Mind the fence

I was walking to work today, which isn’t a very long walk – though I do enjoy my morning mooch and evening one for that matter. I was having a think and then touched on the subject at lunchtime with a friend

We all have circumstances in life right, but lets not be arrogant enough to say that only a certain set of circumstances apply to us (in the general), they don’t.

Often, I like to send texts to people to encourage them, because I know what it’s like to receive an encouraging text. That feeling I get when reading it, I want to share that feeling. I encouraged someone last night face-to-face, I was that persons best mate for the next half hour, they were bouncing around – but it was nice for me too, not only to watch that, but also receive some reciprocated appreciation.

So maybe once you’ve read this – do this (and I will too). Think of any struggles in life you have or have had. Now think of people you know that have had the same or similar struggle – can you effect it?

If you know what solitude feels like – bring someone some company.

If someone is ‘missing’ – you make an ‘appearance’

If someone is hungry – give them some food, or even better eat with them too

If someone is being attacked – be their defender.

If someone has nothing – provide what you can

If someone lacks hope – create an opportunity

If someone is sad – cry with them for a while then bring them laughter

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you visited me’  – can you imagine if everyone did this tomorrow, how things would be?

Fences in life are helpful things, very helpful things in fact. According to Wikipedia – ‘a structure that encloses an area, typically outdoors’ Note, they weren’t designed for sitting on whilst people deal with their ‘stuff’. So how about we get off any fences, jump down and tonight instead of watch people with their ‘stuff’ – do something practical so they can leave their ‘stuff’ behind. Now, if you know me, I am many things (good and bad), but I am terrible at fence sitting, oh and I actually hate the word ‘stuff’.

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Let there be light!

I haven’t written a blog for a few days! The main reason is that I’ve been away – enjoying myself in the Lake District, I’ve come back sunburnt, whilst also seeing the snow.

I’ve been thinking today, as a general rule we must all have struggle in life somewhere right? I was debating whether there are people that don’t have any struggle with anything and whilst not positive, I think surely we all have something.

I don’t need to blog about any struggles I have, primarily because I’m a very private person, but today something interesting happened. I didn’t just receive an encouragement, someone unwittingly spoke directly into my struggle. What I consider to be a mountain in my life (and I’m not writing this to speak of them, because I believe we must all have some), someone came along and made a comment which penetrated that mountain. It’s like being on a cold snowy mountain and then the sun came beaming out.

It led me to think this – speak light into the darkness. With a subject I wouldn’t easily choose to discuss, someone careered right into today and pierced the darkness with a comment.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Do we spend too much time clambering around in the ‘comfort’ of darkness?

So for any struggles today, you may or may not choose to share them with people – but you can speak light into the darkness, speak hope where there seems like there is no way. Don’t let the darkness of a situation be the ‘norm’ – trust that ‘suddenly’ things can shift.

Sometimes the mountains that stand as the biggest barriers – are the mountains where we can get the best view of hope.  Where we may fall and scrape ourselves a little, we get up, brush ourself down and carry on – we become bigger and better than we ever were. The opportunity is used to grow us.

Maybe the mountain will move, maybe there will be a ‘quake’ or maybe we just have to walk right over it

In the end, we will move towards greater faith, expanded trust and powerful confidence.

As I settle back into ‘life’ after climbing literal mountains last week – trust me, the view is so vast up there. I ached and puffed and panted on the way up, but once on the top I could say ‘it was worth it’.

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Climb every mountain…

So today I climbed a mountain – good news, a literal one not a hypothetical one! I thought I’d just share a few thoughts on mountains as my legs recover whilst I type.

I set off and literally was puffing and panting in the car park, that might have been something to do with the full english breakfast my hosts had cooked me. Anyway, up I ascended! It was so hard, I understand the route I took was relatively short, but that’s because the ascent was instant. The following thoughts came very quickly to mind:

‘Maybe I’ll just forget it!’

‘Coffee anyone?’

‘I can’t turn around after declaring this a mountain climbing holiday’

‘Can I super impose a picture of me at the top of this mountain for Facebook?’

‘Is photographic evidence even necessary – I’ll just tell folk I climbed it and swiftly move on like it was no big deal’

Somehow, I ploughed on. The sun was beaming, and the first two thirds were a struggle. And by the way, for the few mountains I’ve done, you always get people running down the mountain – that’s quite frustrating, I feel like I need towing up it, let alone jogging down it. As I made my way to the summit the last third was much kinder, my thoughts did a U-turn, I was loving every minute, though I joke not – nearing the top there was a banana skin, I could of slipped and gone right back to the start! (ok, more likely slipped and died). I dodged the banana skin made it to the top and all of a sudden its worth it! The views were incredible!

The funny thing then happens on the way back down – I meet people still heading up and all of a sudden I become a mountaineering expert, encouraging people to keep going, ‘you’re nearly there’, ‘you can do it!’ (like I was never near quitting!)

Here’s what I’ve learnt from this experience:

  1. Mountains are tough, it can be a long way to climb them, choose the long route with a gradual ascent or the short route straight up – it doesn’t matter much, its tough.
  2. When you think you’ve reached the top, you can almost guarantee you haven’t – there’s more to go, a summit behind the summit. Keep going, you’re almost there.
  3. There are hazards up the mountain, watch out.
  4. Its WORTH it, the struggle IS worth it. The view at the top is like nothing you’ve experience – the pain was worth it.
  5. Its easy to praise near the top, the battle is down below.
  6. Others are conquering there own mountains, encourage them up it. Tell them they CAN do it.

We’ve all mountains to conquer in life, I’ve a few myself – desperate to get to the summit. Sometimes, I think I’ve made it and I haven’t. Keep pushing, the view at the top is breath-taking. You’re literally ‘on top of the world’.

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No more cavemen

I’ve been plotting all day to blog about todays big news story – the snap General Election that has been called, but lets leave politics for another day, whilst everyone else talks about that – hurrah! #refreshing

So, on to another news story though which caught my attention today. The Isle of Eigg which lies on the west coast of Scotland today has announced that due to a baby boom in January their population has exceeded 100 people – now I’ve sailed to the Isle of Eigg and it’s a rather fantastic place, a place I rather dream of setting up home on in the future. On the pier was a lady playing the bagpipes and everyone on the ship was waving to thcome-out-of-the-cavee islanders – something like in a movie. You felt like the sense of ‘community’ by just watching. But what of their history? Over 400 years ago, every resident barring one elderly lady was killed during a clan feud, the whole of the population hid in a cave from the impending attackers sailing in from the Isle of Skye. At first, the attackers thought noone was on the island, apart from the elderly lady they met, but just as they sailed away, one of the islanders was spotted outside the cave. The attackers sailed back and followed the snow trodden foot prints which led them to the cave, covered the entrance with vegetation, and then set it alight.

Bleak story – yes.

Lets not be cave dwellers any more, let us in this new spring season take a leap into the wide open spaces around us. These spaces are beckoning us out, those that cheer us on are shouting for us to come out of the cave. The cave bought death and destruction – it was a dead end, a complete dead end. Hope exists outside the cave, the cave hosted inevitability. What does stepping out of the cave achieve? Well, there’s so much to be had outside the cave, but more than that, we expand – like the Island population, it hits record highs.  Descendants and dreams more numerous than we thought – and my hunch is that the Isle of Eigg population is going to continue to grow.

Are you pondering any decisions? wondering about taking a ‘leap of faith’? Are you living life full of ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybes’? Come out of the cave, hear the crowd calling you out, hear your friends calling you out. In 1997, the islanders on Eigg purchased the island itself

Get out of the cave, be expanded and claim the land.

Triumph over tragedy

Spring is such an incredible season, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated it as much as this year. You can think of your own things that you associate with spring and as an appreciator of the great outdoors I’ll name just a few of mine. I love it when the sun is out and I leave my jacket at home for the first time in the year, I love spotting the first swallows of the season (tick!), I love a good walk in a forest with a carpet of bluebells (not-ticked, though imminent), I LOVE waking up in the early hours and hearing the cuckoo somewhere located in the woods at the back of my house (not ticked).

So comes with Spring, a great festival – Easter. I walked past a church the other day and it rather joyously said outside ‘Easter – New Life, New Hope!’. My heart should of done a spring leap, but actually it did a slight nothing, except make my brain think ‘hold on, I’m celebrating life and hope ALL year round’. Now of course its one of the seasons to be marked, and I’ll be marking it, but I want to be celebrating life and hope every day.

Its easy to feel that we live in a ‘Good Friday world’. A world full of death, destruction, suffering, mistakes and hurts – this is the day marked on the calendar that represents something of that. But, this isn’t the end – we are ‘Easter people’, there should be more than mistakes, hurts and struggles. Lets not live our lives stuck continually on a Friday – yes there is time for those moments, but the story did not end there and sometimes it can be hard to realise that tucked behind every ‘Friday’ situation of our lives is a glorious Sunday. We think its done, the situation is our Friday and that is that. How about we roll back our own graves and declare that Sunday is coming. Maybe, you’re reading this and you can think of your own Friday situations – suffering, mistakes and regrets, relationships that hurt make Friday seem like it never end, or there’s an opportunity you missed that you feel will never ever come again. We’ve all experienced this – decide now, that your Sunday is coming.

Fridays tragedy WILL be Sunday’s triumph.

Have a fantastic Easter.

 

The right choices..

Who knows that sometimes the wrong things in life taste so good and yet the right things in life can taste so bad. I accept not an analogy that applies to everything in life, but it is something I’ve often picked up on.

I went to have my car washed this afternoon, yes thrilling for you all and I waited in a nearby cafe as the car wash folks did something that I hate doing, they do it so much better as well. I was really thirsty and coffee wasn’t going to hit the spot – what was going to work was something I really dislike – fizzy drinks. These are only my personally views, so please keep calm, but I myself don’t drink certain fizzy drinks – its all for ‘healthy’ reasons and trying to preserve my own set of teeth and stomach for the rest of my life – BUT I gave in, I had this certain fizzy drink and man it tasted good, really good. It reminded me that sometimes the bad things in life we do actually seem good, and yet why is it that the good things, the ‘right’ things, can seem so unfulfilling and fruitless.

We all have to make decisions throughout life – and the ‘right’ choices are often the difficult decisions. It can be easy making the wrong choices, for short term gain or even ‘thrill’. I could leave it there, but just for a moment lets be honest – the right choices sometimes seem no good, it can feel like the ‘right’ choices benefited no one, yet you kind of just have to trust and accept that these tough decisions are the best ones – even though you can’t see it.

It reminded me of the game Jenga – a mountain of blocks and one wrong easy decision sending the whole load crumbling. So, just keep making good decisions, the good choices – yes the most difficult ones, the most (apparently) unfulfulling ones and hope that as the Jenga mountain gets higher and higher with the good choices you stack up – it will lead you to the mountain tops. For every valley is surrounded by a range of mountain tops and I’m an outdoors sort of person so I’ll be heading for the mountains – I’d love you to join me there.

 

All these little things

Everyone likes a little encouragement in life, sometimes the smallest word can bring about the biggest shift in someones week.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those on the periphery of my world – those that I know, but I don’t really know. I try (and really need to do much better) to concern myself with the lonely, the single, maybe the heartbroken, the widowed, the unemployed, the struggling – for at some stage in life at least one of those things would of been me and in the future one of those things more than likely could still be me. Can we recall times when we were at our lowest, that we would of longed for a text, a coffee or an invite to dinner? Can we now be the person that delivers the text or the coffee meet? It’s so easy for us to migrate to our friends or the popular and have them round for dinner and hang outs – this is genuinely all good, but my heart feels heavy towards those that would never receive many invites.

I was busy working today when I was somewhat interrupted by a young guy who just wanted chit chat, to be honest, he didn’t make all that much sense in what he said, but I sat there – I listened, asked how he was and listened some more. After about 15 minutes he shook my hand and said goodbye. He just wanted my time. Isn’t that the easiest thing we can give people, it costs nothing or is the most difficult?

I was speaking on the telephone tonight to someone, happily chit chatting away, when he mentioned my photography – we’ve never discussed it before. He said ‘Matt, your photography is eye wateringly good’. Now, I don’t ‘do’ photography for compliments, but its nice to be encouraged, I hung up and felt good. I was indeed encouraged. This week just gone I’ve tried to do some encouraging, just send the odd text here and there – all have been well received.

Can we take a moment to step out of our familiar circles and encourage someone on our periphery? Can we meet someone for coffee we wouldn’t normally meet, can we have someone round for dinner that has never been round before, can we send a text to someone that will shape there week – and all these little things….