How are you dealing with stress and worry?

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Last night at life group we were discussing ‘Jesus on Stress’ from Phil Moore’s book ‘Gagging Jesus.’

It was interesting to have a frank discussion about the things that we get stressed about and how we deal with stress. For many of us prayer was last on the list. 

That is often the case isn’t it? Prayer is our last resort – when we become desperate, when we get to our wit’s end and there is nothing else we can do to sort out what is worrying us and causing us stress.

What’s interesting in the book is that it explains that Jesus teaching on stress:

It tells us that stress is the chief symptom of our idolatry and self-worship

Read that sentence again. Quite hard hitting isn’t it? Few of us would care to admit that we partook in idolatry or self worship. The truth is, many of us are.

“I’m worried” is just another way of saying “I’m not convinced that God will do his job without me… I’m feeling stressed” is just another way of saying “I’m trying to do God’s job for him and it’s not working out for me.”

How often do you use those phrases in your everyday life?
How often do you attempt to do God’s work for Him?

In our human nature we like to be in control and the truth is we can’t be. We need to fully rely on God.

Our stress and worry draws our focus away from God and puts it onto ourself. We do all that we can to solve our own problems. We forget about prayer, talking to God. We lack faith that God will come though for us.

There were a number of contemplative silences as we discussed this last night. As the realisation sank in.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, in the issues that arise, in the striving and problem solving and desire to force things to work themselves out.

It is so easy to become self reliant, to feel that we are masters of our own universe and that we can do as good as or even a better job than God. We will sort it out faster, we know what needs to happen and we will fix it all.

The thing is, we are not called to go it alone. We are not created to be our own personal saviour.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

So, today at the end of the week how about taking Jesus up on his offer?

Go to him, find rest for your soul. Free yourself from the weight of worry and stress.

What's on your mind?

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what's on your mind

Today, as I sit writing this post looking out of the window at the sunshine, I want to ask you a question: What’s on your mind?

Before you saw the image with this post did you realise that is what Facebook asks you every time you update your status?

Why is it that we happily post on Facebook and Twitter about our thoughts but if I were to ask you that question right now I am guessing the initial answer might be ‘Nothing.’ or ‘Not much’ but is that true?

Even discussing ‘What’s on your mind?’ on social media is somewhat of a facade – no one ever really posts exactly what is on their mind. We post modified thoughts, acceptable thoughts, things that will appear funny and engaging. Things that will will portray what we want them them to.

What about with God? What do you say when God asks you the same question? Do you modify your answer? Go for the ‘acceptable’ stuff?

We are often carrying many thoughts in our mind, it is often full of questions, concerns, worries, to do lists. We can lose ourselves in it all sometimes. 

I really feel that today God wants to free you from all of that. Free you from your ‘thought baggage’ the things  that play in your mind over and over again that you have just accepted and learnt to deal with. The things that wake you up at night that you have never shared. The worries that you can convince yourself you have overcome but that catch you unawares when you are least expecting it. 

We are told in the word:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Are you experiencing the freedom of a ‘sound mind’ today?

What are the things that are plaguing you, keeping you captive, holding you back?

Are you afraid to speak them aloud?

I believe today that God is calling us to speak them aloud so that he can deal with them, so that we are not held prisoner to them, so that they do not have control over us.

We do not need to be fearful – we do not have a spirit of fear.

We need to remember we are loved. We are love with an unconditional, everlasting love.

Perfect love casts out fear…

Will you tell God what’s on your mind today? The unmodified version?

 

 

Coffee with God

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I started reading a book this morning ‘A life unleashed’ by Christine Caine and one of the suggestions she makes in the first chapter is to have a coffee with God.

This got me thinking about the way I often approach God – with a list of requests or some hurried thank you or a few rocket prayers. How at times, I can fall into the trap of over spiritualising my quiet times and over complicating them.

What is it about coffee? Coffee shops are springing up everywhere. Our language has been infiltrated with hundreds of descriptions of different coffee combinations. Our high streets are saturated with them, often next to and opposite each other and sometimes even more than one branch within a few hundred metres.

I don’t actually think it is because we have become a nation of coffee connoisseurs ( you may beg to differ) but more to do with the activity and act of going for a coffee. Common parlance is ‘Shall we go for a coffee?’ Let’s meet up for a coffee.’ This is rarely about the coffee itself but more to do with sitting together, conversing, enjoying each other’s company – sharing with each other. Coffee shops offer the opportunity to sit, watch the world go by, enjoy a hot drink ( which we all know makes everything infinitely better) and to talk, face to face.

I love to ‘go for coffee’. I find it relaxing and one of the best ways to catch up with someone.

So, the question is why, when faced with the suggestion to have coffee with God did it seem like a revolutionary concept? Why have I separated something I do so easily and commonly from God?

The conversation over coffee flows easily, it is not hurried, there are moments of stillness and silence that are not uncomfortable. There is a sharing, a bonding and an important part of relationship building and strengthening that goes on. Surely, it could also be this simple with God?

Conversations are two way – so today as I sit with my coffee ( decaf latte, no sugar) I am going to invite God along. There are a few questions I have for Him, a few things I need to say, some asking of why? about situations people close to me are facing. How are certain things going to happen and come to fruition? I also know there is going to be a lot of listening on my side too – moments of stillness and moments of silence.

Who do you most need to have coffee with today? When did you last have ‘ a coffee with God’ moment?

Finally Friday

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“Image courtesy of [James Barker] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Today, I went to work dressed a pirate. Children in Need, meant that we had a fancy dress day. The students gave me an A for effort and it caused a lot of amusement.

I then spent the next four hours hiding away in the meeting room, with the HLTA, writing medium term plans for our new curriculum. I had the radio on and they were playing Christmas songs, plus I was sat in a Tri corner hat with red feather edging. It was a surreal day to say the least.

Being in Ofsted ready mode is taking its toll. There is so much that needs to be in place, paperwork that needs updating, plans that need adapting, new courses that we are implementing. It feels never ending.

Today, I felt I could breathe and it was also acknowledged what I have been doing and that I am making good progress. Extra support has been put in place in terms of time and resources and I feel we are getting somewhere.

Next week, I am only in for two days, I am visiting our primary school to observe students who will be joining us in September and then on Read Write Inc training. My week will be quite disjointed and I am not sure how that makes me feel.

Sometimes, I think I am the only person who can’t switch off. My mind is like a constant treadmill.

Tonight, is Friday night. I finished reading WarHorse for book club a couple of hours ago. I am looking forward to a few glasses of wine and a good discussion with friends. This will put me more at ease, help me to transition into the weekend. Help me to relax.

Our Internet is fixed, so we are back connected to the world.

The John Lewis Chrsitmas advert has just been on and set me off again, have already cried my eyes out reading WarHorse.

I am definitely on a journey to be more accepting of myself, my emotional nature, my quirks. I need to learn to let things go, to pause, to rest.

Thankfully, I know that He who began a good work in me, will carry it on to completion.
I have the weekend to spend with those who nourish me, support me, remind me that the me I so often beat myself up about being is the me that they love.

Have a great weekend.

How are you feeling?

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Image courtesy of [Michal Markol] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is also quite interesting coming back to write a blog after a couple of days break. I feel I have lost my groove somewhat.

This weekend was very busy. Saturday we went to London to stay in a hotel and to see Les Mis. I had won a competition and this was the prize.

Sunday morning, I was leading worship so we left the hotel just after breakfast and then after church, It was time for planning and making resources.

I haven’t been sleeping well recently, waking up in the middle of the night remembering something that I need to do and then not being able to switch off.

When the alarm went this morning, I was less than impressed. As well as teaching a full day, it was parents’ evening. I don’t dislike parents’ evening. I do dislike it on a Monday.

I probably share the thoughts of a lot of you regarding Mondays. It is a time to get settled into the week, a day to set your pace for the week. I feel like I have been thrown off kilter and will spend the rest of the week catching up.

The evening went well, I had books for parents to look at, half term assessments, I was able to talk in detail about the students.

Yet tonight, I sit here barely able to keep my eyes open. A few of my students asked me if I was ok today, one if them gave me their analysis of how I was feeling from reading my face.

The truth is, I don’t know how I am feeling. I don’t feel myself. I feel faint and lethargic and drained of all energy. I appear pale in my complexion and am unsteady on my feet. Part of me has concerns that my fainting and blackout episodes are going to start again.

Times like this it would be easy to spiral, to almost give up. This is when I have to cling to my faith. To focus on what I know and not how I am feeling. My feelings are fickle, changeable, unreliable.

One of my favourite verses is from Jeremiah ‘I know the plans I have for you, declares The Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope.’

When I begin to feel as though I can’t go on, or life is overwhelming, I read this verse and hold on to the truth.

I have a future and hope.

Navigating Monday

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Image courtesy of [phanlop88] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The day began with a lack of milk in the staff room fridge which caused much consternation first thing on a Monday morning. Thankfully, as I was nil by mouth I was not affected by this travesty.

People started to drift into the staff room, some smiling, some already carrying the spirit of the grinch. Such is the way in a school staff room, it is law.

I was stationed at the photocopier, my designated spot prior to 8am. It didn’t feel too bad being back but then I enjoy my job, as much as I may grumble at times, teaching is as much a part of me as the blood that courses through my veins.

My first class were ‘bouncing’ as we like to call it. Fresh from a half term break and not at all enamoured with the idea of being back at school. There ensued a number of conversations about appropriateness of behaviour and the revelation that thrusting one’s genitals while stood at the back of the classroom was not something that I was happy to tolerate.

My second class were the picture of perfection, intelligent conversation ensued as we discussed a ‘thunk’, we worked as a class to complete activities, we laughed (heaven forbid!), we journeyed through the learning process together and I was just a hair’s breath away from them all climbing on their desks and exclaiming ‘O Captain, my Captain!’

What was the difference between these two classes? The main difference was how they had been engaged by their tutor for the first fifteen minutes of the day. It may sound insignificant, but it is one of the most significant moments of the day for students. Handled well and there is a good foundation to start the day with. Handled badly and you end up herding cats for the rest of the day.

I am going to have to have some difficult conversations tomorrow about pastoral care. The part of my job I like the least, but the welfare and well being of the students is my priority and for those of you who may feel I am too liberal, this is affecting their learning, which affects their progress, which ultimately affects their achievement.

My hospital appointment had to be abandoned as part way through my test (an hour in, in fact) the equipment malfunctioned. So, I now have to go through the whole ordeal again within the next week or so.

Funny isn’t it, how life has a habit of throwing things at you that just knock you off balance? I thought I may get some answers today regarding my health issue but again I am in limbo. I know I have to have some difficult conversations tomorrow and that I won’t be popular for it.

This is where my faith kicks in, where I don’t focus on the opinions of man, where I don’t look at life through the way I am feeling, but through what I know.

I have hope, I have courage, I have strength.

Trusting I will be ok whatever happens

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Today is the 1st November. The start of a new month. The rundown to Christmas.

I look back over this year and wonder where it has gone, not that it hasn’t been packed full of memories.

I am busy making more memories on holiday this week. Laughing, crying (mostly at films) being myself.

When I say being myself, I mean feeling relaxed, not filtering everything I say through a ‘will that sound right?’ thought process that often renders me silent. I am not constantly replaying conversations and incidents at work in my mind micro analysing. I don’t have a constant tension headache.

It is something I need to work on when I am back at work. Something I need to be mindful of.

The Monday I go back to work I need to leave early to go to a hospital appointment. Earlier in the year I started feeling dizzy, then fainting, then having blackouts.

I have seen a cardiologist, had a heart scan and no answers, my ecgs show an abnormality but it is benign. I am now going to have a tilt test.

I have low blood pressure, I always have. This test will be another route to establishing why I faint/blackout.

I have had dizziness but no collapses for months. Then, out of the blue on Monday when we got in, I started feeling dizzy and the next.thing I knew I am sat on the floor and grey/white with all the colour drained and my heart beating rapidly and chest pain.

This scared me because part of me thought it had stopped, that it was over. I now realise it hasn’t and it makes me apprehensive.

I have my test on Monday and then I see the cardiologist in a month’s time.

Am I hoping for answers? Yes. Am I guaranteed them? No.

So what do I do? Do I over analyse? Do I just go back to how things were before? Do I plump for a little denial?

Life is hard at times, there aren’t always simple answers. At times we struggle. At times we don’t.

I don’t know what I am going to do. I know that I want to trust that whatever happens I will be ok. I know that I want to start enjoying life more and by that I mean even the mundane moments.

Who’s with me?