Being in the office over the summer is sometimes quite nice as the weather is better, the traffic is better, and generally there aren’t quite so many new initiatives launching and meetings scheduled. It also feels a bit like there is a party going on somewhere else that I should be at, but I don’t know who’s holding it! The kids are fine, my husband and my mum have got things organised for them to do, and I’m taking some time off to enjoy various special treats with them that are probably more for my benefit than theirs! 

I was shocked to read that the average basic income required now for 2 adults and 2 kids, is £37,000, this is based on research into poverty and the income required to live a modest lifestyle. Summer holidays can be expensive, and all the mums I know are busy swapping tips on cheap things to do around here to keep everyone happy.

Meanwhile the greatest sporting event ever is going on, and these amazing Olympic athletes are collecting medals, and outperforming their personal bests.  I am not that a big sports fan, but it’s really hard not to be moved by the sheer effort and commitment that they have put into what they are doing, and their total gratitude for results, when really, they could actually stand back and say “I deserve this”, “I worked hard, I earned this”. 

The aspect of my faith that I find useful daily, is its ability to make me say thank you for things in my life and to honour the support other people give me. Like all these athletes, none of us can manage to do much without help from other people, whether that is staff at work, friends and family or just taking advice from books, and magazines. Being part of a church community is great, as you get to meet people from all walks of life. At an event today, there was an ex-convict, three old ladies, lots of teachers and their families, a barrister, vicars, counsellors, and a mountain of children of all ages. This is the only time in my week when this would ever possibly happen in a social setting, and it’s the thing I love most about my church.  I’ve been a member for ten years now, which is scary as I arrived as a very cynical sceptic, and still see myself as an outsider in many ways. The support we get as a family from people there is huge, and none of it is because people owe us anything, or need to help us, it’s just through their commitment to their faith, and to building a community together.

Today the person speaking said that as Christians we need to demonstrate to others what  God’s love is through our actions and the way we live our lives before other people can understand it for themselves. To embrace and own the scale and enormity of God’s love is similar I think to the pride that an Olympic athlete must feel when winning gold. He wants us to know that every aspect of how we were made, our weird quirks and penchants, are all perfect in his eyes. For us it’s not possible to understand this on a daily basis, but sometimes we get a glimpse of this through exploring faith together, worship or through feedback from other people, and for those amazing athletes it’s Gold! All God requires from us is that we acknowledge his existence.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

End of Life

I have recently been going to meetings at work about “End of Life” care pathways, which is a bit odd, but quite interesting, once I’d got past my inital horror about talking about dying. Basically the NHS and social care need to be better at helping people have a good death, and not rush them off to a care home or hospital the minute this looks likely, and that if someone has enough pain relief and support from family and friends, a good death can be possible. 

Since this initial meeting I have been looking at stories in the paper, or personal experiences through a new lens. I don’t think there can be such a thing as a death without mourning or sorrow, but the experience can vary massively. If someone has alot of money, it doesn’t mean they will have a good death, if they don’t have people with them, or if they live alone and it takes days before someone finds them. If someone dies too young, it can’t be seen to be a positive thing for their family, the only positives can be if care and help are easily available and support is in place.

In Christ we are “born again” which means we have a second chance at living, and some of the old ways are killed off. In a way it’s the difference between existing and living. Sometimes we are not appreciative of the blessings in their lives, or the opportunities availble to us, and a major trauma or someone dying can be a wake-up call that makes them see the world differently. When I had my son, in 2008, I had a major haemorrage after an emergency C Section, and my life was saved by the consultant on duty, and I had to have emergency blood pumped into me, whilst my son was kept alive on a ventilator in the special care unit. After that my view of my life changed and I did feel remarkably lucky to have a healthy son, and a loving husband, and my own health came back after only a few months.

The long-term effect of these sorts of things isn’t always that positive though, sometimes nowadays I have a good whinge and whine about ridiculous things, that just happen to annoy me! I am addicted to Big Brother, and sometimes think if I could see conversations played back to me that I’ve had, like the housemates have to do when they come out, I would be quite ashamed and embarressed, by the words I used, or the person I was talking about hearing some criticism or other that I wanted to share.

The only way I’ve found to “live” today, rather than worrying and plannign tomorrow too much, is to pray, regularly, if possible out loud, and to ask for help with everything I am worrying about, no matter how ridiculous this sounds!  This week my Dad’s had a hip operation and I made sure other people were praying with me, even though I knew that he was in the best possible hands, and that logically it would make little difference, it felt important to tell God my concerns and not to carry my own concerns and worries alone. If you are worried about someone who is ill or at the end of their life, this is a good prayer from the Jewish tradition, asking God to help.

A prayer for healing

God, hear my prayer,

And let my cry come to You.

Do not hide from me in the day of my distress

Turn to me and speedily answer my prayer.

Eternal God, Source of healing,

Out of my distress I call upon You.

Help me sense Your presence

At this difficult time.

Grant me patience when the hours are heavy;

In hurt or disappointment give me courage.

Keep me trustful in Your love.

Give me strength for today, and hope for tomorrow.

To your loving hands I commit my spirit

When asleep and when awake. You are with me; I shall not fear.