More and Better Life

Jesus said he came to the earth so that we can “have real and eternal life, more and better life than we ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10 The Message)

I wonder what that life can look like?


Jesus spent a lot of time telling people what God is like. He told them God is closer to them than they think, and He loves and cares for them more than they realise.

But they had no idea what he was talking about.

People already had their beliefs about God sorted. Their family, religion and culture had taught them all they thought they needed to know about God. They had their God in a box and were not interested in listening to anything that did not match what they already believed.

But beliefs are not truths. Two of us can believe the exact opposite about the same thing. And so we need help to explore what we know and believe.

That is why Jesus told stories. A story floats into my mind and bypasses my rigid thinking. It gives me the freedom to explore a whole different perspective. It allows me to see things with new eyes and new understanding. It is a powerful way to teach me things that I might otherwise find difficult to grasp.

In the story that is around the verse in John chapter 10 Jesus is using an every day example of a shepherd and his sheep to show those who were listening how much God knows them, loves them and cares for them. Those who stay within God’s care, like sheep staying in the protection of the shepherd, will have everything they need to flourish.

They will have more and better life than they ever dreamed of.


Dibs: in Search of Self * is a modern day true story about finding freedom to flourish as who you are.

Dibs was a very troubled little boy, born to parents who were highly intelligent but emotionally immature. They had no idea how to relate to the child they produced and were so gripped by their own anxieties about parenthood that they were unable to love and protect him. They treated Dibs like a thing rather than a person and routinely locked him up, isolated and punished him, leaving him alone in a strange type of prison.

As a result, when he arrived at school age 5, he was a very damaged little boy. Sometimes he sat under the desk all morning mute and unmoving, unable to relate to other children or his teachers. Other times he had violent temper tantrums. His parents thought he had some form of brain damage.

But the teachers saw him differently. Behind the strange behaviour they saw a little boy who was bright and curious yet locked inside a distorted world that had been built around him.

The thrill of this story is the arrival of Miss Axline, a Play Therapist. She met with Dibs, one to one, for an hour each week in her play therapy room, giving him freedom and affirmation as he acted out his world through play. Gradually, in this safe, loving and non-judgmental environment, he learned to explore a new reality, a real life in which he had value as a person. He explored what it was like to have his choices and needs validated. He learned the joy of relationship and the value of others. He emerged from his fear and rage into a courageous, brilliant little boy who took his place in the classroom and within his family. He helped his parents learn to love.

After only one year of meeting with Miss Axline Dibs was flourishing. Freed to be himself he was able to lead a life that was more and better than anyone dared dream was possible.


Miss Axline was like a shepherd to Dibs. Do you know anyone who is a shepherd to you today? Or is there anyone you can be a shepherd to?

Dibs lived in a sort of prison built on the lies he believed about himself and the world he inhabited. Beliefs are not truths. Do you hold on to any beliefs that limit you or even imprison you?

*Dibs: In Search of Self by Virginia Axline. Penguin Books 1966

Tread Gently on my Heart

Night cannot drive out night
Only the light above
Fear cannot drive out fear
Only love

My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay

Tread gently on my heart.

It is there that I carefully hide all that was and is me. My story is there.

It is a deep place with many compartments.

Some parts I enter often. Parts where the sun shines and the air is gentle and kind. These are like playrooms full of good things and happy memories. I am okay in there. The posters on the wall say ‘Well Done: You are Significant: You Belong”. Happiness fills me and I find deep consolation.

You are welcome to join me there to play and explore together.

There are other compartments without windows where I file away my shame, pain, hurt and regrets. There is darkness but no door. The air is heavy. I find it hard to breathe and I am not okay. I choose to go there sometimes when desolation draws me in. The posters on the wall confirm my sense of hopelessness and helplessness – “You don’t belong: You are worthless: A failure”.

Sometimes I might take you there if I feel I can trust you to look and not judge.

But sometimes the darkness erupts like a volcano and I spew out angry words and behaviour. I blame you, anyone, everyone for the darkness. I am sorry.

But there is another part deep in the deepest part of me with a door that is locked and bolted. I don’t know if there is a key and I cannot clearly remember exactly what is inside. But I know from the chill of fear that grips me that this is a bad place. This room holds the secrets of my undoing.

No one goes there, not even me.

So if you want to help me, tread gently on my heart and don’t judge me. Do not think I will let you go where I fear to go myself.

This is my heart, my choices, my story.

Love me first. Then I might trust you.

And as you love me, encourage me that one day I will find the key that lets love and light in.


I will present you
if you are patient and tender.
I will open drawers
that mostly stay closed
and bring out places and people and things,
sounds and smells, love and frustrations, hopes and sadnesses,
bits and pieces of three decades of life
that have been grabbed off
in chunks
and found lying in my hands.
They have eaten
their way into my memory,
carved their way into
my heart.
Altogether – you or I will never see them –
they are me.
If you regard them lightly,
deny that they are important
or worse, judge them, I will quietly, slowly,
begin to wrap them up,
in small pieces of velvet,
like worn silver and gold jewellery,
tuck them away
in a small wooden chest of drawers

and close.

Taken from ‘How do you Feel? A Guide to your Emotions’ by John Wood, 1974

* * * * * *

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness
will we discover the infinite power of light
Brené Brown

Jesus said, ’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
John 8:12

Emotions Matter

Emotions matter. We all have them – they are part of what it is to be human. They are the colour of life – the green of happiness, the moody blue of sadness and the hot red of anger. The bright ones are easy to spot, but others, like jealousy and guilt, are more complex and harder to identify.

Our emotions matter because they are an important window to our inner world. They act like critical warning lights on a dashboard, monitoring what is going on under the surface. They give us vital information about the stories we live by, the hurts we hold within us, the values and beliefs we hold. They warn us when things are going wrong and nudge us to do something about it.

Like a pilot, we need to learn to recognise the warning lights on our dashboard and understand what is happening so that we know how to respond. This is called Emotional Intelligence.

The trouble is that most of us are not sure how much to trust our emotions and are not confident in how to handle them. Who ever enjoys bursting into tears in public, or suddenly finding themselves hitting out with rage at some poor person who has been an unsuspecting trigger to release something much deeper within us?

We tend to view our emotions broadly from two different perspectives. At one extreme we can take a rational view that emotions are to be tamed. To steer a steady course through life we must suppress anything that might rock the boat, or cause discomfort. And so we bury our emotions, stuffing them deeper and deeper inside until we become emotionally numb, not allowing ourselves to feel anything, good or bad.

At the other extreme we can immerse ourselves in our emotions, going with the flow of the waves . . . up and down. We give in to outbursts of elation, tears or anger, exhausting ourselves and those around us.

Emotional Intelligence has three important parts to it. First is the ability to recognise what is happening in our body – the warning lights that are flashing. Next is to understand what the signals mean and recognise the impact they have on ourselves and those around us. This takes time and care to name the emotions and pay attention to what is triggering them. What stories are we listening to in our head about the meaning of the feelings? These stories are built on a network of inner wounds and regrets that can trap us in a destructive loop.

The third and important part is knowing what to do with the feelings. Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside of ourselves .*

Befriending is gentle. It is about listening with compassionate acceptance to what is going on inside. It is patient and non-judgmental.

Befriending takes time.

As the 13th century poet Rumi said, healing can happen naturally.

I said: What about my heart?
He said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: Pain and sorrow.
He said: Stay with it. The wound is the place where the light enters you.

* * * * * * *

Try this:

When you feel the tension of painful emotions rising inside you find a quiet place to sit. Place your hand on your heart and wait. Breathe deeply and slowly and wait. Listen to your thoughts and feelings. Try to name them. Be curious about what they are trying to tell you. Remember that warning lights are good. They show us when things are going wrong and nudge us to do something about it.

What stories are you listening to that give power to the feelings?

What might gentle befriending mean for you and your emotions in this moment?

Remember “The wound is the place where the light enters”.

  • Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score (New York: Penguin books, 2015), 208.

Listen to me in Silence

“Listen to me in silence” Isaiah 41:1

Silence is often uncomfortable. We may long for a bit of peace and quiet sometimes, but being alone in silence for any length of time is hard.

We are masters at wrapping ourselves in noise and distraction. We tune into social media, the radio, the television – anything to fill the air with noise and keep our attention outward rather than inward.

It is as if we fear silence because we know that there are noises inside us that clamour for our attention: the twittering niggles of jobs to be done, the throb of regrets, of not being good enough, and the deep, wrenching pain of guilt, hurt and loss.

Our thoughts in silence can overwhelm us.

A friend of mine booked a conference room for an hour for a meeting one day. Just as she entered the room a message flashed up on her phone saying her colleague could not make it. Suddenly, instead of filling the hour with business, she found herself alone in silence with time, her thoughts, a notebook and a pen. She had a choice to make. Either she turned round and went back to her office and her to-do list, or she stayed and engaged with the opportunity of time, space and silence.

Deep inside she knew this was a gift. She was carrying a personal burden that required a decision which she knew she was avoiding. A voice within her called out that this was the time to make that decision, to embrace the courage to change. At the end of the hour she had mapped out what she needed to do. She left the room with a lighter heart.

The silence of God is not the black emptiness of a sound booth. It is high voltage – charged with the Holy Spirit, our counsellor, guide, teacher, friend. Alive with hope and healing.

We just need to tune in.

This is where it is okay to be vulnerable, honest with ourselves so that we can be honest with God. Only then can the healing start. We can un-peel the layers, take off our masks, let go of our defences and face reality. Change can happen.

God calls us to listen to him in silence. In our vulnerability we can trust God as he says “Come to me . . . learn from me . . . I am gentle” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Prayer in silence is about listening, waiting, opening, letting go.

Being not doing.

* * * * * * *

A Prayer:
Father, I give you my busyness.
In the rush and pressure of life I am hiding from myself as much as hiding from you.
There is fear, and pain and hurt that can feel too hard to face.
Help me to be open with you . . . to trust you … to allow you to un-peel the layers of my life.
I believe that in your presence there is hope and healing.
May I seek silence as a gift and may I linger long enough to hear your voice and learn from you.