Davey’s Redemption

Davey was frightened. He had made all sorts of mistakes in life, and now it had come to this, he thought to himself as he gazed fixedly into the putrid black water.

IMGA0060Thinking all the usual thoughts  that people think in Davey’s position – he was practiced at them by now – he contemplated the ordinary bleakness of the future and what he might do next. After all the comings and goings of the last few months, he was low. Very low.

One thing was for sure, he had no more ideas.  His energies for life were all used up on the efforts he had made throughout his life’s journey and, here, in this decade of his life, he had finally come to a standstill. He had run out. In more ways than one. 

The black water looked menacing and cold. It flowed slowly and silently round and round, yet if he stopped to listen he could hear it’s siren song calling him towards its clammy waters. It was all he could do to resist the water’s damning message.

Yet the stranger had definitely said that it was possible for good things to come out of bad, or even to actively turn bad things into good. “There is always a way” he had said, if you are patient and reach for it.

In despair and the deepest disappoint in himself he had ever known, Davey had finally given up the fight, declaring himself hopeless and the stranger’s words deceptive rubbish. The guy clearly had no idea of how bad bad can be. Bad things into good things? That could only be a platitude. There was no way forward from here. Yet the stranger had said that one day he would find out for himself.

Davey reviewed his life for a few moments.  Had he not become a respected scientist? Was he not indeed a competent entrepreneur? So how had it come to this? He had the finest of university educations and been taught by world class professors. He had a caring family, who even now we’re grieving for him in his sadness.

He felt overwhelmed by self pity. As he stared into the black sludgy polluted water he felt hopeless seep through his clothes and into his heart. Good out of bad?  This bad?  It was all a meaningless cruel joke, and now he would indeed take the next step that would… that would … that … would…

He stopped. A flash of moonlight on something in the water caught his attention. Swirling innocently in the incessant gurgling flow was a little glass bottle complete with its stopper.

In some strange way, it floated clean and sparkling on the surface of the blackness.  He felt it was waiting for him, a last chance perhaps, and he knew without doubt he must have it.

It was a long way down to the waters edge, but something in Davey’s heart came alive sufficiently to prompt him to action.  Stepping back for a moment from his precarious position (and his self pity) he climbed down to the bank of the putrid pool and reached out. He would need to reach out much further than what was safe for him to rescue the bottle (and maybe himself) from the fate that called them both, but driven by his sudden inexplicable change of mood, he was determined. That little fragile bottle might change his life he thought irrationally. Perhaps it already had. He must have it at all costs.

He reached out, accepting the risks of his new passion, no longer afraid, no longer obsessing about his failings and fortunes, risking being carried away, or sucked into the sludge.

No, it was beyond him. It was out of reach, but for the first time in his life he threw aside his inhibitions and looked around for help.

That was when he saw the stranger just a few yards away who had been quietly watching his efforts all the while, and seemed to read his mind. Unselfconsciously he asked, “Can you help me please? I need that bottle.” The stranger stepped forward and anchoring himself into the bank, grasped Davey’s outstretched hand. 

Trusting his weight to this Kind Stranger made the difference.  Davey felt the bottle at his finger tips, and with one last stretch, grasped it firmly in his hand. It was his. Looking up he saw, in the moonlight, a glimpse of a smile on the stranger’s shadowed face.

Davey sat for several minutes, still and quiet at the water’s edge, reliving the last few minutes of what had seemed an impossibly challenging day (and the last few years of what felt like an impossibly challenging life.)  He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled said to himself, “This moment is a turning point for me.  I know it. Life will never be the same again.”

For the first time, in a single moment he had reached out for help, and it was as if all the struggles to achieve, all his efforts to be accepted and loved, all the disappointment and inadequacy no longer mattered.

The magic words had been “help me” and he knew it. He had never asked so blatantly for help before. He had always tried to make it on his own, brought up with the expectation that he should be independent, self sufficient, stand on his own two feet and manage his own affairs.

The very walls he had built to keep himself safe had imprisoned him.  He felt a deep sense of love filtering its way into the rocky caverns of his heart; a strange lightness beaming it’s mellow rays into its grey shadows.

And the little glass bottle was here in his hand, rescued from the very waters that he, just a few minutes before … He preferred not to think about that.

It was many years later he told me this story. He was now a wealthy man, with a loving family around him. Things had turned out well.  Reaching into his coat, he drew out the little glass bottle, complete with its stopper…

…and a crumpled, stained, scrap of paper.

“This is what was in the bottle” he said, passing it to me. “I just accepted what it says, and that has made all the difference”.

I smoothed out the paper and felt my own heart leap. There on the paper were the very words I had so longed to hear as a child – and actually through all these demanding and challenging years of life.  As I read them over and over, I could feel them washing me too, cleansing and healing me to the very core.

And I accepted them.

And that has made all the difference.

“I AM HERE” What on earth …

The latest Sercombe motorbike adventure was to the Outer Hebrides.  Just me, my big BMW R1200GS and my red tent.  In case you’ve never been there – and few people round West Sussex have as it’s 730 miles away –  this string of islands is off the northwest coast of Scotland, windy, rainy and cold.

And in the middle of a mile-long deserted pristine beach I saw this:

Version 2

No footprints anywhere near, except mine, and by the time I left my idyllic wild campsite overlooking the sea, the engraving was no more – washed away by the waves.

Of course it was me. In a moment of spontaneous inspiration I carved “I AM HERE” with my foot in the sand – and the thought dominated my week, as I contemplated my life, my business, God, the universe, and my future. Today I’ve been thinking about it again as I camped out last night in the wilds of the South Downs catching up with some reading.  A bit existentialist I know, but the truth is, I am here, and I will be ‘here’ for a while yet.  Wherever I am, I AM.  It’s the inescapable truth, and on the basis that the truth frees us, I’m enjoying the freedom.

Yep, I’m here, and it is up to me to make of it what I will.

I’m not on that beach any more. I am here instead, writing this blog.  I moved on, came back to Sussex, and I’m two weeks older, and although I have a camera full of Hebridean photos – Butt of Lewis lighthouse, the rocky hillsides of Harris, Benbecula, Eriskay, and a welcoming pink roofed cafe in Lochmaddy – I can never, ever, recapture that moment on the beach.

In times of quiet solitude I become particularly aware of the presence of God ‘here’, where I am, with me.  It is as if He has said, not written in sand but whispered as a permanent statement deep within, “Andrew, I am here” – wherever I am, always. Regardless of the ups and downs of my life, I’m never actually alone. The Divine Presence, the Creator, present in the world He created.  With me. Here. Now. For ever.

And today that is sufficient for me.  In fact overwhelmingly more so.  Far more important than success, or money. God is here.

And He is where you are too – such is the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit.  Unhampered by the limitations of time and space, God is with you as you read this on your screen – closer, actually.

3000 years ago a gifted young shepherd on the run from his tormentors wrote about it. Stunningly poetic, he wrapped it up in a way I’ll never be able to.  I’ve put a few key bits of his poem for you to read quietly before you move on into the rest of your week. Take a few moments – ten minutes? – to stop and reconnect. And whilst you’ll already know that I am here for you today (yes, me, Andrew. Just a phone or Skype call or email away), far more importantly, He is too.

Enjoy.

E:  andrew@powerchange.com   M: 07771631945  Skype: andrewsercombe  Website: www.powerchange.com

The Phantom Box

We went for a walk on Thursday, my friend and I.  Not the Kind Stranger, you’ll be interested to know – though he was probably somewhere around too, but a friend I’ve known for about thirty years.  My friend is a highly skilled trainer.

The South Downs at Amberley.

We got to talk about our work and he mentioned a training he had attended where the guy had a ‘new take’ on Thinking out of the Box. You know the theory: Don’t just go for the same old-old. Be creative! Dream new ideas. Come up with something different.  Think out of the box – in a different dimension!

As we stood leaning over the five-bar gate admiring the vistas of the South Downs National Park, I said, “J, there is no box. It’s just a concept.”

I’ve thought a lot about that since. The box is an illusion and always has been. We cannot actually think inside it or outside it, because the reality has never existed and never will. The illusion is merely the creation of people who would have us perceive ourselves in boxes. Who first decided that we are all in boxes? Who was it  lumbered us with thinking from inside them? And what purpose did the concept of boxes serve? Perhaps it allowed that person to exhibit his superiority by calling us to think outside his phantom creation?

The concept of boxes make us feel secure. It enables us to enjoy the illusion that we can take control of our lives. Or each others’.  In the natural world there are no sealed boundaries, but everything flows subtly into everything else – and you’re part of that natural world. The universe is not insular. Ask any quantum physicist. Even I, as I write this blog, am changing the brain patterns in your head. Though we may seem to be separated by space and even time it is not true. We’re not separated, are we? You just read this. There is no box.

Living without the pseudo-security of an illusory box out of which we are supposed to think can challenge our very roots. We are tempted to ask questions. How old was I when I began to accept being ‘boxed’? Where did I learn that limiting skill? What were the motives of my teacher? What has this done to me, to us?

In a world that is a wide open space (not filled with wide open spaces – that supposes natural boundaries again!  It’s deeply ingrained, isn’t it?) it is a joy to know that nothing can separate us from each other, except the belief that we are in different boxes. If we choose to abandon our belief in boxes, all is revealed. We are part of the whole, and the gap between you and me is gone.

Like Neo in The Matrix, I seem to have swallowed the red pill.  Ah well…

The Kind Stranger Chapter 5: Before the beginning

The English Channel, Sept 2010

Yes, I know.  “Before the beginning” doesn’t make sense, does it, but the truth seems to be that the Kind Stranger knew me long before the beginning of our friendship. When I met him on that first day, he was completely new to me. Yet I could somehow detect that I wasn’t new to him.  He knew more than he would let on. Now I’ve learned to trust him, I’ve got over my initial suspicions about it all and relaxed.  It took a little while though.

However far back I choose to remember, now I know him better I can detect the shadow of his presence almost wherever I look. Everywhere.  On the day I was born, as I think back, he was there, his shadow all but invisible to the inattentive, imperceptive eye.

Before the beginning. Now I know the Kind Stranger was there, I’m reassured.  That means that all through those early school years, through my teenage experiences, school changes and family up and downs, he was there. During those relationship traumas, the sweet and embarrassing coming-of-age moments, the learning about myself and the opposite sex, that time of discovery of my own emotions of early love, that first kiss, he was the tender observer. I suppose it could seem almost voyeuristic, but that would profoundly miss the point. This was no shallow invasion of personal teenage privacy. This was the Kind Stranger doing what he does best: utterly caring for me. He allowed me to discover life in my way and in my time, tenderly protecting from the worst, yet letting me feel the pain necessary for me to learn the more important lessons thoroughly. Then I didn’t realise he was watching.  Now I’m glad he was. Then I might have wondered why he let it happen that way. Now I don’t need to question. Of all the people in the world, he is the one person from whom I have no wish – nor need – to hide.

Before the beginning. Could it be that he knew me before anyone else – even before my own mother? Could it be that from the moment I was conceived I was somehow known to him?  Before then? How impossible! Ridiculous!

But what if it was true? Let me think about that for a moment.  I met him on the street. He had arranged that meeting. He had chosen to make that the moment in history when we consciously met in time and space. Knowing the Kind Stranger as I do now, I’m confident that it was no arbitrary moment. He planned it! I needed to NOT know him for those earlier years. He knew my life would be better if that first encounter was exactly then. Not a moment too soon. Not a moment too late.  Perfect.

Perfect. How can I argue with that – apart from somehow setting myself up to pretend I know better than him – and we both know I don’t. And remember it seems he is not limited by my expectation that he should be physically visible to me – or audibly heard. Or tangibly touched. No. He is the benign master here.  He is the one who invites me to trust him for that too, and I do. He knows the what, the how, the when and the where. So there is no need to ask such an unanswerable question as why. Thankfully. It will save me hours of wondering. I don’t need to ask why.

Before the beginning. it’s patently impossible for someone as human as me to comprehend that. Before the beginning is more than a lifetime away. It’s outside time where there are beginnings and, inevitably, endings. If it is true he was around before the beginning, it  may also reveal that there is an ‘after the ending’.

I’ll need to think about that.

The Kind Stranger Chapter 3: The Hug

When I was a child I remember playing hide and seek. We hid somewhere – in a cupboard, under a bed, and waited to be found. I remember the excitement and the peculiar emotion it created, as the finder crept from room to room in our rambling farm house looking for us. I remember so wanting to be found.

When I became a man and my own children were small they would run and hide and I would make a big fuss about “wondering where they were” as they hid, only half-hidden behind a curtain, desperately attempting to suppress their give-away giggles. When it was their turn to find me I wanted them to enjoy both the hunt and finding me, so I hid where they would find me easily.

These memories go through my mind now as I recall the mornings when I was waiting for the Kind Stranger to come. I knew he would find me if I sat quietly. I also knew he could not be manipulated or forced to come. He was far too strong and powerful for that. He had given me the key to our meetings: I must wait quietly. Like the little children, I was desperate for him to find me and, of course, he did.  He had promised.

I was in the garden, sitting at one end of our old swinging seat.  I had been there quietly for maybe ten minutes or so when I felt him come and sit at the other end. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. You’ll probably know that feeling by now. It’s marked by an overwhelming sense of knowing that I’m loved, wanted and accepted just as I am, sitting just here, even though I don’t deserve it.

“Good morning,” he said, with joy in his voice, “And by the way, I’m not here because you deserve it, but because you’re now my friend.” He’d read my mind. It was as pointless to pretend I could hide my thoughts from the Kind Stranger as it was for the children as they tried to hide, giggling behind the curtain. He knew.

“And yes, I do very much.” That was a surprise. The thought had crossed my mind to ask him if he enjoyed coming to be with me like this.

“Thank you.” I said very quietly. It was lovely to know that he was so sensitive to me. I’d never had a friend like this ever before, and I was so very grateful. I felt him look at me directly and smile with love in his eyes.  Apart from my admission of my need on that day I met him, this was the first time I’d actually spoken to him out loud. Looking back, ‘Thank you’ was the perfect thing to say. I was just so so deeply thankful. I said it again, from the bottom of my heart. “Thank you.”

You know how I mentioned earlier how it felt as if he put his arm around me? Well, it felt like that again. I felt surrounded, embraced, hugged, by him. It was a warm, caring, ‘family’ hug, the sort of comforting hug that a loving older sister or brother might give a little child. I breathed “thank you” again, but the words were unnecessary.  He knew.

It was such a special moment for me. It is well established by now that physical contact, a meaningful touch, a simple caress makes such a difference to people, but this was so much more. It was all encompassing and went so deep. Although this wasn’t an actual physical touch, it felt like it – a bathing of my spirit, an acceptance of me as a person – it was as close as it gets. I drank it in, more and more, soaking in it, allowing that hug to overwhelm me, and it did. I started to sob.

I sat and cried on and off for the next ten minutes or more. They were tears of relief. I’d been found. It was as if his hug was melting the core of my being, softening it again, and the tears were merely a stream flushing away the debris of years. And they did flush it away. As the emotion subsided, I felt clean, whole, refreshed.

I turned to speak, but he had slipped away. That was OK. I knew he’d be back.

I also knew that his hug would be mine for ever.

The Video is here: http://www.youtube.com/user/serx50#p/a/u/0/DMqOmKBz2ug

The Kind Stranger

In Powerchange we have all sorts of interesting ways to help people have a better quality of life, and here’s a new exercise I’d like you to test for me.  It’s called The Kind Stranger and it works by readjusting your thoughts as you read it. Notice what it does to you emotionally over the next few minutes or days, and ‘leave a comment’ (above) so we can know how it is working for you.  If it ‘works’, pass it on to your friends – even Facebook it for me! Here it is …

You know those times when you feel ‘needy’- alone maybe, inadequate somehow, or unresourced? It was at such a time as this that the kind stranger turned up. It was a completely unexpected encounter, and one that changed me. He just came up to me, smiling, and although to start with I was a bit suspicious I quickly realised he was a genuinely good person, and his intentions towards me were healthy – pure – and good.

What he said was good too.  So very good.  He fed me, deep in my soul, and it was only later that I realised how much I had benefited from his kindness. “Excuse me,” the kind stranger said, “I hope you don’t mind me coming over to you, but I notice that you seem to feel alone and, dare I say it, in need somehow.” He disarmed me with his gentle tone of voice and obvious respect. His honesty was refreshing, although a little unnerving, and enabled me to be honest too. “Yes,” I admitted. “It is a bit like that at the moment.”

“May I take just a few minutes to help?”  He was so direct, and although I had so much to busy myself with, I knew I must stop and listen to him. We found somewhere to sit down, and he, this smiling kind stranger, addressed me personally.

“What do you need to hear someone say to you today?”

It was such a surprising line it took me off guard, and I could feel a lump in my throat. I wanted to get away, yet I knew this was important. He was obviously in no rush, waiting quietly for my reply. He watched me attentively – kindly – as his words sank in, slipping under my defences.  I mentally ran through a few superficial replies but knew I must be honest in return. I thought of the one thing I’ve longed for someone to say to me, but simply couldn’t voice it. It was lodged, stuck in my heart.

“That’s right,” he said.

Had he read my mind? I thought of some more.

“And those are good too.”

With a tender transparent authority the kind stranger told me clearly, gently, confidently, things I needed to hear. And something inside me change for ever.  How did he know? (For he certainly did.)

” May I put my hand on your arm?” he asked. Shocked, I reached out towards him, and he respectfully held my arm just above my wrist. It was such an important touch – firm, reassuring, filled with the rich tenderness of loving human contact. I loved him for it. Skin-food for my soul. I felt a deep confidence come from his hand  into my body.

“You know,” he said wisely, “we could meet right here every day or every week in person and I could say these things to you. It would be very resourcing and up-building for you. But I’ve got a better idea: I want you to listen to my voice now, saying and repeating these things you need to hear, deep inside you. Listen to my voice deep in your heart.” He paused as he noticed me do what he suggested. “It is me, isn’t it!” He chuckled, and continued, “And then, every day, even though I will not be with you physically as I am now, I want you to feel my hand on your arm like this and hear my voice reminding you of them –and all the other things you’ve forgotten that you need. Hear the words you needed someone to say to you when you were a child, a teenager, and at those other moments of your life when you felt alone, lacking confidence and direction. I’ll say them – listen out for me. You will hear my voice inside you and I will say them. They are the truth. And when you’ve learned how to listen to me, tell others about your encounter with me and help them to listen. So from today on I’ll be with you forever – and with them too if they want me!”

And he is. Whenever I sense I need him, he’s there… here. Every day. I feel his warm hand on my arm as I write, his confident touch relaxing me, feel his strong arm around my shoulders, hear his wholesome, rich voice, full of endorsement, encouragement, kindness and love reminding me of what I need to hear. I listen to him every day now, and he’s no longer a stranger.

Andrew tells the story personally on youtube – with one or two little extras…

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