Well today, the day after the United Kingdom held its European Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation, to be effective as of Friday June 7th, two weeks from now. She spoke of how she tried her best for the country she loves, and how she was motivated by her public duty and her democratic obligations to the will of the people, speaking specifically about the referendum vote three years ago that resulted in a simple majority to leave the European Union…or ‘Brexit’ as it has come to be known.
Most people feel disaffected with politics, although there has been expressions of sympathy towards Mrs May who was choked with emotion at the end of her resignation speech.
We face new challenges going forwards, and who knows what the rest of the world thinks of the United Kingdom in this respect. Yet, whatever our political opinions, persuasions or if we choose not to get involved at times, the Christian’s responsibility, regardless of personalities, politics or any other such thing, is to pray.
We are admonished in 1 Timothy 2:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all…“
I want you to feel, no matter who you are or where you are in life, that in visiting my blog, you will find encouragement and hope.
It is the final day of Mental Health Awareness Week today in the UK…but let’s keep the discussion going.
Today, I want to encourage you by talking about living life in an increasingly digital world. As human beings, we are created for connection. We all need healthy relationships and connections, but as each and everyone of us know and have experienced to varying degrees, we live in a broken world and a fractured society, where the very relationships that are supposed to bring health and wellbeing and add something wholesome to our lives can actually be destructive, hurtful and a cause of great emotional, mental and even physical distress.
We live in an increasingly ‘connected’ world. People are constantly ‘engaged’ with some form of communication: look around you and you’re bound to see someone, even if that someone is yourself alone in a room, ‘plugged in’ to a laptop, a phone, a device of some sort, and chances are you’re not simply engaged in researching a topic. People are constantly looking for connection, validation, to be ‘liked’, for our lives to be considered worthwhile, important, ‘enough’.
And yet, the sad thing is, family members, friends, colleagues, strangers can be sitting side by side, seemingly ‘communicating’ with somebody online, and yet ignoring the real life human interaction available to them, while scrolling through pictures of other people’s filtered lives and feeling none the better for it.
I think it was Gretchen Rubin, author of ‘The Happiness Project’ who said that technology is a good servant, but a bad master. How true! It is great to be able to communicate with friends and loved ones across the world, in other towns, and to learn new things, to grow and develop and be encouraged, and build helpful connections in our shared humanity, and link in with people of similar mindsets and interests. But our engagement with technology has its place.
I am seeking to be more aware of how I use technology in line with my core values, and one thing I feel strongly about is that I want to use my experiences to help other people.
Friend, do you not notice a disconnect in your life, when you are overly ‘connected’ online? Are you aware of what impact the constant stream of auditory and visual information is having on you and your mental health?
In any healthy relationship, boundaries are gradually established for the good of both parties. Let’s think through the boundaries we are setting with ourselves in our relationship with technology and the online world.
A good place to start is to do some soul searching, away from the computer or internet, and get in touch with what is important to you in your life, your core values, your sense of purpose, and what connection means to you.
Personally, as a Christian, before coming to know the Lord Jesus, I often felt utterly alone in the world. I’m of the ‘Millenial’ generation, and probably in the last age group to remember growing up without technology. Some kids in secondary / high school had phones, but all the phones were capable of was phone calls and texts, and it was only a few people who had them. As a teenager, I wanted to question and swim against the tide of society – I never wanted to go out and get drunk or mindlessly do things many peers wanted to do – I wanted to find God, to be spiritual, to be kind to nature, to become a writer, to travel, to find my purpose on a deep level and to put something valuable into the world, to make a change, to advocate for human rights, and animal rights….possibly as many teenagers in one way or another still do. But I was resistant to technology, and how it seemed to be ‘creeping up’ on society, yes, it was good to use the internet on my parent’s home desktop PC, but I refused to get a mobile phone until I literally was compelled to by my mother when I was aged 20, and even then I got an old school basic model that probably now belongs in a museum, and all it was capable of doing was calls and texts….it was really more for my mother’s peace of mind than something I desired. I floated my way walking in parks and near rivers near my beautiful university, studying English Literature, Politics, Gender Studies, Human Rights, International Development, and longing, dreaming of being a writer, and pouring out my heart and thoughts through the written world – ‘old school’ style using actual pen and paper 🙂
Yet despite my daydreaming, my heart was broken, and I was a fragile, fractured little bird who had been tossed by tempest and not comforted. My inner pain was great and unseen to the world, and before knowing The Lord Jesus I felt deeply alone inside despite having people around me. I do think however we were more ‘connected’ growing up without obsessing with our phones and having them only as a means of communication to let people know where we were or for emergencies. Since becoming a Christian, I have despite painful years of healing and various challenges, and sometimes spells of loneliness, never actually been Alone, and never felt alone in the same way as I once did. I believe the deepest need of the human soul is love and connection – with the One Who Created us. Yet, I digress, this is not a sermon, and is not just for believers, it is a post for everyone.
What I want you to be aware of is *why* you are seeking connection from technology, and that you need to establish boundaries with it. There was a time when I realised I needed to set boundaries for the sake of my mental and emotional wellbeing because I was encountering several posts from friends about their relationships, marriages and babies, or even travel and other significant life events….and it was getting me down….feelings that were there already were exacerbated by the ‘comparison trap’ …. I have no doubt that you also face this in your online experience even if the things you are drawn to compare with are different from those I mentioned….maybe they include body image, health, fitness, life goals and such like.
So get to know yourself, your values, how your use of technology either lines up with them or not, and what your personal mental health struggles might be. Set some boundaries so that you already have in mind how using technology will be a positive and healthy experience to you and don’t like we all too often do, just get drawn into the next click or ‘conversation’ / debate.
2. Strike a Balance
While there can be many benefits to our mental health in using technology – for there is a whole world out there where we can find support, information, shared experiences, helpful resources, friendships, inspiration, new opportunities, passions and projects – there can also be many ways in which engaging with technology can cause us mental and emotional distress and can cause us to disengage with real life and human connections, and even find ourselves in a disconnect with ourselves.
Try to use technology purposefully and know what your purpose is before you ‘power up’ as it were. That will give you a sense of satisfaction and you will have more control over the effects on your mental health if you do. Know when it is time to switch off, and to connect in the analogue world. Find out how it feels to walk in the rain, or barefoot through the grass…without feeling the need to document it or share it with anyone else, unless perhaps the someone else is someone you are connecting with in that moment and shared experience. Walk outside and experience the fresh and vibrant colours and life and sounds around you – have a time and space for capturing that whether on film or photo, but then also make time to leave those things at home, or in your pocket, and simply LIVE IT. It will be so good for your soul, your mental health and your emotional wellbeing and sense of connection with your own life. Too often we feel rushed and hurried and bombarded with information, that we can be left feeling lonely, isolated and as if we are watching our lives go by rather than living them, when we face this disconnect. Real life relationships are where real connection is found, even if that relationship is a solitary one with yourself thinking, reading, or reaching out to God in prayer. Relationships take time, work, attention and commitment, so put the phone down and realise that what is before you is so precious, and not everyone needs to know every detail of what is sacred to you. Don’t let your real life relationships and your mental health crumble because of being overly ‘connected’ or merely plugged in to the online world. Savour what it is to be human, to be present in the moment and to be with the people you love, or build upon the relationships you find challenging without the help of a screen to do so all the time.
3. When you are online, seek out the positive
Your mental wellbeing *can* benefit from your online connections. Hopefully someone somewhere might have benefitted from reading this post. I do hope so. I see other people like me who have gone through various challenges to their mental wellbeing, who use their online presence to reach out to and connect with other people, and who use their experiences and what they have learned to help others who might be facing similar challenges in life. You have a wealth of experience at your fingertips, and in your heart. Seek to benefit from positive role models, and add something positive to help someone else too. Being purposeful and thoughtful in our use of technology is sure to help our mental health as well as setting boundaries and knowing when to take a break.
Travelling teaches you(if you have the luxury to travel on your own), to take time out from the people you love so that you can connect on a deeper level with your own life, centre yourself and most importantly connect with your Creator, rediscover your life purpose, all of which in turn will ultimately help you be a better version of you and better care for the people you love when you return to them.
It may be glaringly obvious from the above statement that I am writing as a single person. I am aware that for many travel, holidays, vacation or whatever form seeing the world takes for you may involve spouses, family, children and even extended family and friends. Maybe you are able to carve out some time to yourselves if that is what you need, maybe that seems impossible for you at present. However, a word out for the singletons or solo travellers among us to really make the most of this time in your life, whether it is a temporary season or one that might stretch indefinitely ahead, learn in all seasons of life to view things positively. As humans we need ‘re-wiring’ as by default we seem to be wired to look at (or complain about) what we lack rather than being grateful for what we do have, even if what we have is a lesson or challenge. Perhaps we dwell upon aspects of loneliness or dreams of company rather than seeing the opportunity for spiritual growth, connection and self reflection and nurturing so that we can be better to the people in our lives. I am sure that there are many who would cherish a few precious moments to themselves that they just can’t seem to find in the busyness of their lives. So if you are able to take time out and reconnect with the deeper things in life, see it as an opportunity, one which so many others would love to have….alone doesn’t have to mean lonely, so find a way to thrive in your solitude if you are a solo traveller, or single through the journey of life just now. xx
“There is no fear in Love. Perfect Love casts out all fear”.
If you have been hurt, especially as a child, you may find yourself as an adult, pouring all your effort into merely trying to survive the pain and the brokenness hidden deep within your heart. If you have been hurt repeatedly and if the wound is deep then perhaps you are ‘bleeding’, barely breathing. It is tough. There are no real words to express the depth of pain and fear that is all but crippling. Yet, maybe like me you are a fighter, a survivor, you’ve made it this far….so far…people looking upon you outwardly have no idea of the mental and emotional anguish you’ve lived through and survived, and are working hard to overcome. They don’t see that your survival is miraculous, and that your heart has to pulse so much harder to keep you alive, in every sense, but still you’re barely breathing. But maybe, like me, you’ve been touched by a Love so Pure, so Faithful, so Gentle that this Perfect Love casts out all fear. The Love, the healing, saving, rescuing sacrificial (agape) Love of the Lord Jesus, Who loved you and gave His life for you. This Love has rescued me. He has come to heal the broken hearted and bind up our wounds – mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. And yet this healing is a process. And it takes time. He knows each heart, and perhaps some He will restore with a single breath, a heavenly touch. Not mine, however, and perhaps not yours. He has brought me so far, and yet after all this time, there is still a deep wound, remnants of trauma still linger, and the pain and turmoil within bubbles to the surface from time to time. And He holds me still. He loves me. He Is Great enough for my deep wounds. He can carry me through and carry me home. But what of opening up to the possibility of imperfect love? Could such a thing be for hearts like ours that have been broken, lives that have been filled with seasons of pain and trauma, and our strongest times so far are ones of being in the process of restoration, but never *yet* knowing that ‘someday’ of wholeness that is to come? I don’t know the answers to this. Perhaps you have found a new reality for your timorous heart and you are learning to do more than survive or exist. Maybe you have some lessons for me? Yes, I am Held, life, spirit, soul and body by the Perfect Love of God found in Christ Jesus. And yet, it is only in trusting and knowing the One Who will never fail, leave or forsake us that it is possible to begin to trust mere mortals, knowing that even when people fail, God will not. Yet the heart is a tender vessel. One that needs constant encouragement. And one, if it does not feel safe, or find a safe harbour to rest in, one that will receive it safely just as it is, broken or hurt by others or the experiences of life, as it is, then that timorous broken heart will find a hiding place….the only safe place to hide is in Christ but even so, that broken little heart and mind may find it too hard to believe that it can be taken care of, for it has never really known this, and so it merely whispers, and hides and does not sing the song that it was born to sing…
Travelling teaches youto keep moving forwards. There is something of a momentum in travel, even when you have reached your chosen destination. For there is a certain weight to knowing that one has only a limited time in a certain place, especially when it is different to what you are used to, that keeps you looking, seeing, planning, exploring, doing and going ~ forwards, from one new ‘adventure’ or experience to the next. We seek to ‘make the most of’ our new experiences, knowing that time is fleeting and that before we know it, things will have changed yet again – maybe we will have moved on to a new place, continuing our travels around our little yet magnificent globe, a speck of wonder in this vast universe of Creation, or we will return to the ‘normality’ of our everyday circumstances, and know that we will most probably cease to look at our lives with the same wonder. Knowing this helps us to keep that forward motion and forward thinking.
However, if you are anything like me, you probably find this more challenging to do as you travel through your life generally. Perhaps thoughts about the past keep us from living fully in the present or moving forwards with greater freedom and change into the future. As someone who has been overcoming post traumatic stress primarily caused by childhood bullying, I know that this can be difficult, that one can get stuck, body, mind and heart in a certain place that is so distressing that it is impossible to get free of without help. Yet, exploring the past can sometimes be the most forward compelling thing we can do if we are seeking to break the cycle of whatever has kept us in fetters, as we face that seemingly overwhelming challenge of thinking of ourselves in new ways and moving towards freedom.
Perhaps we need that reminder that the journey of our lives on earth is limited, is fleeting and that we need to wake up to the awareness to make the most of the time and life we have. For me, for the past few years that has meant putting in a lot of hard work and effort in confronting a painful past of childhood hurt and trauma from bullying, but I don’t believe it was time wasted ~ as challenging as it is to change and heal, it is a journey and a road well worth travelling on, so that we can wake up, be free, and live in the new moments that Life Gifts us with. For me, this freedom is in Christ, and I take His Hand as He leads me on in this journey through life. xx
God, the Living God, desires a relationship with us. Individually. He communicates with us in so many ways, through His creation, the intricate weavings of nature around us, through people, our circumstances, and that ‘still small voice’ within.
And yet the clearest communication we have with our Great God, our Loving Heavenly Father is through His Word and times spent in prayer.
How much God desires us! To be with us! His heart could not bear heaven without us, so Jesus Christ came to be among us, die for us, and bring us to new life in Him at such immense cost to Himself.
His arms open wide to us in His suffering for us on the cross dispels our doubts over whether or not God could love us, whether He wants to hear from us, to be with us, to take care of us.
And yet, we do struggle. For those among us who desire a deeper relationship with the God Who loves us so much, whether or not we are yet convinced of His love for us, for those of us who are seeking to find a way back to closeness with God, and for those who want to know whether there is a God out there Who hears us, what small steps can we take in our journey forwards to Him, Who Is waiting, arms outstretched, to Love us, sacrificially love us (agape love) for our own good, as no one else ever could love us?
Might I suggest a simple step if you are struggling to pray? Pray the Scriptures, the True Word of the Living God, found in the Bible, back to Him. Perhaps begin with a psalm or a proverb, or some of the beautiful, passionate, heartfelt and triumphant expressions of the apostle Paul in his letters to the churches, expressing the Greatness of the God he once was opposed to, and yet in Whose purpose and love he has forever been taken up in, to the point of counting everything else as less than rubbish in comparison with the greatness of knowing Christ.
Start small if you need to, knowing that God loves you, hears you, and also loves to hear from you! Ponder each truth as you slowly pray it back to God, talk over it with Him, and listen.
Sometimes the seemingly simplest things yield the deepest pleasures. Be blessed. Christ loves you and died for you and Is the gateway of your life with the Father, by the Holy Spirit. Much love. xx
It’s 12.57am, and I can’t sleep. It is not insomnia as such, but more of an underlying anxiety and restless or nervous fear. I know there is nothing to fear. My Great God shelters me under the shadow of His Wing, and covers me with His Almighty protection. However, I have had times over the years of quite troubled sleep, and perhaps these feelings of unease are remnants of that. And yet, my Beautiful God speaks through the darkness to say: “Peace. My Peace I leave with you, My Peace I give unto you, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.
He calls us to “consider the birds of the air” who do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns” and yet, our “Heavenly Father feeds them”. I hope the picture above brings you some feelings of calm, peace and joy. This afternoon a friend came over for a cup of tea and a chat, and we spoke about solitude, community and retreat. I told her about the walk in which I took these photographs and how it touched my heart to see that these beautiful birds, this little squirrel were so uniquely cared for by God. Having an interest in photography and a passion for capturing beautiful moments of beautiful things, I am able to hone in on the detail and marvel over the intricacy of a bird’s feathers, the ridges on its feet and tiny claws, and just how wonderfully designed the life around me is.
In a world where there is so much noise, uncertainty and fear, it can be hard to find peace. There is so much that feels tumultuous, uncertain, frightening, terrifying even for those people living in war zones, areas of unrest, famine, drought, violence, and sadly the list goes on and on… We tend to think of peace as the absence of conflict, of calm and steady waters, of our circumstances all in alignment when all is well. However, this surface calm is not the true Peace that our souls long for. We need an anchor of Peace for our souls, for we are all at some point in our lives tossed upon restless waters. I searched long and hard for years to find peace, and just as a bubble on a stream, such peace was so fragile, and temporary, certain to burst and vanish with the slightest friction. Temporary peace or calm means that we are forever restless in the ongoing pursuit of calm. The same goes for happiness or joy, of love, of acceptance. However, I have found, or been found by, a Peace that Is enduring, and that is a tangible, real and experienced comfort to my soul at the deepest level. This Peace is the very Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He Is with us.
We are called to “seek peace and pursue it”, and I believe the only real way of doing this is in our pursuit of God, and in our resting in Him. However, there is something to be said about drawing aside from a busy world if and when we can, and to take time out, to pursue quiet surroundings, times of focused reflection and sharing, times for creativity, healing, letting go, rejuvenation, of solitude, and of companionship.
My friend actually came over today as we are planning a spiritual and creative “staycation retreat”, perhaps for three or four days, as something we can pursue and encourage each other through, together.
The process itself is quite special, as I have not found it a common thing to find people with whom these things can be shared with.
And so, as we reach the mid-point of a somewhat wintry feeling April, I continue on with my monthly themes – this month’s being hospitality and planning a creative and spiritual retreat.
I look forward to bringing you on this journey with me as we venture onwards together into quieter, more relaxing terrain.