We all must be familiar with the news of this unfamiliar virus Covid-19 by now. It is fair to say that a lot of things have been revealed about human behaviour during this time:
Fear of the unknown.
Feelings towards dying (a good time to consider our need for eternal salvation, and lift our eyes above our immediate concerns!).
Panic that leads to hoarding and buying more than we need.
A lack of consideration for the impact that our behaviour will have on others, such as the most vulnerable who may find that they cannot even find their basic necessities when they go to the shops.
A desire to help.
Self protection and self preservation.
Isolation and loneliness.
Fear and concern for other people.
The realisation that viruses don’t respect borders and at the end of the day no matter where we are from, we are all human and vulnerable to things that are bigger than us.
It’s a mixed bag, isn’t it!
And I don’t condemn or judge any of you / us who have experienced a range of these emotions or attitudes. Initially I saw the panic buying and I avoided it completely. Then the practical side of me considered the possible reality that I would have to stock up on what I need…but not to the extent of hoarding. Simultaneously I want to help other people and have been looking online for ways to do that.
We oscillate between self protection and wanting to help others, or at least I imagine most of us do. Our immediate concerns are for ourselves, our nearest and dearest, for avoiding causing harm to others and where safe, to help other people.
What can we do to help?
Keeping ourselves safe and well and hygienic actually is a help to others if we can curb the spread of this virus. Keeping away from frail or vulnerable people if we are at risk of compromising their immune system in some way. Keeping up to date with scientific advice to avoid the spread of misinformation. Helping each other with anxiety and fear, and most of all casting our cares upon God and seeking His Wisdom and love for humanity.
We can also do practical things where it is safe to do so. I’ve seen and heard of people doing things that encourages me. Such as parents who home-school / home educate their children sharing resources and advice with those whose children’s schools have been closed. I’ve heard stories of small local shops providing free care packages to vulnerable and elderly people and care homes, at a cost to themselves. My local church has set up an online support group where people can ask for or offer help in line with specialist advice to keep people safe. People checking in by telephone or email or text or Skype with those who are self isolating. Donations to charities. A local college recently set up a crowd funding page to raise money to prepare care packages for vulnerable people and they had to ask for people to stop donating because they had exceeded their target by far, and were donating the extra money to local food banks and homeless charities.
We have to start somewhere. We all have a selfishness in our hearts, and protecting ourselves and our loved ones is a good thing, but selfishness is not. Yet being honest with ourselves is the first step forwards. Realising that we are a global community is the next. And sharing ways to help and encourage each other safely will help us a little further down the path of kindness. We all need each other.
I need you. I need your advice and suggestions and encouragement. Because I don’t want to live selfishly through this time.
So my small step for today is to write this blog post. To encourage you no matter where you are that you can make a small change today, and if you need help, to encourage you to reach out to someone while at the same time staying safe and well.
Most of all I can pray – for each and every one of you reading this, for your loved ones, family, friends and those in your neighbourhoods to be protected, for your ultimate healing and salvation and also for your protection on earth also. God bless and let’s all help and encourage each other to live kindly in these uncertain times. x
At the start of a New Year we often find ourselves evaluating our priorities and assessing our progress over the past year. Many people have health and fitness goals, however, focusing on things like nutrition is only part of what it means to be healthy, and being spiritually fit, healthy and nourished is fundamental to true success in life.
This post is geared towards fellow believers in The LORD who want to deepen and strengthen their relationship with God and to live a life led by Him. It is also for anyone who is interested in knowing more about God, anyone who is interested in reading The Word of God, but unsure as to where to start.
Over the past few years I have done various ‘plans’ using an online resource called ‘YouVersion’. This provides written as well as audio and visual Bible reading resources, and if you log in and create an account you can see that there is a wide range of resources that include reading Scripture by books in the Bible, by life topics, and many categories so that you will surely find something that will help you with where you are at in life whatever your age, life stage, or situation.
Last year, however, I tried something new, and this was a Bible reading plan via YouVersion that I did with other people in my church. The resource is set up so that you have the option of doing plans individually or with other people. Up until last year I had only ever gone through these plans individually. However, the plan involved reading a chapter of the Bible a day, and at the end of the year this resulted in reading through the whole New Testament. Weekends were ‘reflection’ days so there were no readings for these, which also allowed time to play ‘catch up’. I didn’t always manage to do the readings on a day to day basis with this plan, although I would be ‘feeding’ myself with Scripture on a daily basis in other ways. This meant that I spent lengthier periods ‘catching up’ but I am pleased and blessed to say that I did finish the year long plan and it was a really positive experience.
One of the highlights for me was that at the end of each reading people could comment and reflect upon and discuss with each other what we had all just read. It provided a wonderful new way of learning and gaining insights from other people as well, which I wouldn’t otherwise have when reading on my own, and I think it is important to have a balance of both personal and devotional reading, and group study. I have to say, I only knew a few of the people doing the study to talk to, and most of the others I still don’t know, which gave a sense of being more connected with a wider group of believers that I may not otherwise have had the chance to have any interaction with.
This year another group study has started which I have also joined in with, covering both the Old and New Testaments, and which will take two years (or one, depending on the reading plan and pace you decide to go at). I am excited about this because it feels like a journey together, of daily mutual encouragement and insight, and most of all growing closer to God and His ways.
I also am looking forward to studying more personal topics to me on an individual basis through this resource, as well as through other avenues of Bible study for me this year.
Of course, as with everything it is important to be discerning, and to prayerfully consider which plans to do, especially if any seem to be led more by a person or theme, than by the Pure Word of God. On the whole, however, I do recommend this online resource to be a good way to nourish our souls and spiritual growth in a manageable way, and which helps us to see our ‘progress’ as we journey through the Bible this year.
So, here is the link if you would like to take a look, and praying for all my Christian brothers and sisters that we will all have a fruitful year, in which God Is greatly glorified in our lives, by His Spirit, and for those who are ‘testing the waters’ that you will respond to His call of Pure Love to You to be part of His family and His kingdom.
God bless, and behold the ‘new things’ He Is doing in your life this year! Shalom. <>< x
There are so many homeless people who are in need of a kind word, a human touch, some food, drink, warmth, safety or even financial help – is it in your power to give a little to someone this month, to let someone know they’re cared about?
Followers of Christ, in a world in which we can choose so many things, let us choose the most excellent way – the way of Love. To love The Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as we would want to be loved.
No one said that the most excellent way would be easy, in fact it is often a difficult path, but it is the Way most pleasing to our Creator God, Who Is Love – agape Love – sacrificial love.
It’s good to remind ourselves and each other that while we were enemies of God, dead in our sins He loved us and gave Himself for us. Our God Is at work within us now, enabling us to love.
We can’t do it on our own, but we can make the choice to ask God to enable us to love with the Love He has poured into our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We can think of how much love was shown to us at the Cross, how much we have been forgiven, and we can honour God by choosing the most excellent way – His Way, that of Love.
Let us examine ourselves. Let us encourage each other. Let us pray for each other to be the vessels of God’s love in this broken, hurting and often unloving world.
Has someone hurt and wronged us? Let us think of our King on the Cross, in Love taking the punishment for us, the very wrath of God that our sins deserved and instead giving us forgiveness, grace, acceptance, perfect love and new life. How can we not be humbled by His love and grace to us. How can we choose bitterness against someone He has Created, someone He loves just as much? As we think on this Truth, He will pour forth love for the one who has wronged us. Perhaps this journey will take time. Hurts caused especially in childhood can be deep and have a hold on us, I have walked through this and it is certainly not an easy path to take, but it is made possible at the Cross. Jesus Christ offers us His very life, and as we let Him in, He will change us from the inside out to be like Him, to love like Him, to think thoughts pleasing to God. Have hope, and trust Him with your hurts. He will replace fear with love for Perfect Love casts out all fear.
Is someone holding something against us? How should we respond? Should we justify bitterness in our own hearts? No. We should open our hearts and minds to the Love of God in Christ Jesus, and choose the most excellent way of forgiving and loving our neighbour. No one said this is easy, but He Is the One working in us, gently enabling us to hand things over to Him.
Are we tempted to justify a grudge against someone? We can choose that way, but really we should choose the most excellent way. Does God not love us when we are ‘difficult’? His love in us will help us to love and to go on choosing to love those in our lives who cause us difficulties.
Should we only choose love when someone shows love to us? Should we only choose to show kindness or give gifts to those who say thank you to us? In this world, perhaps that makes sense, but in God’s Kingdom, it doesn’t. How many things would we lack if God withheld the good gifts He gives us daily, momently that we habitually fail to thank Him for? Do we acknowledge and thank Him for our breath, our life, our health, our clothing, food, shelter, friendships, family, employment, skills, sight, abilities, our senses, our mental health, our good times, His comfort and Presence through the hard times, His Word and Truth, His protection in a dark world? I’m sure we all forget to thank Him for everything He does for us from time to time, but He goes on giving to us, He goes on showing kindness, He keeps on loving. We should do likewise where it is wise to do so.
Did a friend forget or choose to ignore you on your birthday? Do you choose to ‘retaliate’ with treating them the same, or do you choose to love them with Christ’s love? Choose the most excellent way, and be free from the bounds of the world’s way of thinking and living.
Did someone selfishly choose what pleases them and disregard what matters to you? You can choose to treat them likewise, or you can choose to bring the unfairness before your merciful and loving God and allow Him to lead you the best way, and ask Him to show you and enable you how to respond.
Isn’t there someone or some situation in your life right now, today, that is tempting you to choose an imperfect path, an unkind response, or even one that withholds love rather than specifically causes direct or obvious harm? The world tells us ‘don’t get mad, get even’. God calls us to Love. The world tells us to protect ourselves, while God’s protection frees us to rise above the shackles. We should seek His way, we should protect ourselves in Him from bad situations, relationships and company, but where we are safe to choose to reach out in love, we do not need to fear that we will be losing out – God gives grace and glory – no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Are you being taken for granted? Is your kindness being abused? Is someone leaving you out? Are groups shunning you from their company? Perhaps you cannot change the situation, or their response but you can find hope and strength, comfort and love in Your Loving Heavenly Father God, He will love you through it, and He will help your heart to grow strong to pulse with the beat of His Love, for Him and for others, knowing that you yourself are safely loved. We have a freedom the world cannot give us, and which the world cannot take away from us. Let us allow that love and freedom to shine so brilliantly in our lives, that those who wrong us will stand in awe of this most excellent way – the Way of Love – the Way of Christ Jesus. Be blessed. x
I’ve always been interested in human psychology. I’m sure a lot of you out there reading this are too. However, don’t you find that there is a marked and poignant difference between those instances where we have a purely intellectual fascination in an aspect of psychology from when we have a personal reason or investment to figure ourselves and other people out? I certainly do. The first approach perhaps is driven by curiosity, fascination, a love of learning and discovery. The second is perhaps tinged more with pain, hurt, confusion and a desire to seek out answers to make sense of things we are grappling with ‘in real life’ and / or to find some kind of mental and emotional healing. Sometimes both go hand in hand as two sides of the same coin.
One area of exploration that has come to my attention over the past while is the use of silence in human relationships, its power and place, its promise, and its pain. I can think of five different people over the past few years who use silence as a form of communication. However, without actually saying anything, how can a person know that the message they are portraying is the one that they want to be received? I don’t know. It’s never been something I have intentionally done to anyone, and never something I intend to initiate. The Power of Silence:
Silence can be a blessed and a beautiful thing. Many of us will be familiar with the phrase that ‘silence is golden’. What does that mean? Silence is rare, precious, valuable, of great importance, a gift, to be treasured.
When I think of silence as a gift, I think of those precious moments of solitude where the noise of the world fades out, and we find peace in the stillness. I think of times of rest and relaxation, of being in nature, and although not being void of sound, of finding repose in the natural sounds of a babbling brook, of wind rustling through golden autumnal leaves, of gentle birdsong.
Sometimes I think of the beauty and power of silence as those moments when you embrace and hold someone you love and where conversation and chatter cease.
There is power in silence also, as Scripture tells us, in our souls waiting quietly before God. As we quieten down, perhaps in the sense of a ‘retreat’ we can find hope and connection, we can ‘hear God’s voice’, we can feel more grounded in ourselves, more in touch with the natural world, and find power in silence in a way that gives us clarity, answers, direction, meaning and restfulness that is all too easily dissipated in a world of noise and rush and hurry.
There is Power in Silence. And it can be Beautiful, as we ponder the vastness of existence, the complexity of the universe, the intricacy of our own souls, the value of the life we live and of the people around us. The Pain of Silence:
Sadly, however, there can also be pain in silence. Perhaps you have experienced the loss of a loved one, and you miss the sound of their voice.
But what of other types of silences in human relations and psychology? Silence that is not so much about absence as it is about presence? It’s something I am trying to understand a little more of just now, for the latter reason in the opening to this post.
Silence as a healer – sometimes we all find that we need to retreat, to pull away from the noise of the world and other people, and take time to be still and to heal, and this can be a beautiful yet painful thing. I personally am the kind of person who needs a lot of quiet time, time in nature, and time away from the crowds. Time to pray, to connect, to be still, to write, to understand. Sometimes we are more aware of our pain in times of silence, but inevitably, if used well, it is a positive aspect of human life to take time out to be still, to be quiet, and can indeed be very healing.
Sometimes I feel the need for taking a few days to myself to find the benefits of silence, and time with God, alone. In such instances, I communicate and let the people closest to me know that this is what I’m doing, so that they know that the quiet time is to do with my own needs for personal growth, and nothing that they might have done wrong.
As we seek to grow in ourselves, we would be wise and mature to reflect upon how our actions and inactions might affect or be interpreted by those around us, especially those with whom we are usually in most contact with so as not to cause unnecessary hurt or misunderstanding. I live on my own, but if I want to have some focused quiet time to myself, I’ll phone my family and let them know, and they respect that and give me some space and when we come together we have a healthy and loving place to pick up from.
Thinking of other people as well as ourselves helps to overcome misunderstanding, hurt and confusion, and it is a kind and responsible approach to life that we all do well to be mindful of.
However, sometimes silence is used in interpersonal relationships to hurt rather than to heal. Why is this?
Perhaps you have a spouse, a family member or close friend with whom you have either used or experienced ‘the silent treatment’ from. How do we interpret this and what could it mean?
I’m not an expert, but as I try to figure some things out, my ponderings have led me to believe that silence when used by one person against another could perhaps convey some of the following: 1. The need for space:
Sometimes people use silence as a way of forming and setting boundaries with other people, of highlighting the distinction of one from another, and of asserting individuality. Men and women communicate differently, and sometimes men are silent, not in a manipulative way, but just because they want space and time to think about things, whereas women’s default communication style seems to be to talk things through. However, regardless of gender, people more generally can be silent because they may be subconsciously or intentionally creating space, distance, and be thinking through some things by themselves. 2. Silence as avoidance:
Whereas with the first point above, silence and space could come from a natural gravitation towards ‘problem solving’, or thinking things through, it can also be used more negatively as a form of avoidance. Sometimes people fall silent as a means of self-protection, of avoiding conversation or confrontation, or because they just don’t want to deal with something and it’s easier just to wish it away, by running away, or creating space. 3. Silence to communicate hurt:
We all hurt each other and get hurt from time to time, it’s inevitable in any human relationships, and for the most part in healthy interactions it is totally unintentional. Still, sometimes we just need time to be silent to either deal with and process or to communicate hurt that someone has caused us. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t caused me hurt or offence in some way at some time, and being human I must reflect that it must be the case that I have unintentionally done to others similar things as they have unintentionally done to me. To err is human, to forgive divine. Sometimes we feel it is all we can do to slink away, to nurse our wounds, and to come back when we are ready. For the most part I don’t tell people of all the things they do that hurt me because I know their character that they are kind people and don’t intentionally mean to do the things they do, just as I don’t if I cause people to feel that way – I don’t do this because overall I know that I can maturely bring my ‘issues’ before God and seek His strength, wisdom and grace and move on in healthy communication. The point is the intention to continue to build upon healthy relationships. 4. Silence as a weapon:
Unfortunately some people use silence, whether intentionally or only partially so, as a means of control, of negative communication, of power, and even punishment or manipulation. Certain personality types such as narcissists may have these tendencies, and may use silence to hurt other people, to cause concern, confusion, self-doubt in the other person as to what they have done wrong to ‘deserve’ being ignored, or to illicit a response.
I’d like to think that people like that are few and far between. I have come across, and worked with people like that in the past, but I’d like to think I can safely say that all of the people I consider friends do not set out to hurt or manipulate people by using silence.
And yet, I find that friends can and do use silence as a means to communicate, quite loudly, the problem being that maybe they aren’t aware of the message that is being conveyed. On the receiving end:
Being on the receiving end, unexpected silences from friends can convey the following, whether true and intended, or not:
You have offended me, and I will not tell you why.
You are not important to me.
I can’t deal with you.
You have served your ‘use value’ to me, I don’t need you or your friendship any more.
I discard you.
I don’t want you to be involved in this aspect of my life / my life.
I’ve moved on, and don’t consider the friendship important enough to communicate this to you.
My feelings are more important than yours, you should know why I am silent, and if you don’t you should figure it out.
I don’t want to deal with confrontation, so I’ll do things on my own terms, managing my own feelings, and will try not to worry about if I have hurt you, because I can’t really handle that.
You’re too much for me, these things….xxxxx……about you bother me, but I don’t know how to tell you that.
I have a new life, new friends now, you’re in the past but I don’t want to offend you by telling you this, so I’ll just move on and hope you figure it out – no hard feelings.
I’m moving into a new season of life, I have new people, I wish you all the best, but the past is the past, hopefully you can understand that from the silence.
I don’t like you.
I’m too good for you.
I’m too busy for you.
You’re a nuisance and inconvenience in my life, I’m better off without you, please leave me alone.
So in case you feel you have good reasons to use silence in a relationship or friendship, be aware that it could be misinterpreted, cause a great deal of hurt and confusion, and can leave the other person feeling used, washed up and discarded.
However, if you find yourself on the receiving end and thinking any of the above, try not to internalise these things, however hard that might be. Most likely those things aren’t true or valid, or aren’t entirely so, and we all have things going on in ourselves and the person treating you in what feels like the above ways probably (or hopefully) doesn’t intend you to feel any of those bad things. Be kind to yourself, communication takes courage, so be gentle with yourself and with those people in your life who don’t really know how to do that well, and so prefer to risk causing greater hurt through silence. We all need a bit of work, and we all need a lot of grace, so focus on being loving, kind, gentle, and understanding, try to gain insight, and try to be the type of person that you aspire to be – one that is kind, patient, loving, understanding, gentle, keeps no record of wrongs, forgiving, helpful, strong, courageous, communicative, an encourager and a blessing to others rather than a source of hurt. The Promise of Silence:
As you can see from the above, silence leaves room for a whole lot of things! It can leave room for healing, for growth and for hope, but conversely it unfortunately, when communication is withheld can leave room for miscommunication, false beliefs, hurt, pain, negativity, and confusion. Be careful how you use silence in your life, and the lives of others. Don’t abuse it, because you never know how much you could unintentionally lose when you’re not brave enough to bring things to the light. Don’t let things fester, be honest in your communication – “Speak the Truth in Love”. So you might offend someone by what you say, by wanting to clear things up or communicate how they made you feel. Maybe you will find that you have caused them hurt too and give them an opportunity to help you grow as well. But by bringing things to light and communicating, you create the opportunity for growth, for sharing, for understanding and for a healthy and mature way to move forwards taking into consideration what both parties have to say. Don’t be afraid of that. But speak Truth in Love and with noble and kind intentions. You may just find that people are far more understanding than you give them credit for.
What is of more concern, I think is not the hurt and offence caused by trying to communicate, but the hurt, pain, and confusion by leaving space for things to be imagined, by not saying anything at all. Maybe what you think is ok from your point of view, comes across very differently to your intended recipient. And if you do intend to hurt people by using silence, perhaps it is time to turn away from that in humility and seek Forgiveness.
So, what of the promise of silence?
In the Bible, there are passages where people are calling out to God, lamenting His ‘silence’ and that He seems and feels far from them. I have experienced such seasons in my life. However, I realise that I have a relationship with God and as I grow in that faith replaces fear, trust and knowledge replace anxiety and worry. Why? Because I know my God’s proven character. Where He is silent on something, He is drawing me closer to Him to trust Him. It doesn’t mean that what is important to me, that He is silent on, isn’t important to Him too. He loves me. He loves you. He is a communicating God, and if He is seemingly silent on something it is for a very good reason, and I can trust His Word and His Character – He Is Good, and He Is Love. There is great promise in silence, in knowing Jesus Christ.
However, there is no one else who is so faithful and true. No one. No family member, friend, relationship, spouse or soul mate. There is no one as Faithful, Loving and True as The Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no one else who always has your absolute best intentions in His Heart, even if it doesn’t make sense to you. There is no one else who has or ever will pour out their love in sacrifice to take your punishment and forgive your sins, and draw you into His eternal care, as the Living God.
There is promise in the silences we commit to God. There is hope in knowing that with all the manifold things in our lives that we don’t understand, He does. And He Is loving and gentle and kind and knows how to lead and teach us more about Him, about ourselves and about other people and to learn to live these things out in a way that honours Him as He enables us. God Is always drawing us to Himself, to think upon Him, for His ways Are Perfect. His arms stretched wide on the cross remind us that He Is selfless and calls us to be like Him, to think of others and not just of ourselves.
It can be hard to know how to do this in practice, because we are a bunch of muddled up sinful people. But we are not alone. All we need to do is ask in faith, believing that Jesus Christ Is The Way, and that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth.
How intensely practical this is when it comes to human relationships, when we don’t know what to do. When we put God first, we allow Him to work in the silence, to bring promise where without Him there would only be pain.
And if you find that you can’t relate to these things, if you don’t believe, then what promise can you find in silence? From where you are just now, you can still find promise, you can find hope and a desire to understand people better, to be self-reflective and think about the impact your behaviour, your communication or lack of it has upon other people, even as you think about what effect they have on you.
None of us were made to live in isolation, we are social beings, but we also have a sometimes intense need for space and silence.
My reflection point for myself, and perhaps it could be for you, is how can I seek to use silence in my life in a way that is borne out of love, and is selfless, taking into account the needs of others and the impact it might have upon them. For me, the only truly wise and loving way to do this, is to look to Jesus. And for those in my life who use silence negatively, and not in the Love of God, I choose to forgive, and commit these silences to Him, to find in Him, their promise. x
Before the day begins, and by that I mean before you start ‘doing’ all the things you usually do in the day, before you get going and are off and on your way, stop.
What is one of the first things many people do in the morning after settling in and beginning to get ready? People these days go online. It’s 7.38am and I’ve been up since 5.50am (this night owl’s attempts to become more of a morning person are beginning to bring forth some fruit, albeit gradually 🙂 ) and I spent the first hour and a half or so offline, in this beautiful little analogue world 🙂
I encourage you to take some time before ‘switching on’ to the busy, noisy world around you and the online world, as inspiring as it can be, to wait, to breathe in this morning, your own morning, and connect with your own life. How did I spend my time? In prayer, in writing down my thoughts as they came to me, thanking God, gratitude, a little bit of colouring in my yearly planner and a picture I’m working on, drinking tea and eating breakfast without distraction. I feel all the better for it. To be honest my mood wasn’t the best at the start but spending some time just connecting with my own life without comparison has lifted me. I now feel more motivated to continue with my day – prayer, Bible study, exercise, work, and all that the day holds for me. Even if you have just five or ten minutes to spare at first, just take that time, to switch on internally before you switch on any devices. It will help you embrace the day with greater authenticity and inspiration. Be blessed. x
Challenge: What would you do with that ‘analogue time’ in the morning?
Following on from my recent series (which is awaiting a final concluding blog post) on my personal / writing retreat, I have a few words that will hopefully encourage you that even if you don’t feel you have the time to take a retreat, even if that is in your own home, and even if it is a mini retreat over a weekend, you can plan what I’d like to call ‘mini mini-retreats’…or maybe micro retreats if you prefer 🙂
This is something you can achievably plan to incorporate into your week, your weekend or even your daily life. What do I mean by a micro retreat? It’s simply time that you have set aside to focus on an aspect of your life that is important to you, giving it the care and attention you long to. You may, like myself, only have rare occasions where you can deeply delve into creative projects you are involved in where over a space of a few days or even a week you are immersed in that creative experience and set aside time without having to worry about other commitments. However, on a regular basis, you can still ‘go on retreat’ in a focused and meaningful way, even if the breadth and depth of your experience differs from a longer time spent in this way. In some ways, because it is shorter and more focused time, you may reap unexpected benefits and glean new insights into your self and life.
So, think about what you’d like to focus on. Like me, you may have many different aspects of life that are important to you that you’d like to give time care and attention to. Perhaps self care, meditative time in nature, prayer, reading the Bible, reading generally, blog writing, spending time alone, painting, writing, photography, journaling, model making, music, or simply just getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You can be flexible with how you fit such times into your daily and weekly life. All you need to do is set aside, protect and honour that time. In business speak, ‘ring fence’ that time for a specific purpose. Whether it is 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, or half a day, you can modify and change things to suit your own life. But once you’re in that time, treat it as you would a retreat – no distractions, find a place by yourself, undisturbed, make a warm cosy drink and spend that time giving attention to that one specific thing that matters to you. You can have many ‘mini mini retreats’ or micro retreats in a month, week or even a day. Let it be a time you make special for yourself, and give your full attention to that purpose, with gratitude, intent and a deep focus. And most of all enjoy the time, and seek to be refreshed, as you seek to live a life that you don’t want to ‘get away from’, and learn to live fully right where you are.
Summary of Approach so Far – Has it been Effective? Yes:
Well, day 3 of the retreat has arrived, and this is the final day. My approach to yesterday’s writing was not to set myself specific targets as to word count, as I did on day 1, but to focus on engaging more deeply and enjoying the creative process. Later that day I adapted my approach and set aside a time frame within which to write, but with a focus on the process and no set word count to aim for.
It turned out to be a freeing and productive approach and I have moved forwards in my writing. In case you are interested, total words written of my novel over days 1 and 2 is 6,142 words. This is something I have been working on over a number of years already, so I wasn’t starting from scratch and therefore already had a narrative and momentum in place. However, if you are approaching a retreat with the idea of producing something completely new, it is helpful to do some brainstorming before hand, to sketch out some rough ideas of what you want to focus on and write about so that you start your retreat with inspiration and not feeling at a loss as to what you are actually going to create.
As to where those words have taken me – I have been able to develop the narrative, the characterisation as well as introducing new characters. I’m happy with the quality of my writing, but I do think that I may come back to refine a few sentences at a later point. More deeply, the development of one of my protagonists, who is an expression of myself, has helped me to change the way I see myself and circumstances and potential for overcoming challenges in my own life, so that is definitely an aspect of the retreat that will stay in my heart and that I will take forwards into everyday life.
Morning of Day 3:
Taking time aside for a personal retreat, laying aside many of the usual daily distractions and everyday ‘noise’ to focus on a particular task can be very beneficial on a number of levels. However, it can also be a time when in a healing sense, difficult things can rise to the surface of our hearts, that we might be tempted to ‘stuff down’, especially during our usual busy routines. This can be challenging but also in the long term freeing if we allow ourselves to work through things to come out stronger on the other side, rather than running from them.
Final day, anxiety, and tips for maintaining momentum once you re-enter the ‘real world’:
Anxiety issues are bothering me again, but I can choose how to think and react to these unpleasant feelings. I have suffered for many years from anxiety, panic and PTSD, but I am overcoming them. That aside, in general, people may feel a sense of restlessness, anxiety and even panic when their retreat is drawing to a close.
Suddenly you are more aware of the shortness of time, you may not have accomplished what you set out to do, you may have a mess around you to tidy and have to prepare for ‘going back’ to your everyday world and routine, and after having been safely tucked away in your own creative space without having to contend with other people’s problems, thoughts, demands or chatter, it can be a source of anxiety to conclude a retreat well.
I realise that I am partly in this state, but I have found breaking things down, and blogging the process has been entirely beneficial and productive for me, and hopefully interesting to you in considering your own retreat needs, approaches and expectations.
To keep from feeling overwhelmed, I am just approaching each bit of the day as it comes. This morning I had breakfast, spent time in prayer, and listening to Psalm 119 online as it sometimes helps me to concentrate on the Word when hearing it audibly.
It is currently just after 10am, and I am blogging this update, while listening to calming instrumental background music to help manage the anxiety. This morning, I have new thoughts and developments that I’d like to write more about in my novel, so I may spend a little time doing that. However, I feel like I am also in a good place with it in terms of ‘next steps’ having had this concentrated writing time, as there are some details that I will need to research and this will enable me to have a task in mind for when I do go back into my day to day life and have less focussed writing time – I can leisurely look into researching certain things that I am including in some upcoming scenes for when I do get another chance to sit down and write.
It’s good to have something like that so that once you move into a busier routine when you have other commitments to balance, if that is also the case for you, then you won’t just be left feeling like your project has come to a halt. Maybe there are aspects of your book or project you can research, talk to people about, take notes, prepare ideas and so forth without actually having to write about them at that stage. That will help you keep the momentum going and allow yourself time to think and ‘mull over’ ideas for when the time comes around again for more focussed writing.
It’s now 10.18am, and I will spend a modest amount of time writing and laying down some ideas, and points for future research, that I can explore in more depth at a later point.
Update at 11.37am: I wrote an additional 227 words of my novel this morning, and as the new concepts and scenes I have begun to introduce are a little bit ‘bigger than me’ at the moment, I will need to spend time in prayer, reading, researching, thinking and seeking wisdom as to how to develop them further. So, with those exciting challenges ahead, I am concluding the novel writing part of the retreat, having written a grand 3 day total of 6,369words, and feeling Thankful to God.
It is morning, 8.15 am, and I have been up for around 45 minutes. Last night at around 3.30am I was able to do some more writing, which has brought me a little further along and left me feeling excited as to how things will develop for my characters. I only wrote an additional paragraph, so my word count over the past evening and early morning is a bit over 1,000 words. Thank you for reading my earlier blog posts about preparing for this writing retreat, I am encouraged to share this journey. I have been working on this book on and off for just over ten years, and it is an expression of a deep place within my soul.
I am blessed to have this time off from work, even ‘just’ three days, to savour the creative process and take my time with things.
This morning, the sun is shining and there is a cool, gentle and crisp breeze in the air. It often rains here, so a day like this is a gift, and I am thankful. I can hear the chatter of birdsong through my open window, and I can also hear the rush of traffic over the motorway bridge as commuters make their way to work. I am both cocooned from the world, being on the 10th floor and with my windows laced with tulle to ‘keep the world out’ but also to allow me to observe it. My view overlooks the city, but in the distance I can see hills, trees, a few fluffy clouds, and a pastel blue sky. I awoke with thoughts running through my mind of things I wanted to write, which is lovely, to have that creative flow so early on. I am ‘half ready’ if that makes sense, having prepared myself for the day and got changed into some light and comfortable clothing, but I am not ready enough to go outside. After some refreshing water, I didn’t go straight to writing, but I spent the first 40 minutes or so in prayer and worship and committing my time to God.
Music helps me to quieten myself and be still before God and the lyrics help focus my thoughts and intentions and allow God to guide my heart and purpose.
If you are interested, this has been my morning worship playlist today. The lyrics are beautiful if you take time to listen, and the final song is really a prayer and offering to God and a request for Him to establish the work of our hands, for His glory, for without Him we can do nothing.
I also came across in my ‘reader’ feed a beautiful blog post which inspired me to reflect and I will share a link to that post below. It talks about being humble in our attitudes and what we do, in response to Christ’s humility, and God’s view of those who seem ‘less’ in the eyes of the world. This links to a central theme in my book regarding the transformation of people who have been crushed and downtrodden, to be used mightily as part of a bigger purpose. I will not give too much away, but I was pleased to see this post and the connections that God is leading me to think about.
I recommend that if you are embarking upon a focused time of creativity to begin in quietness and reflection and inspiration, remembering the purpose of what you are doing and the reason behind it. For me, I remind myself that all I do is because of the Love and Sacrifice of my Creator, so to Him I commit this writing retreat, and trust that He will glorify His Great Name and establish the work of my hands.
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…“