We're almost at the end of February (sounds of cheers all round)
So I reckon it's time to get positive.
I came across this quote some years ago, but it's only recently I discovered who wrote it.
Thanks to Dr. Sukhraj S. Dhillon, scientist and writer who among other things has written books called 'The Power of Breathing' and 'Art of Stress Free Living'.
Happy Saturday everyone!
I don't know how you're reading this.
Maybe you've logged on to your desktop computer, or perhaps you're reading this daily blog on your handheld technical device, or even your phone.
If you're as old as me - which is not ancient, but old enough - you might remember a time when we had no computers, and phones were plugged into the wall in your house, office or a 'phone box' on the side of the road.
I think I first saw and used a computer, a very basic one, at work in the 1980s. It was stand alone, and not connected to any other computers. To share information I had to load the data onto a 'floppy disc' which could be inserted into another machine. There was no 'internet' and no fancy graphics. Just black and white, or green on the screen.
It wasn't long though, just a few years, when we had greater 'connectivity'. The World Wide Web was 'invented' in 1989 and by about 1993 it was something we used every day. Initially I could connect (rather slowly and with that distinctive 'dial in' sound) via my telephone line but eventually came what we now know as 'wifi'. What freedom! When it works.
As for a 'mobile' phone, my first was a rather large analogue device which had a cover I flipped open to get to the dialling numbers. It had an aerial I had to extend to get a connection. I think I could text on it and make calls, but nothing else. I'm talking about the early 1990s, so not that long ago in the greater scheme of things.
We've come a long way very quickly. No longer do we need to be 'plugged in' to connect to the world. Today I have a laptop and an I-pad, and an I-phone and I can do pretty much anything I want to on it, on the go, through wifi.
The idea of mobile phones goes right back to the early 20th century and many many people have been involved in the development of the technology down the years.
But I'm going to mention one man today who is synonymous with the development of the personal computer era.
His name was Steve Jobs, and he was born on this day - February 24th - in 1955.
Business magnate and guru, industrial designer, pioneer and innovator. He and Steve Wozniak, a former high school friend, set up Apple Inc in 1976. Under Jobs' leadership as chairman and chief executive, the company has become one of the leading firms, if not THE leading technology company in the world. Think that I-phone and the other tech I mentioned just a few moments ago.
I could say so much about Steve Jobs, but I won't. You can look him up on your I-phone or similar tech device to find out more.
There's no doubt that Steve Jobs inspired not just computer geeks and tech people during his time, but also those who wished to emulate his business acumen and determination to get things done. He was an unconventional character but he created an astonishing legacy which continues to inspire, even though the man himself is no longer with us.
And there's one quote which I found from Steve Jobs, which inspires me. It's part of a longer thought which I offer below, but it starts with this...
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
This is so profound.
Many of us spend our lives trying to please others, and trying to be what others want us to be.
We do jobs that we have no passion for, because our family or our teachers, or our community want us to follow those paths. We believe things because we think if we stop believing we will upset the people around us, or those who taught us, or raised us. Even when it comes to relationships we maybe settle for less than we might, because the world tells us we need to be married, paired up, have children before we're a certain age. Even if we're with the wrong person. We tie ourselves into careers because they bring us money to buy the house, buy the clothes, have the holidays, live the life that 'everyone' lives.
And think about the celebrity culture.
So many people think if they look like, sound like, wear the same things as those they perceive to be 'successful' then they will successful too. But one of the reasons that the celebrity who we might try to emulate were successful in the first place is because they WERE at the start, different and distinct. Original. By copying them you are a poor facsimile, just a copy. Not original at all.
Take the example of music ... today's popular music. Listen to the charts and many of the successful downloads of tracks, and you may notice that many of them sound the same. That 'breathy' rather 'whiney' sound where the singers slur their words. Many of them, when they occasionally sing 'properly' without that affectation, have great voices. But they adopt this sound because others have made a success with it. But what the copycat musicians forget is that the original artist made it BECAUSE they sounded 'different. They were original.
Maybe if people had the courage to follow their OWN style, rather than just copying what they think will make them successful, they might actually get what they so long for. And if not, well at least they've been true to themselves.
I know I've been part of the system. I've been guilty of doing things, and making even important decisions in my life, because I thought it was 'expected of me'. I've stayed in jobs I dislike or am bored with because I don't want to let people down and to be seen to be walking away from 'a good situation'. I've missed opportunities because I haven't been brave enough to step outside the expectations I think others have of me. It's so complicated.
But the older I get, and the shorter the amount of time I know is left to me, the braver I become.
I'm not sure yet where this might lead me... but today, on this anniversary of Steve Jobs' birth, I take his thoughts on board and determine not to waste any more time living a life that is not mine.
Sometimes less is more ... today I just want to share this thought with you!
Thanks to my friend Lindsey for sharing this thought on Facebook the other day. Sometimes, I just need to be inspired!
I was trying to find something to cheer us for the weekend and I found this quote.
Don't you love that?
I love the optimism and simplicity of this thought. And if you're a bit fed up of February, take heart. Spring is on the way!
I have some daffodils in my garden already, and I've seen snowdrops and even some primroses in the hedgerows! I do live in the farthest south outreaches of the British Isles, in Jersey in the Channel Islands, where we do have milder winters than other places, so we are already on course for spring, despite the bitter cold and even snow of recent weeks!
But when I saw the quote it also got me thinking about the author - Patience Strong.
It's a name I've known well pretty much all my life. I remember my mum having several Patience Strong poetry books when I was young. It was quite spiritual poetry, the sort that was great for church, or inspiring women's groups. Patience's poetry is traditional in that it rhymes and it's simple, often short verse, and yes, sometimes sentimental, with themes of nature, faith and strength.
So I did a bit of digging to find out more about the woman behind the verse.
The poet was actually born Winifred Emma May in June 1907 in England. Her poems, prose and thoughts have been collected in numerous anthologies, and they are often brought together to create a collection of 'daily'' inspirational thoughts. Some under the title of 'Friendship Book'.
What I didn't know was that Winnifred also wrote books, dealing with Christianity and practical psychology, and that she was an accomplished musician and lyricist. I read that in 1930, she even wrote a song for the 4th birthday of Princess Elizabeth - now Queen Elizabeth II.
She was much more than the seemingly sweet sentimental poetry I first knew her for.
Patience's popular poems were first featured in The Daily Mirror newspaper in England in the 1930s and throughout the Second World War her daily poems appeared in a section called 'The Quiet Corner'. They brought comfort and inspiration to a generation of people living through terrible conflict.
But why 'Patience Strong'? Well apparently the name came from a book by an American poet and writer called Adeline Dutton Train Whitney. She published more than 20 books for girls in her lifetime, in the mid to late 19th century. ADT Whitney's books expressed a traditional view of women's roles and were popular throughout her life. One of them, published in 1868 was entitled 'Patience Strong's Outings'.
I wonder if that book made a deep impact on Winnifred? Maybe it was a book that had inspired her as a young girl? Who knows?
Whatever the reason for her choosing her pen name, I've always been a bit intrigued by it and I think it was a clever choice. It mixes two important emotions - Patience and Strength. To be truly patient with the world and with life, and with relationships takes really strength. And the name has certainly stood the test of time, because Patience aka Winnifred's poetry and words are still around, and enjoyed by millions of people every year.
Earlier I was chatting about spring flowers, so as we wait for Spring to appear - here's one of her poems which is just in the moment ...
by Patience Strong
I've put my bulbs in coloured bowls and hidden them away -
Inside my cupboard, where they cannot see the light of day -
I've put them in the soft black mould as cosy as can be -
And in the quiet darkness they will work their mystery . . .
And when all things lie lifeless locked in winter's frozen sleep -
Inside my cupboard one sweet day a pale green tip will peep.
I'll bring them out into the light and set them in my room -
And silently and secretly they'll grow and bud and bloom -
The grey old house will waken from its drowsy slumbering,
To find the rooms ablaze with flowers, as if it were the Spring! . . .
With daffodils and hyacinths, narcissi, tulips too -
A flaring mass of loveliness in gold and pink and blue -
And I shall smile, remembering my small part in the show -
For though we plant and tend the bulbs -
it's God that makes them grow.
What I love about this thought is the progression of words.
For me, it has a flow which is in itself spiritual and perfect for the coming season, as it takes us on a journey from silence to peace, via the 'busyness' of the everyday.
Be Blessed everyone!
*and if you're wondering, this picture is one of mine, taken from the cliffs above Swanage in Dorset on the south coast of England ... a really gorgeous place!
On this Valentine's Day I share with you something very special.
A few years back I wrote a book based on the lives and letters of the couple who founded The Salvation Army, the global church and charity movement.
William Booth met Catherine Mumford in 1851 and they married four years later, in July 1855. Their relationship was developed through letter writing, and that correspondence continued throughout their marriage.
Those letters are held in the British Library in London, and it was sheer pleasure to spend hours pouring over those epistles, deciphering the handwriting. Through the correspondence I got to know these individuals on quite a personal level and I discovered that, although they were obviously very religious and spiritual, they were also complex characters, flawed individuals, and ... I found to my surprise ... very much in love.
That personal even romantic love kept Catherine and William close, and that and their love for God and humanity and their mutual passion for sharing the Christian gospel, helped them to stay strong often during very difficult times.
I love that in 1872, 17 years into their marriage, William - who was also quite an accomplished poet - was inspired to write this to his wife, the mother of his eight children, and his partner in life, faith and Christian mission.
It's called 'William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army told through their letters' (Lion Hudson 2013)
You can also find it and some of my other books on Amazon and other sites.
You can also check out my Author Central page on Amazon
Thanks and Happy Valentine's Day
Wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes, but not always from holy scriptures or experts who have studied to PHD level or who have all the experience in the world.
So how about this for a thought for today?
And that's from a dog!
The dog is Snoopy, and if you're not already aware of it, he's the companion of a certain Charlie Brown, a little boy who is 'loveable loser' - he's meek, not that self-confident and is of a nervous disposition. He's pessimistic quite a lot, but also sometimes optimistic. He worries about the day and all the things around him, and other times hopes for the best and tries desperately to make good things happen.
Charlie Brown is puzzled by Snoopy and some of the slightly weird things he gets up to, but he looks after him, and does his best to provide his dog with a happy life. And in response, Snoopy is always there for Charlie when he gets let down or needs support.
I've always felt a bit of an affinity with Charlie Brown, even though he isn't a real person, but a cartoon.
He's the central character of the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M Schulz, who died on this day - February 12th - in the year 2000.
'Peanuts' had first appeared in print in USA newspapers on October 2, 1950. It shows the world of a group of young children. Adults are barely heard, but woven into the comic strips are some very adult themes like philosophy, psychology and sociology. There's some deep stuff in Peanuts and it's characters, even things that could be interpreted as 'spiritual' if not 'religious'.
Take this Snoopy quote for example - 'Keep Looking Up... that's the Secret of Life'.
Now, as a person of faith, what I get from those words is that I need to keep looking up to the Creator, for inspiration and motivation.
In the Old Testament in the Bible, in Psalm 121, we are encouraged to look up to God for all our needs. I particularly love the translation of this psalm from The Message translation:
I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains
He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep
God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke
God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always
Don't you love that? We're not on our own. We just need to look up, not to physical mountains, but even higher, to put our trust in God.
But the Snoopy quote an also be interpreted in a different way. If we are constantly looking DOWN, physically, we will never see the potential of what isn't yet here, what might be open to us. We will always be just concentrating on where we are, now, and not looking forward.
See what I mean? There are so many different ways of looking at life through the eyes of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang. Maybe you may interpret this Snoopy Saying in a way that rings true with you and your life?
The final Peanuts comic strip was published on the day after Charles M Schulz died. On February 13th 2000 the 17,897th-and-last instalment appeared in newspapers around the world.
But that wasn't the end of Charlie Brown and his world. The comic strips live on, there are TV cartoons and movies, and images of him and his quotes and those of Snoopy and the other Peanuts kids all over the internet. They are icons of our time!
We all need friends and we all need hope if we are to live life well.
Charlie Brown had Snoopy ... who do you have?
And are you, like Charlie, always seeking the hopeful path?
Are you looking UP or always looking down?
Maybe worth thinking about?
Memory is a strange thing.
It is rather choosy in what it chooses to remember.
I know that, as a person who was born at the very end of the 1950s, SO many things have happened in my lifetime but most of my memories aren't of the BIG events, but lots of little, personal things. Making a snowman with my brothers when I was probably about 5, hanging upside down on the 'monkey bars' at school at about the same age. My first memories of moving to Africa with my family ... more on that another time.
As a person who has worked most of my life in the news business, I strangely find that I don't remember even many of the big life-changing events. Although I DO know where I was on September 11th 2001, when the planes hit the World Trade Centre in New York.
And I remember the events of February 11th 1990 because I clearly recall watching them on the television.
The crowds were incredible and then we saw him, holding hands with his then wife Winnie, walking through the crowds. Walking into Freedom.
It was incredible. It really felt like I was watching history in the making.
For my whole life I was aware of South Africa - I had relatives living there and had visited my brother and seen apartheid in action, even the reaction of some black people against members of their own community during these very turbulent times as they worked their way towards independence. I had witnessed terrible scenes on a television screen, an horrific 'necklace killing' which was shown on TV. If you don't know what this is, please click on the link... I can't bear to repeat it here. I still have the images in my mind.
One of the iconic songs of the era, 'Free Nelson Mandela', was a cry for freedom not just for the man, but also for the black population, the nation of South Africa. With the real threat of a racial civil war and pressure at home and internationally, including economic and sporting boycotts, eventually the government of President F. W. de Klerk saw what needed to be done.
And here Mandela was ... walking free. The man who had been imprisoned for sedition and conspiring to overthrow the state of South Africa was a free man. At last!
It was incredible.
But what came next was even more astounding.
It would have been easy for Mr Mandela to insist on power for the black population, immediately, and to rouse them to action.
But instead, he worked with President de Klerk to negotiate an end to apartheid, that system of institutionalised racial segregation that had been formalised in 1948. Eventually there was a multiracial general election in 1994 which resulted in victory for Mandela and his party, the ANC - the African National Congress. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of his nation.
After assuming power, and especially after suffering 27 years in incarceration, one might have assumed that Mandela might then have wanted his revenge on the white politicians and civilians who had made life so unbearable for the black and 'coloured' population for so long. But no.
Instead he emphasised reconciliation between the country's racial groups and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses.
It was barely a year after that 1994 multi-racial election, which my own family members were pleased to be part of, that I visited South Africa again. Life in the country seemed familiar and it didn't feel like much had changed really, but there was hope in the air.
And although it is still a troubled country, with much poverty and even inequality of all kinds, today I remember the man who guided his country through such a momentous era, which could have turned out so differently.
In his autobiography 'Long Walk to Freedom' (Little Brown & Co 1994) Nelson Mandela shared not just his life's story but also his wisdom.
He wrote ...
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
And he left us with thoughts which can inspire us all ...
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
It's that time of year when life can be a little overwhelming. At least that's my experience.
January is over but Spring is not yet with us. We are still often being battered by the winter weather, wet and windy, cold and dull. Life can feel a bit dark in the first couple of weeks of February. Winter can seem never-ending.
Of course, we know it WILL come to an end ... after all, this is not Narnia during the reign of the White Witch when it was, in the words of their creator C.S.Lewis, “Always winter but never Christmas.”
But sometimes it does feel endless.
Although here in Jersey in the Channel Islands we've had the occasional bright winter's day in recent weeks, January was the wettest on record, with only a couple of days of the month rain-free, and right now we're in another dull and cold snap.
Add to that the fact that we've had nearly a year of pandemic restrictions, working from home and not much getting out, well it's very easy to start to feel sorry for oneself.
But on a day like today I need to remind myself that, even though life is getting me down, actually I have so much to be thankful for.
So many people during this coronavirus pandemic have lost their lives, or loved ones. Many have lost their jobs and life is very insecure. Although the past year for me has not been a bed of roses, I have certainly not had a terribly negative experience. I'm sure I'll talk more about this again from time to time.
But I do need to keep on top of the tendency towards negativity.
A few years back, I realised that sometimes we forget to be grateful for the things we have in our lives. We chase dreams and perhaps things out of reach, rather than just being satisfied with and thankful for what we have - right now!
It was then I created a Facebook page called 'Don't Forget to Say Thanks' . It's not the most followed page in the world but every now and then, when I need to remind myself of the need to feel gratitude, I post a little thought. It's a work in progress. Aren't we all?
So, today, when I am feeling a little worse for wear and mournful of the season, I turn to that inspiration ... and share one encouraging thought with you!