Spikes or Flower?

Spikes or Flower?

This cactus came from a family holiday in Lanzarote as a tiny sprout. It has been cared for since then, watered, fed, changed to a bigger pot, and has sunshine shining down on it, when it is actually sunny in Northern Ireland… Some people may still just see it as this spiky useless thing. They may not see the tiny, intricate, beautiful flowers it has produced.

I know a lot of people who on the outside may look quite scary and sharp; sometimes us who happen to ride motorcycles may be looked upon as loud, scary and rough. As with the beautiful flowers on my cactus, it is for the beholder to see what they wish.

So what are the spines (spikes) for? They are not thorns, rather they are modified leaves, and keep some predators away from the water inside, but also help on a misty or foggy night to trap some water, which then falls down the smooth cactus to the ground and is able to be absorbed by the roots.

So if you think of people who may be protecting themselves in this, sometimes, dry and arid world, devoid of empathy, they may use defenses to keep people away. If you look closely at a cactus it usually has a beautiful smooth surface behind the spines. If we cared enough to really see a person we may see the beautiful smooth stem, the spines all designed so intricately to protect, and the fruit that it produces, for this cactus it is the stunning flowers.

A person behind the spikes could be a father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, friend or any number of very kind things to many people. Going with the bikers again, I know most bikers have very big kind hearts and do many things to help people, maybe a charity bike run to raise money for little children who need some sunshine to shine down on them, and raise money to help them.

As both a biker and a counsellor I am privileged to know a lot of people who may on the outside have a lot of spines to protect themselves, after being hurt in this world. I know that behind these spines is a beautiful soul that is very kind and helpful to others, despite what has happened to them. I know the fruit they are producing and how they help others to flourish.

As you can read I look at a cactus very differently, and it means a lot to me. I find comfort in the spiky spines. It is a reminder to me that spiky people may be a lot different behind that defense. It reminds me if someone is spiky to me that if I negotiate them spiky spines carefully, the smoother, calmer person is there. The beautiful flowers this cactus produces twice a year, reminds me how a person can flourish, if they recieve the correct care and attention we all require in this world. Thanks for reading, Stephen.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.



Which bowl do you eat from?

Which bowl do you eat from?

For the benefit of this story I will introduce you to Noah my little 2-year-old son. When feeding Noah this morning I had his bowl on left and mine on right beside it. I had to be very careful during our funny talks, singing and playing that I didn’t eat any of his by mistake.

Noah’s bowl is poison for me as what it contains makes me sick and very unwell. Mainly the milk in it as I am lactose intolerant among other things. It would be a slippery slope as I would get sick, fun would dwindle quickly with Noah, someone else would need to look after Noah… many people affected by one bowl. One bowl which for most people would be perfectly good and wholesome. It is my kryptonite. My weakness. Your weakness may not be my weakness. My weakness may not be your weakness.

My bowl however has been tried and tested and has many things in it which will help me digest it, give me energy, and allow me to have fun with Noah, learn him new things, which will allow him to get tired and sleep. Therefore I can do stuff around the house when he is sleeping, making life easier for the rest of our family when they come in home.

Two bowls. Two very different outcomes. This reminds me of the excellent Native American saying regarding the two wolves.

2 wolves

What is your bowl of poison?


Illegal Drugs?

Prescription drugs?

Shopping excessively?






Eating too much?

Eating too little?

Eating the wrong food?

Excessive social media?



Insert your particular bowl of poison…

So many ‘ bowls’ some of which may be fine for some of us but not for others. We all have our demons to fight, our bowls to stay away from. For us that are Christians it could be one bowl with the Devil thinking it won’t matter. It does. One ‘bowl’ of whatever your ‘poison’ is could be a slippery slope, and a bad outcome for yourself and many other people. Our actions have consequences, this could be physical like sickness, or mentally with remorse, shame or guilt among other issues.

It is the beginning of a new year. Maybe look after your bowls and help others who are struggling with theirs. My health makes me want to lie in a corner in a ball at times but I never give in, for long. I help others who struggle because I know that pain and while God allows me the health to keep going I will.

Look for the opportunities to help others today and see how it also helps you.

P.S. I only ate my bowl and this has taken a long time to write as I kept stopping to play with Noah and his teddy bear fights. Benny Bison teddy won if your interested and has posed for a winning picture 🙂