Another year is about to finish and another Christmas is just around the corner. It is unbelievable how the time is passing so quickly and how things are taking shape without much thought- probably our subconscious works better than our conscious minds. This time of the year is very special because we celebrate the birth of our saviour “Jesus”: however we keep our attention on things that are not related to him at all. Consumer marketing took over our Christmas, making us “buyers” more than anything else. We spend money buying stuff for people that might not need or like it: very sad, isn’t it? We rush around the whole year consuming things that we don’t need, spending time on things that do not add anything to our lives, and having high expectations from all that’s around us.
I believe that this time of the year is the best time to slow down and reflect. A “stocktaking” moment is what we all need! We know that many companies close for stocktaking during the year to check if their products match with what is recorded in their system. We also need a moment to stop and check if what we want for our lives is matching our actions, our reality! It is so easy to be carried away by day to day duties and lose focus on our objective. Time to analyse the things we really need in life. Material things are probably the ones that we need least. Perhaps we should bring the real Christmas back, the real love for helping people, the real love of serving and not being served. My wish to you this Christmas and this New Year is that you can live fully the present that God gave you: “your life”. I hope that you and I can be less judgmental and have more empathy with all those around us, that we can help those really in need and can invest our time in things that really matter to us; and I definitely wish that we can be more like Jesus! Have a wonderful Christmas, everyone, and a beautiful 2017 full of good thoughts!
Last week I found myself stuck in the traffic. It was rush hour, and therefore I could not have expected a different scenario. For the past few years I’ve been learning to be calm when I’m driving, especially living in London, where it seems everyone rushes to everything. We can see it on the tube, streets, and buses, literally everywhere. People don’t have time to have a nice cup of coffee at the cafe, they have to order one to take away; this because they want to have a coffee at the same time as they are walking to work and have their eyes on their phones. ‘Generation non-stop’- that is what we could call ourselves!
We live through times of traffic jam, not only on the street and in public transport; but in our minds. We try to get as much information as possible without filtering it, without understanding it. We constantly fight with our reality, leaving out the opportunity to live and enjoy who we really are. The traffic jam in our minds is growing quickly and we tempted to blame everyone that is on the road with us; isn’t it true? Think about where you are now, the road you decided to walk! You don’t need to live constantly in a traffic jam. Rather, seek to know where you are and where you want to go to. I always say to my friends ‘without knowing where you are, you will never manage to get where you want to go’! One step at a time! Don’t let the rush of everyday direct you to a mental road full of traffic. Breathe and relax, you might not be able to free yourself from the road’s traffic jam, but you are surely able to free yourself from the traffic jam in your mind.
I do not know if you have many windows in your home. I have some and I confess that it is very difficult to clean the second floor windows of my house, because I first need a ladder to reach them and secondly have to stretch out my body to clean all the corners. However, while the exterior cleaning of the windows is done once or twice a year, the interior cleansing happens almost every week.
Like the windows, our lives become dusty over the days, so also need to be cleaned. Both the inside and the outside of our lives require cleaning, either weekly, monthly or yearly. Sometimes we need to stretch ourselves so that cleaning is achieved: that is, we need to give our best and do everything possible to really remove all the dirt from our windows. Our spiritual window needs daily cleaning because it connects us to our Creator. How are the windows of your life? Do they need to be cleaned? Dusting the dirt off of your windows will make you have a clear vision of the things around you. God bless you.
How many times have you heard people saying things like this to you when you are facing a problem: ‘Don’t be like this,’ or ‘don’t feel like this,’ ‘look around you, you are always going to find someone living in a worse situation than you!’ True?! Probably this is true, however we cannot judge anyone’s suffering. We are all humans and we all have different ways that we face difficult moments in life. Sometimes we see people crying because they chipped their nails, and at the same time we see people losing a finger or any part of their body saying “thank God it was just a finger, and I am still alive!” How extremely different people’s perception and understanding of situations can be.
When I was studying counselling, I learned that everyone has different ways of seeing and feeling the difficult times that life brings us sometimes. And I also learned that no matter how small the problem of any person might appear to me, for them it can be a big issue and I have to respect their suffering. As someone who has spent many years experiencing God’s mercy and blessings in my life, I ask you, if we can learn to understand other people’s suffering and respect it, can you imagine how much more capable of this God is? If it matters to you, it matters to God, full stop. I don’t know how you are feeling right now, but whatever your situation is; remember that God cares for you and He is ready to listen to you. Try to acknowledge your feelings, emotions and thoughts; do not ignore them, but learn how to deal with them. I can guarantee that you will learn to refine the way you see your problems. Remember these words “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6).
If you are like me, I believe you need to stop for a moment. Why? I can tell you why! I love to be involved with lots of things: I like to help the people around me, I like to run and walk with my dog, I like to play music in Church, I like to clean the house- yes I do like to clean! I like to be on the go all the time, and sometimes my energy level can easily drop dramatically. As a result, I can feel a little bit down.
Sometimes we need to stop everything we are doing and just relax. I confess that I get twitchy if I stop, but I am learning to slow things down, and focus on things that really matter to me. A few years ago, I started practising Mindfulness Meditation, using God’s word as the centre of my meditations. I can confess that I found it very difficult to stop for a moment, a very simple moment, and just breathe and appreciate everything around me. As I said, I am learning to slow things down, and I can tell you the importance of having a time of rest and doing nothing! Try this week to stop for 30 minutes a day- only 30 minutes- and do nothing. You may say “I do not have this time!” However, I tell you: find this time! Rest your body and mind, and you will see how good it is to have a moment to stop, a moment to do nothing.
The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro have started this week, and this is the opportunity for those crazy for sports to see the biggest athletes in the world performing to their best in order to achieve their dream of a gold medal. I believe these athletes need to have our admiration and respect, because to be an Olympic athlete requires lots of training, dedication and determination. I was watching a documentary about a few of the English athletes this week, and I was impressed with their lifestyle and all that lay behind their motivation. As far as I understood, the majority of them go far beyond their limits to prove to themselves, and no one else, that they can do it.
However, what caught my attention was an advertisement on English TV about the Paralympic games, which says: “Yes you can”! This advertisement shows the Paralympic athletes doing the amazing things they do, but the special thing that this advert shows is ordinary disabled people doing the things that non-disabled people do every day. Like people without arms going to the petrol station to fill the tank using their legs, and a mother changing her baby using her feet. A man with short arms and tiny few fingers playing the piano. Wow, this is amazing to see: these people go beyond their limits and prove that they can do much more than we think they can, that they can live a life and enjoy it as much as anyone else. As the man says at the end of this advertisement: “we are superhuman”.
I am surprised to see the ways that humans can do more than they imagine. These Paralympic athletes are proof of the wonderful capability that God gives us even with such disabilities. I don’t know about you, but I can speak for myself: many times I think that I am not capable of achieving my dreams, because of the obstacles that I create in my own head. Many times my motivation is not to be motivated, life passes in front of my eyes and I don’t do anything to grab the opportunities given me to make what I really want to make, to really chase my dreams, to really achieve my gold medal. What is your gold medal? What do you really want to do? Is anyone telling you that you can’t make it, or are you sabotaging yourself with negative thoughts? Against everything that pushes you far away from the things you want to do in life, I would like to say: YES YOU CAN! Yes you can do it, yes you are capable, yes you are wonderful, yes God has more to give than you expect! My advice to you is: put yourself in action and let God show you what you can really do.