Choose to live.

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For me, the best New Year quote was given in the movie Braveheart. He says, “All men die, but not all men truly live.” Many go through life chained to circumstances, living according to “the pattern” of expectation, quenching their dreams, sweet childhood racing hearts reduced to spiritual poverty, disabled by fear.

To truly live demands courage. One might meet an untimely death! At best we stand to fail sometimes, become a target for gossip, have our “friends” desert us. I’ve trod the path, I know.

The alternative to embracing life, is to live a humdrum existence, to “arrive safely at death” dreams stored away lest you fail. I did this at first, till at 17 I exploded, unable to contain it any longer. I hurt some people (especially the boyfriend I no longer wanted to marry). The truth can hurt, but I would have hurt them more in the long run…

I cracked the – 1960s council estate, London suburbia – mould, getting a job in downtown London, I pursued my talents, eventually earning a fine art degree and being ostracized by former friends and neighbours for my audacity. I questioned everything, began to travel, to teach, and best of all (after a great many adventures and going through hell for a while) discovered God was real. From that point on, though there have been battles to fight, I led an enchanted life of total FREEDOM!

During this time, I was continually told these things were impossible for me, a poor girl from a council estate where no one could dream of more than shop, office or factory work, scarcely knew other options existed. Even my school advised against my staying on to take GCSEs (I was dyslexic – a condition unrecognised then) so I left school and started work at 14 years old. I see in retrospect God always had a hand on my life.

Well, that’s my story and it has repeated itself in my children, each conquering “the impossible” in their own way. My advice to anyone with a burning fire? If you hate your life, be brave! Step out on the water like Peter. Sure, he sank when he looked at the waves and the wind, (as we often do) but Jesus lent a hand and together they walked on the water. Peter, a simple fisherman, is remembered while the richly endowed of his time are forgotten. Not for his intellect, talents or wealth but due to his courage to risk everything. So, step out, pursue those dreams, but, if you’d be wise, take God’s hand you may need it sometimes.

fear, the modern epidemic?

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Of course there’s a balance to this statement. Wisdom and caution can be good, but fear itself is never good, whether founded or unfounded, it debilitates us. Whether its a result of age or simply that fear is more prevalent these days I find myself having to deal with it more both in my own life and that of others.

It’s probably a combination of both, at least in the west, our society tends to be protective in many ways. We are encouraged to give the thief our wallet, to phone the police and stay locked in our room when being burgled, not to get involved etc. and health and safety laws are everywhere. I sometimes think back to my childhood when no one worried about being “politically correct”, when any adult seeing you misbehaving would take you to task, when any able bodied man would tackle the guy running off with the handbag. Nowadays a would be hero may even find himself doing time for accosting a robber and a policeman dare not put a comforting arm around a distraught crime victim for fear of being charged with sexual harassment! While I appreciate these attempts to keep us safe I also wonder if we have not gone so far as to become dis-empowered?

Sickness tends to be much the same, we give responsibility for our health to the doctor often imagining the worst while pouring over tales in social media. My conclusion? A life lived in fear is no life at all. While I’m all for caution fear is the enemy and makes out lives miserable.

Unsung hero. (A true life “Fairy Tale”)

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from November 2014 (yet again this seems appropriate.)

Song Bird Songs

fairy tale

There were a lot of medals in my mother’s family including 3 Victoria Crosses (the highest British award -quite rare) and I grew up hearing about them, but this is a story about another kind of courage.

My grandfather  took part in one of the WW1 Christmas Eve cease fires so well depicted in “Joyous Noel”  (If you have yet to see it this year is the perfect time!) It tells how the war stopped for a while on Christmas Eve and both sides met to celebrate Christmas, play football and show pictures of loved ones, thus realizing their common humanity.

Soon after this he and a friend were trapped behind enemy lines. Unable to break through back to their unit they began to wave their arms above the trench they were trapped in, in hopes of being shot (they’d heard the injured were sent home). Eventually they were captured…

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Fear is a Choice.

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from September 2014

Song Bird Songs

fear kitty

“Fear is a choice, danger is real”. I’ve yet to see the movie but the words struck a note in my heart. That’s true I thought. Fear immobilizes, drains power, curdles our wits. It’s mostly the calm, rational ones that survive crisis situations. Fear is the enemy! Not the awareness of danger causing us to avoid hazardous situations, but raw, paralyzing, all invasive fear that robs us of power to deal with peril.

So can fear be a choice? Surely it is an emotion and we can’t control our reactions. It’s true initial emotions are beyond our control, but there’s a point at which we “open the floodgates” to let them pour in overwhelming the mind and heart. Fear can be fought.

We learn this when there is no one else to call on. A parent protecting a child will often go far beyond their normal courage.

I’ve had a…

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Owe no man.

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mirror

“Owe no man anything save to love him.” I’ve always applied this quote to financial matters but this morning I realised that there’s far more to it than that. It actually makes a great maxim for life! So often we do things because of what others will think, or how they’ll react, living life with one eye on the mirror.

So is the opposite true that we should live purely for ourselves oblivious to the concerns of others? Surely not!

The simple truth “owe no man” perfectly clarifies the balance. To have integrity, be in bondage to no man (particularly where our principals are concerned) but to walk in love towards others, is a difference of motivation. Is our concern out of fear or compassion?

An illustration was when one of my daughters was promoted to a position she’d always wanted but found to her concern that the new job entailed being deceptive and going against her conscience. Thanks to great courage and faith on her part (and a very supportive, business minded spouse) she decided to quit the job and set up on her own. Her integrity paid off and they now have a thriving business which is constantly expanding.

Three of my children have been blessed with ample financial resources, but only she comes home tired, but stress free, finding great fulfillment in her work. The difference? – She “owes no man”.

One last voyage.

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sail boat

The vessel was old decrepit, had seen too many storms, weathered too many years, carried too much cargo. He looked at it in the mirror, the unsightly bulge at the waist, the seams around the eyes, the thinning hair. This was no longer the trim, powerful craft he’d set out with. Refurbishing had turned into “tied up in port” rust and decay had set in. Yet the ocean called…

He smelt the sea breeze of adventure and longed to follow. Not for him home comforts, he loved to follow the wind, to listen to the cry of the birds as they flew free as the breeze.

“Tie up in port and die,” the voice in his head told him. “You are defeated old man!” But something inside resisted, something strove with the voice, something akin to a sea bird (or perhaps a dove).

“It ain’t over till it’s over!” he spat defiantly into the mirror. “I shall set sail again!”

He began at once offloading old cargo, purchasing new sails in the form of several bright Hawaiian shirts, he stocked up on food (healthy stuff) then he set sail. He sailed across the path of a foreign vessel, hailed it with a hearty greeting, offered help in piloting (it seemed the woman at the helm may have lost her bearings). Coming alongside he boarded the vessel assisting in repairs.

I’ve not seen either vessel for a long while since they sailed off into the sunset together.