feel utterly, completely alone; like no-one gets us or understands, or can possibly feel as we are feeling right at that moment.

Being lonely can come on suddenly or it can be an ever present state of being or state of mind. Being lonely can be when you have no-one to call your own, no family or friends, no-one to put you first, no-one to laugh or cry with, chat about your day with, share a meal with or even have a cup of tea with. If you eat 21 meals a week on your own, that can be lonely. Passing the time on the way to the bus, saying hello to the shopkeeper, chatting to a stranger; all help to pass the time but it does not stop the loneliness.

If you can talk to people that is good, but what if you do not connect in any meaningful way with another person today – that can be lonely. Strangers or people who come to help you are nice and kind but do not necessarily take away the feelings of emptiness, of having no family to call your own, nowhere you can turn up unannounced and feel welcome or ‘at home’.

When people ask you how you are but don’t give you the chance to answer or don’t really want to know, they are just passing the time of day. When other people’s lives are always more important than yours, and what you do is not relevant or interesting or indeed valued. That is what loneliness is.

How about you reach out to someone who is lonely today? Give them the one thing that no-one else gives them – your time and your presence – and be really present with them. They will be thankful for it!

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A letter to the next generation

I worry for you my child. You may not have been birthed by me, but I love you, my spiritual child. I want to see you happy and healthy – mentally and physically. Yet my heart is sore. I am filled with woe for you and yours. “Why?” you ask, well let me tell you.

Look at your need for ‘stuff’; the way you fill your life with gadgets and your obsession with the latest phone or game breaks my heart. You take no care of anything, everything is replaceable. Are we teaching you nothing? You care not for the place you live in; your room an echo of your  future home; unloved, uncared for. You do not have the skills to care for it and you have no interest in acquiring them.

Then what of the world around you? No space for homes, every conceivable bit of land swallowed up by the latest motorway or monstrosity. Building upon building – concrete, brick, metal, glass and plastic covers the land. Grass gone, trees gone, birds gone! You wonder why mental health is such a problem – just look around. We are losing all contact with that which sustains us – the land. The trees give us our very breath, yet you just chop them down. Wonder why we have so many floods – you have concreted over our beautiful land – natural drainage long gone, never to be replaced.

The future is not a pretty one my friends. Our kids (and some adults) are addicted to games and machines – the more depraved the better – showing murders and prostitution, the lowest acts of a civilised society; not only looking at it but actively participating in it, albeit virtually! Then we see the child murderers on the news and wonder why.

Our kids dictate to us what they want to do. We often don’t make them do what they don’t want to do. What lesson is this teaching them? Most of my life is spent doing things I do not necessarily want to do, but it needs to be done. Who is going to care for our sick, old and needy?

Head down, stuck in their phone; don’t see the man starving on the street, the girl crying, the robins and wagtails in the bush looking for food.

We need to backtrack before it is too late. Teach them some of the skills which are forgotten but are important. Things that matter. Before we are gone and it’s too late.

Here’s some ideas to try:

  • Put other people first once in a while
  • Learn to cook
  • Learn to budget
  • Grow vegetables or care for the land
  • Look after an older person
  • Look after a child
  • Decorate a room
  • Clean a room
  • Change a bed
  • Hang washing on a washing line
  • Have a face to face conversation – no phones or hash tags allowed
  • Get passionate about a cause
  • Read a book
  • Write a letter
  • Walk in a park, a wood, a field – feel the air, watch the wildlife
  • Pick up other people’s litter
  • Play with a puppy or a kitten
  • Care for a pet
  • Create something with your hands
  • Pick a skill and practice it until you have mastered it
  • Learn to make music
  • Be kind – always

False Humility??

Being humble or having too much self humility is not great for our self esteem and really does not do God any favours either. If we believe we are too small, too insignificant, not clever enough, pretty enough or whatever; then we cannot make a difference. We not only limit ourselves but we limit what God can do through us.

If we believe God lives in us and through us; if we believe that with God all things are possible, then we should also believe in ourselves and our abilities. In weakness, He is our strength. Do not be limited by false humility, it limits not only your power but God’s too.

You are not too small – be bold!

When you feel hopeless, be encouraged and strengthened – ‘you can’ yes ‘YOU’, ‘you can do it’. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? I believe in you so you should do too. Why do we doubt ourselves and who puts these doubts in our minds?

You can do it, just one step at a time. Take the first step!

How much more?

In response to Psalm 147 

Praise the Lord

We sing praises to our king

Holy One, God of all

You call each star by name

Hung the sun in the sky

Paint the rainbow for us too.

How much more

Must you love me

How much more?

 

Praise the Lord

We make music just for you

How you delight in us

As we place our trust in you

Each day a new sunrise

You pour your blessings upon all

How much more

Must you love me

How much more?

 

Praise the Lord

As he reveals His will to us

Pours the rain and the snow

He stirs the breeze and makes the waters flow

Provider, forgiver, Jehovah

Freely showers each blessing on me

How much more

Must you love me

How much more?

 

Praise the Lord

His mercy is new every morning

Grace and patience abound

For all who are faithful,

His favour freely falls,

As we open our hearts to His love

How much more

Must you love us

How much more?

#Free Hugs

So there are some things that just keep me awake at night. They go round and round in my head and there is no getting rid of them until they spill out onto the page. I have gone over and over this in my mind for weeks, months even and written these words out in rough many times. What I am going to say is not intended to offend anyone or upset anyone, just to provoke thought and discussion.

When did you last have a hug? A really good, bear type, wraps you in love, type of a hug?

Hugs are so important I think. I cannot tell you how long it is since I had a proper good hug. Too long for definite.

I miss my Dad’s hugs enormously. He was not a big man, but he gave good tight hugs. I miss that, like a physical pain. I have had some hugs since he died, but not many and nowhere near as good! How about you? Who gives you a hug? Your spouse, kids, parent – but who really hugs you? It is a strange one, there are so many different types of hug; polite, how are you hugs; nice to see you hugs or goodbye hugs. Friendly hugs and loving ones. Some people like hugs, some people don’t. Some like some types of hugs and not others.

Medical studies have shown that hugs are actually good for us. Hugs can boost dopamine levels making us feel happier and warding off depression. It can decrease cortisol levels which can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. They can increase serotonin levels and make us feel less lonely, even relieve pain by blocking pain pathways. It can also seriously improve someone’s day!

In my previous church, everyone greeted everyone with a hug. In my current church it is all smiles and hand shakes. I often feel like I don’t fit in, I definitely don’t often feel loved. Many of the people there are still strangers to me, though I try to make conversation. Yet, we sit together in the same room week after week. I do try to reach out and get to know people, but it is not easy. It is certainly not within me to go up to someone and say “I really need a hug today” and I am sure I’m not alone.

What exactly is it I wonder that we are afraid of? What makes us avoid hugging? In a world where ‘touch’ can be a dirty word, are we afraid of accusation/litigation?? That we are going to be wrong to love or reach out to someone? As a church how can we show love if we are perceived as distant, unfeeling and disconnected. We should be a ‘people’, a ‘family’, a collective. People who reach out – not just to each other but to the wider world.

They talk about it a lot at church; how we are a family, BUT do we behave like that?Sometimes we get it right, but sometimes we get it wrong (in my opinion anyway). At the moment it feels like we are not getting it right within ourselves so how is that perceived by the outside world I wonder?

I am reminded as we enter Lent of the approaching Good Friday – how we as a Church (or group of churches) parade through the streets of our town remembering Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross and proclaiming his love. But how are we then perceived by the outside world? They may be curious but how can they engage with something that is so alien to them? A bunch of religious weirdos carrying a cross and singing songs and talking strange words they know nothing off.

Would we not be closer to God’s message and Jesus’ example if we stood on the streets with a sign saying ‘free hugs’ and reaching out to love people. If we as a church, cannot reach out to the broken, the depressed, the marginalised in our own congregations; how then can we reach the people on the streets? The people who most need a touch from God? The people who most need God are those that others reject. We need to be doing face to face talking (not just on Facebook and the like), and yes dare I say it – reach out and touch these people. Yes, real one to one body contact. If Jesus could reach out to the lepers, the prostitutes, the dirty … then so can we, and we should.

I can go to an interview and have someone shake my hand, it is formal, not a sign of love. A stranger can shake a hand, a stranger can give a hug. Family don’t shake hands, family give hugs. The world needs a hug today.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great to show people the church outside it’s doors. That it still exists, even thrives. But they need to know how it relates to their lives today. Going out on the streets on Good Friday should be a part of that. People should know what Easter is all about, when they are out doing their shopping. To remind them again that their time off work is about Jesus and his great sacrifice for all mankind. But, how much more should we be shouting of the resurrection, of the living God, risen and alive today. To celebrate, to be joyful; so they don’t see Christianity as some dead, dying religion, full of boring, dull people. We need to think of the image we portray to people. We need to show the happy side too.

So family, will you be bold and brave and see who you can hug today. You never know they may really need it.

 

Thoughts for today

I didn’t sleep well last night (I often don’t). Last night an alarm was going off really loudly and I could not get to sleep. It got me to thinking that I am very much like an animal. My primeval instincts are that of a dog I reckon. The main thoughts running around my head during the day are of sleep, food and walking. They are the three things I love to do. Yes, I like to see my friends and family, sometimes I like to do other hobbies or past times, but I would be fundamentally quite happy if all I ever did was eat, sleep and walk. I definitely should have been a dog!

What makes you tick? What do you love to do?

I am starting Lent with another blog post. I am not going to promise to write every day like I did last year for Lent; my time management ability seems to have gone astray and I seem to constantly have more that needs doing than hours in the day!!! I will however, write at least one or two a week. If it only gives me five or ten minutes to do something I love to do, then I think that is time worth spending. I am also following the 40 acts challenge for Lent. If you haven’t seen it before, try Googling it. They set you a different challenge each day and it is about doing Lent generously and thinking of others first (something we all, I’m sure, try to do but maybe not as often or as completely as we could). How could you live life differently for the next 40 days?

New Year

So it’s the start of a new year and many people will be thinking about what they can change or improve in their lives this year. Having a fresh start is always good, like starting a new book at school. A chance to start over, do neater writing, make better choices and so on. It helps us to re-focus and re-purpose our lives. Looking back and reminiscing and then thinking about how we can move forward is a positive step for most people. I don’t make resolutions as such, but I do like to think about fresh starts and am trying to be more positive as we go into 2017.

Recently I have been to three funerals, one of someone I knew fairly well and two were parents of friends. One I had only met briefly, but went to support my friend. Whilst listening to the service, the ‘eulogy’ and the story of their lives and journey’s, I got to thinking; what would my eulogy be, how would my obituary read? You may like to consider this (or not as the case may be!) What will people say about me when I’m gone? None of us knows when our time is up. Most of us don’t like to think about it. It could be today or tomorrow (hopefully not). What will they remember when we are gone?

Many people believe their legacy is their children or grandchildren – their lives will live on in those they leave behind. But, not everyone has children, what about those of us who have no child? Each of us leaves a mark, an imprint on the world around us, on the people whose lives we touch.

What are our priorities, what truly matters to us and how do we show it? Will our legacy be that we helped others, took time to make memories with our loved ones, were kind, generous, honest, reliable or … something else? Will we have taught someone something, supported someone in their hour of need, planted a tree, cared for a child, nursed a loved one, helped a stranger??

On our deathbed and in our going no-one will care how much money we made, how big a house we had, how much ‘stuff’ we owned. They will remember only what kind of a soul we were, what we stood for, did we make them laugh or cry, did we touch them, were we there when they needed us?

Have a think about what you will leave behind; not in a will but in a memory.

If it is not what you want it to be, now is the time to change!!

Happy New Year everyone 🙂