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Going Home-an image

On a recent silent retreat , I was meditating on Ephesians 3:17, which states:

“May Christ through your faith actually dwell and settle down and make his permanent home in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love”

Out of my contemplations, I drew a Mandala to express what I thought that scripture communicated to me.

Going Home

Going Home

Mandalas, are more than a simple shape, they are an image seen with our eyes that captures a moment in time.  It symbolises the whole self at that moment, by which self knowledge/awareness may grow, and hence knowledge of God. I have subsequently developed the drawing into this logo image which I have called, ‘Going Home’.

For me, it captures the essence of what I am about in ‘Coaching Christ’ so I thought I would share with you the themes and meanings in the drawing as I saw it.

I also include a U tube link to a Dire straits song ‘Going home’, from the film ‘Local Hero’ as it accompanies the theme in the Mandala with some fabulous images of the natural landscape.  Apologies for any google ads that come up! Please play this to accompany your reading on.

Going Home the meanings and themes in the image

The image represents the journey the heart is invited to take into the love of God, where if undertaken the soul finds its deepest centre and rests, enfolded in the security of the ‘pod-like’ seed that holds them (like peas in a pod!).  The person comes home to themselves, to their true self, which is found in Christ.

The two central figures could represent two individuals who journey towards the centre, taking off layers of false images or selves that they have held out to the world. As they peel back the walls of their hearts and strip themselves of egoic defences they meet in the centre as forgiven, peace-filled and reconciled beings. Reconciled to God, to themselves and to others.

The unified self

The unified self

Although, in addition to the idea of them being two separate figures,  I also like to view the figures as different aspects of the self. Human beings experience fragmentation within, we struggle to function as a unified whole, where our thoughts feelings and actions are consistently organised around a deeply rooted ground of being.  This brokenness, divides the heart and we have a ‘fragmented self’- the self that is divided against itself, and without peace it wars with itself, others and with God. Journeying to the centre, the self progressively becomes integrated as it matures into a unified personality. Person-hood is restored in the Great I Am as our identity becomes more solidly found In Christ.  Now the soul dwells in the oneness of God and his immense love.

It has a Celtic feel to it,  drawing on the monastic rule of vulnerability and availability as essential ‘attitudes’ in the homecoming journey. The knot at the centre entwines the union of the fragmented self or  two are made one in the mystical union of bride and bridegroom or Christ and his church. At the heart of the image lies the cross, the place we must come to in order to exchange all that is false for that which is true and experience real transformations. We are real-ized in Christ.

The colours are symbolic:

The black threaded around the other colours symbolises suffering and honours the journey through the darkness and into the light that brave souls make on their hearts journey. Taking off the sin and shame and the fear that binds them they come to be found in the centre of all that is love, to dwell in eternal life and liberty.

The red symbolises fiery passion, the intense motivation fuelled by the life of the Holy Spirit, to embark and to persevere on such a difficult journey of change, until it is completed.

The blue symbolises truth, the colour of heaven, and recognises the pilgrims heart as it seeks to know the truth that will set it free. The truth of itself in the light of God.

The purple represents royalty and honours the heart of repentance which exchanges the false self for the true self in Christ and is clothed in the royal robes of: righteousness, holiness and character.

The Gold is a manifestation of Gods Glory- as the shame, fear and pride of the false self are exchanged for the glorious true self found in Christ.

The image captures for me the journey I have undertaken, and the one which I offer to accompany through spiritual direction, coaching and companionship to others.

Change Fest Cumbria

I’m back blogging…struggled to get much done this year due to a lot of work commitments and getting married in the summer which took up lots of planning time.

Anyway…good to be back…I’m just letting you know that I am stepping out into the public arena to speak at a couple of events in October…so if you like my blog posts you can hear me live at these events. I will be speaking at the Cumbria Coaches Network, Change Fest on October 18th, at Brathay, Ambleside as well as the Change Camp at the Gosforth Academy, Gosforth on the 23rd October.

For more information please visit: and also

My subject-the psycho spiritual process of change….only have an hour and a quarter to simplify a very complex process!  Here’s a few snippets to wet your appetite…

Why is change difficult?  Well, the brain doesn’t like it….it has a hard time establishing new neural nets. Learn how to help it do this…

Why do people struggle to turn intention to action?   The amygdala sabotages the intent and hijacks the will so that it can not do what it wants ….which sounds like Romans 7:11 where Paul says…the power of sin keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realise that I don’t have what it takes, I can will it,  but I can’t do it.  I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

Why  is vision important?  You need to be able to ‘see’ or ‘imagine’ what the change looks like? What is it you want to become? ….Well if your a Christian, it’s got to be Christlike-your true and authentic self but if you don’t have that vision it might be your best self, living your principles and values.

Why is Change just as much about the Human Spirit (spirituality)as the mind will and emotions (the psychological side)?

…Because spirituality is about finding your true self, your uniqueness and specialness…your I am’ness and this has to be rooted in something that is bigger than yourself. From a Christian worldview that’s being rooted and grounded securely in the love of God, which through faith in Christ, God graciously effects in us (progressively) by the indwelling presence of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit.  We become Christ Centred, and take on his character and live accordingly.

Outside of this though…people may try to live to their higher principles and values, (they become principle centred to use Stephen Coveys terms) and through self effort and lots of mindfulness be able to manage themselves and their reactions more effectively than they could before.  For us in Christ, the glorious hope is that we can be free from ‘sin’ or if you like the patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that come out of an I am’ness that has sought to find significance, security and worth in a whole host of things other than God.  Coming home to the Father and knowing we are loved brings a spiritual wholeness from which the psyche (mind, will and emotions) can start to mirror.

Not sure yet…how I will present this stuff in a largely secular context…but I’m going to be looking at what neuroscience tells us now about the structural changes that have to happen in the brain if change is to happen, make a link to John of the Cross who talked about structural transformation when he was around 600 years ago!. Also, science is now verifying that all behaviour is emotional and so getting a handle on the limbic brain and the amygdala will be in there especially as I look at the role and effect of silence and contemplation on the emotional brain….I think this is so exciting….I have experienced it’s effects personally in my own healing journey…..prayer, silence, solitude, calms the amygdala so that it is not triggering you into actions that are rooted in fear states and instead we start to act out of secure attachment emotions…excitement/joy trust/love because we know we are securely attached to the Father.  Now I can carry out my intentions more effectively because my will has detached from the things that prevented it carrying out a course of action.

So, for me its Christ-Centred Spirituality all the way because my experience of it working to transform me is so powerful. It does what it says on the tin…so to speak… Other spiritualities may work towards it but I’m not sure they deliver the same results.  I guess it has to be tasted and tried for people to assess the difference themselves..

Maybe I’ll see you there…if not…I’ll post to tell you how it went.


New Year Hope

No new year resolutions here, just the same resolve, to seek the Lord as the one thing necessary, to grow in the experiential  knowledge of his love and to be transformed in and by it, so that I become like him and share in his likeness. This is my sure Hope. Hope that is not wishful thinking, but hope that is certain because God effects it with my full co-operation and collaboration.

Increasingly, I understand and experience this as a gradual removal of the things I attach myself to in order to derive a sense of security, safety and significance. Some might call it egoic attachments, inordinate attachments or misplaced dependencies.  They are the things we run to to make us feel okay, worthwhile, significant, powerful, safe and secure, but they are poor substitutes for the abiding presence of God within and without us.

What I am learning to do is practice the spiritual disciplines, particularly silence and solitude, biblical meditation and contemplation alongside the practice of mindfulness where I develop an observer of my own thoughts, feelings and behaviours so as to know my inner motivations better. In looking up and out of myself to God in silent contemplation of the greatness of his love, I have begun to change my neurochemistry because the amygdala (the part of the brain that holds emotional memory) is soothed and calmed. This is important because if it is triggered it sends me into the fight, flight or freeze response and this is not a good place to make effective decisions from.

I was interested to read on the Postive Neuroscience Web site ( that science is now wanting to investigate the effect of spiritual /religious practices on neural function and behaviour as well as the nature of free will. I find this tremendously exciting, because as someone who is a believer and testifies to the power of Jesus to transform and renew the mind it would be fascinating to see what is going on in the brain. Even more exciting would be to explore this comparatively with people of other faiths, no faiths as well as secular spiritualities to see the similarities and differences of effect. As someone who is learning about neuroscience and its application to coaching, I am continually being wowed by what it is revealing because I’ve know it spiritually all along and now have another language to communicate with.

renewing the mind

renewing the mind

Makes me wonder what Jesus brain looked like -I’m sure he wasn’t the mass of conflicting thoughts and feelings that warred for his attention when trying to decide on a course of action. He was clear thinking in every situation, and respons-able in every situation rather than reactive. Perfectly inter-connected- I like to imagine! He also spent nights in prayer and sweated blood as he agonised to know the Fathers will and submit himself trustingly to it.

I have certainly learn’t that prayer, particularly contemplative prayer has been a key factor in enabling me to change, heal and transform, and that the Holy Spirit is ready and willing to work within us when we stop resisting! Infact even if you are resisting-start there because God can reveal to you the fearful strongholds that are in your way and you can choose to dismantle them as you grow in the security of his love.

Happy New Year Everyone, May the God of Glory show you his goodness in 2014 and may you be transformed in ever increasing measure from grace to grace and glory to glory. Go for the Goal that counts people-it’s priceless and eternal.


Looking Back and Looking Forward

2013 saw a number of breakthroughs in my life as well as the usual round of frustrations and disappointments -so I have much to give thanks to God for and to be grateful over. Things are by no means ideal….I still feel out  balance with work and time pressures, I am still ‘stuck’ in terms of the dissatisfaction in a job role and yet my fear of embarking on the process of significant change in that area of my life keeps me in the stuckness (for now..but it’s on my radar). I still feel sad over relationships that are not what I hoped for…but I am growing in acceptance of the reality.  I’ve managed to get this site up and running but am disappointed that I have not been able to invest more time in writing and developing it, largely due to taking on a full time job in a school in September. So I find myself time poor at the end of the day, without energy…So there is some readjusting and fine tuning to do in 2014 if I am ever to see my dreams in coaching fully realized.

On the positive side…I have prioritized relationships and in 2013, a wonderful gift in the form of Steve pursued me…and after several months of having my Nikeys on because all my ‘frozen terrors’ surfaced, threatening to sabotage the prospect of an ‘us’,  we made it through to a place of commitment and got engaged with plans to marry in 2014. It has been a wonderful transformation!  Relationships have continued to develop through the Cumbrian Ecumenical Spirituality group and I just completed a 2 year course in spiritual direction as I plan to operate as a spiritual director/coach in 2014 as the relational networks continue to build and develop. I also spoke at the Cumbria Coaches network on neuroscience in coaching as I am fascinated by the anatomy of emotion in the brain’s wiring, and how Romans 12:1-2 may actually take place. (Rom 12:1-2 says be transformed by the renewing of your mind then you will be able to test and approve Gods will-even his good, pleasing and perfect will for you).

I suppose you could say that the brain that got you where you are today is not the brain that will get you where you want to be tomorrow! we must literally rewire our brains if we are to get different outcomes in life and it’s an exciting, difficult but not impossible process. With God nothing is impossible, and the blood of Jesus can wash through your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, break every stronghold that holds you captive and empower you in the truth to live freely from a place of secure identity in Christ.

So 2014…what will it bring?…more of the same?….or something different? what will you choose?  what hopes do you have? …what fears hold you back?….For me…I continue to seek the Lord my God and ask him How then shall I live? as this is the rule of the Northumbria Community which I have embraced?  In the mundane and ordinary, grist to the mill of life and it’s current challenges whether that is economical and financial pressures, relationship stresses and strains, health or illness matters, through griefs, sorrows, joys, fears, losses, gains God never changes and is the one constant, ever present, loving Father in a chaotic, constantly changing world whose promises are sure and his word faithful and true.  I hope to grow in more secure trust in my heart of what I know in my head!

To understand the present we must learn from the past

Ebenezer Scrooge had a problem! His heart had become hard and closed to giving or receiving love.  His fear of poverty had driven his behaviour for a life-time.  His childhood reasoning’s had long time ago concluded that in order to be secure he needed to accumulate money and this had been his determined focus and goal for a long time. Not surprisingly his chosen career was banking.  He was rich in pots of gold, he had enlarged chests and safes to secure his treasure. However his solitary and self-contained position had so atrophied his heart that he was incapable of displaying any warmth, fragility or vulnerability that would have kept him human. He was impoverished in spirit, no kindness or generosity, no friendship or family bonds, no love flowed in and none flowed out. Baa Humbug!

In one night as he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future we see his heart is transformed from his grasping, clutching, squeezing, wrenching habits, rooted in his fears of making sure he was not poor. He is gloriously set free to release his charity in joyful abundance and so to receive the warmth and love of others. His cold, frosty heart and his frozen scowling features melt and he is freed to be the compassionate giver, friend of the poor and as he is reconciled to his long lost self/soul he finds a more joyful and optimistic place in the world again.

Sometimes we can arrive at a place in life and in our person-hood that is not what we hoped or intended to be! We may recognise this and try to change but find that of ourselves we can not untangle ourselves from the entanglements we are bound in-like Scrooge we feel the weight of many chains.  Changing ourselves is a complex process, but it starts with a simple acknowledgement and acceptance that where we are is not what we want it to be. To understand who we are today,we may need to understand the past events that have significantly formed our beliefs and start to challenge the validity of these. Scrooge believed that until he had amassed a fortune he couldn’t really live securely or enjoy life and his evidence to support this was found in the conclusions he had come to about significant life experiences in his past.  His liberation came when he changed his mind and had a different thought (maybe he realised he could be a source of joy and that he had power to alleviate others pain).

In Christian Coaching we look to our personal relationship with Jesus to change our hard hearts through experiencing the knowledge of the truth of his love for us.  Also, we work to pull down the ‘strongholds’ of mind that hinder our acceptance of that truth. We seek God with a desire to change our thinking (repentance) and seek his spirits power to effect that change within and without us.  We surrender to The Truth that is above ‘the truths we have taken on board’ and God breaks the chains of our hearts enclosed suffering to be more like him in the spirit of love, joy and peace.

The Struggle

There is a very steep hill that descends from Kirkstone pass down into Ambleside in the lake district in England called ‘The Struggle’.  It’s a struggle for cars because of the gradient, the risk of gathering too much speed and losing control of your vehicle,  along with some scary bends and narrow roads presenting hazards of potential harm and injury.. It’s even more scary on a motorbike and torturous for cyclists who dare to venture up it!

The struggle exists whether you journey up or down.

I increasingly find myself called to follow the path of ‘downward mobility’ and this is a struggle for me because I struggle to really trust my welfare to God in our material world and I struggle with fears over my  financial future.  In reality, at the moment it looks like choosing not to ascend up a career ladder but to descend into the  mundane and ordinary with a fare degree of boredom, routine and task. Yet I sense this is the spiritual direction God for the moment is leading me. I am having to let go of being intellectually stimulated and satisfied, of being somebody important and significant in a superior job role, of being well paid and feeling valued as a consequence. It is the path of service and I hope servant leadership.

I currently attend to the needs of 3 children who have special needs, learning difficulties and physical disability. All this occurs in a mainstream primary school.  I am learning to value my presence with them as significant in supporting them through their daily struggle to engage with the learning that they find difficult. Sometimes I see God in the simple connection made through a smile with a disabled child who answers a teachers question, or in my comforting a child with autistic symptoms or has found the mornings work distressing or of gently touching the back of a child to help refocus him on the teacher as he drifts off into a world of distractions by fiddling with a label in his jumper.

Increasingly I am observing that it is the nearness of my presence to them, which makes a difference to them. It is how I am being with them rather than what I am doing to them. It is in the awareness of their deeper needs for security, significance and worth that I try to make a difference and affirm their worth as valued human beings each day loved for who they are and not what they do, or whether they measure up to certain standards, or perform satisfactorily against these unrelenting standards. This I too find a struggle, and it takes a lot of mindfulness not to get caught up in the system and it’s way of thinking which I am well schooled in!

I am reminded of the promise of God in James 4: 10:

“Humble yourselves (feeling very insignificant) in the presence of the Lord and he will exalt you (he will lift you up and make your lives significant”,

Humbling myself in this call to ‘downward mobility’ is the essence of why I am where I am at this time in my life.It is trusting in God in the vulnerabilities I feel in this role, I feel like a nobody, I feel like I am not achieving, I feel like I am wasting my time, I feel like I am going nowhere and all these voices scream at me daily for rectifying action.  I am choosing to stand in the emotional discomfort and wait for transformation in Gods love- that he will make my life significant. I wonder if it produces more of the presence of God transmitted to others which therefore is more effective as his presence is love which dispels fear?

I return though to the struggle-for me the Christian spiritual path is a struggle-to ascend one must descend, to live one must die, to save ones life you must lose it. These ideas are so contrary to what I naturally desire that only the supernatural presence of God by his grace can effect the will and desire in me to continue to struggle in the path of ‘downward mobility’.

The road to Ambleside called The Struggle with its steep gradient, its risks of injury, and it’s emotional terror however remains a road I am pleased I descend down for the delights in the valley and the refreshing lakes below are beautiful to behold.  I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else and forsake the nature and presence of God around me through it even though the road to it requires a harrowing struggle of a path!



Motorcycling or Maths – Perseverance in learning

For the past 4 months I have been learning to ride a motorbike. Something I have always wanted to do but been too afraid and restricted by ‘awful-izing’ thinking such as: ‘I’ll fall off’, ‘be killed in an accident’, ‘my mum will disapprove’ etc…Perhaps it is part of my own mid-life transition, of realising that life is short and if you are going to do it you had better get on with it today!

I have been doing the proper training with the goal of achieving the full A2 licence which will allow me to ride any size bike I like.  Now, I have hit a rather discouraging spot, having failed the ‘Mod 1’ test twice. This is the test that challenges your bike handling skills as you ride around a car park of cones undertaking 7 different technical manoeuvres. First time, I failed when I hit a cone on the slalom and then fell off and this week I failed when I hit a cone on the last task (I was almost home and dry!)

Apart from being incredibly nervous on the test days, which doesn’t help my brain to just get on with what my body knows what to do, I also get emotionally tight about being assessed and evaluated by authority figures. This week I had to tell myself that I had the power to pass or fail the test and that power was resting in my skills and it did not all rest with the instructor’s tick box list. I also engaged him in some light conversation so that I could laugh a little, instead of being very serious.

Of course, when you do not pass something you are hoping to, it is disappointing and deflating and it becomes tempting to doubt yourself rather than believe. I have gone through the usual thoughts of, ‘Shall I give up?’, ‘Do I really want to ride a motorcycle anyway?’, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘Do I really need to do this?’

However, I  am persevering for perseverance sake because it teaches me more about learning, emotions and achieving as well as how I think about success and failure. I think it was Victor Frankl who suggested that rather than live on a continuum of success and failure it would be more fulfilling to live on a continuum that ran from fulfilment at one end to despair at the other.   I don’t mind failing the test and feeling a measure of despair, how much greater will be the joy of fulfilment. I do not perceive it as failure or put it down to my being a failure, therefore I can get back on the bike and have another go and another one if I need to-whatever it takes to achieve the goal. I am free to make mistakes and not be perfect! Sure, I have felt a bit down and despairing this week as a few more weeks pass by before I can sit it again and the process drags on another month, but it will be great when I get the pass.

I was working with a young pupil on some maths work this week and I could see her glaze over at one point and then start engaging in avoidance behaviours such as playing with her hair or dice on the table. Noticing this, I stopped and talked to her about how she was feeling to which she said,’frustrated’. That’s anger. So we explored that for a while as I looked for the meaning she was attaching to the emotion, such as, ‘I’m not good enough, or I can’t do it etc’.  I helped her to see that it’s easy to stop focusing and disconnect from the process of learning when we feel that something is too difficult or .’ I’m no good at this’. The temptation is to remove oneself from the object that is causing the unpleasant emotion (in this case division) and find relief in something that you can do ( twisting hair). After that acknowledgement of feeling we were able to continue and move forward a little in understanding division and hopefully she left the session with a more positive feeling about the maths experience or put another way, I hoped I had forged a new neural pathway in her brain!  I shared with her my motorcycle learning tribulations, to help her to see that getting it wrong and failing was all part of learning how to do it- eventually.

For me, the important part is having the character that will persevere and not readily give up even when things are difficult and desired outcomes elusive. Stick to the process, have faith in the journey, trust outcomes- whatever they are- to God.