Tag Archives: Connect Group

His Family (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

His Family (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

We try to face this world alone
I know that I have tried
And the world witnessed me fall
Still the Lord brought me to a family
That stands beside me evermore
Now we work through life together
Beside each other as we face the world
And if one of us should fall
We have our holy family to help us rise
This is the glory of the Lord
The way His family works for each other
And we call to all those who are lost
Or alone in face this world just like I
That this could be their family
And in the Lord
No longer called lost anymore

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

The Story So Far – Chapter 15 – Connecting

CHAPTER 15 – CONNECTING

Come January I joined my first Connect Group at Church, I had been approached about joining one many times over the previous nine months, I hadn’t previously felt that ready to join groups or anything like that.  Maybe it was my shy nature, me the guy how can stand lonely in a crowded room, I’m not someone who can just go up to somebody I don’t know and start a conversation, that is well outside of my comfort zone.  The only time I am comfortable in this situation is when I’m in a karate suit and I can approach someone with confidence that comes from seniority, I could walk up to someone I didn’t know and offer them advice on what they were doing or start a conversation, but once more, when the suit came off that persona came off with it and I became the quiet awkward guy once more.

Maybe I was worried previously that I would be out of place in a group of people that had been Christians for so much longer than myself, maybe it was just that little bit of insecurity or fear of looking like I didn’t really know anything.  But by the time the New Year came around I felt it was at least time to give it a try, not that I knew that much more than before, but the timing felt right now.

To be fair I didn’t really know what a Connect Group did or what was expected.   I remembered Victoria used to attend one a few years back, but she never really explained what they did at these things and to be fair I never really asked.

I was placed in a group where I knew less than half of them and of those I I did know I didn’t know that well.  I had met and briefly chatted with some of them over the previous months, but I didn’t really know them and I guess they didn’t really know me either.  A couple had been present at the Unleash weekend a few months earlier where I shared my testimony, but other than that I felt a little awkward, even more so as I was really about the only one who was not part of a couple, other than a couple of younger teenagers that is.

But the thing was that once I got there, none of that mattered, not at all, I couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.  It was an interesting first meeting, which focused on just getting to know each other.  It was different and fun, they all turned out to be a great bunch of people.  That first meeting was on Wednesday 16th January 2013, initially we met every other Wednesday, then eventually every week.  But I have enjoyed them so much over the last few years, that to the point of writing this I have never missed a meeting.

If I previously felt that I wouldn’t really fit in or Connect at one of these meetings, that sort of went out of the window in the first few weeks.  I had no problem sharing my story or my feelings on the subjects we were discussing, on some occasions I felt like it was only me who had anything to say and other times I was content to just sit back and listen to the discussions.  In those times if I felt I didn’t really know that much about the topic of conversation, then I was more than happy to sit back and quietly listen and learn.

My Connect group has been so good for me over the last two years, as I say I have never missed a meeting.  There have been times when I have been shaken badly by what had been going on in my life, but that never stopped me from attending, I may have sat there quietly on those nights or on one occasion crying through pretty much all of the meeting, but I knew that that was the best place for me to be, the only place for me to be.

The group may have changed quite a bit over the last two years, but the nucleus of those that were there at that first meeting are still there and we still support each other and look out for each other.

I remember coming home after that very first meeting and writing this poem as soon as I got in…

Connecting

A small gathering
Of us only twelve
All sat closely together
Each knowing only a few

My shyness is rising
I fight to keep it in
Time now to open up
A moment to be me

Introductions are made
New friendships are born
Relaxed I am now open
It’s OK to be just me

We trade tiny moments
Sharing snippets of our past
Creating tiny pictures
Of who we have become

Our goodbyes are spoken
Each heads home to rest
Seven days will slowly pass
Until we gather once again

RIGHT BESIDE YOU by BUILDING 429
I’ve seen it and felt it
Hopelessness with no lifeline
The wicked are feeding on
Innocence and our decline

You and I we are the same
Torn apart by different things
All our faith is barely alive
But we’re going to make it through the night
I want you to know

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When you think there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you
I’ll be with you

We are precious
More than priceless is our worth
Loved by the Father
Heaven’s children here on earth
You and I we are the same
Lifted up above the pain
By it’s wounds we have been healed
And by our love it is revealed
I want you to know (I need you to know)

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you

Hold on, don’t you let go of me
I’ll be here through it all
Hold on, when you’re ready to fall
I will carry you
I will never leave you
I will lift you if you fall

When the world is on your back
And you think that you will never last
When you’re lonely and you are confused
I’ll be right beside you
When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you
I’ll be with you
I’ll be right beside you

Recollections From A Year Ago

Wow, has it really been a year to the day since I attended only the second funeral of my life, the second funeral inside two months.  It was the occasion of the funeral of my Nan, my other Nan having died just two months before.

In very different ways both losses hit me hard, maybe more so the loss of my first Nan, she was my Mum’s Mum and had pretty much brought me up as much as my parents.  I went to her house every day for dinner, I didn’t like school dinners, I was a very fussy eater (still am, but more on that at a later date), as both my parents worked I also went there after school everyday and with the rest of my cousins and sister we spent every school holiday there too.  She did so much for me when I was young, I know I took her loss pretty badly and held a lot of remorse that I hadn’t seen her in a number of years, due to my alcoholism.

That’s not to say I didn’t feel the loss of my Dad’s Mum, our relationship may have been different and as she didn’t live locally, I didn’t see her quite as much, it still hit me hard, but in a different way.

With the first funeral, I was a mess until the funeral was over, I don’t suppose I’ve had to deal with death as an adult, when my last Grandparent died I was only eight, I didn’t go to the funeral, so on this occasion, my first funeral, I really didn’t hold it together very well, but spending time with family and my cousins afterwards, remembering all the scrapes we got into and the merry dance we led my Nan, we chose to remember the good times and thank her for what she did for us, it certainly lifted my spirits.

The second funeral was very different, I felt okay until I got home, then I fell into a low.  But when I look back now, I remember two things happening that day, one year ago, that really stick in my mind, positive things to come out of the sadness.

The first I mentioned a month or two ago, I had carried a keyring on my keys for some time, my kids brought me it a few years ago, it was Barney Gumble from the Simpsons, an image of him looking drunk and with a beer in his hand.  When I came home from the funeral, came through my gate and turned to lock the gate with my keys, this keyring fell off, it was unrepairable, the link had broken completely, it hadn’t looked damaged before, it just seemed to take this moment in time to break and come off.  I felt straight away it was sign that I was past my addiction, it was no longer in control of me and I was free from it, forever.

The second happened to me at the wake.  As I tend to do, I tend to stand alone to do things, I am a bit of a loner, I’m not sure I fit in everywhere or that I try to some times, so at the funeral I stood alone, away from all my family and grieved in my own way, that’s just me, the way I do things.  Apart from my immediate family I really didn’t know many of the other people, there was one group with a guy I vaguely knew, I knew him as Steven, a friend of my Nan’s from her Church in Blidworth, which incidently is the supposed burial place of Will Scarlet.  With Steven was a man I didn’t know, I understood later that he was one of my Dad’s cousins, at the end of the wake he came to say goodbye to my Dad and then came up to me.

He said I felt I had to come and say something to you, he then just put his hand on my shoulder, then he just paused, as if some thing had happened, then all he said was “You’ll Be Okay!” and left.

It was something that bothered me a little, but I understood he also went to Church with Steven and my Nan, I thought he had maybe seen me stood alone for most of the day and felt he had to say something, but why that all changed when he put his hand on me, that I’m not sure, but I believe what he felt or maybe I should say what I hope he felt was the Holy Spirit upon me, that’s why all he could say was “You’ll be okay”, he didn’t need to say anything else.

As I said I was a little lost the next day after that second funeral, but the next day I remember going to my Connect Group, feeling very out of it and not really wanting to be with anyone, but I went anyway.  I remember sitting there quietly at first, but by the end of the night, I felt myself again, the one thing that my Connect Group nearly always do for me, they lift me when I’m down and if they can’t do that, they stand with me in prayer.

So tonight it off to Connect Group once again, I don’t need lifting at all today, every thing feels good, maybe it’s my turn to lift someone else.

MAMA by FLYLEAF
What makes you happy
What makes you smile
And when you smile please
Is it for real

I know you’re not one
One to pretend
Even when I was a child

You grow up too fast
And have to be brave
Braver than most strong men
That I’ve ever seen

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Little girl
You can come out now
The danger’s all gone
You can come out

All that you’ve held
Was too much to hold
So let it all go now
And you will become gold

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful now

Laughter and tears
Gracing your face
The music of your strength
Held up this place

Your daddy’s right here now
You can let go
He’s holding it all now
And healing your soul

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
I wanna hear your voice
It’s lovely sound

Sing your song mama
Sing it out loud
Dance freely singing
You’re beautiful know

There’s something
I’m trying to tell you and
I’ve tried to tell you before and
Each time that I profess it
It just leaves me wanting more and

I think you are beautiful
And I’m proud of you
What I’m trying to say is
I love you
I love you

Learning To Talk Again!

Since I started this blog, just over eighteen months ago, it’s been an outlet for my feelings on many occasions, I’ve used the written words and partial anonymity that the blog provides to share those feelings, thoughts, pain and fears.

Many times I’ve found it easier to write it on here, post it and move on.  The writing helps, it’s therapy in itself, I’ve also used it to make myself accountable.  Like when I wasn’t taking my medication, I knew I should and knew if I wrote it on here that I had to sort it out, then it left me no choice but to sort it out, after a few texts and tweets from friends who saw that post, I had no choice but to make that appointment and sort it out.

There have obviously been times when I’m facing things where I have chosen to keep inside, to deal with alone, neither share on here or speak with anyone about.

Sunday evening I chose to write about something that had been following me around for some weeks, in a Fearing Yet Another Fall, I wrote about a vision I had back in October last year which preceded the fall into depression which hit me hard and left me struggling along for quite a while.

“I was simply sat in my living room one Sunday lunchtime and it played out in front of me, like I was watching a video screen, an image of me climbing some steps, only to be washed away by an on rushing tide of water, as the waters kept flowing some time passed and I watched as I stood again and once more tried to make it up the steps, only to be washed away once more, before the vision disappeared as quickly as it appeared.”

On that occasion I kept going even though things weren’t right, it was only on having another vision of being pulled into the ocean and swallowed by a whale, did I realise I was keeping everything inside and running from where God wanted me to be. Only then did I start to open up about what was going on and how I felt, but it was probably a little too late, I was in the deluge already and struggling to cope.  Obviously having people around me, supporting me, helped immensely and I found my way through it.

So after posting about my fear on Sunday evening, I decided I had to take that a step further and bring it fully out into the open.  I’ve stood at the front of our Church before, when our Pastor’s have offered prayer for those struggling, but far outweighing that I have stood in silence with things have been really deeply troubling me.

I’ve sat in my Connect Group and shook my head when it’s been asked if anyone needs prayer for anything.  Sometimes it’s hard when those around you see your story and testimony as one of an overcomer, that to put your hand up and admit that you are actually struggling from time to time is hard, I’ve sat in silence too many times.

So last night in Connect Group as we neared the end and our prayer time and it was asked if anyone had any need for prayer, even though I had decided I would ask for prayer, I sat there for a while keeping it in once more.  As other prayer requests were being discussed I sat there rather uncomfortable, I went cold and that feeling I should be saying something rose from deep inside.  So when the question was asked one more time, I spoke up and admitted I had been walking with this fear for a few weeks and felt I needed prayer.

Immediately I felt a sense of relief and a sense that some of the fear had been removed from me.

I guess sometimes we feel like we have to hide our weaknesses, I know I have prayed about this continually over the last week or so, but still felt I needed to do more, I felt I was being moved to share this fear with my friends, rather than just keep it in and just wait for it to happen again.

I honestly don’t really know whether I am heading for another fall or if it is just fear I have to deal with, but I feel more content now I’ve been honest with my feelings, I’ve shared it with friends who can help and support me, I feel I can maybe move on from it now and deal with it if it does indeed come.

FOLLOW ME by CASTING CROWNS
At the end of myself
I’m empty and dry
I have nothing to give
But surrender inside
Let down your nets
This is not the end
From now on, you’ll be
Fishers of men

Follow Me
Follow Me
Follow Me
Follow Me

At the end of myself
Judgment calls out my name
Ive been looking for love
But I’m swallowed by shame
Throw away all your stones
Find forgiveness in Me
Let Me be your new passion
My daughter, you’re free

At the end of myself
Ive done things my own way
This world gave up on me
Now its death I do pay
You know who I am
I’m sins sacrifice
Today you will be
In paradise

Who is this man who calmed the seas
And who is this man who loves the least of these

I am the promised One
God gave His only Son
And those who believe
Will live eternally

At the end of yourself, just follow Me
When you lose everything, just follow Me
I will give you new life, just follow Me
Follow Me

If at the end of yourself, just follow Me
You may lose everything, just follow Me
I will give you new life, just follow Me
Follow Me

Verse of the Day – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Another great Connect Group tonight, it was commented that I seem to have my “mojo” back, but that’s thanks to these friends who were all there to help me up when I fell.

THERE IS LOVE by CHASEN
You’re looking through the fire that burns
What’s on your mind
I can tell it hurts
Tears don’t fall if nothing is wrong
So come close
Tonight is still young

Ooh, there is love for you
There is love for you in my arms
Ooh, you are everything
Everything that I’m living for
And don’t be afraid to tell me what’s on your heart
Ooh, there is love for you here in my arms

Pictures they paint
The memories of my home
Even in a crowd without you I am alone
God I know you made an angel for me
Somewhere close that’s my destiny

Ooh, there is love for you
There is love for you in my arms
Ooh, you are everything
Everything that I’m living for
And don’t be afraid to tell me what’s on your heart
Ooh, there is love for you here in my arms

Come close hear my breath breathing
Whispering the words I love you
Come close see your future
And know that there is hope and there is love for you

Ooh, there is love for you
There is love for you in my arms
Ooh, you are everything
Everything that I’m living for
And don’t be afraid to tell me what’s on your heart
Ooh, there is love for you here in my arms

Connecting The Positives Once Again

My Church Connect Groups have nearly always been a source of inspiration to me, there have been few that I haven’t left far more positive than I’ve arrived, last night was what I would consider a great breakthrough for me, considering my mind set of the last couple of months.

This dip into depression started a couple of months ago, I’m not sure whether one particular teaching at Church started it or whether it was the steady onset of depression that saw the worst in what should have been an inspiration teaching.

Since that Sunday on 20th October 2013 I began to start seeing everything so negatively, teachings meant to build, I saw as condemnation of everything I did wrong in the past, everything seemed to point to what I got wrong and in my head I began to believe I was never going to be good enough, I would never get away from everything that I let happen, everything that brought me to the edge of suicide.  As the weeks went by, things got worse and worse and I couldn’t get away from my problems.  As everything else built up, the extra work became unreasonable and the money situation seemed to get gradually worse, I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on anything.  I don’t actually think for one minute that Sunday the 20th was the day this all started, when I read my journal from the Sunday before, it was evident that something was wrong then and I wasn’t myself, but it did get worse from that day.

I can’t easily explain where I was in those weeks from that day, I guess we suffer our depression in very different ways.   Some days would pass without too much of an issue, others I would find myself from time to time drifting into another consciousness, I would find myself just staring out into nothing and then after coming back to earth with a jolt, I wouldn’t know where I was for a moment.  Other times I would be so lost in everything that was wrong and blaming myself for all that was wrong that it drove me to despair, I just wanted to be alone at those times, which was difficult at work, it lead to some tough situations and on a couple of occasions it was all I could do to stop myself grabbing my stuff and just walking out.  Thankfully I didn’t, as that wouldn’t of helped anything, my boss is an old friend and he saw there was something wrong and gave me some space, which was good, but trying to explain to colleagues why I was acting the way I was, wasn’t easy.

It took a big effort to pick the phone up and call the Doctors, I think we males don’t like to admit there is something wrong and even more so do we like to admit something like depression.  To try and explain to the Doctor exactly how I was feeling and admitting that “yes, I have had suicidal thoughts” was hard, much harder than last year when I had to admit to being an alcoholic, I don’t know why, but this time seemed to much more painful, maybe last year I was beginning to see a way forward and that was another step to a better life, this time around I was in the middle of my own private hell and I couldn’t see a way forward, this time I was lost, completely lost.

Thankfully the Doctor was very patient and understanding, the medication, although with strange side effects at first, has certainly began to set me on my feet again, as each day I feel more myself, I move away from those dark thoughts and back into a positive outlook for the future.

One of the lowest points in the last few months was the Connect Group on Wednesday 13th November, I can’t really explain how it came to be so bad, when I arrived I felt okay, then as we watched the teaching video, it all seemed to evaporate, I don’t even remember now what the video was about, I remember just staring blankly, I remember someone saying something that hit me like a ton of bricks and when I was asked for my thoughts, I just reiterated what they said and broke down into a continual flood of tears, it was a mess of night and a real low point for me.  By the time of the next group meeting I had been to the Doctors and started the antidepressant medication, although I still wasn’t myself, I certainly wasn’t as raw or emotional, things did start to improve.

Last night was a massive step forward for me, we discussed how words can build and break people, which was interesting, as I sat watching Gareth on the video discussing how we should talk and ask the right questions of people to help them, I was suddenly taken back in my mind to the evening of Monday 19th March 2012 and seeing him sat on my settee across the room from me, doing everything he was instructing us to do, the meeting that night changed my life, it was good to have that reminder of different my life is now.  I’m so thankful to Gareth for what he did for me that night, it also so comforting to know that in Gareth we have a Pastor that one hundred percent practices what he preaches, he really leads by example.

When we discussed examples of where in our lives words have built us up as individuals, mine included that meeting that night, without that I would never have found God and very possibly wouldn’t have made through to today.  My other example was from a year ago when the Holy Spirit definitely led me with the right words, after seeing in my mind a conversation a number of times over three weeks, only for it to take place and for me to help a youngster who was self harming, that was a situation which could have gone so wrong, luckily I was prepared to help and it ended in the youngster handing me the blades they used to cut themselves.

It was ironic that Sarah who now leads our group helped me at that time, I spoke to her at length last year about what was happening, she quite rightly pointed out last night that I was “freaked out” about it, too right I was, when I realised what had transpired I really didn’t understand what was happening to me, why I had seen this, why me and why it come to pass the way it did, she helped me through it then, just as she has helped me through all of this over the last month.

Indeed last night Sarah commented on how well I was doing now and said it was nice to see a smile on my face again, too true, it feels great to be able to smile again.

I can only thank God for the strength He has given me to get through these last few months, there were times when I didn’t want to do it anymore, where death seemed easier than the pain I was in, but I made it through, He gave me the strength to pick the phone and seek the help I needed.  I also thank Him for the great people He has placed in my life, like Gareth and Sarah and the other members of my Connect Group and Everyday Champions Church, who have stood by me, supported me and prayed for me through all of my struggles, once again I am so thankful.

MERCY TREE by LACEY STURM
On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the sky between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Beaten, battered, scarred, and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was his cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see his face
And every tear, he’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise him for the mercy tree

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree