Marvellous…

Marshall, my assistance Hearing Dog, needs daily ‘out-of-uniform’ walks when he can run free and play with his canine friends. One of our favourite places for this is in the ‘Groves’, a beautiful beech wood that’s a stone’s throw from where we live.

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It has numerous tracks that weave around the contours. In summer it’s mainly dry underfoot, but in winter the Welsh climate makes it squelchy! To make the paths that lead into town more accessible during inclement weather, some of the paths have been topped with crushed rock, including one which has a very steep gradient.
Recently I remarked to my adult son who was walking with me, “It must have been very hard work to make this path, just imagine moving all that aggregate up the incline”. He stopped, and with a bemused expression, replied, “But they would have worked their way down, not up!”
Clearly, I had missed the obvious. I always walk up the steep path (I use a different route going down) and therefore assumed the trail-blazers had likewise worked from the bottom up.
We burst out laughing, but truth is, sometimes my assumptions blind me to alternatives.
So I’ve been reminded to be more flexible in my thinking.

One of my favourite films is ‘Marvellous’. It’s the true story of Neil Baldwin who refused to accept the label of learning disabilities, and instead has had an extraordinary life as a registered clown, university welfare officer and football kitman.

two_neils_zpskmbeszuiNeil Baldwin, and actor Toby Jones who plays him in the film ‘Marvellous’

Whereas some people have tried to limit him with their narrow assumptions, Neil has broadened many people’s outlooks with his wide assumptions. If he wanted to do something, he did it, and astounded people with his results.
He wanted to be a clown, and so he joined a circus.
He wanted to welcome students at Keele University, and so he became a familiar figure over the years, with an honorary degree being awarded in recognition of his contribution to student welfare.
He wanted to work at Stoke City Football Club, and so he became Kitman, with the Manager famously saying it was the best signing he’d ever made.

We all have had, and have, difficulties in life, and these can lead us to feel we’re  pushing a load up an incline. But Neil offers us an alternative view. “I always wanted to be happy, and so I decided to be.” That’s not to say that he, and we, won’t experience setbacks, but as he says: “when bad things happen, I remember something good.”

Truth is… Unlike the culture around you, dragging you down, God brings the best out of you. Romans 12:2

Clearing the clutter…

Depending on your generation, you may call it ‘sorting’, ‘decluttering’, or ‘destashing’. But it all comes down to the same thing – having a good clear out.
It’s been the subject of popular television programmes with names like ‘Keep, Chuck or Clean’ and ‘The Life Laundry’, with professional declutterers proving that mountains can be moved when it comes to clutter.
Books too, offering neat and tidy solutions, have become top sellers like Marie Kondo’s ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…’
Feeling burdened is clearly a growing problem in consumerist societies.

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While there may be complex reasons why some people get overwhelmed by clutter, for many, it starts off with a pile that slowly grows and then feels insurmountable. The same thing can happen in our minds too. Thoughts and feelings can mount up, burdening us and weighing us down. Fears that aren’t addressed can multiply, wrong assumptions can hem in, and resentments can fester. I guess we all need to declutter in one way or another!

For many this week, it was ‘pancake day’, or in the Christian calendar, ‘Shrove Tuesday’.

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Traditionally this would have been a time when people used up their stores, in preparation for a Lent stripped back to the essentials.
Maybe for us today, it’s an opportunity to clear out in a different way – to see what’s lingering in the store cupboards of our hearts and minds.
Truth is, I have feelings and thoughts that need sorting. To name a few pile-ups – fear of failure that prevents me from having a go; assuming I know best; wavering when having to wait…
But as a believer, I have faith that God is more than willing to help me clear the clutter.

If we can bring our doubts, prejudices, resentments and whatever else might be lingering, out of the shadows and into the light of God, then all sorts of possibilities can unfold. God is the source of ultimate fresh starts and enables us to become more and more our true selves.
To make a pancake, what is within the shell of an egg, needs to be released.

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The same applies to us, so let’s crack on!

Truth is… Create in me a clean heart, God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Know It All…

My local Medical Centre has changed its appointment system.
I’m an infrequent user, so I didn’t know how it worked until this week. I had a temperature, rash, sickness and hearing loss, and was told the earliest I could be seen was next month!
I questioned the delay and a phone consultation followed. The doctor quickly attributed the rash to a “fungal infection”, and the other symptoms to “depression”.  I felt at the end of the line, in more ways than one!

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I got the feeling that he’d taken one look at my medical record, seen the word ‘depression’, and concluded this explained everything. Thank goodness that’s not the end of the story. I subsequently saw another GP who did a thorough examination and concluded that it’s a pesky virus.

All this got me thinking though, and humour gives a different perspective.
There was something outrageous in my full-size-Jackson-Pollock-effect-rash being attributed to depression!
As I metaphorically raised my eyebrows, my perspective shifted and I wondered how things had seemed from the doctor’s end.
He was right, depression can have a negative impact on health and cause all kinds of symptoms.
He was right, I do happen to have a diagnosis of depression.

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However, at that point he missed the point. He had no idea how depression actually affects me because he’s never met me, and didn’t ask any leading questions.
In actual fact, I have lived with a ‘black dog’ for years and I now have it very well trained. I always keep it on a short leash, and have learnt many skills to keep it walking to heel. It does not bark, nor does not bite other people.

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But truth is, there are times when like the doctor, I too make ‘misdiagnoses’ about people and situations. I sometimes think I’ve got the picture but I haven’t. I’ve not listened carefully enough to what’s been said – or not said.  I’ve made assumptions or jumped to conclusions.
So, this week God’s reminded me to never be a know it all – because I don’t!

Truth is… ‘Never rely on what you think you know’ Proverbs 3:5