Thursday, 1 September 2011

Accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative

I am the weirdest combination of optimist and pessimist. When it comes to the rest of the world I fall in the Anne Frank category--In spite of everything I still believe people are good at heart. As a Quaker I actively look (and often find) That of God in everyone to quote George Fox.  I can look at a bad situation where there is poverty, oppression, injustice and I can see the role I am to take to help alleviate that suffering. It is a prayer I pray every morning--Lead me where you need me. It is easy to be hopeful about others, but I find I am much harder on myself.

When it comes to myself and my feelings about what I am to do to alleviate my own suffering I am not quite as good. I know I am way too hard on myself. I would not dream of speaking to a friend (or an enemy) the way I speak to myself sometimes. I sometimes see everything I am to do that involves helping myself as a recipe for disaster and failure. Going to London on my own? Cue vomiting and the squits because I am sure I will get lost. I have no sense of direction. I am bad at reading maps. I’m too stupid.  I’ll end up in Belgium. I am working on getting over this--and mostly succeeding--but it has taken WORK on my part and intensive PRAYER.

I find that when I am faced with something with a lot of unknown variables--particularly something I don’t want to do-- I find I cannot seem to “look on the bright side” I just see all the ways it can horribly, horribly wrong. I cross so many bridges that I really will end up in Belgium. I am the sort of person who doesn’t like to “play it by ear” too much. I am fine with saying “Once we get to the supermarket in a strange town we’ll see what they have and plan meals around what we can find.” I am NOT fine with “Hey, we’re going to town we’ve never been to. Let’s just wait until we get there to even see if they have a supermarket.”

And it is funny because the more you say to yourself This is going to be a disaster of Titanic proportions--then it is. The more you repeat that negative thought the more you end up  crouching on an iceberg singing Celine Dion in a quavering, falsetto voice and believe me my friends--nobody wants that. The same is true for positive things. If you think there will be blessings then there will be. If you see every day as a way to go out and do good and that God will put the people who need you in your path so you can give what they need then you will. So why is it so hard to believe that when I need to do something  that involves myself that God won’t make something good come out if it as well? If everyday I encounter people who need me--and I meet that need through love, why won’t God  put people in my path to meet the needs I have with love? 

I have found myself needing more specific prayer times to cope. I do try to pray without ceasing but I find my day is ordered better if I pray, on my knees (sometimes having to move to my bottom if my list of fears and worries are overly long) more than once a day. I was moved greatly by my Muslim students who pray 5 times a day. To start their day, to refresh them midday and to close the day. It is my goal to have 3 specific prayer times a day. Sometimes I don’t manage all 3. Sometimes I only get the morning one in. But this school year I hope to get all 3 in, because I know how much better and more calm I feel when I do.

My morning prayers help me focus on acknowledging  my worries, fears, insecurities and weaknesses and asking for help to defeat them. For God to turn them into something useful that means I face the fear and do it anyway and in the process help myself or someone else. Because God knows what is in your heart--He knows where you try and fail. But until we can actively see our own failures and ask for help then there is not much He can do. It is in being self aware and asking for help that we receive the guidance and peacefulness we long for. The Bible says ask you shall receive.  I never thought this was about “Oh God let me win the lottery” but rather ask for help and you get help. That help may be to do something that scares you, go somewhere unknown, help someone who you find difficult --but it helps you grow in your own faith and love and strength and ability to give freely. Every morning I go thorough what scares me, what makes me angry, what makes me unable to love and give freely and ask for help to defeat these feelings. And I get it.

I also pray to be the lamp and God the light. I want His love to radiate from my being so that people who know me and people who don’t see me full of love and kindness and know that if they need me they can just ask. I have many people I don’t even know stop me and ask for help. Sometimes it is just to talk because they are lonely or to ask for prayers (I have had  strangers ask me to pray for them) sometimes it is just to help with something. Sometimes it is someone I know like a stressed colleague struggling to do something and I can help or take on part of the burden or an elderly friend who needs help doing the shopping.  But every day that I ask the question “Who do you want me to love today? Put them in my path” and then I find them.

I like to set aside a time in the afternoon to pray specifically for others that I know are burdened with illness or sadness or suffering. Sometimes this is people I know or whole countries I don’t. I find this refreshes and relaxes me to spend some time deep breathing--my mantra is Breathe Deep the Breath of God --and thinking actively of those who need love.

In the evenings I like to spend a few moments on my knees saying thanks--but not saving it all up for before I go to sleep because you are sure to forget something and be too tired to say them all. In my morning prayers I promise to not try to struggle on endlessly trying to cope with difficult things until I fall apart and cry but rather at the first sign of stress or difficulty to ask for help. I also pray that every time something good happens I stop there and then to say thanks. To say thanks at every turn because when I do I notice there are so many things to be thankful for.

I remember as a child being really annoying when I visited my religious auntie and we had evening prayers and she thanked God that whatever was in the oven didn’t burn. I recall thinking God is not your oven timer--He doesn’t care about what you made for dinner. He can’t be bothered looking out for your cooking--He’s got more important things to do. Now I can see I got it totally wrong. It is not thank God that YOU stopped my dinner from burning but rather I am THANKFUL it did not burn. When you look at things you are thankful for then the whole world turns into good things.

So yeah. Even with a deep prayer life and lots of conversations (and some rants if I’m honest) with God I still struggle sometimes doing things I don’t want to do. We’ve all been there. God asks us to do something difficult but we’d rather watch telly or read a book or bury our head in the sand with our fingers in our ears singing LA LA LA or anything that doesn’t involve facing people or situations that are difficult. But sometimes  even if the situation is not the best for you, you are the best thing for that situation.  Or that person is not the best for you (they drive you round the twist) but you are the best thing for that person (you make a difference in their life.)

I try to hold on to that fact especially when I am feeling grumpy about being called to go somewhere or do something when I’d rather not be bothered. But if I do it then I know I will be blessing someone else and be blessed in return. That is how it works.  Amen and God bless.


  1. Amazing how your posts can reflect a moment in my life. Or is it that your posts make me think differently about my own life?

  2. I echo what Danny says. And add I love you muchly.