Chapters

You don’t just have a story – you are a story in the making, and you never know what the next chapter is going to be. That’s what makes it exciting. (Dan Millman)

It is a well used cliché that our lives are made up of of chapters. I suspect like many clichés, that it is so because it is true.

Although I can look back over my life (as many of my previous blog posts do) and identify the different chapters and the significance of them, I wasn’t aware of these things whilst those chapters were being written. In recent times however, I have found myself becoming increasingly aware of life whilst I am living it. Over the last 6 or 7 years I have found myself being increasingly present in the moment and becoming acutely aware of the life that I am living and the chapter that is being written. In the U.S version of ‘The Office’ a character called Andy Bernard laments “I wish there was a way to know that you are in the good old days before you have actually left them”. I honestly believe that recently I have found myself doing just that.

Two years ago I was working as Youth Coordinator at St Tees in Lancaster and I knew at the time, that I was in a special chapter in my life. There were painful things happening within my life and many challenges but the blessings were clear. Kate and I were living in Sedbergh, which is a stunning part of the world. Our relationship continued to develop and grow as a constant source of blessing and joy. I was working in a job I loved and with a really special group of people. I knew that I was living in ‘the good old days’ in the present. Life was full of purpose and joy, I was serving and working within a place that I felt that I belonged. It was within that time that I felt a call that would lead to that very chapter coming to an end and a new one beginning.

It started with a simple question in my mind. That question was ‘What is next?’, Life was so good that I felt it absurd I was questioning what was next. The question developed greatly over the next few months and eventually led me to responding to follow a call to ordination within the Church of England. One of the main things that led me to deduce that it was a call from God was that I was really happy with how life was and wouldn’t in myself pursue an avenue leading to that changing. I wanted to pursue the call in the knowledge that if it was right, I wanted to be obedient to it, and if not then I was happy with where I was at. The process went on and I was recommended for training and the end of the current chapter was in sight, as well as the start of a the new one.

As I looked to the future I was confident that it was the right thing, but was filled with uncertainty and doubt. I didn’t doubt the call, but doubted how I would cope with the work and also about living in community with other Ordinands, who I was convinced would be more prepared for this chapter than I was. At the same time I was leaving a place where I felt that I belonged, I was filled with purpose and understood the vision that we were working toward, and the culture I was living within. I was genuinely excited about all that was happening with STY:LE (Youth Ministry) and the direction that ‘Resolute’ (Youth church) was moving. St Tees was embarking on a building project aimed at serving the community to a greater degree. The feeling of loss was much more prominent than any excitement about the future. I feel this was largely due the fact that I didn’t have an insight into what I was going to. It was uncharted territory for me and I had no frame of reference for what the next chapter would hold.

That chapter began by almost mourning the loss of what I had left behind and endeavouring to figure life out where I was now. That took some time. For a term the things that I was uncertain and insecure about beforehand were prevalent. As time went on these uncertainties dissipated and I found myself not only being able to cope well with the level of work, but that I was learning so much from it. Along with the benefiting from the work I also found myself benefiting hugely from the community. I came to realise that we had far more in common than I envisaged, and rather than seeing the differences we did have as barriers, I found them to be a huge resource. It is fair to say that during my time at Cranmer Hall I have learned as much in the common room as I have in the lecture hall.

Last summer, eight months after starting at Cranmer hall plans and discussions were in place to leave. I received a letter from Bishop Julian informing me that after prayerful consideration they felt a curacy in Clitheroe, Lancashire could be the next chapter. After visiting a couple of times and speaking with the Vicar and some of the team, I also felt that it would be a good fit, but more than that, I felt a genuine excitement and it really felt right. After more prayerful consideration and reflection the incumbent and I agreed that this seemed to be the right course of action, and that Clitheroe would be the setting for the next chapter of my life.

That was formalised over the summer and I started back at Cranmer hall in the October. From that moment there has been an increasing sense of contrasting emotions. There has been a tension within me of a real excitement at what the future holds and again a sadness of leaving a chapter that I have enjoyed and learned so much. I am genuinely excited to be a part of Blackburn diocese and to be working at St James’ in the beautiful town of Clitheroe. These feelings though, run parallel to feelings of sadness at the thought of leaving the community where despite being uncertain of how I would fit in, has become a huge symbol of belonging and support. It has been strange to hold these two things together. With each excitement filled thought of the future, of serving and fulfilling the call that I so strongly feel, comes the painful realisation of all that I will leave behind.

The thought of leaving Durham as with leaving Sedbergh/Lancaster two years ago provides a joy in the fact that the thought of leaving brings a sense of loss. Being ready to leave and finding it easy to leave are not the same thing. I am ready for this chapter to end and for a new one to begin, but knowing that this chapter has brought so much, learning, so many good relationships, so much growth and so much formation brings with it a sense of sadness. I feel blessed that this is the case. Before arriving and for a short while after arriving at Cranmer I would never have envisaged that the thought of ending my time here would bring some heaviness to the heart.

These last two chapters in my life have indeed been ‘the good old days’ and I look forward to going into the future to experience more of those in this next chapter.

Until then I have essays to do…

 

 

 

Designer labels

Label

“People are too complicated to have simple labels”

(Philip Pullman)

 

Hello there, It has been a while since I have done this, and so much has changed in that time. I have left a job that I loved in Lancaster, working with some of the greatest people that I have ever met. We have left Sedbergh and relocated to Durham, where I am currently training for Ordination within the Church of England.

The idea of me becoming a Priest has shocked some of my friends, but no one was more shocked than I was. Most people have been hugely supportive, yet it still seems surreal when I say it out loud, I am training to be a priest.

Residential college wasn’t part of the original plan, but as I am learning more and more: I realise that what is easiest, isn’t always what is best.

We moved to Durham in September and I started training at Cranmer Hall in October. Here I was, studying at one of the finest educational establishments on the planet.

When I started I felt that I was being judged and I felt that I was constantly being labelled: Conservative, Evangelical, Northern, Undergrad, Naive, Uneducated…

I had long reached a point of realisation that labelling people wasn’t always helpful, and that people were much more than the labels that they (or others) use to identify themselves.

I somehow had seemed to forget some of that when I arrived at Cranmer hall. I felt intimidated and somewhat inadequate to a level that I had not felt for a number of years. I felt that I didn’t match up with most of my peers academically and also in terms of my ability to understand the very establishment that I was committing to serve for the foreseeable future. I looked around and I saw people that seemingly fit the mould more readily than I did. I deduced that they had it ‘all together’ and that they were not feeling anxiety about the new environment that they found themselves in. The feelings within me led to me projecting a confident persona, that betrayed what was actually going on internally. I had started new jobs, and been in new environments over the years, but with each of those places, I was confident in my ability to fulfil the role that was being asked of me. The same confidence was not there when I found myself in the role of a student. It had been a while. I was confident that I had a lot of the tools required to be involved in leading churches, but the two years since starting this journey within the C of E was like staring into the great unknown. I didn’t know many of the phrases that were being used all around me. The language of the trade if you like. I didn’t even fully understand the labels that others were offering of themselves. I couldn’t really think of how best to answer the questions such as ‘What is your Churchmanship?’ in order  to help people understand better who it is that I am.

This insecurity and the fact that I was thrust into a community with a lot of new people from a different range of backgrounds, led to me making assumptions and using the very labels used by others to identify themselves and others, in order to try and understand people. I then made assumptions based on the labels that people had used to share something of themselves.

This is not an attack on labels as such. Initially they can be useful, but often they are inadequate and it appears that people can’t be defined by simple labels.

In the beginning people seemed to identify themselves through location, church tradition, age, marital status and various other things.

I wasn’t even sure what label best fit me in order to help people understand me.

I noticed that I was drawn to those that I had identified as being similar to me.

There seemed to be comfort in identifying the things that I had in common with people, when everyone felt like a stranger.

As the months have progressed, the labels have been discarded as I have gotten to know the individuals within the community. People are much bigger then the labels we or others used to identify us.

As we have spent time together, shared experience and relationships have grown things have became clearer. I have found real joy in sharing a journey with this group of people and I have counted it a real blessing to get to know the people that I thought that I had so little in common with. I have discovered a group of special, quality individuals that do my soul good.

I count it a real honour and privilege to be on this journey with this group of people, and there is something special in the fact that we will have spent this time of formation together. We will also be connected forever due to the fact that we will have shared memories and experience.

It is strange when I think back to when I was feeling isolated and that I didn’t fit in, to now feeling like a part of a special group of people from so many different backgrounds. We are so different in so many  ways, yet each is a special part of the group. I am really enjoying being part of the Cranmer community.

People are so much more than the labels that they use to identify themselves. or those that others use in order to try and group us together.

Stay classy,

 

Ian

 

 

 

 

 

 

What have you got to be so happy about?

i-choose-to-be-happy-sayquotable

 

Today I feel happy.

It all started this morning when I got up at 7:30am and the sun was shining and I felt myself smile. I don’t know if me smiling is an unusual thing, but I noticed it.

I then thought about about the reason I was up so early. I was up to run. I am sure at that moment, the smile left my face. I then went through the almost daily internal dialogue of why I should or should not run today. “You need to run” “Rest is best” “Running is good for you” “Is that a twinge in my calf” etc etc.

As is more frequent nowadays the voice telling me to run won the argument and off I went. I didn’t feel very happy during the run but as is always the case I felt happy once it was done.

At 10:10am I was on my way to work, the sun shining and the radio pumping out musical gold. At that point I was once again made aware of how happy I was feeling.

It was then that I started to think of all of the things that I have to be happy about.

I thought about my wife, Kate. The way she accepts me and loves me in a way that is beyond my understanding. The way she shows me that love continually through her words and her actions. In the 11 years that we have been together she has been a tremendous example to me in showing others value and consistently modelling integrity. Thinking of Kate makes me smile.

I thought about my family. The people who I am genetically connected to, those that have known me the longest, the people that have shaped, educated and loved me my entire life. I thought about the fun stories, the behaviours that we share that mark us out as family. I thought about the things that impress me about my family and happy I am that we are family.

I thought about my friends. I have friends that I have known since childhood and many others that I have met since. I have friends that I see frequently and others that I haven’t seen for years. I have friends that I am in regular contact with and those that I rarely or never speak to. There are many incredble people that I get to call friends. The people that encourage me, support me, challenge me and inspire me because somewhere in this journey of life we spent time together, or had a shared experience. My friends are tremendous and I value each one of you. Those people that I may not speak to for years, yet when we are together again it is like we have never been apart. I was happy thinking about the people that I have shared adventure and life with.Friendship makes me happy

I thought about my job. The young people that I get to work with. The brave, intelligent, caring, creative, inspirational, fun people that are attached to STY:LE. They truly are an extraordinary group of individuals. The way they question, serve, relate and influence is a real blessing.I thought about all of the memories and laughter that have been wrapped up in the last 28 months of working with this group of Legends. I then thought about my colleagues and their encouragement and support. I thought about the example that they are and the passion that they show.

I looked out of the windows as I drove. I looked at the howgills and the beautiful scenery. We get to live in a beautiful part of the world and each day I marvel at it.

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I thought about many other things on the drive to work this morning. The things that make me smile and the things that I am thankful for in my life. I was driving to work and I was happy.

My life has challenges, many of those challenges will fit into the things that I have talked about. Life isn’t perfect and there are things that we can bring to mind that will cause us tension and anxiety. The truth is that this blog entry could have been about all the things in life that cause me challenge and tension. It is often easier to focus on those things. It is easier to occupy our thoughts with the things that would keep us from being happy. Today the sun made me smile. The sunshine makes things seem better. But from there I thought about the positive things in my life, and before I knew it I was so happy that I understood what a room without a roof feels like.

You will undoubtedly have things in your life right now that make you frown or even wince. But what have you got in your life that makes you smile?

Today I chose to be happy.

So, what have you got to be so happy about?

 

 

 

 

Thank you

Thank you

Hello there,

It has been a while. Today I just wanted to say a huge thank you. If you are reading this and we know each other then I want to thank you.

I am aware that my blog posts seem to run along similar themes of nostalgia, faith and people.

As I become more experienced at life, I recognise how grateful I am to those that influence my life from near or far. I am more and more aware of the influence that others have had and continue to have on who I am.

It is my belief that as humans, as people we were created for relationship, relationship with God and relationship with others.

I enjoy being around people, spending time with them, having fun, laughing, discussing and sharing experience, but more than all of that I love how as people we directly or indirectly shape one another.

I value each person that has represented this to me, whether I identified their impact at the time or not. I can identify many of those who have impacted my life, my choices, those that have enhanced experiences that we have shared.

In recent years it is easier to see those influences and impacts that others have had on my outlook, behaviour, feelings and experience. My interaction and shared experience with Family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, people I have played football with, been church with, those that I have been on mission trips with, overseen in my roles, those in youth groups I have had responsibility for and every other area of my life.

Whilst I have been thinking about this over recent days, enjoying life and the various relationships that I have with others, I have found that there are many others that I didn’t understand the value of at the time or that we simply no longer see each other as much as we used to.

I have said it many times on this blog previously but I don’t apologise for saying it again. Value those in your life that are good for you, those that encourage and build you up, those that make life easier, make circumstances better and those that enhance the experiences that you share.

We are not always aware at the time of how great of an impact others have on us or how fleeting they may be. So be thankful for those people that you have in your life. I know I am.

Thank you.

 

 

It’s all about the feels

“Long after people have forgotten what you said, they will remember how you made them feel”

Who was your favourite teacher?

What was your favourite lesson that they taught?

The first question should be fairly straight forward for most of us to answer. A teacher that we remember fondly.

The second question will for most of us prove more difficult.

This is because how people make us feel is much more memorable than what they said.

My favourite teacher was so because she encouraged me, praised me and ultimately inspired me. I tried harder in her lessons because she had showed me value and helped me realise that I could do it.

She was and English teacher and I still remember her pulling me to one side and telling me that she could see a real talent in my creative writing. She said that she didn’t highlight it in front of the class as she recognised that it might not be good for my “Credibility” with “the lads” if she was telling the class of  my ability to paint emotive pictures with my words.

I was impressed firstly because she had cared enough about my feelings to talk to me privately and secondly because she believed in me and wanted me to hone the talent that I had.

That lesson when this teacher took me to one side is the only lesson that I remember her teaching me, but I remember to this day how she made me feel.

In my job I get to talk a lot about lessons of life, love, faith and other mysteries but I know full well that as important as those lessons might be right now, it is how I make people feel that will have the lasting impression.

My ambition in life is simply to be a positive influence.

I aim to make each person that I come into contact with feel valued.

I believe with everything that is within me that each person that has ever, or will ever walk on this planet is created with a purpose. I want each person to realise just how special and valuable they are.

For the people that you come into contact with, how you make them feel will have greater influence than what you say.

This isn’t to say that what we say isn’t valuable, because often it is our words that cause people to feel.

Go and make someone feel good.

Allow yourself to be inspired

inspire-be-inspired

Hello!

It’s been a while since my last post and I have been all kinds of busy.

This summer has been a tremendous experience. It has been a time of fun and laughter, a time of challenge as well as encouragement.

Ultimately it has been a time in which I have been inspired by others.

I have spent the majority of the summer surrounded by teenage young people.

That is normally the case for some of my summer as in my job as a Youth pastor we tend to do something in the summer for a week or so.

This year we had a 5 day trip to ‘Soul survivor’ (a christian based festival/conference for young people) and together with 2 other churches took 50 or so teenagers camping in the rain in Staffordshire.

2 days after returning from this trip I was leading a team of 19 people, including 15 teenagers to Moldova for 11 days to partner with local organisations in running holiday clubs in the villages, and to do some refurbishment work on a playground in an orphange.

We first got the coach from Lancaster to Heathrow at 10pm in order to get us there for 4am in time to get a 6am flight.

We then flew to Vienna and had a 3 hour stay befor flying to Kishinev in Moldova.

In total the trip would take 22 hours therfore it would be 36 hours between getting up and going to bed.

It was a life changing trip that I will explain more about in future posts.

Throughout the summer I have been inspired by those that I have been in contact with.

We all have those people that inspire us and who make us want to be better but this summer for me was a time when I was constantly inspired by those around me.

As a “leader” or in my role as a ‘Youth Pastor’ there is an expectation to empower and inspire others and I seek to do that as much as I can, but I often find that it is often I that am being inspired by the young people that I work with.

This summer as I have shared in happiness and laughter and in the tears of struggle I have found myself being more and more impressed by the people the people that I am sharing those such moments with.

I look around at those people on the team, those who I work along side week in week out. Those people who give up their free time (and their holidays) to serve and invest in the young people. Without these people I couldn’t do what I do. WIthout their support and their skills it would all look very different. I find myself driven on to be better by the attitude of these people. They genuinely seem to love what they do and their actions consistently display a selfless attitude as they use their time, money, skills and resource to serve others.

Whilst in Moldova I met for the first time some truly inpsirational people. People who again gave all that they have in the service of others.

I met people who were surrounded by poverty and corruption and rather than sitting and complaining about the injustice they chose to stand up to it. These people chose to go into the poorest communities in order to make a positive difference. Many of these people had moved their and their families lives, often from other countries to position themselves to be in a position to influence. I found myself on many occasions standing back and looking at these people with appreciation and sometimes I just wanted to applaud. I didn’t as it may look weird to have a big, sweaty, beardy man following you around clapping. I looked at myself and how often I look at situations and frown and even show empathy and I pray for a solution. Sometimes we have to become the solution.

I love my job! I will tell anyone that will listen, it really is an honour and a joy to get to do what I do for a living. Part of my role is to inspire and empower young people to be all that they can be. I aim to help them realise their potential and support them in the fulfillment of that.

As time goes on I find that they consistently and frequently do the same for me. The way they consider one another, the way they face their fears and step out of their comfort zones and do so with a smile or a joke. I find myself moved by their desire to take opportunities and to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.

During the summer I have watched as I have seen some of these people put aside their personal struggles, doubts and fears in order to serve others. When I have found myself frustrated with a situation the voice of reason so often comes from these young people. When in Moldova and dealing with heat, lack of sleep, sickness, change in plans and the fact that most of them had never done this before the attitude on display was outstanding. It was an attitude of focus but always with a smile.

I wasn’t impressed and inspired in the patronising way of “They showed a great attitude for young people”. They showed a great attitude, full stop. I was proud and encouraged to be part of such a talented and motivated team.

Look around you today and look at who inspires you.

Look at the people that you come into contact with and look at what they do that encourages you, what they do that makes you want to applaud (at least on the inside).

Identifying good character in others is not an admission of our own weaknesses but merely celebrating things in them individuals that resonate within us.

As well as seeking to inspire others, we should seek to be inspired by those around us. If you are not inspired by those around you, then maybe you need to surround yourself with some other people.

Have a great day

Inspire and be inspired.

Never underestimate how valuable you are

significant

I have just had an incredible weekend. I was involved in leading the youth (11-18) venue for a conference hosted in Lancaster by 10 local churches.

The conference was called ‘Landmark’ and the Youth venue was entitled ‘Resolute’.

Friday was launch night and after 16 months of preparation we had technical issues in the youth venue that meant we had no sound.

The band and the team adapted and made it work, after all we can hardly be called ‘Resolute’ if we crumble at the first bit of pressure can we?

Things got better from that point and the weekend and the conference were tremendous.

The talk on the Saturday morning was very encouraging, the title of which was “You are significant”.

There is something powerful about seeing young people being told that they are significant and that they do matter. There is even more power in seeing the same young people get hold of this message and start to believe it.

Too many young people. too many people generally in fact don’t always see or feel their significance.

You see, You are significant. People often don’t realise how signficant, valuable and brilliant that they are. They let other people, the government, the media or many other things define them. They let others define their class, their standards and ultimately their worth.

You see, YOU matter and you make a difference in this world.

Out of 100 million galaxies existing in 100 million star systems and out of 7 billion people you have your own genetic make up. Your thumb print is yours alone. You can create art, write a song, show people love, give gifts, display talent and much much more. You impact others on a daily basis, You are enormously significant.

You may not feel significant or you may spend your time comparing yourself to others, or accepting the identity that others place on you.

Don’t let your past define who you are, nor your mistakes, insecurities or your failures. Choose to accept and acknowledge the fact that you are unique, that you are influential and therefore you are significant.

I know that the people reading this will have many different beliefs, faiths and viewpoints.

I nailed my colours to the mast of “intelligent design” and acknowledged faith in God many years ago and believe that God made me to be significant and to have a positive impact where I can whilst I am here.

I believe that for you too. I believe that when God made you, he did a quality job.

I believe that you are significant.

How about you?

#IamSignificant