Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Category

Scary – isn’t it?

A whole new horizon – and no markers in the sand to say ‘THIS WAY’

This is how I feel as I begin my journey beyond breast cancer.

And yet there is warmth in the sun and the breath of life, and boy does it feel good.

I am thankful to be alive.

6th October marks the anniversary of the day my life changed when I was told I had breast cancer. This is my week of transition when I step off the bridge.

Please come with me on this new journey.

I look back at the things we did before my year of breast cancer treatment. We had workshops on Spiritual Journalling, Touching the Edge of His Cloak, Listening to God’s Heartbeat. We joined the Benedictine Monks for retreats, and we spent a season Listening to God’s Heartbeat.

And now we can also look back on a long slow year exploring a journey with God – making breast cancer an opportunity to get to know God better.

I would like to keep learning and keep sharing – and to do this I value your help.

We have a Celebration on 16th October. BC and I are thrilled at your enthusiastic response. Please let us know if you have missed an invitation and would like to come.

And after the party, I want to build again on the foundations we laid. I value your feedback on two questions:

  • FIRST – I would like to run another WORKSHOP or RETREAT in the New Year? Are you interested to join me, and if so, what topic would you like?
  • SECOND – I would like to start another blog. This would be about what it means to have life to the full: taking John 10:10 and exploring what that means in our lives day by day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full

Please let me know what you think. You can comment in the usual way by clicking on the comments tag at the end.  Or you can email me directly.  The next post tells you how to do that.

And about the new header to my blog. I took this photo after one of my early morning radiotherapy treatments. Sitting in the peace of a summer morning, I recognised how much the obstacle of treatment had become an opportunity to listen to God. What do you think – do you like it or did you prefer the orchids?


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. . the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

As I look back on my year of breast cancer treatment I have many happy memories that have pushed the memory of the grief to the background.

Had you told me at the start of my journey that would happen, I would probably have thought you were just offering me empty words of hope.

Another quote from C.S. Lewis rings true:

Bridge players tell me there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously’. Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it.  And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high; until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. Nothing less will shake a man . . .  out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.

A Grief Observed p 33

And so when the stakes have been horribly high for me I have discovered some deep truths that I could learn no other way.

I have been able to explore myself, my faith and my life. Being forced to move my thinking to the potential end of my life makes it much easier to see the difference between what is important and what is urgent.

And a big discovery is that little things matter a lot.

Yesterday on the radio I heard a discussion about what makes us happy. Most of the debate was about how much money we need to have, and then one man phoned in with a gem of a comment. He gave a 5-step framework for generating happiness. Some simple advice on how to engage with life.

  • Connect – Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to other people and engage with them in what they are doing.
  • Be Active – Move your body as much as you can. Find some form of exercise that you enjoy and enjoy it.
  • Be aware – Move your focus of attention from yourself to what is happening in the lives of those around you and elsewhere. Take a bigger picture view of community.
  • Give – Your time, your attention, your money . . . to make a difference for others.
  • Keep Learning – Be curious, look at things differently, explore new things.

His list gives a good starting point for anyone facing a journey through grief.

We can learn a lot from the little sparrows and how much God values them.

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I need a really good ending to this year – a right of passage that lets everyone know my period of intense breast cancer treatment is over. I am well.

I want to celebrate life and health and love and friendship.

BC and I are deeply grateful for the love and support you have given us.

And so we are having a PARTY.

Come and be our guest – dance CEROC with us on Saturday 16th October.

This will be a party with a difference – we will be taught some dance steps and by the end of the evening we will all be dancing together to our heart’s content.

Put the date in your diary and look out for more details.

Have a look here to see Ceroc in action. If others can do it, we can.  We want YOU to come.

Let’s celebrate together.

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Can we be at peace, let alone find inexpressible joy, in the midst of trouble?

Can what Peter says be true in our experience?

We look at others who have walked through times of trouble to see if they have found peace. And if they did, can they help us find it too?

A close friend, who continues to endure considerable anxiety and uncertainty about her family, shared her experience. She speaks of placing herself in an imaginary Circle of Peace where she has control over what is in the circle with her and what remains outside.

We remember that depression comes when we dwell negatively on the past, and anxiety when we construct negative what if scenarios for the future.

Let’s look at what my friend is doing by managing her thinking.

  • She meditates on God’s presence with her and his promises to her. Doing that keeps her in a resourceful state.
  • She monitors her thoughts and feelings, building on what is helpful and getting rid of what brings her down.
  • She is choosing not to reflect back with regret nor look forward with fear. Instead she is keeping only the present moment on her horizon. Dealing with now is enough. That way she protects herself from anxiety and depression
  • She is not denying the reality of what is happening. Instead she is choosing how much of her life it occupies. She prevents her troubles from dominating her life.
  • She is not turning her back on her family’s suffering – instead she is managing herself so that she is better able to enter trials with them.

Being in her presence is a peaceful experience.

I sense her focus in the moment – her openness to me. I hear her love and pain for her family.  I hear her love and concern for the suffering of others.

She speaks of her faith and I see that what she says is aligned with what she does.

This is not a trite positive mental attitude.

This is someone who engages deeply with life; who is able to enter suffering and not be overwhelmed by it.

But can there be inexpressible joy in such a managed circle of peace?

To answer this I need to change perspective and consider what joy might be.

And the picture that comes to mind is of being a child wrapped in the strong and loving embrace of a father’s arms. A father who loves unconditionally, who understands and who protects.

The circle is the loving arms of our heavenly Father. There we find safety, comfort . . and joy in knowing that we are loved and that our Father is in control.

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

So, can we be at peace in the midst of trouble?

What needs to happen for it to be true for us . . . ?

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. . . inexpressible and glorious joy

These words ring in my head since I posted yesterday about Happiness – can it last?

There must be more to happiness than simply being aware of and enjoying the present moment. A happiness like that is real but fragile.

I want to have a robust perspective on life – one that does not insulate me in a protective bubble.

I want to come to terms with myself, my relationships, my fellow human beings and what we do to each other.

And there are bigger issues – what about the terrible suffering that people, communities and nations endure?

Suffering is real.

Who and where is God in all this? Does it matter?

Am I stretching this too far? These things matter a lot to me, and I think they do to most of us.

The apostle Peter talks about an inexpressible and glorious joy. He spent critical years learning with Jesus. He suffered personally and he witnessed the opposition, abuse, rejection and crucifixion of Jesus. And yet he speaks about hope and joy . .

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. . . .  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church, gave an excellent teaching series from the book of Philippians on JOY in Suffering, Anxiety, Loneliness, Temptation, Conflict, Exhaustion, Poverty. Log in and listen to the one that is most relevant to your experience – I found the one on suffering really helpful.

This is about our spirituality – the salvation of our souls.

I am reading about soul-training, the stuff of getting to know God. Next week I will begin to share some of the things I am learning.

Those of you who study theology and philosophy will know far more than me about all of this – please join in and share your knowledge with us all. 🙂

Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend. I pray you will experience many moments of joyous happiness and that God will begin to show you the inexpressible and glorious joy that you can be yours to sustain you through the challenges of life.

Can anyone suggest some music to go with the picture and text above?

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You are right – it is all very well feeling happy on a sunny day when you can spend hours with friends, eat chocolate and cycle through the warm wind.

But what about when it is cold and wet and you have a heap of things to do as long as your arm?

What about when you are worried about your job, your family, your health?

If I can only be happy when things are going well, then I will spend most of my life feeling miserable.

BC and I were having one of our deep and meaningful conversations last week about what has happened to us since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I asked him how he thought I was. He looked at me and said, “I think you are happy”.

“Tell me more” I asked

“I think you are happier now than you were this time last year”

Now that makes me very curious. How can I be happier with cancer than I was without it?

. . . Because my cancer has not become ME.  I am so much more.

And the part that is ME has been given something it needs – time to reflect on what is important to me and to make changes.

So here is a challenging question . . . Is what you are doing getting you what you want?

And to help you know what you want, ask yourself some more questions

  • If you had just 6 months to live, what would you do in these last 6 months?
  • What have you always secretly wanted to do, but never thought you could?
  • What single thing would you do in your life if you knew you could not fail?

Answering these questions gives you an idea of what your core values are. These are your principles, the framework of what you hold as most important in your life.

Living out your core values is the key foundation to happiness that endures. When values are crossed, then we experience conflict.  Think of the guilt of knowing we have told a lie when truthfulness is important to us; or think of the hostility that exists between those who believe abortion is murder and those who believe it is a woman’s right.

My cancer has given me time to think and examine my heart. J.I. Packer mentioned this as the first step towards knowing God. As I look into my heart I recognise that knowing God with integrity is a high value for me.

So what about happiness that endures? Is there such a thing?

As I draw near to God there is something deep in the core of my being that  feels good. I am me. I am closer to who I want to be and who I am meant to be than I was this time last year.

Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

I love Lucy’s metaphor of a spiritual jet stream. We can explore how to get there and how to stay there as we learn more about knowing God.

What do you think about happiness – is it realistic to expect to find it when life is tough? Let me know . . .

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. . . a day like one I had this week.

I felt unhappy. In fact I WAS unhappy – all day.

So I got curious and asked myself

How do I know I am unhappy? –  What am I doing and thinking and feeling that lets me know I am unhappy?

Well, first thing I recognise is that I feel a weight on my shoulders that has been there since I got up.  This was going to be a bad day.

And there is chatter in my head . . .

I have scars on my body from all the procedures I have gone through – I don’t like them. I don’t like the bruise on my hand from the blood test – why can’t folk be more careful.  I am tired – I don’t like it.  I cannot work – I don’t like it. I miss my colleagues. My nails are damaged by the drugs – I don’t like it.

I am making a list of reasons to feel sorry for myself. I feel hard done by and disappointed with my lot in life . And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

There is more . . .

Why did I get breast cancer – it’s not fair.  I miss my work – it’s not fair. I wish * * * had not said that to me – it hurt.

I am looking back at everything that has gone wrong in the past months.  I feel angry and resentful. And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

There is even more . . .

What if the cancer comes back? What if I never work again? What if my brain has been damaged by the chemotherapy!?  What if my eyesight is damaged?

I am looking forward and seeing trouble ahead. I feel hopeless and helpless. And the chatter goes round and round in a loop.

I look outside and the sun is shining, the birds are singing – and I don’t care because the chatter in my head is so compelling.

I am like Tam O’Shanter’s wife:

Where sits our sulky, sullen dame. Gathering her brows like a gathering storm. Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

Do you recognise yourself in this too . . . ?

I go to the book of Psalms. If this is the language of relationship between God and humans, then there must be something there to help.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

So where did this unhappiness come from? No-one made me unhappy – I did it all by myself!

And what can I do with it . . . ?

I dared to suggest a bad day is a good day in disguise. So, if I want to be radiant and be delivered from all my fears, then I had better find out what it means to seek the Lord.

Any suggestions from your own experience . . ?

p.s. This story is true. I discovered I have a bladder infection. Being physically low makes us vulnerable to negative thoughts. As I get better I can 🙂 and give thanks for what that unhappy day is teaching me.

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