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

Leaps of Faith

The August Bank Holiday weekend always brings back memories – something along the lines of ‘all’s well that ends well’!
On the holiday Monday a few years ago, our daughter’s 21st birthday request was to get the family together at Go Ape (a high wire tree top ‘adventure’). At this point I should mention that although I am brave in many ways, my courage doesn’t lend itself to heights so I was definitely going the extra mile!

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It was one It was one of those crisp early mornings, cold but bright. We gathered for the obligatory safety briefing and were warned of all the dangers (as well as how to avoid them). At that point my knees started to shake, I think more from fear than cold!
But you know what, it turned out to be one of the most exhilarating times of my life. I was on an adrenaline high for days afterwards, and it was because I’d faced my fears (as well as having a fab time with the offspring!)

Fear has two possible responses: Forget Everything And Run… or Face Everything And Rise.

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At Go Ape I learnt so much from rising above the fear and venturing into the tree tops. I discovered that inwardly naming my fears put them into perspective; I discovered the power of ‘just do it’; I discovered the enabling that comes from group encouragement. I climbed heights and crossed breadths in many different ways!

Truth is though, my fear at Go Ape was unfounded. Yes, I could have fallen, but if I had, the safety line that is clipped on at the beginning of each challenge, would have prevented serious injury.

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‘Always stay attached’ was the mantra given in the high wire adventure briefing, and as a believer, I find this useful when facing everyday fears.

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I remind myself:
Always stay attached to God.
Deliberately ‘clip on’ at the start of the day, and reconnect as necessary.
Notice the footholds, and use them.
Feel for the grasping points, and hang on.
– And every so often there’ll be a zip wire that will be so exhilarating, you’ll shout yessssssss!

Truth is… Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ 1 Peter 5:7