This picture is of a hidden valley in the South Downs National Park. The truth is, you are unlikely to find it unless you go up to almost the top, down the track to the left, then down into the next valley, sharp right along the valley floor … yes, you’ve guessed it: I’m not going to tell you where it is. But last week my beloved brother Gerald was working there, clearing out the rubbish with his forestry equipment. Gorse, brambles, scrub soon overtake the grassland, and his job is to open up the pathways again, and give the grass a chance to regrow. What he did last year looks absolutely lovely now. This will look great in a year. (All overseen by the appropriate countryside ranger, you understand.)
So I joined him for 24 hours, watching the fire into the night, him sleeping in his stunning handmade traditional living van, and me in my trusty VW T4 camper. A fry-up. Mugs of hot tea. Rich mutually encouraging conversation – not least about coaching! Gerald is one of my closest friends, and I guess we’ll always be there for each other. It got me thinking.
Sometimes we fail to notice how the rubbish of our lives, the clutter of our homes, has gained ground. Sometimes it is only when a radical change like moving house forces us to really see it that we take action. And occasionally that can overwhelm us, we don’t know what to do or where to start. But the longer we leave it, the worse it gets. The thicker the scrub grows. The more ‘no-go areas’ develop. You ought to see my workshop! No, forget I said that!
If that’s you, the sooner you start the better. It takes honesty to face up to the need, but you’re the sort of person who can start, aren’t you? And if you need some encouragement, just let me know. I’ll help.
I’m not quite sure how I got my two-wheel-drive camper down there in the first place, and getting it out of the uphill deep-rutted tracks was a bit of a skill I thought I’d lost, but I made it home (with the overgrown rubbish sorted).
It’s one of those views that raises the serotonin levels in my brain. I loved the glowing sun burnishing the sea-blackened rocks into fiery red and orange.
Each crashing deluge cleansed the rocks one more time of the grubby footprints and sandy debris left behind by a beachful of holiday makers.
As the photographers waited patiently for the sun to ease its way below the clouds and give us a final beam or two before gently lowering itself into the Atlantic ocean for the night, there was a holy hush.
We sensed the awesome beauty poured over us by the Creator. It was a spiritual moment, appreciated by spiritual people. A fitting end to a relaxing day of sandcastle tide fights and lifeguarded surfing.
The little ones were ready for a final ice-cream and bathtime. We were ready for a shower, soft red rioja and supper in the comfy holiday cottage just a few yards up the lane.
“When I consider the works of Your fingers, … what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” Psalm 8.
This view has been enjoyed for centuries by many generations. Tonight it was our turn. We felt cared for, and loved it.
I took this photo this morning, 14th June. Children from our little village school here in Thakeham playing softball or rounders or something, running freely, chasing a ball, and cheering when runs are scored. Beautiful. I love the innocence, the protection, the safe enclosed world of the village green and the kind teachers.
And the five-bar gate to the field is shut.
Across the UK there is turmoil. A government in crisis. European leaders laughing at our politics. And today a London tower-block on fire with people being burnt to death.
And me with an overactive sense of responsibility. Am I to blame in some way?
For the last week I’ve experienced a sense of deep disappointment, a sense of not wanting to live here in the UK, or be identified with this people with their anger, taking their revenge, laughing at others’ discomfort, promising things they know they can never deliver, plotting to destabilise our government and nation … for what? Today the outpouring of care and love towards complete strangers in need. We saw it in the recent terrorist attacks too.
Amid, and maybe beyond, the deep sense of grief, I’ve discovered a place of peace and I want to share it with you. It comes with a new word:
I’ve stepped back, switched off the news, and taken time to meditate and pray and look for an alternative, a more useful meaning, a different perspective. And found peace. How far would I have to soar above the earth to no longer be caught up in the mêlée? Two miles? 100 miles? 1000? The earth looks very different from 10,000 miles out in space (above).
(Mêlée is an appropriate word describing “a large noisy uncontrolled crowd, in which people are moving in different directions and sometimes fighting with each other.”)
And from how far back or forward in time – looking back from three weeks? Three months? Three, or three hundred years?
None of us know the future. We can declare boldly what ‘IS GOING TO HAPPEN’ but it is rarely, if ever, as described. Speculation isn’t truth, and to imply we know what is going to happen in the future is to deceive ourselves and others. There’s a lot of it about.
Time and distance are two powerful dimensions that enable us to ‘remean’ what we see around us.
I’m NOT accountable for what others do with my vote, either in last year’s Referendum or this year’s general Election. I AM accountable for where I put my ‘X’ on the ballot paper. I’m not accountable for the mistakes, the lies, the fear, the selfishness of others. My own are more than sufficient to inspire guilt and regret. But guilt isn’t the final outcome for me (and it is never just one person’s fault.) All that is gone. I’m forgiven.
Yes, I’m a ‘believer’. I worship God, the Ultimate Intelligence, the Creator – and for most of my life I’ve been committed to the spiritual journey of discovering what he is like. (For my version of that you can go HERE.) Something I’ve been excited to discover is his readiness to forgive. Completely. For ever. I’m a completely-and-forever-forgiven human being, thank God. Living in that global absolution is, quite frankly, like being born again: I’m clean, innocent, treasured, priceless, and I have the peace and pleasure of a new fresh piece of paper to write my life on each day.
Valued and valuable beyond measure. Like those little children in the picture above. And the people responsible for that towerblock fire. And the millions living on that crescent Earth.
So the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has been found holding back, and people have foolishly assumed she has no cards of value in her hand. Criticism from left and right has been piled on her for NOT giving away her intentions … and thankfully she has resisted the temptation, nay, the manipulative bullying, to do so.
Well done her, for she knows that ‘Time Discovers Truth’ as Seneca observed – and it is doing just that. How different are today’s commentaries than those of just six months ago! Even the BBC is subtly shifting its approach.
The bullying EU presidents are becoming more conciliatory as they get over their pride and have to face the power of democracy. The mandarins are slowly changing their minds (and their jobs), relearning the meaning of the two words ‘Civil’ and ‘Servant’. The economists are now making excuses for the (terrorising) forecasts they declared. And the europhile politicians are realising that the horse they were flogging is now beyond resuscitation. A sensible realisation in the light of the arrival of far more useful means of transport.
Except a few like Blair and Clegg who, for whatever reason, are finding change personally difficult. They are paying a high price in terms of lost credibility, though still raking in their millions I notice, Mr Socialist Blair.
Waiting takes the vanity out of things
It has been good for us to wait these last six months. Yes, I personally longed for Article 50 to be invoked immediately in July, but I can now see the wisdom of not doing so. I’m a naturally impatient person, but I know the very world we want to do business with post-Brexit is watching, and we need to be – and be seen as – trustworthy, law-abiding and thorough. The prize, I think, will be worth the wait.
Time discovers truth in my coaching practice too.
It may take years of discomfort for a potential client to finally accept that they cannot blank things out for ever, or fix things on their own. The cracks get wider, the unhappiness can no longer be shouted down. Truth will out.
Time and again, that’s when the call comes – “Andrew, I think I need to come and see you” – and for my part, waiting for that moment makes working with that client so much more successful. The inner protests, the denials, the confusion, the medication, the disappointment are now revealed as what they are: cover-ups, painkillers. The need to discover – or accept – the truth overtakes the embarrassment of having a need that cannot be satisfied by short-term, shallow fixes, or toughing it out. The painkillers are no longer working.
Thankfully there comes a time when the waiting is over, when the truth has become evident, when the cracks no longer respond to Polyfilla or being papered over. We’re beginning to see that in the EU as outgoing president Martin Schulz said today that the EU is “hamstrung”.
If you feel like that here at the beginning of 2017 (or know someone close to you who is) it may be time to do something about it. Here’s the number 0777 163 1945 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charlotte Gyllenhammar’s ‘Double Bind’ in Gothenbourg’s art gallery illustrates the tension some people face about believing in God. A Double Bind in a relationship is where a person is caught in a trap of contradictory messages.
In the absence of any ‘proof’ either way, I have decided to simply believe. Here are my …
Ten Reasons Why I Believe in God.
1. It’s so simple.
For me it is the most obvious thing, and anyone can do it. For 60 years I’ve listened to people duck and dive around the simplicity, thinking it is far too easy to innocently ‘accept’ the honest possibility of a Designer/Creator. I’ve heard all the “Who created God, then?” arguments. In the face of such design intricacies and interlinked complexity in the natural world, simply to accept that there might be an Eternal Being who was and is the Source of it all seems so obvious to me. Why fight it? Here’s the next one…
2. I have someone to thank, thank God.
Yes, someone to blame for all the GOOD stuff. The atheist’s most embarrassing moment is when she or he feels supremely thankful for something and doesn’t know who to thank. Beauty. Love. Health. Sleep. Life. Children. Hope.
3. It inspires faith.
I love the fact that you cannot prove God doesn’t exist. Or does, of course. Believe it or not, it’s a choice! (Yes, I know this argument is rejected by all the logical people in the world who question whether we have choice or not. They rather miss the point methinks.) This doubt-ridden world is crying out for the beauty of simple trust. Who better to trust than a loving Creator? OK, here’s my next one …
4. It’s healthy.
It is now well established that belief in a benevolent God has physical, emotional and psychological health benefits. They live longer, have better relationships, are more socially contributing, less stressed, and healthier. He has to be a benevolent God though. Malevolence has the opposite effect.
5. I’m never alone.
Allowing myself to sense the presence (pre-sence?) of an Eternal Spirit who is interested in me and ready to connect with the deepest part of me is massively reassuring. It means that I always have someone to share my life with, who loves me unconditionally and listens to my every heartbeat, wherever I am, whatever I’m thinking, in good days and bad.
6. It answers the question “What’s the Point?”
It has been said that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you found out the purpose of that event. I personally am happy to accept that there IS an objective reason for my existence – which gives a sense of fulfilment and purpose beyond the decision of a couple of people to mate and have a baby. Belief in God may be subjective, but if it is true then he is ‘beyond’ us in so many ways. I think human beings need that ‘something, someone beyond ourselves.’
7. I haven’t found anything better.
I’m talking about an all-forgiving, kind, all-powerful, GOOD God here, not a legalistic, authoritarian, punisher of human wrongs who spends his (or her, of course) time dreaming up nasties for bad behaviour. Mine is a God who accepts me and loves me just as I am, no strings attached. ‘Love personified’ describes him well. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more … or love me less.
8. Heaven and hope.
The God I love has prepared a perfect home for my spirit the other side of death – heaven. Bring it on … in due course, needless to say. He knows the perfect time for my transfer from this world to that one, and has it in his control. This conviction provides deep reassuring hope. Self-deception? Maybe. How will you or I know? (Frankly, I don’t care. This works for me.)
9. I feel deeply deeply safe.
As in ‘deeply’. I still feel insecure sometimes, and occasionally afraid, but the safety I’m talking about is much more profound than that. It runs very deep, the reassurance that whatever happens to me physically or emotionally, spiritually I’m safe. Secure. It’s an all-encompassing awareness that this God is absolutely on my side and that it will be, not just alright in the end, but unimaginably amazing. To quote that 2012 classic Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (sorry!) “It’s going to be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.” I love that line!
When I was sixteen I had a stunning experience that changed my life. I may tell you about it sometime. For me it was my personal entry into an understanding of God that has affected everything. There have been hundreds of similar moments since. Some people might call them coincidences, or lucky moments, or the ‘universe’ looking after you’, or just flukes. They may be right, but that doesn’t work for me. I think such moments have a spiritual origin. They are the Creator actively participating in my daily life. I like that.
I’d LOVE you to comment on this. Feel free to add your honest (but polite please, or they will be taken down!) thoughts.
Every day, every moment of your life contains uncertainty. No one knows what the future holds, even the future just a short few seconds away. As I write, and you read this, neither of us knows what is just around the corner. Your corner. My corner: joy or sorrow, good or bad, life or death, ‘win’ or ‘lose’. No one knows. Life – each and every day – is an experiment, with billions of ‘unknowns’. Everything – everything! – we think about the future is speculation to one degree or another.
Yet we manage to navigate our way through these exploding billions of predictably unpredictable happenings, learning from them, adjusting to them, taking advantage of them, and even enjoying them. And as we grow up, we begin to recognise and react to these patterns, noticing how things happen, together and in order, and how we can profoundly rely on them to guide us through our never-twice-the-same inner and outer worlds. And how something we do seems to affect what happens around us. A baby’s physical hungry cry produces real actual milk spilling from its mother’s breast (how does that happen?) or perhaps a warmed version of nutritious something in a plastic bottle!
Reflecting on this recently (experimenting, not breast feeding!) I thought about how I can be more the Experimenter than the experiment. I’m not a fatalist. I don’t accept that we are all caught up in a hopeless universal inevitability, because I don’t believe it’s true. I believe that to some extent I – each of us – can significantly influence what happens around me, and what happens beyond that. There’s no such thing as a failed experiment, just an unexpected result. I also believe that I am first of all a spiritual being, in a different realm from that perceived fatalistic inevitability, and that the spiritual part of me has huge unknown power. It breathes with the creative freedom-giving breath of its Creator.
Once I understand that a butterfly in Brazil can cause a hurricane in another part of the world, then choosing to alter my habitual behaviour today, given time, will indeed make the world different from what it would have been. And I believe that everything is connected in some way. You, me, that butterfly, everyone else and the Creator. Flapping my wings differently (or choosing not to) will just as inevitably change things somewhere. We cannot NOT communicate.
So how is that going to affect what you think, say and do today as you leave this blog?
“What is success?” the man leading the seminar asked brightly, wanting some audience participation. I put up my hand, and along with several other participants, gave my answer. “The inevitable result of being human.” I knew it wouldn’t be regarded as a normal answer, but I want success now, a lot – and I want to use today’s successes as a springboard to more rewarding ones – and not just my own successes. My definition guarantees me success every day, and makes me aware of how natural success is for us all.
Success is inevitable.
You cannot help but achieve your deepest goals. Without knowing it, you succeed. Look close enough and you’ll find you’re a success. Every day. Pretty much all the time!
Here are some of my successes (though not in chronological order!) Waking up. Talking to my family. Cuddling my children and grandchildren. Breathing. Doing my emails. Writing this blog. Cooking breakfast. Laughing at a TV programme. Doing some reading. Having a bath. Walking. In fact I’ve succeeded so many times today it is so normal to succeed that I’m completely unaware of how much of a success I am.
However, your deepest goals may not be so obvious. You might be missing them. Even embarrassed by them.
Less obvious success…
Here are some successes that people have that they may not want to own up to:
Backing off. Being successful at making sure they don’t need courage.
Avoiding potential pain by staying within safe, risk-free limits.
Never experiencing rejection (by not putting themselves in a relationship where that could happen, or by making sure they themselves do the rejecting first.)
Staying an emotional child. (There are plenty of people out there looking to mother the emotionally needy.)
Perhaps you’ve successfully taken whatever decisions you need to make absolutely sure you never stand out in the crowd. Solution: keep your head down and your mouth shut.
It is easy to make sure you never fail an exam. Simply never take one. Success!
You need never fear mockery. Never ever come up with anything original.
You need never fear being made redundant or getting the sack. Simple: resign at the earliest opportunity, or don’t take the job in the first place!
But of course, such dubious success is linked to other dubious successes – successfully avoiding responsibility for your life and future for example. And that means other people will begin to take over what you could contribute, and you will become poorer, more isolated, more vulnerable and more depleted. Some successes can produce unwelcome results.
What do you WANT to want?
Time to dig deeper. (As you know, I don’t do shallow.)
Do you REALLY want what you’re getting out of life at the moment? What do you WANT to want? What WELCOME outcomes?
What are you prepared to go for, to sacrifice for (everything in life has a price), in order to get an outcome you’ll be PROUD OF?
What is the next step for you?
From the day I stepped out from behind my mummy’s skirts to do something on my own, fear and courage have fought for supremacy. As I stepped out, eventually courage won.
My job is to make sure all these years later that courage continues to win, not just for me, but for you too.
Just south of Nordcap – and of course everything in Europe is south of Nordcap – is this little, well-worn picnic bench. No one in sight. It was waiting for me beside a cool clean pool half way up a mountain. So I stopped and made its acquaintance.
Breakfast. A camp-style ‘bath’ (we’ll leave it there!). A read. Sitting quietly in the arctic sun. Solitude. Aloneness.
Later in the day, I stopped again, beside a little beach. For the rest of the afternoon.
Today the ferry was full, and it returns in four hours time. So I’ve stopped again, the camper – and my heart – still. Stoptime.
What ‘stoptime’ do you have?
Are you comfortable alone with your thoughts, at ease with quiet meditation? For me it is a touch of heaven, a ‘place’ of acute joy, a source of spiritual replenishment and relief.
Many years ago I dedicated myself to serving God, and have continued to do that down the decades, not least as I coach people here in Powerchange, but without stop-time my life quickly runs dry and my reservoirs empty. I find myself offering the world (and of course my clients) something from the bottom of the barrel instead of fresh from an overflow. No one wants a tired stale coach thanks.
‘Me First’ isn’t necessarily a selfish attitude. It can be a very important one. As you become more aware of the lives you influence you will soon discover that your own integrity has a powerful affect on others.
Maybe today this is a call to your heart too. Stop. You’ll find a way. Don’t expect others to understand because they probably won’t, but the quality of what you have to offer them will significantly increase. A hand-to-mouth, on-the-hoof quick sandwich isn’t anything like as satisfying for them or you as a carefully prepared, marinated, carefully considered, slow-cooked, fine-dining meal.
And that takes time. Time learning from the ‘chef’ – whoever that might be for you. (Choose your teachers wisely! Jesus Christ features for me.) Time experimenting. Time tasting your own recipes to see if they satisfy you. If they do, then offer them to those who you suspect might enjoy them too.
That’s what I’m doing right now. Will you stop for a while please? For everyone’s sake.
Glad I did? Well, let me know what happens when you do.
I’ve a message I want you to help me get out there. It’s really important, and you can use your connections to ‘make it happen’. Will you do that for me? Thank you. Here it is:
People are afraid. We can change that!
The job of a leader, so a friend told me years ago, is to provide vision and encourage the people. In these up and down times, such leaders are few and far between it seems. From some significant distance, 4,000km from the world of Brexit in northern Norway, I’ve been intrigued to read the messages coming from the media to my iPhone. They are so horrible to read! Terror, disappointment, regret, fear, anger, rage, exploitation, back-stabbing, recrimination – even apocalyptic declarations about WWIII and the world economies collapsing. There are people who make a lot of money out of this stuff, it seems. So where are our leaders? You can be one – join the team.
No not the doom-laden soothsayers of Westminster or Brussels, or the gleeful media correspondents, maxing out the dollars on people’s fears, but the LEADERS! The inspiring, real, courageous, faith-filled and enthusiastic pioneers of the future? Where are the men and women who look at the future and inspire HOPE, COURAGE, PASSION, EXCITEMENT, JOY, SELF-DETERMINATION, and FREEDOM?
The future isn’t some fatalistic end result. It doesn’t even exist right now. The future is available to us as a clean piece of paper, for us to write on. US. Some are scribbling all over it.
You and I each have a choice. Our lives are not dictated to by an unknown pension fund manager, or some remote political entity. We each have a choice. In fact, every day we have thousands of choices, and most of those choices will be subtly influenced by how we have lived our lives up to now, what we have chosen to accept, what we have chosen to listen to and read. Personally, I read books about courage, risk-taking, stepping into the unknown, and I have lived my life choosing to adventure. (Even the word ‘adventure’ excites me!) My current read is “The Girl in the Picture” about the Vietnamese girl burned by napalm. You may know it. She rejected fear and shifted to a much better way to think about her life.
OK, here’s the challenge.
There are people watching you, listening to your words, looking at your face as you say them. Yes, you, YOU are – maybe quite unintentionally – a leader. How are you responding to the world around you right now? What leadership characteristics have you grown over the years? Your words change the world. Your facial expression influences others more than you know. What is in your HEART? Faith? Courage? HOPE?
Those who know me will know that I’m quite libertarian in my response to the world. I like less laws, not more, greater individual freedom, not more and bigger prisons. I want children educated so that they are inspired to start their own businesses, maximise their creativity to produce goods and services that people are attracted to and want to buy, to develop their interpersonal relationships so that they enjoy one another, be self supporting, and can sell effectively. (When did you ever hear of sales skills being taught in school? All of us ‘sell’ something or other. Selling is an essential life-skill, let’s just be honest about that!)
I want young people educated in the ways of valuing others and taught risk-assessment – not to STOP them taking risks but to teach them HOW to actively take risks and manage and overcome the risk. I want young people taught, actually taught, to be entrepreneurial. I want them to learn that failing is merely success being born, to be flexible and adjust. To keep decision-making about their life and future as close to themselves as possible. Those who do live happier lives.
The tough part about my job as a personal development coach is not to get people out of slavery, but to get slavery out of the people. Out of their heads, yes. Out of their hearts, yes. But even deeper down – out of their GUTS.
Enjoy the freedom you have, dear reader.
Every moment of it. But don’t leave it there. Spread the message. See and take opportunities. Be a GREAT leader to the people who are watching and listening to you. Use what is available to you. If you are on Facebook, or have a Twitter account, USE IT to influence people for good, not just tell them about the latest shallow chatter. This is not a call to ARMS but a call to JOY, to HOPE, and to FAITH FILLED LIVING.
Hit the ‘share’ button and change the world. You have received a calling to be a GREAT leader – make your message one of courage and hope.
Just think, amidst the put-downs, ridicule and rejection you’ll receive (everything has a price!) much joy HOW MUCH JOY you’ll receive!
On the 1st July I took the first available ferry to Europe at 2.00am. That evening I was in Koldenkirchen on the far side of Hamburg having a hamburger – well it was actually something else I couldn’t pronounce – at a small-town wine festival, and as I don’t speak German and was the only Englishman for miles I could sit alone or chat to people. I decided on the latter, and inevitably Brexit came up.
I was so touched by the genuine conversations I had.
The world is full of lovely people. These talked about how important the UK has been in balancing the overwhelming power of Germany. They were quick to say how determined they are to keep the UK as ‘friends’, and a group of young people (ie, under 30) said they were shocked that only 30% of young people in the UK voted in the referendum. Needless to say, they were disappointed that we had made an ‘out’ decision as a nation.
One, a newspaper photographer, voiced how he had spent a year in London and loved the free, globally multicultural atmosphere, commenting that he knew of no city in Germany that was like that. “Paris, maybe?” he said.
Another talked of the need for the EU to change, to be more flexible, though neither of us had the faith to believe that would happen. Another comment was that they were not surprised, as we had never given the Project our all, and were geographically an island off the coast. “You are a smaller island now.” We’ll need to wait and see about that, to see what ‘size’ island we intend to be and what we can and will achieve.
From my little bit of subjective research then, the voice of the German ‘proletariat’, the working people, is of sadness, of being left. All said how this was about governments, and not about the everyday relationships we have as people together, and how important it is that we continue to grow those relationships. Me too – and I’m keen to be an ambassador for ‘communities loving communities’, without all the political machinations getting in the way.
I’ve got five more European countries to visit on this trip in the next two or three weeks as I head first to the Swedish Arctic Circle then into Estonia, etc. (The plan is to circumnavigate the Baltic Sea including the Gulf of Bothnia, though I’m missing out Russia) I’ll not ask everyone I meet about Britain and the EU, but if the subject comes up, maybe I’ll let you know. Right now I’m in a beautiful Spanish restaurant in Frederikshavn on the north east of Denmark – deserted on Saturday afternoons – ready for a crossing to Gothenburg at 3.00am, just finishing the first Fischsuppe (guess) of many on this adventure.
(Want an adventure and think it’s out of reach? http://powerchange.com/adventure/)