A guilt-free existence: Part 1, Guilt-free church

This turns out to be the first part of a two three, erm, multi-part series on guilt. This stuff has been an evolving part of my life philosophy for a while, now, and I thought I’d share. Apologies to the non-religious among you for the first one being focussed on church. Actually, apologies to the rest of you, too.

Over the last three years or so, I’ve been working extra hard on being able to live a guilt-free existence.

Now, if I’m honest, this isn’t a new idea in the psychology of me. I can remember horrifying my university flat-mate, nearly twenty years ago, by declaring that I didn’t ‘do’ guilt, which was both untrue, and in her eyes, morally bankrupt. Presumably, she thought that without guilt, there was no moral compass at all. I disagreed then, and I disagree even more, now. Guilt is a hugely exhausting and damaging emotional driver, and there are much, much more positive ways of making moral choices.

More recently, however, I’ve become aware of just how easily guilt takes over all the rational decision-making functions of a person’s life, and I have been making a small but determined stand against its power in my life, and where I can, in the lives of the people around me.

Guilt-free church

Probably the starting point for this line of reasoning, was the decision to join a small group of friends in starting a new church. We define ourselves both as a church (mostly – some people baulk at the word itself) and as a community group, determined to do what we can to make a real difference to the local area in which we find ourselves. Over the three years we’ve been meeting, that has meant a wide variety of projects, both one-offs, and on-going, from street-sweeping to debt advice, from youth work to food banks, some things involving all of us, some only one or two.

It very quickly became apparent that if we, as a group, were so focussed on Getting Things Done, we had a lot of potential to put a great deal of pressure, both on ourselves, and on each other. So, at a very early stage, we had important conversations, where we explicitly outlined our expectation that everyone’s contribution would be different; that some people had enough energy and enthusiasm for three of us, while others would burn out in weeks if they tried to match the pace. We stated, and promised for the future, that the people in our group were valued for who they were, not for what they delivered, and that every contribution was fantastic, however small, and however outpaced it may be by other people.

That mattered hugely, to me. I am not a pacey person. I have spent nearly 9 years as a stay-at-home mum, and during that time, my pace has dropped to that of a snail. We rarely do more than one thing in a day – if we have a thing in the calendar, then that day is full, as far as we’re concerned. Among my friends are people who do more by the time I’ve finished breakfast, than I’m likely to achieve all day. And you know what? That’s OK. I can choose to live life more slowly, take time to smell the flowers, work less hard, live on less money, and ultimately, know that I’m better off for it. I’m a happier, healthier person as a result. This is the pace that suits me, because we’re all different. It would be just as bad for some of my friends to live my life, as it would be for me to live theirs.

Guilt-free church is a great thing. I’ve knocked around a fair few churches in my life, and they have all, to a greater or lesser degree, functioned on the basic premise that if what we are doing is supposed to be to the glory of God, then to not do it isn’t an option. In my middle thirties, I started to see just how much this contradicted the things those same churches had (mostly) been trying to teach me about God.

The bible is all about God’s grace. It’s all about how he loves me and accepts me for who I really am, irrespective of what I do or don’t do. But then, churches are too often full of busy-work and guilt, and people run ragged by the belief that if they don’t do it, no-one will, and if no-one does it, God will be sad.

My old dad used to say, if you’re afraid God will stop loving you if you stop working, try it and see what happens. My old dad is not always right about things, but on this one he had it spot on. God’s love is unconditional. You don’t have to earn it.

So, why do anything at all, then? Why volunteer for anything?

Because I want to. In my church, I only do the things I want to do. The things that just don’t seem to be playing to my strengths, the things that are so far out of my comfort zone as to make me feel stressed, the things that threaten to take up so much of my time that they are destined to send me into some kind of stress-related illness – I don’t have to do those things. Nobody expects me to, and if I’m asked, and I choose to say no, that’s fine. If I’ve been doing it, and choose to stop, that’s fine. I am motivated, not by guilt, or fear, or duty (another dirty word in my book), but by my own desire to do what I can – but not more than I can.

Now, I prefer not to let people down. So, I tend to be a little cagey about agreeing to things, on the grounds that when I’m committed, I’m really committed. I try not to duck out of things at the last minute, and create problems for other people. But do you know what? If I was a thoroughly unreliable person, who only turned up a third the time that I promised to, I’m pretty sure my church group would quietly reorganise themselves around an assumption of my unreliability, be delighted when I came and helped, and hold no expectations about me for the rest of the time (if you’re reading this, guys, I don’t plan to go down this route!).

It’s all about a shift in focus. Instead of perpetually feeling bad about the things I don’t do (and no matter how hard you work, there’s always something you haven’t done), I am interested in celebrating the things I do. Church isn’t a stick to beat me with, it’s an opportunity to enrich myself and other people by pitching in. I benefit from that as much as anyone else, but my criteria are largely made up of the questions, “Will this activity help me? Will it help someone else? Do I have the time, energy and skills to do this? Do I want to, or is this probably more up someone else’s street?” And it’s OK to leave it to someone else, and it’s OK if the thing doesn’t get done, because none of us are suited to it. That’s a thing that wasn’t getting done before we came along, and can continue to not be done, if there’s no-one to do it.

Churches change and shift as they grow and progress. Guilt-free church is a very important value to me, and one I shall be defending carefully in ours.

My Raspberry Pi MeMap

So it’s been a year since the Raspberry Pi was launched and what have people done? Well quite a lot actually. I got my Raspberry Pi in July not with any great plans, although a tweeting doorbell has always been a consideration, I played with it for a few days but then the fact i had to unwire sky to use our only HDMI cable actually got me down.

Around about Christmas I bought a HDMI cable! and I had an idea for my Raspberry Pi, a MeMap (totally making that name up) – I’ve always liked the idea of getting a Harry Potter style Wesley clock to track where I was and Indeed you can get them John McKerrell makes the WhereDial and is Liverpool based as well – but for me having the Rasbperry Pi is all about hacking your own thing, being able to make something i can point at and say “I made that”.

I thought about clocks and dials pointing to mortal peril will always be cool, but it was the Large A-Z map of Liverpool I had randomly hung in the hall that gave me the idea. I could go all retro, and actually light up points on a map.

In our house we are big users of Google Latitude. Its always turned-on on our phones and we can see where each other is at any point and no it’s not creepy it’s actually really useful, especially if your expecting a lift 🙂 , so the idea of taking the web based map and retro fitting it back to a paper map appealed to me.

The Hardware

the Mess of wires that tell you I'm no hardware expert
the Mess of wires that tell you I’m no hardware expert

It’s not a complicated build my map, and it’s a very messy one, I’m not expert at this, So after much hackery, i have 6 LEDs soldered to a circuit board and connected via a AdaFruit Cobbler to the Raspberry PI pins.  it’s a bit of an extravagance , i should have really soldered a cheep connector to the board, but my soldering isn’t that good so i gave myself some space with the cobbler, besides what else am i going to use if for?

The Code

Now i am a software Geek really, so writing the code wasn’t the difficult part for me. using the Google Latitude API and a bit of Python, the raspberry pi checks every minute to see where i am.

Google latitude gives is co-ordinates (latitude and longitude)  and I have a configuration file, that details a set of locations and the range that I need to be in for it to count – so for example within 50 meters of my house and i am home – it’s good to have the range because there are places like the office where the accuracy can be less, probably all the tall buildings.

With the LEDs connected, all the code has to do is use the Raspberry PI GPIO library, to light up the light where I am – and if I’m not anywhere the lights are, then just blink the last place I was.

My MeMap

MeMap InPlace
MeMap InPlace

So now my raspberry Pi is sitting behind the map in the hall, lighting up my location, it’s all great except i never actually see it light up anywhere but home. the Kids think it’s fab mind

Other Stuff

I do have the RaspberryPi doing other things, not as physical as the map,

1. Every weekday morning at 7am, the RaspberryPI emails me a customized weather report (based on Metoffice API) for my cycle in and our of work. telling me if i’m going to get wet and more importantly if it’s a headwind or tailwind.

2. the Raspberry Pi now have the weather station plugged into it. a certain times of day it tweets the weather to the thejumps twitter account, it also ftp’s some graphs to the internet but that’s been a bit temperamental at the moment.

Nerdy Details

it strikes me as i wrote this that all the nerdiness isn’t actually on the internet – I think I’ll go off to github later and upload the code it’s not complicated, it just has load of API keys in it i need to strip out

thoughts on account management

Seems timely – you can get full on password managers; I never find them to useful but – by no means a definitive guide – Google are better for that

These are just my tips for securing you online accounts, you need to find something that is not only secure but practical, going over the top is what gets most people into trouble writing the passwords down and putting stickers on the backs of phones, you have to weight up the risks and impacts on you versus how hard it is do actually do stuff. In short if you are a nuclear physicist in Iran, you probably want to do a lot more than what’s below.

Some ways to secure your online life a bit more: Continue reading thoughts on account management