Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

These are the words to the theme song to Cheers, one of my favourite TV programmes.

The comedy show is probably a bit dated now as Cheers ran for 11 series from 1982 to 1993. But the words still hold true today, just as much if not more than they did back then. Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Where I work at Two Pennies Money Advice (known as Worcester CASH for many years), we help plenty of people who eventually decide it's time to take a break from all their financial worries. Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders for months and often years can take everything you've got, and much much more just to get by; 'Robbing Peter to pay Paul', avoiding opening the post and answering the telephone, carrying extra stresses and strains on health, relationships, at work, with no end in sight. The wonder for those of us in these circumstances isn't why we want to take a break; the mystery is why we don't get help sooner.

And when money difficulties are resolved, we don't just take a break from all our worries, it's a fresh start - a chance to live life free of the shackles of excess debt. Living within a practical budget that works, sure does help a lot!

Here's something I've noticed about money difficulties. It's a lonely business. When money becomes really tough, we tend to not tell other people about it. Not for a long time. It is human nature to keep this private shame to ourselves, to not ask for help, to even believe a magical outcome will appear out of nothing. And we can't afford to socialise in the way we used to either. It can become an uncontrolled spiral into loneliness.

Living with money difficulties doesn’t have to be this way. But it can be. Dear reader, if you take only one message out of this post then please make it this: anyone concerned about their finances should speak to an agency that offers free professional money advice at an early stage, not leaving it too late when the easy solutions are no longer available.

Here’s something else I've noticed about money worries. One bit of feedback that consistently comes out our Money Secret Courses is that people are reassured that they are not the only one with these worries. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. There's really no need for pride or embarrassment to keep us away from speaking to someone who can help.

The Money Secret Course is a made-easy look at money; it reveals how to make sure you control your money, not your money controlling you; and helps us make smarter choices in our day-to-day lives. This is not a course for people with real difficulties (they need one-to-one money advice) this is for the rest of us that want to be more clued-up, to avoid things running out of control.

Three years ago I was grateful for the help of Two Pennies Money Advice and I’m told the real me came back ... not the version of me that was trying and failing to manage my way through those difficult times. I don’t think anyone forgot my name, but they might have forgotten the real me.

There are challenges going on that need to be won.

  • Individually, don’t let pride get in the way of seeking timely advice.
  • For Two Pennies Money Advice, the challenge is for continued funding. These tough times for all of us are tough for Two Pennies Money Advice funding too. I don’t want to make this into a fundraising-blog, but if you would like to make a one-off or regular donation, please do get in touch with me at

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Please Choose Me

Do you know what it feels like to be let down by someone else?  Most of us do.  Can you remember the time it hurt the most and why it happened?  For me, I can think of times when I felt that the other person owed me some kind of loyalty or preference, whether I thought I'd earned it by doing them a favour it or acquired it through my relationship.  To feel over-looked for someone else who was chosen ahead of me can be a bit frustrating.  At times it can be a crushing disappointment.  Sometimes I question or doubt the basis of my friendship.  Sometimes a sense of rejection leaves me feeling lonely.

Chances are that this other person wasn’t fully aware how I thought that they were letting me down.  With hindsight, there were times when my expectations were unrealistic or even unjustified.  But today it doesn’t matter whether I was right or not, this blog is about the feeling of not being chosen.
Something occurred to me recently where I sat silently (well mostly) wishing ‘pick me’ thoughts.  I could have just said aloud what I wanted to happen and made it work out that way – but that wouldn’t be me being picked, that’d be me getting my own way.  There wouldn’t be any heart-felt picking going on.  What I wanted then was to be picked because I was chosen.
To be a little clearer about it, this came out of one of those unjustified moments that wouldn’t make me look good if the details were laid out, so I’m skating past bits of the story here to hold on to the main purpose of this, my first blog.

What occurred to me was that, moment by moment, day after day, in the decisions I make, I have a choices where I can pick Jesus.  I accept Jesus may not be overly bothered which biscuit I eat, so I’m not meaning every single decision, but you get the point.
Here’s the thing, the point of Blog #1.  As I slipped slowly out of my melancholic mood, a thought occurred to me that Jesus might be thinking ‘choose me’ quite a lot.  If it had been me that had died a painful death for the sins of all humankind, I might hope that everyone would remember my sacrifice, and kept remembering it every day and every time a decision was there to be made.  And I would be silently sending out vibes that shouted ‘choose me’.  Every time I was over-looked it would hurt a little.  Every time I wasn’t chosen I would wonder about our relationship.
Any of my ‘choosing me’ wishes aren’t worth the same if I make it happen by pushing myself forward.  It needs to be a genuine preference to ‘choose me’, made out of free will.  I don’t often have miserable moments, but something good came out of this one because it made me think harder about the times when I don’t choose Jesus, and how it must hurt the one I profess to love.
Having a forgiving God, full of grace and love is not an excuse to minimise the hurt I kindly return whenever I fail to choose him.
I apologise to those who were looking forward to some light entertainment in Van Talk Blog #1.  I will do better next time.  I apologise to anyone who recognises in this blog my disgruntled reaction to a sense of not being chosen.  Most importantly, I apologise to Jesus for the many times I’ve failed to choose him.

May God bless us all