Month: November 2011

John Lewis Christmas Advert

John Lewis has done it again! I was unexpectedly watching TV last night and an advert came up with a little boy who is desperate for Christmas to arrive. Without any warning, I was all emotional, drawn into the story that is created and following the cute little boy as he waits for the 25th of Decemeber to arrive. I should have worked out it was the John Lewis advertising team and their five million pounds that provoked such a response in me – I have fallen for it again.
I don’t want to spoil the punchline, but when you discover what the little boy is actually looking forward to then it is a good reminder of the joy of giving.
Try watching it and add your comments below…

Becoming Emotionally Healthy

Here is a really excellent piece of advice:

‘NEVER EVER compare the edited, digitally enhanced, carefully presented highlights of someone else’s life with the broken, wonky, slightly unhinged or painful reality that you know to be your own. Don’t ever look at ‘other people’ and think ‘wow, they’ve got it all together, their lives are so blessed, calm, productive, balanced….(or whatever)’. And please, don’t ever think that way of ME! (You weren’t? Oh, that’s kind of disappointing).

When you look at someone with envy, or feel intimdated by their success, firstly you need to ask yourself ‘what hole in me is turning appropriate admiration into ugly competativeness?’ Secondly you need to remind yourself that the chances are you do not know their inside story.

Here is some of my current inside story: I’ve been awake at 5 am most mornings this week, stressed to the eyeballs over lists of things to do, have let down at least two groups of people and am busy pretending I’m not worrying about a long stint away from home. And that’s just some of the inside stuff!! I’m not telling you any more. I’m laughing ruefully because I’m also currently reading two very good books about ’emotional health’ of which more in a moment.

The only reason I’ve given you that brief peek into my interior life, is to underline the fact that you don’t know my inside story. And why should you? I have never believed that it was appropriate for anyone to spill their guts unguardedly in public (ie online or in the press) so I guess I am as guilty as the next person of posting up the ‘good bits’ of my life on Facebook and even in this blog. But each time I do, I can’t help feeling that each story should come with some kind of (emotional) health warning: “this is not the full story”. Perhaps I should shorten it to NTFS: ‘Not the Full Story’ (Hey, that’s brilliant, can I get a patent for that idea?)

Here are some fictional examples how this little acronym might usefully flag up the stuff I am not telling you:

‘We had a great time at church’ (NTFS: ‘we had a row on the way there and I got really stressy’).

‘Lovely party at So and So’s’ (NTFS: ‘was so nervous I ate too much/talked too loudly or drank too much’)

‘Great holiday with kids (NTFS: ‘The kids were fine, the spouse was a nightmare’)

Okay, I know these are a bit extreme and I must stress they are fictional but does anyone else ever get the feeling that sometimes someone telling me something has a hidden message, and the hidden message in the thing they are saying is ‘Jesus loves me more than he loves you’.

‘Marvellous me’ moments, I call them. I’m so wary of them, I’d rather tell you about something stupid I did than tell you my acheivements. Although I do post up ‘success’ stories (and ‘why not publicise a good news story?’ I rationalise) I think it’s important to bear in mind that there might be a ‘back room’ angle on the story that I can’t always tell you. Sometimes the reason for this is because the ‘real’ story is about my own fears, failures, confusions, uncertainties, doubts and inner wobbles (and I’m as tempted by ‘impression management’ as the next person) but sometimes I can’t tell you the back room story because it’s a story about the people who drive me bonkers, let me down or otherwise ‘do my head in’ AND these are people I am called to love (and NO, I’m not thinking of YOU! Stop being paranoid. Well okay, may be I am thinking of you….! See? That’s why none of us can ever tell our whole story in a public way, people will get hurt).

Because I need to respect the anonymity of the difficult people in my life (and we all have difficult people in our lives) I can only ever tell the whole story to a limited, appropriate and safe number of people. And for my own sanity and well being, I do have those people in my life which a great help. I am not a catholic but I have sometimes looked at confessional booths where you deliver your worst moments and darkest fears through a grille into an anonymous pair of ears and then walk away absolved and I think ‘I get that, I SO get that!’

You have your ‘stuff’ that only you know about (disappointments, fears, broken relationships, hang overs from childhood, hiccups in your ability to show love even to those closest to you) and other people have theirs. You are not alone. I’ve been thinking hard about all this ‘inner stuff’ because of these books I have come across by a guy called Pete Scazzero Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and Emotionally Healthy Churches.

His basic premise is that you can ‘do’ all the spiritual disciplines you like but if you have not taken a long hard look below the surface of your life you will not be emotionally healthy. Your relationships in the present will still be mostly dictated by your past, by the hurts and habits of your family of origen, unless you have examined these. Then he writes about living in brokeness and vulnerablity, accepting the gift of your limits and embracing the grief and loss in your life. I realise none of that sounds too cheerful but honesty really is the best policy and the point of this process is to acheive an emotional maturity that enables us to love well (althought I have to wince at the word ‘acheive’ because emotionally healthy people do not waste any time telling you how marvellous they are, because they know they are not marvellous, they are simply learning to live comfortably with their own ‘back room’ story).

These are really, really good books. I totally recommend them. They say much the same thing as Larry Crabb did about 25 years ago in his book Inside Out which up until now has been the book that’s had the greatest impact on my life. But Crabb wrote as a ‘clever’ Christian psychologist, it was not an easy read. Pete Scazzero writes as a broken, vulnerable and very real pastor. It’s very readable and wont make you feel intimidated.

One of my favourite sayings is ‘Be Kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’ (Plato – allegedly) but sometimes that ‘hard battle’ is so well concealed you’d hard know. They may be in denial but never doubt that it’s there, so ‘be kind’. The point of these books is to help you do that: the more you have dealt with your own ‘stuff’, the better you will be able to tolerate and even love others with their ‘stuff’ whether or not they admit their flaws.

Going back to the pair of ‘anonymous ears’ idea, I do actually have direct access to the biggest pair of compassionate ears I know and they are not anonymous. When I’m really worked up or screwed up or fed up the most comforting thing I regularly say into them is ‘You know, Lord, you know’ (See Psalm 139)

Christmas – the best time for an outreach event?

The carols have started playing in the shopping malls and the coffee shops have begun offering Christmas themed hot drinks. For some people a gingerbread latte is part of their yearly celebration, I tried a salted caramel mocha and will be trying it again as often as possible!!Many Christians loathe the early rush to make Novemeber and December a busy materialistic frenzy. I try instead to see it as a great opportunity to reach out with the message of Jesus. I beleive it is the easiest time of the year to invite people to an event and talk about faith. Like it or not, people around us who have not been in church all year still like to feel ‘Christmassy’ which gives us a unique opportunity to set up meetings, gatherings and conversations that they will join.
Over the last five years we have posted many articles with craft ideas and event inspirations on this website. If you put ‘Christmas’ into our little search box at the top right hand corner you will be able to read a little treasure trove of articles.
This year I am hoping to concentrate on four events, and I am thinking of it in terms of four different circles.

-Front door – I am going to invite my next door neighbour and her husband round for a meal. This past year I have been able to get to know her more and hope that a night together will be the next natural step.
-Street- I am going to invite the neighbours in my street to a mulled wine and mince pie coffee morning, with carols playing in the background and printed invitations to our church services lying on the table. The mince pies will be bought ( as I can’t make them very well) and I find that the mini ones go down really well.
-School gate – we have a new vicar and I will use this as an excuse to ask some of the local school mums to ‘come and hear him’ at one of our Christmas services. There is a traditional candlelit carol evening service and a contemporary children’s morning event, so I will try to pick the right one for the right friend.
-Town – I am a helper at a Christmas crafts event at our local church and will be helping thread fresh cranberries onto garden wire to make cranberry hearts, along with 150 other women. This year we will be selling our tickets in pairs so that everyone remembers this is an outreach event. Felt covered matchboxes, garden greenery wreaths, tissue covered glass vases, willow stars and dried orange and lime garlands will be made. Piano music carols and mince pies will be served surrounded by fairy lights and the aroma of mulled wine.

As I write this, on a quiet early November morning I feel excited at these opportunities ahead but I know that as December arrives I will feel busy, overwhelmed and shy as I actually approach people to ask them. The fear of rejection, even polite, ‘not this time, thank you’ rejection will be there in my mind and I will want to find excuses not to go ahead with the ideas I have planned above. Maybe that is why I have written them down so that I will actually be accountable now and do them!! If you want to make a commitment now to create an event or ask someone to church, then contact us and tell us about it. We will pray for you and by supporting each other we might encourage each other to be more proactive this year. Wouldn’t it make Christmas the best ever if one of your friends came to understand this year for the first time that Jesus is the saviour of the world?

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