29 October 2012

Wandering Aimlessly

I was sitting in one of the local coffee shops this lunchtime when I started writing this. I'd had a heck of a weekend, with a family party, loads of paperwork to do at home and two meetings to lead at the Corps. All sorted; all deadlines met; everyone seemed happy with what had been done. Probably laughed more on Saturday night than I have done in the last six months put together. Ended up totally drained and in a heap by Sunday afternoon; simply had to sleep for a couple of hours before I could think about doing anything else. I needed some time to myself on Monday lunchtime, hence the coffee. :)

I stared out of the coffee shop window at the passers-by. All had their own agenda. Some were making calls on mobiles. Some were just gazing down at the pavement ahead. None were smiling. All seemed to be just wandering aimlessly. Is that what I usually look like on a weekday?

"Do you have an aim, a target?" said the still, small voice inside me. I admitted that there were still a couple of things I still wanted to do in life.

"Write yourself a list of those", said the voice. "Go and do them. You know you can if you set your mind to it. Stop putting it off. I know what you are capable of."

And then it was time to get back to work. However, I knew that it was also time to start putting down a few more things onto the 'to do' list. And start working out how to tick these all off... Can I rise to the challenge?

26 October 2012

Trust Your Intuition? - part two

Well, then. Some of you might remember my post from a couple of months ago. There's a link to it here. So, as a Christian, should I trust my intuition?

This is where I am getting mixed messages from some of the sources that I am reading. Some say no (your human intuition is flawed, don't follow it) - while others say yes (your intuition is a gift from God meant to help you and to complement any other gifts you may have).

I'm particularly aware of this topic at the moment, I am in the process of exploring spiritual gifts with the church and am reading a lot about gifts at the moment. I've also had a recent experience where some pretty loud 'alarm bells' went off in my head when I was doing a particular task. So intense was the experience I was quite rattled for nearly a full day by the experience and nearly a week later I'm still trying to work out what exactly that means to me personally...

I know from recent experience that there are times my 'intuition' tells me to flee when I know deep down that I really shouldn't. However, I have to give due consideration for these inner warnings which are there to protect me. Instead, I stand my ground; fighting that instinct to flee;struggling through despite that sense of inadequacy. I step outside of my comfort zone. That sort of thing.

Christians won't need reminding that we already have guidance available to us. God's Holy Spirit there to guide us. And herein lies a dilemma.

How can I tell if these feelings are the Holy Spirit’s prompting or my own intuition talking - a feeling that some people tell me is so often wrong?

I know that it is a question of context. They tell me to pray; to test both elements against scripture (What does the Bible say about my situation? Does the prompting I feel line up with God’s word?).

And I do. And often the feeling gets stronger...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

20 October 2012

It is OK to say No...

I suppose this particular entry follows on a bit from my last post about selfishness and selflessness. You see, I am often told by my friends and family that "it is OK to say no" once in a while. They say it with the best of intentions. Why do I need to get so involved in so many different things?

Well, I love to be doing something useful. I want to be out there making a difference, in my own way. Yes, sometimes I do push myself a little too hard sometimes, going from one thing to another without too much of a break...

However, sometimes No is really not that easy. Well, it's not saying no, it's working out exactly what to say no to...

For example, I look at this week's calendar and I see a number of different 'appointments'. Opportunities to be a blessing to others, to encourage people, to learn more about myself and my own Christian walk. Then there are things I need to prepare for; things for the Army, prep for next week at work. There are places where the kids need to be, so Dad has to be there as taxi driver. Help with my son's CV. And there are even more practical things, like the car's MOT and servicing. I usually manage to fit it all in. Somehow.

I had something in the calendar on pretty much every day - on some days there were three or four things. So where could I start cutting things out? If I had missed, say, the appointment for the servicing of the car, I would have let down a friend who I had promised to visit in North London; been unable to drive my daughter to her disco last night. If I decided I simply couldn't be bothered, would there be anybody else to do these things? In some cases, the answer was a definite no. So I end up saying yes, 'going the extra mile'. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? (see link)

In fact, I then went on to spend a hour or so trying to 'thin out' the week, crossing out things where I could. Do you know what? In order to be true to myself, if I had to give a no or two then I'd rather ditch some of the 'social engagements'; the get-togethers, the chats. That would at least remove all that difficult 'small talk'... ugh! Does that sound awful? To an introvert like me, trying to make conversation is so draining.... so difficult. It can be hard work! However, I can't really say no to these events either - who would that annoy? Unfortunately, the very people who care for me, who encourage me to say no! They'd then say I'm being antisocial...

I'm really not. It's just not the way that I relax. The ideal way that I unwind is to lose myself in a good book; to catch up with friends on Facebook; even by writing this blog. That's how I recharge.

Friends, I care for you too. But I also care about the causes that I work for, the people I want to help. I want to do these things. Sometimes if I have to choose, to cut down, that might mean that I have to say no to you...

On the other hand - why not turn it around? Instead of me saying No, why don't you say Yes and come along with me? I get to see you; you get to work alongside me, see what I do, give me a hand. Work with me? Any time.

”This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” (William Shakespeare - Hamlet)

17 October 2012

Selfish or Selfless: revisited

A brief discussion that I had recently on another blog brings me back to the subject of selfishness.

Since I last talked on the subject (two years ago now) I've discovered and explored my own introvert nature - a nature that dictates that I must allow myself some significant 'me time' into my daily routine for the sake of my own well-being. Without it, I simply stop operating at peak efficiency - I lose a good deal of my effectiveness and merely start 'just going through the motions'. That's increasingly clear to me. And yet, as a Christian I'm being constantly challenged by scripture and the teachings of Jesus to live a selfless life. So, both of these are essential to my daily life.

Remarkably, it is possible for both of these elements to be incorporated in someone's life. My friend's blog reminded me that Christ, our perfect example of selflessness, took regular time away from the people, time to pray and recharge. It's all right to take that 'time out'...

The problem is getting the right mix between selfishness (allowing myself some quality time) and selflessness (getting back in harness and working for others). I always seem to be getting this wrong - can't seem to find a proper balance. And when I think I get it right, something changes to upset the balance again.

But I'm still striving to get it right. For when it works, it becomes something really satisfying.

12 October 2012

Small Talk: Big Deal

Just arrived back home from a hectic week away, an opportunity to practice the "small talk" skills that I personally find so tricky. As I mentioned in a previous post, these usually consist of a series of practised and well-rehearsed lines, open questions that can start off a conversation, to 'break the ice' and thus give me an introduction when I was working on the exhibition stand for my work. I used the week as an opportunity to work on my technique. Or lack thereof...

The old lines? Forget it. Not interested. And neither was I, to be honest...

I tried smiling. Some smiled back and simply kept right on walking by. Some ignored me completely, not even acknowledging my existence! (sigh)

I tried catching their eye. This was slightly more effective, at least a tentative link had been established! I had a couple of pretty good conversations from a glance in the right direction, a bond with the individual straight away. So much for 'small talk'.

The best and most productive conversations? Well, they came directly out of those encounters with folk who seemed genuinely interested in talking back to you. These were folk who really wanted a conversation; they were keen on communicating with you, happy to meet you half-way and keen to react to the information that I wanted to impart to them. Fertile ground.

Hmmm ... interesting. I've also been thinking a lot about evangelism this week, following a conversation on Monday at church about telling others about Christ. I couldn't help but link up this subject to my own clumsy attempts to talk to others. Jesus' words in the Parable Of The Sower also keep coming back to me tonight:

Matthew 13:1-9 (NIV)
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

7 October 2012

Small Talk: an update

A while ago I posted something about small talk. There's a link to my earlier post here.

Now I admit this is something that I don't find easy. In fact I have to work so hard at this because of some of the roles I have to fulfil that I find the whole affair just incredibly difficult. I end up physically and emotionally drained at the end of it. All those people, all those conversations. Towards the end of a day all I want to do is go home and sleep.

I've discovered that I tend to go into 'broken record' mode, relaxing into tried and tested phrases, like "isn't the weather nice?", "are you looking forward to (insert name of event) today?", "isn't this greenfly awful?" and so on. I've found out that I don't respond well to rudeness - and some folk can be extremely rude - so that tends to rattle me. And I've learnt that a phrase or two from someone's reply can stick with me for the rest of the day, as I ponder it and roll it around in my head. So much so that it can put me off what I'm supposed to be there for!

I know that I need to work at this if I want to develop my skills here. As far as 'lines' are concerned, I guess I'm getting rather bored with these and so these don't work well for me at present. In fact, the best advice I've been given is just to look interested and smile. And to let the people talk to you, using my skills as a good listener to steer the conversation from there.

I've got an opportunity to practice some small talk over the next few days. And I think I'll try one or two new things. Like just smiling at people.

Will see what happens, and report back.