Some conversations with a friend today and a podcast I listened to driving home made me think about what values really matter to me. People have different views on the world, with varying levels of faith/religion/spirituality, and are tackling the world in different ways. But whether you’re taking your guidance from Jesus, Buddha or the man next door, something(s) shapes how you act and how you interact with the world. So regardless of any religion/spirituality, what do you value? If you strip it all back, what are your core beliefs? 

Remember that dreaded personal portfolio I kept moaning about having to write for my ‘professional skills’ part of my uni course? Well I submitted it almost 2 months ago now (and would really like to know what grade I got for it!!).One section I had to include in the portfolio was ‘My Values’, which I’ve pasted below, and it explains 4 things that are important to me (I should add, it’s a little cheesy and makes me sound like I’m being big headed in places – but I was supposed to be promoting myself in the portfolio!): 

One of my most important values is kindness. Everyone we meet is facing battles we know absolutely nothing about. It sounds naïve and simplistic, but there is so much hurt and struggle in the world, and one of the simplest things any of us can do is be kind. Sometimes situations and feelings make it more difficult, but I try my best to always be kind to people. Encourage people. As the quote above says, the world has enough negative critics already, and it is far better to build someone up than push them down.

Another thing I really value is listening. It sounds so simple, and it’s something so many of us think we are good at, but actually we’re often not as good as we think we are. Listening to people, and really hearing what they are saying is more difficult than it sounds. It’s so easy to have a conversation and look like you’re paying attention, when really 10 other things are going through your mind. I’m quite intuitive and I believe I’m good at understanding what people are really saying, and I think it’s really important to listen properly to people.
Other principles I really value are generosity and respect. I’ve grown up with very good examples of generosity from my parents and grandparents, and I think it is something important yet not always easy to remember, particularly in the world we live in at the moment. Generosity in terms of not only money, but also in terms of time is especially important in our ever changing, busy, technology based lives. I think respect is one of the simplest, but most important moral standards to uphold. You don’t always need to agree with people or even get on with them, but showing them respect is just common decency.

Alongside those 4 traits, I also really value loyalty and genuineness. Like my last point says – people are different. We all have different personalities and quirks and views, but respect, kindness, generosity, and genuine interest make for proper relationships. And it’s really not that complicated or difficult when it comes down to it, yet in all manner of places, from workplaces, to supermarkets, to even churches, people forget these basic manners and principles. It particularly irritates me when people who claim to follow Jesus and his examples treat people poorly, knocking them down instead of encouraging and building them up. It’s not right in life in general, but is extra-hypocritical in a church setting. I am in no way perfect, and I am no where near being a perfect Christian, if that standard should exist. My biblical and theological knowledge is terrible and I don’t pray anywhere near as often as I should. But I would like to think that the attititudes I show, the behaviour I display and the way I treat people counts for something. Whether it comes from trying to follow Jesus or not, I would like to thing that by being kind and caring towards people and showing them respect and support, that I’m at least getting some things right. 

He will not let go

“It may take time, on this journey slow
What lies ahead, I’m not sure I know
But the hand that holds this flailing soul
He will not let go

There may be days, when I cannot breathe
There may be scars, that will stay with me
But the deepest stains, they will be washed clean
And He will not let go

When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
When grief has paralyzed my heart
His grip holds even tighter than the dark

I’ve heard it said, this too shall pass
The joy will come, that the hurt won’t last
So I will trust that within His grasp
I am not alone
For He will not let go”

I’ve just looked back through old blog posts to check if i’d posted these lyrics before, and I couldn’t find them so thought i’d post them now. They’re from a song called “He will not let go” by Laura Story. It’s a truly beautiful song. I was going to highlight bits of it but actually all of the lyrics are as important and moving as each other.

I watched the second part of Gareth Malone’s ‘Invictus Choir’ tv programme tonight, and was reminded of how powerful music can be. Gareth (who i have a not-so-secret love of!!!) created a choir of ex-servicemen and women, all of whom are living with very real physical and/or mental battle scars. As someone studying psychology, I found it really interesting to see the extent of the mental trauma these people were dealing with, but found it even more incredible the impact music had on so many of them. One lady had hardly left the house on her own in years through sheer fear and anxiety problems, but through the power of music and the confidence being part of the choir and singing gave her, she was able to go to America and stand and sing in front of 12,000 people.

Music means different things to different people, and even means many different things to the same person at different times. It can bring joy and happiness, it can heal, it can bring a sense of calm. The other thing i love about music and songs is the way in which song lyrics can say things and put things into words much more eloquently than could ever be spoken normally. The song the lyrics above are from is beautiful, and the lyrics get through to me in a way normal spoken words probably wouldn’t. It’s extra special because I remember coming across it some time last year, right when those words were exactly what I needed to hear. (don’t you love it when that happens?) And yet again, the lyrics are something I needed reminded of tonight.

“I am not alone, for He will not let go”

I struggle with all of the ins and outs of faith and christianity and God, but I know deep down that He is there, and that even when it feels like it, i’m not on my own. I thought i’d post and share the lyrics, just incase tonight, someone else needs to be reminded that He will not let go.

Dodgy directions

People always say that God gives you signs. Devotions in band on Friday told the anecdote of the man who, when his house was flooding, declined help from three different rescue services, each time saying “no I’m okay, I’ll stay here, my Lord will provide”. He then drowns, gets to heaven and asks God why he didn’t save him, for God to respond that he sent two boats and a helicopter, what more did he want? The message here obviously being to look out for the signs God shows us, and that the signs aren’t always as obvious as God sticking out a hand for us to grab onto. He sends people and things and situations instead. 

You might be able to guess that this is one of the many things I’ve never really understood. How do you know when God’s sending you a sign, guiding you in a direction? I don’t mean I want signs and proof that God is there – as nice as that would be – I know we’re supposed to lean on faith for that. But signs of which direction to go, which choices to make. It falls in line with the whole plan for your life thing, and I still find it hard to comprehend. What constitutes a sign? How on earth do you know if something is a sign from God? 

So I’m generally pretty skeptical. This next bit is going to make me sound a bit mad. Last night when I was frantically trying to force as much information about physiology into my head ahead of today’s exam, I got really really frustrated that i couldn’t get the notes I’d written out to stick in my head. No matter how many times I looked at it and tried to memorise it by by bit, I could not remember this particular essay plan. I’d been trying for ages and had only managed a tiny paragraph, and for some reason the thought came into my head of, ‘maybe it’s a sign that this won’t come up, and the reason i can’t take it in is because I should be focusing on something else’. And so softened by my frustration, I followed this thinking and apparent divine sign, and moved on to something else. The thing I moved onto (ventral visual pathways, not that anyone would be interested) was easier to remember and I memorised it pretty well – I had lots of supporting studies and a good structure for an essay – it went well and I took this as reassurance that I’d gone in the right direction. 

So I went into the exam today reasonably confident (by my exam standards at least) because this topic area that I knew well had come up every year – it was a major part of the course and would definitely be assessed. So the invigilator said begin, I hurriedly turned over the exam paper, and……… It wasn’t there. The question I so confidently knew, well it wasn’t there. The topic I’d really struggled to memorise? It was essay question 1. 

So the moral of that boring little tale is that if I had started to understand/believe in/trust that God gives us signs and directions, I am now firmly back to square 1. I mean I know that’s a pretty menial example, but seriously though, how do we know when God is trying to direct our path or give us a sign? 

Be you

This is so me!! I’ve read and re-read this dozens of times now, and I really feel like it’s describing me. I’ve spent years and years really not liking being me – hating various aspects of my personality that I thought were negatives. I saw all these things – quietness, sensitivity, overthinking – as flaws, but I’ve realised recently to try and appreciate the strengths in who I am. 

I’ve always been quite sensitive – I cry really easily at tv programmes, I feel things deeply, I can get easily offended and unnecessarily take things to heart. I even cried leaving Florida because I was so gutted about leaving such good friends – people who make me laugh and smile and make me comfortable being me – even though I knew I’d see them a few weeks later. But like the quote in the picture says, if you took away the fact I’m sensitive, you’d take away who I am. I might take things to heart, but I also care deeply about people – if you mean something to me, I won’t treat the relationship half heartedly but will put all of me into it. I’m empathetic, intuitive, and my quietness helps me really notice and hear what’s going on and see how people are. 

Lots of people would probably still view these aspects of me as negatives. Saying I’m too emotional/soppy/pathetic, but the other thing I’ve realised lately that when it comes to friends, it really is quality, not quantity. You can have all the friends in the world but if they don’t accept you for exactly who you are, then it’s a bit pointless. 

I’m not perfect – far from it. I waste time and I’m lazy and painfully insecure and I have the same doubts and dramas time and time again, but the people who stick by you and love you despite your flaws and in spite of the things about you that drive them mad, those are the people you want sticking around. And the ones who do stick around aren’t always the ones you’d expect to. Things change, people change, people grow. And that’s not a bad thing.  

This post doesn’t really go anywhere, but I loved that first photo/quote/saying so much that I had to post it. I think this Grey’s quote sums up nicely what I’m trying to get at!