There is always hope…

David-vs-Goliathsaid Aragorn in the calm moments (and charged atmosphere) before the battle of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings, at least in the film if not the book. He was facing a massive challenge where the odds were stacked against him and his few friends, in the face of overwhelming numbers, were confronted by an enemy whose sole purpose was to destroy them completely.

Thankfully most of us do not face that sort of challenge but we do all have our own challenges and we all must choose how to respond to them. It’s easy to give in and to give up, but if we dig deep, have some faith in ourselves, our friends and even God, then we usually get through it and grow stronger as a consequence.

At times like this it’s important not to be alone and to lean on those who are stronger, wiser and have been there before. Ultimately I look to Jesus who is always there to help me through tough times. Not only does he provide a necessary support, he has been there before and has the depth of resources, character and desire to carry me through.

Who can you rely upon in times of trouble when the odds are stacked against you and there seems to be no hope?

By the way, Aragorn did his best, with hope in his heart and with a lot of tenacity and a little extra help from some more friends who turned up just in time, defeated his enemies and won the battle.

Having to wait is a waste of time?

waitingI do a lot of waiting. Waiting for trains and buses, waiting for them to get to their destination, waiting at tills in shops (less so now supermarkets deliver), waiting for children to arrive at sports sessions I am leading, waiting for people to get ready.

It’s easy to get frustrated at times like this and to feel it’s a waste if time. Is there a better way? It’s probably best not to get frustrated or angry when we’re waiting, but to use that time in a positive way. Perhaps we can recollect something which has given us joy or we found affirming or uplifting. We could look forward to a happy event or even just admire the surroundings and find beauty in nature. Patience is a virtue and requires practise!

There’s also a lot to be said for having a rest while we’re waiting, finding peace when our lives are otherwise busy and there is turmoil all around. It could be a time to take a short moment to relax and get ready for what’s happening next.

Next time we have to wait, how will we use the time given to us?

Relationships are to emotions what exercise is to fitness

runningI’m not very fit when it comes to running. I can run 5km without stopping but at the end I feel like I never want to do it again, but I run because I know it’s good for me. It helps me to be a little bit healthier and a little bit fitter than I would be otherwise.

In my last blog I wrote about how our minds are conditioned by the sorts of media we allow ourselves to view and experience. Our mental fitness. I’m not qualified in this respect in any way, but I think we’re also affected emotionally by the relationships we form.

How do we treat those with whom we have relationships? I’m not only thinking about those closest to us, but also  the stranger, our neighbour or those who we might encounter just once and never see again. How we treat others and how they treat us goes a long way to how we feel emotionally. If we do all we can to grow healthy relationships with everyone, I’m sure we will feel better emotionally.

If what we look at and experience is a bit like what we eat then perhaps the quality of our relationships is a bit like fitness.

I want to be healthy not just physically but mentally and emotionally too. I take time to choose what I eat and I need to spend more time choosing how I relate to others, so I am fit in an all round sense.

I wonder what I will have for dinner tonight after my run. What are you having?

You are what you eat

chipsTravelling on public transport a lot you get to see other people eating their lunch or an after school snack. Not only did sitting next to a teenager eating chips on the bus on his way home, make me feel a little nauseous, it made me think about our diets.

Personally I’m still on my post summer holiday diet due to indulging in too much rich food in France. Now we all know we should eat a healthy and balanced diet (I’m sure the boy on the bus was having a rare treat, having exercised a lot that day) but do we consider what we fill our minds with? Our mental diet in other words. Do we reflect upon what we do to ourselves emotionally and mentally and how that makes our minds healthy or not.

Watching TV and films, playing video games, listening to music, reading magazines, surfing the net and interacting with everyone on social media means we are exposed to all sorts of messages, opinions and values. We are (sub) consciously affected by a variety of influences, some good and healthy, some bad and destructive.

While we munch on our salad and fruit at lunch, perhaps we would do well to think about the things with which we are filling our minds.

What’s our mental diet like these days?

When should I worry?

worryIt’s easy to be anxious, to worry and to have that deeply sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach – why do we get a pain there and not somewhere else?

I had cause to worry the other day when I lost my credit card. I was trying to be clever after using it in shop A and placed it in a pocket so I could get to it quickly at shop B. I got to the next shop and it wasn’t there. So much for saving time…I retraced my steps, hoping I would find it.

As I wandered round town, I wondered when and how much I should worry about the loss of my card. Thankfully I can default to Spock like emotions and had been brought up to only worry about something when it needed to be worried about. So I retraced my steps and if I could recover it, there would be no need to worry. If it was truly lost, then and only then would I worry.

I soon found it. It had been handed in to a shop I had been to in between shop A and shop B where, ironically I used cash. Thankfully someone had been kind (and neighbourly?) enough to hand it in.

It’s easy to worry about things but putting things in perspective is important and what may seem worth worrying about at the time, may later not seem as important as it first did. Worrying doesn’t help and may even make matters worse.

I’m not sure what helps me to worry less but one big factor is knowing I am loved and looked after. Not only by my family but also by God, who I believe watches over me, cares for me and looks after me.

What do you worry about and how can you worry about it less?

Who is my neighbour?

do not smile at strangersWhilst on my summer holiday (France in case you’re wondering) I was chatting with some people who live in the English countryside. They had noticed that when in London, on trains, tubes and buses, people don’t talk to each other and worse, have headphones which are a further barrier to interacting with other people. In the countryside they said people talk to each other more. How do people travel around in the countryside I asked. In cars, by themselves I was told, which made me think, imagining the country folk on their own in their own little space with the car stereo on.

Living in the city is a very communal way of living. Due to so many people living in a small space, we are forced to interact with many more people than we might otherwise, even if it is in a somewhat anonymous manner. Even in the city people look out for and help strangers. Witness the mum with a buggy getting off a train and someone will be helping, or the street cleaner offering help to two old ladies who were lost in central London, or an elderly man having collapsed on the pavement being helped by passers by, or the verbal solidarity of passengers stuck on a train or on a platform waiting for a train which doesn’t seem to be coming.

In a society where more than a quarter of people don’t know the names of their next door neighbours (http://bit.ly/18g2IWj) and more who don’t trust them, I’d like to think we would still be friendly towards and help our ’neighbour’ which in one sense is everyone and especially those whom we encounter who are in need of our help.

As we go about our daily lives, may we keep our eyes open for those who could do with a little help. Who are you going to help today?

We’re all the same, but different

southallSome time ago I walked down the busy Uxbridge Road in Southall and found myself one of only 6 white people – everyone else was Asian and I felt a little conspicuous, but enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of a culture different to my own. London is a wonderfully diverse place.

Living, working and travelling around London you get to see and experience so many different people, cultures, races, religions. Walking down West Croydon’s main shopping street or Uxbridge Road in Southall you could be in a different country. Variety is good and allows us to experience things which are unusual to our normal way of life.

Despite the differences, the more we understand someone and get to know them the more we realise we’re the same in many respects. As people, we are very similar and have the same needs, desires, worries, hopes and fears. When all is stripped away we are simply that, people.

You could say we are one big community and everyone is our neighbour. How we treat people not like us goes a long in showing our true nature and what we consider important. How we relate to different cultures, races and religions can either expand our horizons or cause us to become insular.

We may be different in some respects but deep down aren’t we all the same?

Lay down your life

love=sacrificeGreater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what Jesus did for each one of us.

What does ‘laying down your life’ actually mean? I don’t think it means physically dying, although it could. It means laying aside what we want for the sake of others. It means putting on hold our needs while we seek to serve the needs of others. In our individualistic, self centred orientated world, thinking of others before ourselves is counter cultural. Promoting others’ interests over our own is not how to get ahead in this world. Perhaps we ought to consider how to get ahead in reaching out to people in love and sacrifice. Promoting what is good, positive, life affirming and builds up others. It’s not always about me.

Who can we lay down our life for today? Who is willing to lay down their life for you, to help you be the person you want to be? Who can you ask for help to change or help with the next challenge you face? Perhaps Jesus is worth asking, for he laid down his life for us all.

New beginnings

New beginningsThere are lots of new beginnings at this time of year and if you have children or work with children, September is a bit like January. It can be difficult changing from holiday mode to work mode and the longer you’ve been on holiday, the harder it is!

New beginnings are difficult because we move from something with which we’re familiar to perhaps something which is unknown. New schools, new jobs, new home, new relationships. I didn’t know what being married was like until I took the big step, but I’m loving it and I’m very glad I did. It was easier knowing someone was there to love me and look after me.

But if we don’t step out into something new, we’ll never have experiences which could well change our lives, for the better. If we want to be changed we may need help and be open to receive that help.

Throughout my life I have received the most help from Jesus. He made me the man I am today and I received help because I asked Jesus for help and allowed him to help me. I have faith that he will guide me, encourage me and challenge me. He helps me to be a better person day by day.

We receive help from all sorts of people, but for the biggest challenges, we need to seek help from those with the most resources and from those with the biggest capacities to love us. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. That’s what Jesus did for each one of us.

Who is willing to lay down their life for you, to help you be the person you want to be? Who can you ask for help to change or help with the next challenge you face?

Shouting for the ball…

Jordan Slam Dunk CompetitionA guest blog from Tom Rutter, our founder and Head Coach:

The Chicago Bulls are one of the best basketball team in the world. Probably most famous for having the great Michael Jordan on their team. In the closing seconds of a game, the most important thing for the Bulls was to get the ball to Michael Jordan. They had to get the ball to Jordan for two reasons:

Firstly he was the most likely to sink the ball into the hoop and second because most importantly, he is the only one who really wanted it!

Many where envious of Jordan’s wealth and popularity and many were jealous of the kind of sponsorship deals he had with companies such as Nike. However those same people don’t want the ball when it really matters most.  So often when there was only one point in it, when missing the last opportunity to score could be forever held against him, Jordan still shouted for the ball – and others in the team were grateful to let him have it!

Whether he scored or not, the sheer courage he demonstrated continues to inspire dedication from his fans, which far outlives the games in which he played.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something…but I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan.

Do you want the ball?

Can we answer, “Here am I, send me!”?

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