Monday, March 20, 2017

Playing the game?

For a couple of years now I have pursued what it means to carry the presence of God and what it means to listen to Him. I’ve read various books, listened to many podcasts and spoken to a number of trusted friends and respected acquaintances about it.

If I’m absolutely honest I’m not sure I have gotten as far as I would have wanted with this journey.  I have tried new methods of listening to him as well as old ones and still I would say I have advanced much further.  This weekend but came a startling revelation… As I delved deep into John Eldredge’s book ‘Listening To God’ I began to realise that perhaps listening was more a matter of the heart than the ability to hear.

Recommended Reading!!
Imagine a friend that you talk to often but who doesn’t listen.  Now how much more frustrating would it be if they especially didn’t listen when you were answering the question they have just asked.   Do we do that to God?  Do we ask to hear Him but then don’t listen when He speaks? Are we ready to respect and obey what He says or asks of us?

Here’s a small example.  Often I will ask God for advice knowing fine rightly what I want Him to say.  I ask and now with my conscience cleansed I do what I was going to do anyway.  How would you handle a friend or family member who treated you like that?  Worse sometimes I don’t ask because should he give an answer opposed to my preference I may have to obey it.  To my shame to deny myself and to then obey Him is too often take me into territory I would rather not go. I’m in control and secretly I would rather it stay that way.

Summarised I’m trying to say this…  If you ask God a question are you prepared to follow through with following his answer?  Are you up for obeying Him even when it’s contrary to what you would want?   Perhaps this is why He is silent, it’s not that He doesn’t speak but it’s that we don’t want to listen and obey.  What in effect we have done is to have screened His voice out, His voice is most definitely there it’s just that we are suffering from selective hearing.  We have asked for His opinion to perhaps try to fool Him and our conscience into believing that have done the right thing by asking.  However by not listening and following through with obedience we have been two faced. Something we most definitely need to repent of.

I want a powerful, intimate two way relationship with my Lord and King but am I prepared to recognise His sovereignty and obey him? Or do I just want to play games?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The beast in me...

This afternoon I find myself in the mood to write but unsure what to write about.  As I pondered an old article I wrote back in '09 came to mind and so I thought (complete with a few tweaks) I would republish it. It pretty much describes were I'm at. Seven years on from writing it I find myself back in the same place. Granted its heavy but I think if we are all honest we have a dark side that could be described as "The beast in me". Here is the article:

Johnny Cash sang a song called "The beast in me" which always resonated with myself, it’s all about the dark side within him. The dark side we all have if we're honest, the side that lives in the cracks of our persona and distorts and destroys brings temptation and corrupts. For him his struggle was with drugs but he also shared in stuff that he wrote that he had fought with lust, greed, jealousy etc.

For me the strongest beast within me has always been "The Comfort Eater". He tells ferociously cruel lies in the most luring way and as the song states can be as deceptive as to “pretend to be a teddy bear”. Once the lie has been accepted and the trap sprung the beast released can be all consuming. This past few months he has really rattled the cage, I've given him attention and old habits, thought patterns and behaviours have returned.

He's low down scum who has picked a period of my life to reappear which is full of pressure and illness. On reflection it’s easy to forget that I've beaten him into submission before and that is something I need to think on. I am and may always be a recovering over eater but that shouldn't solely define me, I am so much more. If I choose to listen to the beast at the moment he’s telling me that it’s over, I’ve failed and he’s won. My response to his lie I choose not to publish but a very famous photo of Johnny Cash in an angry moment comes to mind and those who are fans of him will know the one I mean.

Lesson re-learnt lets journey on…  Enjoy your weekend folks, talk soon!!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

I will never do that...

This week has seen a real turn around in my thinking.  I did two things in one day that I said I would never do.  As a kid growing up I always disliked the shape of Japanese cars and as an adult secretly thought that they were built completely with plastic not so fantastic.  Similarly I have always disliked red cars.  I hate the way with time they fade making them look more like a washed out pair of pink knickers than the fiery red they left the factory with.

Well to cut a long story short I’ve been dying to get back into an estate car.  I’ve always loved them and have previously owned three, all VW. I love estate cars for many reasons but mostly for their convenience, especially these days for the transportation of our dogs.  Cuba our German shepherd has been travelling in the back of the golf for the last fortnight and it’s been a bit of a squish!

Take the photo and let us out!!
This bad lad came to my attention and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  It’s a 04 Toyota Corolla Estate with the highly dependable and acclaimed D4D engine in it.  Thankfully it has because in its 12 year history its covered 238,000 miles and I intend to try for 300,000.

It was a bargain and we all love those.  Once Bob my mechanic gets his oily hands on it and gets some work done on it, it will go on for forever.  ONE PROBLEM but the boy racer in me has resurfaced after many years in hibernation.  I have already bought Japense style square number plates, I am so tempted to put a set of wide alloy wheels on the car and tint the passenger and rear windows.  So ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to Toby the Tugboat the trustworthy Toyota.  Easy for you to say I hear you say….

Toby the Tugboat
Enjoy your weekend, talk soon! 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Plus one...

This week our family increased by one, a very BIG one.  If you haven’t already heard may I ask where have you been?? I must have told everyone I know about it at least 4 times now.  Most people now seem to glaze over when I mention it.  Well you may have noticed the references to Cuba over the last few weeks, well that was me playing with you.  The Cuba I was referring to is a BIG beautiful 5 year old German shepherd! A more beautiful dog you are not likely to meet and a better breeder you will not come across. (or at least not easily)

Introducing Cuba...
Cuba comes from the prestigious and successful Voneisen Kennel and was a multi award winning show dog for the first three years of his life.  He then grew tired of it and as a measure of the quality of his breeders they didn’t insist he continue.  Instead he retired and stayed very much a central part of the family where he thrived and was cherished.

He arrived with us on Saturday and the first thing he did was to accidentally break the brand new car harness we bought for him.  Whilst we starred at astonishment his charm was already working on us as quickly we began to realise that you just can’t get angry with the Cubester.

Today's Chunky Dunkers...
We are delighted with how quickly the big fella has settled in well and is starting to obey our commands.  One of my mates in the ‘Chunky Dunkers’ even commented today as we swam in the sea that she had never seen a dog settle in so quickly.  I have to agree he’s like part of the furniture.  Lola keeps her distance but to be honest she can be a little aloof with everyone at the best of times.  She loves to be in charge and she loves her own company.  We are just delighted that they seem happy to share the same bedroom and owners.

Big Cuba & Wee Lola walking on the same lead and to heel!
So how is your weekend looking?  Mine needs to be restful and hopefully peaceful too… talk soon!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Taking war too lightly...

Bless us all todays swim was cold… at 10.8 degrees it has 50% left to drop in temperature.  Will I brave that? Hmmm only time will tell.  You know I have been doing this now for 5 or so weeks and the thing I love most is the banter and the comradery.   Yes I love swimming but the social interaction in an arena where I have no responsibility is very therapeutic!  It’s an experience and an activity I’m glad came my way and I would recommend it to anyone!

Fellow Chunky Simon & I before the dip!
During the week Twinkle and I went to see Deacon Blue.  In their heyday I could take or leave them but their album “Raintown” always resonated deeply with me.  Over the close to 30 years since its release (a frightening thought) I have returned to it time and time again.  I can think of only a few other albums that this would be true off.  We sat at the very back of the third tier of the Waterfront and I have to say whilst visually it was good you did feel a little removed from the action. I must remember that for any future visits.

Deacon Blue at the Waterfont...
This weekend is a big weekend for a variety of reasons but one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the most is that our son Gee-Dubs is coming home for the weekend.  I miss having that big ligg about the house and I know Lola will be ecstatic.  Every time he comes home through the door she nearly bursts!!

Lola greeting Gee-Dubs
This week was my second week of my phased return to work.  Honestly my body has not responded as well as I thought it might.  Yesterday I visited the needle queen and as we talked I began to realise that I had stopped doing the exercises she had recommended alongside taking some of the magic potions.  The battle with this illness is all about consistency and that is something I have always struggled with, it’s an area I need to urgently improve on.  I’ve starting to realise that one morning, afternoon or evening of work takes me two days to recover from.  OH the frustration…

I have written about it in past on other blogs and so I won’t linger but today on Remembrance day I often think of my grandfather’s wee brother who didn’t make it home from WW2.  My mum still has the last letter he wrote.  As I read it it’s the language and focus of a mere boy whose main concern was his family and Linfield.  My grandfather was hurt deeply by his loss and frequently arranged for flowers to be placed on his grave, even going to France to visit his real grave on a few occasions. I am very thankful and proud that my family was involved in stopping Hitler from realising his plans.  However, its memories like this that makes me realise that today we take war and the talk of it far too lightly.  Yes it’s ok for politicians to send people off to fight but it’s neither them nor their families that pay the price.  I am not a pacifist but I do think we need to think a lot more carefully before placing boots on the ground so to speak.

Thank you!
Tonight is a lads night TV with a few mates, bring on the sponge cake and hot tea, what does the weekend hold for you?  Talk soon…

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

More bang for my buck...

For the third day trawlers have been floating around my neighbourhood fishing for clams.  I love the spectacle of them doing this although the lack of fish around these parts makes me wonder if these guys have done permanent damage over the years.  

The scene from our front garden...
I’m no expert but up on the north coast I’ve spent many a successful hour fishing for flat fish.  So why with the sandy banks of the peninsula are there none around these parts?  Answers on a postcard please lol…

You may or may not know that reading and books is a love of mine.  Some unkind souls might humorously suggest more the purchasing of literature than the reading of it.  True as that might be (much as I hate to admit it) I love the inspiration and eureka moments that books can provide.  One of my biggest frustrations however is how slow I read. I literally read at the same speed I speak and so the tally of books read in a month or even a year was up to about a decade or so ago very low.

A number of years ago I set myself the target of reading 6 books in a year.  Target reached I then pushed for 10 in the following year.  This year I set the target at 12 and made an amazing start in the first 4-5 months of the year.  Unfortunately but when the illness arrived my attention span left me and so things have slowly ground to a halt.  We are now into November and I have three books left to read to hit my target.  Now don’t get me wrong I was half way through 3-4 books before the cease in activities and so I am confident that with a little push I will cross the finishing line.  As I consider that but I am left with a question… what difference has all this reading made to my life?  Yes of course my knowledge has been expanded which is always a good thing but I read with a higher purpose than that in mind.  I want my character to change and grow; I want my horizons to be broadened and my quality of life to be enriched.  I want to embrace fresh wisdom and to learn new things that directly impact my life and those around me.

Goodreads monitoring my progress...
You see reading isn’t a thing that I naturally enjoy.  It’s not something that I would rush to do.  It’s always been a labour of love that has necessitated a good dose of self-discipline.  So with that being the case I want something to show for it, I want my investment to pay.  I need to perhaps not judge success by the quantity of books that I’ve read or even the type but by the inside change it brought.

I love challenging myself but these days as I grow older I want more bang for my buck… Talk soon!

*Dreaming of a trip to Cuba...
**The photo is a screenshot of a wee app I use to monitor my reading called “Goodreads”

Monday, November 07, 2016

It's been a while...

Last week flew in but it felt like it lasted a month!   What’s the word when two things are true but are poles apart… Oh that’s right an “oxymoron”. (Thank goodness for Google)  It was week without a blog post, but included two outdoor swims, some back pain, a persistent cold and the reintroduction of the green shake to my diet. I cleared out two bedrooms, had a BIG bonfire to dispatch of two old wardrobes, searched for a big and old estate car and started the process of being phased back into work.  Yes I’m returning to work (puffs out his chest whilst wearing a cheesy grin).

Our "wee" bonfire...
Yesterday morning I was in the Church where I work and I was bowled over by the warm welcome and well wishes I received. I can’t lie I was as nervous as a child returning to school after a long summer off.  5 months is a long time to be away but I’ve missed the place, its people and its heart.   It was good to see the warm smiles of children as I said hello and to receive the hugs of many friends and fellow members.

The afternoon came and good as the morning was I felt shattered and nauseous.  Due to work with a team of volunteers in the evening I went to bed and slept like a log. As I woke I could not believe what a simple morning took out of me, I felt like a safe a cat burglar had visited.  Last night was great craic as the team and I shared a pizza or three, there was lots of laughter and banter floating around.  Whilst I was the victim of most of it, it was great to be back at the helm.  I love my job and I adore what I do.  I get excited when a group of people sit down to talk and dream, the potential of conversations like that blow me away each and every time.  I never tire of them.

This morning came and I feel like a ship that has run aground.  My cold seems to have upped things a gear or two and my fatigue is heavy and hard.  For a while I felt gutted! I don’t mind saying it but I would be a fool if I thought things in this season of adapting back to normality weren’t going to be hard.

A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie (p95)
By mid-morning I had read this in a prayer book and it felt so perfect to the mood it inspired me to march on.  Such beauty to use negativity so creatively or to use an expression I am very fond of such “Cheerfulness in the face of adversity”.

I hope you too are inspired by and I look forward to talking with you again sooner rather than later.

Ps.  I've posted a new "Album of the Week" available to Spotify users.  Just click the link on the left and it should activate your spotify App and play it.  It's an old EP I used to love and listen to a lot...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Breaking news...

There has been a lot of talk about this next song, maybe too much talk. A line stolen from the old U2 album “Under a blood red sky” but it kind of summarises how I feel.  It’s been a very long time coming but yesterday one of the last pieces fell into place.

Yes you guessed it the issue of the second dog.  The house we currently rent we love but it is carpeted throughout and with the kitchen on the first floor it’s the wrong house for a puppy.  That said it’s the right house for so many other reasons that we don’t wanna move anytime soon.  So an agreement was struck yesterday between all parties concerned.  We can rescue a house trained adult dog.

You won’t need to be told that for quite a while now I have been having a love affair with German Shepherds. For years (literally) I have been talking about getting one and so now the hunt can officially start.   Now dear only knows what we will end up with but in an ideal world (if such a thing exists) this is what we would like…

We would like a large male with a short haired coat full of dark and rich colours.  A dog that has been the victim of circumstance not abuse.  A fella that is of stable character, good with other dogs and who doesn’t need to dominate.  You see the dog we already own "Lola" is a terrier by name and nature.  She’s small in stature but strong in character.  She is DEFINITELY NOT a nasty temperamental dog but she does know her mind.  Therefore any new dog will have to be accommodating.

Our Lola the border terrorist...

I hear you ask why must the dog not be the victim of abuse.  It’s simply that we don’t have much experience of the breed and therefore would not be experienced enough for one from a heavy and damaging background. 

So here we go let the search begin.  You never know Santa may bring more than that wifi speaker I have been after or the GoPro camera!  Talk soon...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Uncle Joseph & the Lionheart...

It’s Friday, and yet another weekend is upon us…  I love weekends although they never quite seem so long, relaxed and fun as they did when I was young.  This weekend we get an extra hour in bed and I don’t know about you but this house needs it. 

Uncle Joseph & Auntie Kathleen 
Twinkle is jam packed with the cold and feeling the pace of a demanding week.  Her uncle Joseph died on Tuesday and was buried yesterday.  Joseph was a lovely gentleman who embodied all that was good about previous generations.  He always greeted me with a warm smile and a welcoming handshake.  Don’t get me wrong I didn’t know him very well but that makes what I’m about to say even more special.  When we caught eye contact with each other somehow, he made me feel highly valued and esteemed without saying a word. It's funny but both my grandfathers had the same knack. Two minutes in the company of Uncle Joseph and I felt elevated to the status of a dignitary.  How did men of this generation do it?  I would love for the young people and parents I work with to say the same about their interactions with me. For each member of my congregation to feel the same way I did in the company of Joseph Murray.

Introducing the Lionheart...
Here is a hero of mine who in his short life has taught me so much. "The Lionheart" as I know him is one of the happiest go lucky lads I have ever met.  He almost constantly has a smile on his face and a giggle in his belly. Check out this wee minute of  a video treat to see what I mean...

Over the past few weeks I’ve been observing how he lives in and for the moment.  He lets nothing kill his joy, steal his laughter or destroy his curiosity.  He embraces life warmly and lives life to the full.  As I chill with him I am reminded of the bible verse John 10:10 and he demonstrates for me what the bible means when it asks us to have faith like a child.

More than that however he inspires me to choose life.  I want that day when we jump of harbours together, spend nights fishing for Trout whilst listening to them leap for the evening flies.  I hunger to see the wonder on his face when he rides his first bike and drives his first car.  You see its future moments like these make me want to beat both my eating disorder and chronic fatigue so that I can be there for them.  For this Lionheart I owe you a tidy sum and I look forward to repaying you with a trip to Windsor to watch the mighty Belfast blues, a night under canvas eating sausages in the mountains and sharing the joy of a bike ride blended with a cafĂ© stop to fuel the adventure.

You have been warned lol ;-)
Have a great weekend folks, talk soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A whingey United fan & a helpful Liverpool one...

Last night fresh from celebrating the launch (see yesterday’s post) of the new domain name “McFinkle”, the website found itself temporarily crippled with technical issues.  As I sat watching TV my blog was caught between being the victim of much friendly fire from a whingey United fan on one hand and helped out with domain issues by an old friend and Liverpool fan on the other. (Thanks to Stephen Cousins who owns BlueCubes, a web design company, a different friend and company to the one mentioned a number of posts ago)

Thankfully this evening all issues seem to have resolved themselves and “McFinkle” seems to be firing on all four.  A fortnight ago the needle queen suggested moving my acupuncture appointments to a fortnightly basis.  Due to return tomorrow I can report that this past week I have slowly been grinding to a halt and can’t wait for her to stick a pin in me.

It’s been a peculiar couple of days.  I’m fine in the morning managing a swim with the chunkies and even a small walk with the dog.  Then in the afternoon after lunch a sickness and fatigue sets in.  Is it a bug, over doing it, the junk stubbornly insisting on staying in my diet or as I say too long between visits to the queen?

Introducing my good friend Ben to the chunky dunkers...

I am really enjoying the swims and I believe they are helping.  The banter and comradery is outstanding with my new found friends and I must say you leave feeling exhilarated by it! My heart is telling me that I should be out swimming every day come rain, hail or shine however my head and body are saying stick to the plan.  At this stage the plan is to walk the dog a mile every day, to do 1 pilates class a week, 2 -3 swims and if all is ok the icing on the cake, a small bike ride.  Truth told this is a lot.  I’m pushing too hard to go beyond that, the plan is my energy at its absolute max. I need to learn contentment with where I am and to consolidate what I have achieved.

I have selected an album for the week and so if you have the free music streaming app “Spotify” You can listen to Seafret’s last offering "Tell me its real".  I really like it.  My son Gee-Dubs is coming home for the weekend and so expect stories of me being victorious at pool and the eating of ice lollipops whilst watching 80’s TV. I also have a cracking blog post coming up staring my nephew “The Lionheart”… keep your eyes peeled!   You know I spoil you guys… talk soon!! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Announcing the all new...

Have you noticed something new??   What’s that you say?  Is it the Spotify play button on the left? No you eejit that is sooo last week, keep up…  ;-) Is it the new “About” tab at the top which has no content as yet… NOOO!!!!  (Jumping up and down with impatient excitement and a smile from ear to ear…)

We have an all new name…  yes we are leaving behind the decade of being known as “Being released” and our now embracing our all new identity and domain name.  We are NOW…  McWhat?? I hear you shout… McFinkle! 
The real Twinkle McFinkle...
I used to work alongside the legendary youth worker known as Peter Thompson of “The Blue Houses” fame (Ballysillan YFC).  He had a great knack of giving people humorous and rhyming nicknames and so inspired and in the early days of our marriage I renamed my wife Twinkle McFinkle.  If you know my wife you will know she sparkles.  She has a deep inner beauty and energy that radiates from her bringing light and warmth into whatever situation she finds herself in.  Her humour and mischievous nature are magnetic and so the name just seemed to fit and it has stuck ever since.  I have to say I love the idea that she will now have to tell people her email address is Twinkle at  Talk soon…

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A depth my soul longs for...

I was brought up in a small denomination that looked down on written prayers insisting that all the individual needed to pray was themselves and the Holy Spirit.  Truth be told I admire a lot of what that particular faith movement stood for as it set off in the early part of the last century but as time passed and traditions grew they lost their way.  Most movements tend to be effected by the passing of time in the same way.

I sat in a prayer meeting about 6 months ago and listened as a highly esteemed member read from this book.  I was instantly captured by the authors beautiful workmanship as we prayed in the early hours of that particular morning.  This book which to this point I had never come across before was written many years ago but still stands strong and worthy of reading and using.  This is the first paragraph of this morning’s prayer and it really struck a chord with me.  Many of the prayers pray at a depth my soul longs for but head can’t reach.  I’m not sure if that makes sense but as you read the photographed paragraph below maybe you will experience what I mean.

As we enter November and the time for Christmas shopping fast approaches why not think of purchasing this classic for a loved ones stocking.  I promise you won’t regret it and that they will be blessed by it… Talk soon.

Ps. Over the weekend the blog has had some updates & additions made to it... these include the addition of a glossary, a bookshelf (see tabs across the top of the website) and a Spotify play button for those of you that have Spotify.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The good news OR bad news first?

When the choice is put before you of hearing the good news or the bad news which one do you pick? Twinkle always picks the bad news first and so out of devotion for my wife and best friend who dominates my thoughts and owns my heart we will go with her order of preference…

The bad news
Last night was a very light and broken night’s sleep.  I’m very tired this morning and even writing this seems to be taking a lot more effort than usual.  My sleep is horrendous and I need to return to being the good sleeper I was for the first 40 years of my life post-haste.  For 3 years now I have suffered broken sleep on a near enough consistent basis.  Ironically I have always been the type of person you want to avoid when they are tired and so I’m surprised I still have friends left after the last 3 years of insomnia.  Over the past few months I have been developing a list of rules for sleep but observing them has been very sporadic. Here are the rules;

  • Leave your mobile phone outside of the bedroom
  • Stop using your phone after 8pm especially for social media etc
  • Don’t eat after tea especially sugary things
  • Be in bed for as close to 10pm as you can manage
  • Start winding your mind down after 8pm – avoid things like high tension dramas
  • Don’t drink anything after 8pm to avoid multiple visits to the wee house
  • If you must have the radio on avoid a certain sports discussion show
  • If you must have music on let it be very gentle music
  • Focus on your breathing, breathe deeply and freely
  • Burn lavender in the room
  • Keep the room slightly cold

The needle queen recently told me to fight to control your mind.  As a result you may have 99 thoughts instead of the 100 you had last night.  Eventually you will be able to settle your mind.  So far all of the above haven’t worked but if I’m being fair a lot of them involve changing the habits of a lifetime.  It’s a theme at the moment but I need to grasp the nettle, get on with it and take sleep seriously.

The good news
Bless us all I thought we were never going to reach the point of sharing this.  The bad news must have taken 40 minutes or so to write as my brain is on a go slow.

Yesterday I visited my friendly GP and he was delighted with my progress.  I even thought I seen surprise on his face when I shared with him that on Wednesday I was both on my bike and in the sea swimming.  After a chat we have agreed to formalise what we had hoped for last month.  I will indeed return to work in November.  His suggestion is that it isn’t on a full time basis but feels wisdom dictates a slow and gradual phasing in to normal duties.  He is very clear however that this is a decision for my employer and not himself or me.

I can’t wait to get back to work, I have thoroughly enjoyed the last month as I have witnessed my body take strides towards recovery.  This is a great time but also a dangerous time.  Friends who have suffered the same illness warn me not to run before I walk.  I’ve relearnt how to crawl but as yet there is more learning to do.  To walk I will need to bring balance to my life and keep short accounts with my body.  A late night strategizing with a youth group could lead to ground zero for the next couple of days. Pushing too hard on the exercise front could indeed do the same.  It’s time for wisdom and discipline.  I would appreciate from those of you who pray your prayers.  God has been at the centre of my recovery and I continue to lean on Him for more.

Have a fantastic weekend… talk soon! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Soak in the small...

Yesterday was outstanding. A day full of energy, fun and laughter and certainly the best day I have had in many, many months.  (For details hit the tab above labelled home and scroll down to yesterdays post). In an effort to be wise I have declared today strictly a rest day and one of reflection and reading. I’m getting very fond of sitting here on a morning with my cuppa tea staring out to sea and wondering what I am going to write about next. I normally have some music gently playing in the background and my favourite oil burner sending some lemongrass scent into the atmosphere.

November is rapidly approaching and with it will see my phased return to work.  Truth be told I’m a little anxious about it and want to ensure that I am very clear about what the past 5 months has taught me.  I never want to return to this place of illness but if I have to sometime in the future I want to bring what knowledge I have gained from this experience into that one.

I watched this video this morning that my brother-in-law had placed on his Facebook page. A lot of it I could relate to and the learning points it brings out I totally agree with.  When I used to counsel people I would frequently use the story of two dogs.  Their names you could change and adapt to the presenting issue but let’s call one Anger and the other Peace.  Whichever one you feed and train will become big, strong and dominant, the one you don’t will grow weak, lack energy and discipline and will be easily silenced.

It’s a bit of an over simplification but I fed “work” at the cost of starving “play”. I let “Worry” dominate “cheerfulness” and made “survive” stronger than “thrive”.  If the mantra is true you are what you eat then I am fast food and confectionary.  My muscles lack the protein to strengthen them and my mind the vitamins and minerals to bring vitality. Mix this blend of compromised mental health with shoddy physical health and you have the place I found myself in.

I have a confession.  I tend to not read long blog posts so why should I expect you to but please bear with me as I attempt to wrap this one up. One of the things I’ve found is that solutions can often be found in the small things.  Things that are perhaps all too easy to dismiss but when part of your day bring stimulation, inspiration and hope.  Here is a wee list that springs to mind;

*Stimulate your senses – One way could be to light a candle and burn some essential oils it is amazing how a fresh smell can lift the mood in the room. Get out and get exercise, 10 minutes in the fresh air is better than nothing.

*Spend time with nature – spend 5 minutes a day in silence as you slow your mind down and listen to the wind in the trees, the birds sing or the waves crash against the shore.

*Gratitude –If choose in a moment to be thankful then you can’t choose to be swimming in a tide of negativity and complaint during the same moment.  If your mind is anything like mine it will appreciate and thank you for the retreat from heaviness.  As I travel through my day I like to fish out the minuet and express my gratitude for things like that blue in the sky, or the taste of that last sausage.  Gratitude is uplifting and by its very nature a positive and powerful remedy but it needs cultivated and for you to intentionally go about nurturing it.

*Watch wisely – be careful of the TV you watch. Night after night of gritty murder dramas will not result in laughter, creativity and  inspiration.

*Have fun – spend 10 minutes practicing your guitar, knitting, paddling your feet in the ocean or whatever else floats your boat.

*Choose human contact – rather than text people, phone them.  Choose a coffee with a friend over scrolling through their Facebook posts.  Call past a family member’s house for 10 minutes rather than waiting for you both have the same night off to get together.

If you have a faith you may want to read on and if not you might not, it’s your choice… :-)

One of the biggest lessons I have recently learnt is this.  God wants to be with me in every moment and in every aspect of life.  I had myself convinced that God was a God of work and ministry and that I was simply His tool.  I may not have expressed it this way or been even conscious of the underlining thought pattern but I held the belief that God was not interested in the frivolous.  He had no time for play or distraction and certainly was condemning of failure.  This could not be further from the truth, I am His son and not just His tool. God invented play, humour and fun.  He wants to be with me as I swim with my new found mates in the ocean.  He hungers to come alongside me as I write my blog, stare out to sea and get on my bike.  These moments are as important to him as the moments of being in or serving with Church.

All we need to do is invite Him into our daily lives, chores and adventures, our friendships, family and workplace.  Invite Him, go on I dare you!  It might just revolutionise the rest of your life…  Thanks for reading and sharing this moment with me, talk soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Pushing it... (Part 1, 2 & 3)

It’s a Wednesday morning and I awake from yet another night’s broken sleep, never great when you suffer from Chronic Fatigue.  I look over at the cabinet and I see some of my cycling stuff left out for a wee adventure I signed up for yesterday with a mate, a wave of excitement hits me. I remember my bike needs a little preparation and so I go down stairs. Last night it hit me my tyres need pumped up and my floor pump is on loan.  So after I eat breakfast I grab the dog and walk over to my mate’s house to lift the pump.   On my return as I enter our garage I notice that the wrong rear wheel is on the bike for today’s wee jaunt and so that will need changed to.

Now that I have sorted the bike my mind moves on to sorting out the rest of my gear.  Is it a mitts or full finger glove day?  Is my Garmin (bike computer) fully charged?  Where on earth did I put my helmet and when was the last time I used/seen those cycling shoes?  Bless us all this is taking a bit of effort!  Swimming with the “Chunky Dunkers” seems so much simpler and a lot less effort.

My subtle new cycling top...
It’s an hour before I hit the road and I’m feeling excited but fatigued already and a little nervous.  The thought of going for a swim as well today now feels frustratingly well out of my grasp. I remind myself however of how far I have come over the last six weeks.  My progress has been immense and I can’t wait to share it with my Doctor tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 - a post ride analysis lol of sorts. 

Part Two
My stinking feet have always been a problem but not just when cycling, generally. If they aren’t blistering, there is a nail infection.  If I haven’t hurt some sort of tissue or other within them my arch has dropped.  Worse than all of the aforementioned but my feet are cold, permanently cold.  So you can imagine the gentle panic that arose when 10 minutes before departure I couldn’t find my favourite pair of warm cycling socks.

Socks found I opened the front door and said hello to my neighbour who had the kind of smile on her you knew she was thinking, “who is Mr Michelin here all dressed up in lycra?”.  Maybe she wasn’t but to be fair if the roles were reversed it’s exactly the kind of thought I’d be having lol.

As I turned on my computer and threw my leg over the bike things felt good, I like cycling.  As I headed out onto the main road I was delighted to see the sun was keeping me company. Chuffed with my correct clothing decisions for the weather I felt all smug until I got to Ballyvester.  There my quads went on fire.  Nothing unusual but I had forgotten how long they take to loosen and warm up.  I hit Millisle and my lungs were burning and my breathing heavy and with that I was delighted to stop and wait for Graham to appear for the return leg home.

 For someone who used to do 60-80 mile a week, a ride of 6 miles seems a bit useless but now having done 3 of the 6 I knew I had judged it wisely.  I constantly have to remind myself that I’m in recovery and that this length of ride is an achievement.  This level of fitness is temporary and even if it’s more long term than I would wish it’s still a cool thing to be out on your bike.  Relax and enjoy it!

Graham arrived on a smoking hot new bike and as I drooled over it we set off.  Graham set the pace and I have to say picked it wisely.  The wind was in our face and whilst that’s always a challenge it was good to have company to share it with.  I was thankful of the pace because truth be told my engine was performing at its max.  A pace not enough to burst me in the moment but should I have wanted to go further it no doubt would have.  Graham turned into his street and shortly afterwards I was at my front door. 

It was all over way to quickly but the experience has left me hungry for more.  Perhaps Peter the Cyclist isn’t dead just yet.  Talk soon…

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Purchasing failure...

What shall I write about today?  My mind is full of stuff and over the past few days a wee list of potential subjects has been developing.  These themes include; inspiration, planning my first Microadventure, growing consistency, the importance of dogs, and transportation.

When you are embarking on a weight loss journey inspiration is essential.  Actually inspiration is essential in every field of life and when I have allowed it to dim, I dim, life gets dull.  During the weekend I visited my favourite clothing store “Cotswold Outdoor”.  I just love the functionality and practicality of clothes designed for the outdoors. Most of my clothes have been creaking and groaning of late as my increasing size has been stretching and pulling them to the limit.  As I walked through the store I seen lots that I liked but little that I could buy because I am now too big.  It’s depressing and ironically is an experience that has often in the past drove me to comfort eat. It’s easy to be overcome at this point by regret and self-condemnation but if allowed it comes at a very heavy price which often ends in the purchase of failure.  Over the weekend as I wrestled with this I decided to remind myself of past successes and the experience of wearing clothes that I really liked. Memories but sometimes aren’t enough and so I decided to go through some photos of old and this is what I found...

This reminds me of what is not only possible but what I have actually achieved in the past.  I grasp the two pounds I lost last week with both hands and push on to the day when I can once again enter into shops and buy of the peg.  You see you may be used to seeing me wearing a black long sleeve t-shirt and cheap blue jeans but that’s not what I want to wear it’s what at this point fits.  It’s not a wardrobe I want to hold on to.

I have to say I have really been enjoying writing again and I have been touched by the odd word of praise and the humorously worded backhanded compliments I have received from friends and family.  Yesterday I had lunch with one of my oldest friends.  We have always had a unique friendship that would remind you more of two school boys in the playground than two grown men.  He leads an internet design firm "Flint Studios" that he and others have built from scratch over the past 5 years.  Yesterday as we walked through his offices I was impressed with the 22 staff and the atmosphere I found within the place. He has done well and it was pleasure to observe.  Whilst our friendship is deep and long lasting the style of our banter and laughter based comradery means that compliments are rarely exchanged between us but it’s not unknown.  As we ate lunch he said I’ve been meaning to say that I have been thinking of getting you to help us with stuff.  I nearly spat my teeth out as I thought another wind up was coming but it wasn’t.  He stated that he has been reading my blog and felt I wrote well.  Whilst catching my breath from that statement and its complimentary content I checked that I wasn’t dreaming.  He then went on to say that there are times when customers want blogs to be part of their website but that they struggle to get authors.  He felt I might be an ideal candidate.  It’s not a job as such but would pay pocket money, a thing I wouldn’t mind at the moment to help fund the odd toy or adventure. Who knows what will come of it but I was blown away by the affirmation.

Enjoy your Tuesday, I’m away for what looks like a swim in the rain… talk soon!

Ps Should you fancy guest writing on my blog please get in touch, I would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A 10p mix up...

A 10p mix up of things that have been randomly travelling around my head or that I’ve recently learnt, experienced or achieved…

1. Today I weighed in at 19st 11.6lbs – A LOSS OF 2lbs!!

2. Never take a giant bowl of granola after fasting for 24 hours – a recipe for a tornado!

3. NEVER do a Pilates class straight from taking a giant bowl of granola having fasted for 24 hours. You will spend the hour tensing the wrong set of muscles which should you fail could lead to you being charged with war crimes including the use off weapons of mass destruction.

4. This afternoon I beat my old mate Jeremy Biggerstaff at a game of pool.  This was straight after he paid for an expensive lunch.  Carlsberg don’t do afternoons but if they did…

5. Sainbury’s Sweet Potato fries are to die for… it’s in the herbs they use!

6. Dunnes clothes are a lot better than I thought, especially the jeans… better than M&S for sure!  (How middle aged do I sound?)

7. I’m upping my walking to a mile a day.  Blend that with outdoor swimming 1-2 times a week and a Pilates class once a week and that’s my exercise plan for the next month.

8. I have appointed a new advisor… like the Stig on Top Gear they remain anonymous but advise/educate me on all things diet and exercise related.

9. I’ve discovered a mate who lives in Donaghadee and cycles once a week 20-30 miles at an average of 14mph.  I want to join him in the New Year.

10. I’ve set myself the target of swimming at least once a month in the sea for the next year.

Hope you had a great weekend… talk soon.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Answering THAT question...

It’s Friday!! Anything nice planned for the weekend?  Mine will hopefully be a gentle one full of family and laughter.  I’m just back from my third outdoor swim with the “Chunky Dunkers” and I’m feeling a bizarre mix of invigoration and fatigue. 

A chunky dunker seen today clinging to hot water bottles
The last two weeks have seen major strides forwards with the addition of Pilates and swimming to my programme towards health and recovery.  With Chronic Fatigue you need to budget how you spend your energy, it’s a massive pain in the bazookas!  I now know that it takes 2 days to recover from an activity.  The question arises well is it worth doing an activity if it takes such an effort and time to recover?  It’s a hard question to answer if I’m honest, however if an answer was demanded I would say yes it is worth it.  The sense of hope these activities bring is priceless and central to recovery. To feel adrenalin, to be pushed physically and to socialise is something that in August I wasn’t sure I could see on the horizon.  At this point depression sailed very close by and I don’t say that lightly!

I have been asked a question frequently over the past two weeks and I have some answers but not enough.  I want to return to work, I miss my young people and congregation and journeying with them.  When I went on sick leave at the start of June it was for what I thought would be a fortnight.  Here we are nearly 4 months later and I’m impatient to get started.  I seen one of our children from church the other day and nearly didn’t recognise them.  4 months has brought a lot of growth and change.

Answering THAT question...
So the question is this… How will I live my life differently to accommodate my illness and to prevent a relapse?  You see most people experience Chronic Fatigue as a medium to long term illness.  Getting back to work will make me tremendously fortunate and very thankful to God for the healing he has so far brought to my body.   However the other day I received a text from a friend sharing that they now have been living with it for 8 years and whilst having returned to work for most of that period it’s something they still have to accommodate.  As November approaches I want more answers…  So this weekend it’s time to think.

Have a great weekend folks, talk soon!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Made for adventure...

This morning whilst feeling rubbish and with energy low I am very thankful that I can look out from my living room and admire God’s creation.  I love the inspiring sound of the wind whistling around the house as it rustles the leaves. The sight of the whites of waves battering the rocks whilst the sun illuminates all around it offering therapeutic company.  The blue skies, the various greens of the ocean and the autumnal browns of the trees and bushes invite me to come out and play.

Playing is something that over the past 2 or 3 years I’ve stopped doing.  I’m not sure why but I allowed other things to consume me and gradually my interests dimmed.  I haven’t lifted a fishing rod, rambled through the mountains or took a leisurely trip out on my bike – it all slowly ceased.  My tent lies rotting in storage and the camping holidays on the west coast of Ireland, Cornwall and Wales are old distant and dusty memories. As my ability to play faded so did my ability to regenerate and renew.

As my chronic fatigue hit hardest a close friend of mine came up with a God send of an idea.  Simply to sit together on a night, eat cake and watch lads TV.  TV programmes on a whole host of things, from restoring old cars, mining for gold under frozen oceans, and adventures in the great outdoors.  I remember when we started both my mental and physical energy were so low that I could barely engage in conversation.  Gradually however the stimulating evenings in front of the box started to inspire my spirit and my imagination began to create dreams.

Last night the agenda was no different as we dined on Madera cake alongside pots of piping hot tea. We began by watching Guy Martin’s incredible attempt to beat the world speed record on a motor bike.  Hard to top my buddy carefully selected 3 or 4 YouTube videos to watch that literally excited the life out of me.  I have attached two for your viewing. The first one is on a great idea called micro adventuring (not cycling as the pic might suggest) with the second one being on an imaginary journey round Scotland, linking together wild bothies and landscapes.

The outdoors may not be your thing but I would encourage you to watch the beautifully filmed mini-documentaries and allow them to fuel your spirit of adventure.  It’s my conviction that both life and faith have generally been dumbed and dulled down and for both to survive that needs to change.


If you continue down the path you are currently on then when you get to the other side of your life what will you have to show for it?  God created us for so much more than answering e-mails, ticking off to do lists and staring at Facebook. God created us for adventure with him…

Talk soon!

Ps I am deeply grateful for friendship; it’s a gift I treasure closely and want to invest more in.  Thank you Simon for yours... 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wee day out...

Yesterday I bumped into this wee film.  It is 6 minutes long but it really caught my attention.  Seriously have a watch, it’s worth it!

In today’s media driven society it’s easy to lose a grip on reality.  To believe that people can be born with the perfect beach body and to then wonder why you weren’t?  Of course the back story is that people with the perfect beach body spend hours and a fortune each week in the gym for month upon month.  In this wee film we see Danny MacAskill on a wee day out perform some amazing stunts on his bike.  The first 4 minutes are incredible but the last two reveal some deep truths.

As I watch my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts update themselves with the front story of people’s lives I can be tempted to start to wonder why my life doesn’t compare.  One can risk feeling waves of discontent as the media continually bombards the reader with lives that are seamlessly lived at the top of the mountain.  That youth worker photographed with 30 kids having the time of their lives is their norm.  They have never experienced nights that went belly up and don’t know what it is to have numbers drop.   That preacher who is enormously talented and incredibly popular and yet have never seemed to have had to polish or hone their skills.  A sermon that stunk like last week’s milk is not within their experience.  Of course this isn’t reality but after relentless waves of images presenting it as so one can fall into the trap of a false reality.

In this age of the instant you could be deceived into thinking that practicing something can seem a pointless and outdated concept.   That you can either do something or you can’t.  Failure is permanent.  Life is not like that and I worry for the generation we are raising that is being fooled into thinking that success is as much a right as oxygen and that talent does not also require effort.  Let’s all embrace failure as temporary and understand that it simply points to the need to try again. Let both young and old celebrate the journey of having to repeat and repeat something until it is achieved.  

Reality needs to dawn that life, all life, has both a front story and a back one.  We need to embrace the fact that with practice (and as in this case some smart editing) we too can appear to be able to do anything.

Talk soon

Ps I love Danny’s videos and this is not a critic of him or what he does but of our media obsessed culture. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The memory maker...

I was going to talk about the lack of sleep around these parts but instead I decided to shift into a lighter gear and share this wee initiative. In church I am part of a wee bible study/home group called ‘Catalyst’. We haven’t been meeting for a good few months due to my illness but recently we have been.  Last night we met in one of our homes and over a fantastic meal had a wonderful chat. Candles burning, coffee a flowing, imaginations started to get to work.

Life goes past way to quick and all too easy we can allow it to fall through our fingers like sand.  We decided to do something intentional every 3 months that would create one off memories.  As we talked some bizarre ideas came to the fore, some heavy with adrenalin others requiring more thought and creativity.  Here is what we agreed:

Oct – Dec            A “Come Dine with me” Night.
Jan – March        A walk up Cavehill for a picnic and prayer time
April – June        An overnight on the Copeland Islands
July – Sept          A surfing trip

Recently I came very close to purchasing my first van.  I love the practicality of vans. 

I love the idea of throwing a bike or two into it, a canoe or a surf board on the roof and heading off somewhere.  I adore the idea of helping people move big items that they otherwise couldn’t transport. How good is the idea of using the shelter it provides to get changed in after a swim.  Another cracker is on a stormy day to sit well wrapped up in the back, supping coffee whilst looking out through the open doors at Mother Nature doing her worst.  Finally there would also be the fun of using it to transport our dog(s).  Unfortunately for a variety of reasons it didn’t come off but I could also imagine putting a logo up the side of the van calling it "The memory maker". Just like Scooby’s van but a lot more subtle lol ;-)

So seriously setting my dreams aside, what are your dreams?  What things would you like to do before life passes you by?  They won’t happen unless you get intentional and marinade that intent with commitment.  What would be on your list for memory making with?

*Ps. One of my friends who reads this once talked about heading to FFald-Y-Brenin, a well-known retreat centre in Wales… you still up for that?  You want to set a date? Are you up for making memories?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Grasping the nettle...

It’s been over a dozen posts since I last focused on my weight and since that point I’ve put close to another half a stone on.  I could offer a platitude of excuses most of which would be woolly but if I am being fair to myself I hadn’t the mental strength at my disposal to address it.  Chronic fatigue robs you of so much however since mid-August my mood, energy and general health has been steadily improving.  Now that it has its time to grasp that nettle.

Today I’m 19st 13.6lbs (279.6lbs).  I want to linger, mourn and throw a pity party to end all pity parties however doing that got me nowhere in the past.  It’s time to move forwards. The reasons why I am the weight I am are quite complex and long standing but could be summarized in one word, anxiety.  I’ve shared before on this very blog that I have an eating disorder. A specialist in the area told me that it would take over 2 years of focused effort to recover from it and from that point on I’ve been in various shades of denial.

There are so many stigmas around an eating disorder especially an overeating one that I have only ever discussed the issue with a very select bunch of people.  I don’t know of any others in my friendship circle who suffers from it and who are willing to share.   For the benefit of myself and for the encouragement of others I have decided to further discuss amongst other things the reality of living with an eating disorder on my blog.  It might be outstandingly courageous or enormously stupid. It could make me tremendously vulnerable to judgemental attitudes and/or a point of mockery.  It could make me all of the above however if it helps me I am getting to the point of not caring… much.

So today I am drawing a line in the sand.  I don’t want to be over 280lbs, I don’t want my weight to start with a 20.  It’s time to turn this ship around, it’s time to grasp the nettle.  Talk soon!