Friday, 23 December 2011

Hidden Announcement

So while going for a run yesterday, to get myself ready for all the extra eating I plan on doing at Christmas, I got listening to one of Rob Bell's messages, about Christmas, called The Hidden Announcement. In his message he talked about how God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to a few random, unknown shepherds, out in the middle of the wops. He talked about how in advertising, there are 3 basic rules: Make sure that your message is short; Deliver it creatively; and Make sure you get the most amount of people in your target audience as possible to watch it at each time. He talked about how this is typical God...he announces it creatively, (Angels singing in the sky, tick), it is short and sweet, (Son of God is born, tick), but he Royally screws up the target audience...(the whole world)...when he tells a couple of randoms in a field!!

I got to thinking about this! And I have to say that I love it! And I love it for two reasons! Firstly, God isn't showy!! He's not loud and in your face. He's not OTT! He's not standing there with a bull horn! He's not screaming at me on Oxford Street about how I am a sinner and going to hell unless I repent. He didn't have to send out fliers. He didn't have to make pamphlets. He didn't put on some massive light show in the middle of the Colosseum during the Gladiator World Cup! But he could have. He was capable of doing it like that. But...He didn't need to! He knew that His goods would practically sell themselves, cos they're THAT good! So he sends a bunch of angels to a bunch of shepherds in the middle of nowhere, and knows that will be enough! And then to top it off...after the big announcement, Jesus himself spends 30 years of his life just as subtle and hidden. Not advertising who he was to the point of almost denying who he was. And when he finally decided to act, it wasn't cos he had been hanging out for the moment to finally show off how cool he actually was...nup, he had to be practically begged by his Mum, at a wedding, to make a whole heap of wine for a bunch of drunken partyers!

And I love this about God. That he doesn't get in my face about my issues and faults and problems. Or how I can be cruel and nasty, and bitch and moan. Or how I get grumpy and take it out on Ben. Oh He knows about all of that. And I know about all of that. And He will be ready to deal with all that when I am ready to deal with all that. But he is patient. He is gentle. He is SUBTLE. He makes a quiet announcement, and then waits patiently for me to act upon it.

So then I wonder to myself...if He can be that subtle and gentle...why can't we? Why can't we be that patient with others? Why aren't we that subtle? Why do we feel we need to advertise God? Why do we make big announcements about who we are and what we believe? Or who we aren't and what we don't believe? Or who God is and what he wants us to believe? Or what he wants us to do or not do? And what we have to be or not be before we can get to know him? Which brings me to reason two for loving this about story about God...

He puts a hell of a lot of trust in us. Screwed up, messy, cruel, nasty, selfish, greedy, lazy, us! He trusted His world wide message, for all of creation, with a bunch of nobodies! They are not even named in the bible, that is how important they were...they had nothing special about them these shepherds, no qualifications for being message bearers...nothing. But He chose them! And He even took it a step further. He sent his son in human form to be CARED FOR by one of us. Just some normal woman, a little bit messy like the rest of us. And he trusted her, and her husband to raise HIS own son.

So if God can trust us with HIS SON, and HIS MESSAGE, and if he can do it subtly and gently, then why do we feel we need to get in people's faces? What gave us the idea that advertising to as many as possible, as loudly as possible was God's intention? Since when did we make the rules about what qualifies one as KNOWING God? When did subtlety and gentleness become so unfashionable?

And all this coming from Miss Opinionated herself! ;-)

Has there ever been a time when in-your-face, OTT has worked for you? Or are you in favor of a more subtle approach?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Stranger


So...I am weird!! And believe it or not, I had never realized it until just recently. Yip, that's me...fully strange! But if I think back to the things that I have decided make me weird, I am also aware that they were completely normal to me at the time...and if I am really honest, for a very long time...the majority of my life in fact. And some of these things are probably still completely normal to a whole heap of people that I know. But in actual fact these things are actually weird things...for a whole heap of other people I know...and to me now...sort of!

So a few weekends back I went away for a girly weekend to Edinburgh with some friends from work! We had a great time!! Lots of wine, lots of food, lots of laughs, lots of me pretending I am a black woman, (more specifically Beyonce), with a shakeable black booty, attempting to look slightly cool while dancing in heels, and LOTS of fun!! And despite the previous sentence, a couple of the girls and I decided that we would solve all the worlds problems as we drifted into food and alcohol fuzzed coma's, and had a bit of a discussion about religion. Being that I come from a completely religion fueled upbringing, I had a lot to say on the topic. The thing I noticed as the conversation went on, is that most of the things I had believed to be normal, and had not even been a question in my mind, were suddenly seen through the eyes of others not brought up the same way, as strange, and full on and simply...weird! And the thought that the religious rituals we have might not be completely normal to others had not really fullly crossed my mind before, (other than the obvious shaking and baking that I have mentioned in previous blogs).

So, amongst drifting, sleepy waffle, we got to talking about relationships and church and ended up on the subject of going to the pastor for permission about life decisions. And so I discovered, this is apparently not a normal adult thing to do. Sure we might chat to our friends, we might share with our family, and their thoughts might strongly, (or not strongly, depending on how close we are to said family and friends), influence those decisions. But to practically ask permission or to seek 'God's decision' for our lives, from someone else, who supposedly has better ears to hear answers on these matters, for something that is ultimately our decision, is slightly strange to a whole lot of peeps! Sure, I can rattle off every Christian argument under the sun about why this IS perfectly normal, and the sort of thing any good Christian does, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that to any person not brought up in the church environment, this is actually a tad...irresponsible...OTT...odd!

And this got me to thinking...why is it that we think someone else would know what is best for our lives? How can we think that someone else would be able to pray for us and hear God's voice for our decisions better than we can...especially someone who does not necessarily know us intimately? Would that someone not be influenced by their own agenda/insecurities/wants/needs...if not completely, definitely to a large degree?? Why is it that we can't trust ourselves, our own ability to be able to make the right choice, or the wrong choice, and still be able to learn from it, but still trust someone else possibly standing on the sideline? Since when was God limited to communicating with a pastor, the right choice for OUR lives? What made us decide he was not able to speak directly to us? And where did all this thinking come from? Where did it even start??

Are we not the ones who have to face the consequences for our decisions, and therefore need to be the ones responsible for them? Can we ever truly learn from a mistake if we are able to lay the blame for that decision at someone else's feet? Can we ever fully appreciate the benefits and joys of a good decision if we are not in charge of it's birth?

Since when did we stop growing up?

Is it not little more than childlike thinking to rely on others to make the tough choices for us?

I know for me, the biggest, most important, and most rewarding decisions in my life, have been the ones that despite disagreement from others, who supposedly knew better, were made by me. And those decisions are all the more rewarding as a result!! And sure, some of those rewarding decisions have come with heartache, and loss, but good or bad, they have been my choice and I have learnt and grown because of it!

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that as adults we should be lone wolves, (hands up Hangover fans!), we all need others in our 'wolf pack' to talk to about life choices, but should not those people know us inside out, and have been a part of the whole journey, not just the final say? And after-all, no one else will have to live with your choices but you!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Schizo


So...its been a while...I know!! In fact, its been QUITE a while! It likely feels much longer for me than any of you, but it doesn't change the fact that its been a wee bit of time since I last did any writing. And I do mean ANY writing at all. Its a long story why its been a while, and not really that interesting for any of you,filled with MANY of my insecurities, and ALL of my self-pity, and a whole lot of over-super-sensitive-not-as-thick-skinned-as-I-thought crap! Turns out, I am far too personally involved in something which quite obviously rubs some people up the wrong way, and I don't do too well at handling it. My issue, MY problem.

Anyway, I got to thinking about myself, (just in case any of you thought that I wasn't self-centered and vain, the proof is now in writing for all to see, I THINK ABOUT ME), for the last wee while in relation to writing. As it turns out, I like the thought of being someone with controversial ideas and thoughts. I like the idea of beginning a debate which will stir people up, and get them thinking. In my head I picture myself as a strong, independent, confident and vocal woman with specific views and ideals, who doesn't care what others think about it all.
But the reality of this is RATHER different. The actual fact is that every comment made about ANYTHING I write is analyzed and scrutinized for EVERY possible meaning. I am completely, vulnerably attached to all that I say and write, and the thought, and proof that people dislike that, (which I interpret, in my stupid insecurity, as dislike of me), just plays a disturbing tune in my head. Poor Ben has heard the 'I hate writing and I am never doing it again', followed 5 minutes later by the 'I just wrote a blog, can I read it to you?', to the 'Everyone hates me, I can't say anything right without people hating me for it' bullshit that is me and my blog, (I know...over-reactive and extreme).

My question is, why is it that I am so bothered by it all? Despite peoples comments, despite their disagreement, I do know what I think and believe about stuff. I also know the reasons I have ended up with these thoughts and beliefs. And I am ok with my thoughts and beliefs about things. Sure, I don't think I am perfect in any of it. I know that I have a whole lot of crap which influences a lot of what I believe. I also know that I have been through a whole lot of healing, and have a lot of good stuff that I think as a result, too. Peoples disagreements
don't change any of that. So why...if I am so confident on where I have come from and why I believe what I believe...do I get so upset by it all? I could say that its cos people get personal in their reactions...but am I so removed from the personal? Not by a long way...hence my being a total yo yo with my writing. As if I could claim that my writing isn't personal, being that it came from my head, and it is me sharing my heart. So if the problem is not anyone else...what is it about me, that messes it all up so much?

Well, maybe the obvious...I am too insecure to be putting myself out in a public forum. I am not strong, or thick-skinned enough. I should keep my writing as more like a diary. But unfortunately, I am stupidly extreme. I wouldn't just write for myself. Isn't that the point of writing? To share it? I enjoy it. I love putting my thoughts down, cos trust me, there a whole lot of them crashing around in my head. And annoyingly, I like to put it out there. I love that people would bother to take the time to read what I write. I love that people might think about what I have been thinking about...whether loving or hating it. I love to know that people think the same, and that people think differently. And despite it pushing all my
insecurity buttons, I love to read others comments and learn why they agree or disagree with what I have to say. I love to debate! A part of me likely feels like I have been heard when I put my writing out there. I would be genuinely gutted if people stopped sharing their disagreements or agreements. So if I do genuinely love all of that, how can it still cause me to react so badly? How can a part of me still hate it? Why am I such a schizophrenic? Should I keep it impersonal? And if I do that, is their any point in it at all? Would l read someone else's writing that was not a part of their heart?

Well, whatever the reason, I am over my tantrum...for today...and am taking baby steps back into writing.

But really...am I the only psycho on the planet, or do we all have schizophrenic relationships with something we do?

NB: Please know, if you have disagreed with my blogs, and commented that disagreement in the past, do not think this is about you, or that I am picturing you being boxed within an inch of your life, while writing this! *wink* I have truly appreciated hearing your thoughts, and would hate you not to do so in the future as a result of this blog! I am simply sharing my stupid issues, and they're not anyone else's problem. Please know that I don't mean to put off or offend anyone!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

To Prove or Not to Prove...?


So recently I became aware that something I had written, about someone else, had hurt another person very dear to me. My initial intentions for what I had written had been endearment, and adoration for this person, and pleasure at being like them. Unfortunately, to others who might not know me personally, or intimately, and not know the person I was referring to, my words could have been taken as mocking and thoughtless. And I totally understand how my words had caused pain. For this I am completely sorry. But it got me to thinking about how what I write, or what I say can be so often misinterpreted by others. And for me, in my writing, my being misunderstood, or people interpreting my words in a way that I had not intended, is not at all uncommon.

But how often does this happen to all of us in general life?

I know that I probably frequent the misunderstood table more than some, and this is the curse for having a few too many opinions, and being too honest for my own good. But I am quite sure that all of us, whether as overt with our thoughts and opinions or not, will have had our intentions, or words misunderstood at various times.

And knowing how often this happens got me to thinking about our interpretation of the bible.

If I, as a human, can write something, which is intended to reveal my heart for others and my questioning about past experiences, and have it so completely misunderstood by those who know me best, what makes me so sure that my interpretation of the bible is completely accurate, being that the bible was also written by humans, and to take it a step further, has also been translated into my language so that I can understand it?

But more than this, what makes any of us so sure, that we have interpreted the complete and accurate Truth of what is written in the bible?

I know, that in my many years in church I have heard completely opposing messages based on the same scriptures. Both opposing messages have been preached by well meaning pastors, or 'spiritual leaders'. Neither of the messages were intended to cause harm to the listener, despite some may having done so. And both parties truly believed that they were preaching the truth. And more than this, both had many others backing their interpretation, and much theological support.

So therefore, how can we know which interpretation is actually Truth?

And if our interpretation cannot be 100% accurate, how can we ever justify confidence in our communication of the Truth to others?

This leaves me wondering if this is even our role at all?

I know that I can share my 'truth' shaped by my past experiences, with those who want to know about it, and ask. (Or on my blog, for those who like reading mammoth amounts of my thought process). Just as I know there are many who can share a differing 'truth' shaped by their past experiences.

And I love to listen to others' journeys!

If their interpretation of the bible, or life, differs from mine, is it my job to try and convince them of what I believe and my interpretation?

It could be that my interpretation is wrong. As it could be just as likely that theres is wrong also.

And with so much variation, and so many grey area's in life, and so much that is between the black and white, (as my darling friend so suitable named her new blog), why is it that we cling so desperately to so much that is subject to change and interpretation?

Now don't get me wrong. I am NOT saying 'ABANDON ALL BELIEF', 'DON'T HOLD DEAR TO YOUR TRUTH', of course not! I could not manage that myself. Pretty much all of what I do, and write, and say is shaped by my interpretations of the bible and life and all the rest. Likewise, I am quite sure, this is the case for what you do and say, and how you think! I am simply wondering whether there is even a need to prove our interpretation right? And whether we should ever be arrogant enough to claim confidence at having the complete and accurate interpretation?

So therefore, is our role not to simply, as Jesus puts it to Peter, “Feed my sheep”? And if this is the case, what are we all most hungry for?...well my answer to that, as I am sure you will all have guessed already, is love. But once again, this is just my interpretation! :-)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Modesty...Going Out of Fashion?


So...I read a blog the other day by Matthew Paul Turner, on JesusNeedsNewPr, about modesty. And to be honest, I literally sat there a bit dumbstruck for quite some time after. Then I ranted on to Ben about everything I had just read, and how it was a complete revelation to me, and that I was completely blown away by what he said, (Poor Ben, the number of my rants he puts up with that boy). Then I got to chatting to a good friend about it, as she had also read the blog, and not taken it quite as 'this-is-the-best-thing-I-have-read-in-forever' as me. Which is great, cos it got me thinking about it a tad more and realizing it is not quite such a black and white topic after-all.

So I thought I'd share some of my thinking on it. Being that modesty is definitely something the Church, over the years, has had a lot to say.

Firstly, I want to say, that I felt kind of special that there was a guy out there, sticking up for us gals, on the whole modesty issue. And my experience, through having both a VERY protective male dominated family, and Church, had definitely left me taking pretty much all the guilt and blame for any guy looking in my direction. After-all, I must have been wearing something provocative, and led them astray, cos otherwise no man on the planet would have looked! Right? I mean, that's the ONLY reason guys will look, is when we are asking for it? Anyway, this was my thinking for pretty much most of my life.

So, his blog: He brought up that Church modesty rules, in the past, have been sexist, putting far more responsibility on females than males. He mentioned that peoples views on modesty vary greatly, and therefore, we can't really make specific rules. He talked about modesty being also largely cultural, eg those African tribes where women's breasts are exposed all the time, and not viewed as a sexual thing, but rather a tool for feeding babies. He discussed modesty often resulting in shame, for many women, to the point of some women struggling to be ok with sexuality in marriage. And finally he talked about the line often used, 'so as not to lead our Christian brothers astray', and the effect this has in making women less equal than men, and somehow beneath them or of less value.

And I have to say, I totally agree with all that he said!

But then in discussion with my friend, she brought up some points, which in my excitement at my new revelation, I had not thought about. She asked if I would have a degree of modesty that I would expect from my daughter. And again, I would have to say 'YES', most definitely.

I hate to see young girls baring their breasts, and wearing skirts so short they might as well be belts. And my heart would break to see my daughter wearing clothing like this.

But my reason for my desiring a level of modesty from my future daughter has less to do with 'modesty' itself , and more to do with 'why' she is craving men's attention in this way.

During my later school years, I did go through a phase of exposing more of myself than I would deem decent now as an adult. And I know that I was doing this because I craved attention from males. At the root of this craving, was a longing to be wanted, needed, desired by someone. A need to feel loved. I was insecure, lacking confidence, truly believing that WHO I WAS, was not enough, and that being the case, my looks, and body were all I had to offer. People wouldn't truly like ME, so therefore I just had to present a desirable physical package.

So were my daughter dressing to reveal herself, I would be concerned with her need to do it. What is broken in her, that she so longs for men to desire her sexually and craves that attention?

On the other end of this scale, I also recognise in myself, those times where I need to hide my body away, wearing unflattering, un-clingy clothing, (much to Ben's dislike and frustration). And this is also, always rooted in insecurity. At these times I feel fat, or unattractive, and so I don't want people to see just how fat or unattractive I am. Therefore I hide it, and hide myself, and my femininity in the process.

This also I do not desire for my daughter. I would like her to be secure enough to wear clothing that is flattering on her body, without being completely immodest.

My friend also brought up modesty within some Churches. For example, dancers wearing little more than a bikini top, as they writhe around in provocative, sexually charged moves. (This is not an attack at dancers by the way...I totally wish I could be a dancer, and always fancied myself a bit of a Latin American jiver...just an illustration for my point).

And I agree that this, despite it still being the males responsibility as to whether he looks or not, is actually ridiculously difficult for any male, sitting in this service. This 'Godly' entertainment, with a supposed message, will likely arouse men, and be more of a distraction from the message than anything else. And I fault no man struggling with this.

And this line of thinking got me wondering if there is a lack of consistency in some Churches, where the afore mentioned is tolerated, but where females on the worship team have to ensure their shoulders are covered, and to accidentally show any flesh as a preacher is unacceptable, and scolded?

I think this all leaves me wondering what the balance is? Or even if there is one? Can we ever be modest, yet still feminine, and not attract unwanted attention? And is it society, and its diminishing boundaries, that has men so easily prey to an attractive women, or is there simply a level of self-control that is not being practiced, due to the blame being laid at the feet of women, for so many years?

So people...what do we think the answer is? Or is there even one? What do you expect from your children, or Church?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Still thinking about 'Love Wins'


So I have been thinking about all the discussions that were going on to do with heaven and hell. I love how everyone is so passionate about the topic. (I know...myself included). Whether the debate was believing in a more black and white hell, or not, everyone seemed to have their thoughts and ideas about it, and wanted the forum to voice those thoughts. Some more than others...hehe...we love you Ro! Which is great...you know me, I love a good debate! (Despite not really wanting Facebook to be the venue for that, *sigh*...oh well)

Anyway, I got to thinking about it even more, and chatting with a friend over Skype. And after much thought, and realization of my own particular passion and determination to believe, or hope for something that I cannot actually know for sure, I have come to the conclusion that in the long run, it doesn't actually matter too much.

Sure there are those of us who hope for a God who might be bigger and more gracious than we had originally thought, and will be able to change even the hardest of hearts, so that not a one will perish. But there are also those who have a more traditional belief in who will and who will not get in to heaven. And both of those lines of thinking are ok.

But the truth is that actually none of us can know for sure! As much as we passionately debate for what we hope for or determinedly believe in, none of us will know without a shadow of a doubt! Anything we think, about what happens after death, is actually only ever going to be speculation. Unless we have died ourselves and come back to tell everyone what happened, then we can't possibly know!

So what does this leave us with?

...Now?

There is nothing much more that we can do, except for what we do with our lives now.

To say who will or won't get to heaven is to already make a judgment about peoples hearts, and this is not our task. We are not here to judge, and therefore, all we can do is love people now, and live the best lives we can, now! Growing, maturing, learning, loving, accepting...now.

How many of us actually live in now?


How often are we looking forward to, hoping for, counting down the days till something coming up tomorrow, in the future? Me...often!

How much time do we spend simply thinking about now, and what we can do with this minute?

And of course there is nothing wrong with hoping, thinking about, and looking forward to the future, but in terms of heaven and hell...we can't ever be in complete control of what will happen, as we simply cannot ever know for sure, so therefor, all we can be in control of is our lives here and now.

And I know, for me, that right now, I have a long way to go in becoming a more whole, and less destructive human being. I know I can learn to love people more genuinely, not grump so much at Ben, treat everyone fairly, be less judgmental, be more honest, be less blunt, get rid of that sneaky foot-in-mouth disease that creeps to the surface every now and then, be less selfish, be more vulnerable...etc, etc, etc. And I reckon that is a whole lot to keep me busy for the next twenty years!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Getting out of the bubble


So when I was a wee spring chicken, back in the days before I was approaching a certain unmentionable age, of which we do not talk about, but which starts with a three...(ok, and ends with a zero)...I remember being in town with Mum having a bit of girly time away from the masses of testosterone that is my beautiful family, (before my darling little sister came into the world to bring a tad, (but only a tad), more balance). We were in a clothing store in Christchurch, (when you still could go shopping in Christchurch), and we came across a lady, (I know....the shock of finding a lady in a clothing store). This lady was heavily pierced, layered in tattoos, wearing a black leather jacket, over her tie-dyed velvet and lace dress, with long dark, unkempt hair. While we were browsing, she approached us and started making friendly chat with my Mum about the top my Mum was looking at. I remember after she had left, I turned to my mother, and in a mild form of confusion and shock said, “Mum, she was so nice! How can she be so nice when she isn't even a Christian?”

Now I mention this story for a reason, not to enlighten you with a demonstration of how sheltered, naive and judgmental was I as a child, but more because I have been thinking a lot about differences. How is it, that I, at the age of 11 or 12...lets go younger even, so that I don't look like a complete jerk...say 6 or 7...had decided that people who were 'Christians' looked a certain way, to the point that my question was not even if she was one, but how could she be as nice as one if she wasn't, (haha...as though Christians are the nicest people on the planet!!!...a whole other blog, cos I know plenty of non-Christians I would FAR rather spend my day with than some Christians I know).


Which brings me along the path of another thought...why is it, that we expect Christians to all think the same, dress the same, act the same, talk about the same things, or like doing the same things? Why can't we all just be as different as we are, think as differently as we do, and still get on just fine?

And I am not saying this cos I am an exception to the rule, but simply cos I am as guilty as the next person for gathering around me people who are just the same, and think the same as I do.
And why is this? Because so often the differing opinions of others challenge, or frustrate me.
I am embarrassed to admit to getting frustrated by this, but I know I am not the only one...I know that often my opinions cause others much frustration/anger also.


Why? Why does it offend us what someone else believes?

How is it that our differences seem to cause such offense?

Why can we not accept that people might not, and will likely not, think the same way as us about things, maybe have a bit of a debate about it, (if you are anything like my family and are always up for discussing everything under the sun, and if that is what is necessary), and move on?

Why is it so difficult to focus simply on what we all have in common; we need air, food, water, shelter, work, family, friends, love, joy, relaxation, entertainment...the list goes on.

Before I came to London, I have to say, I was literally stuck in my little Christian bubble. I had pretty much only Christian friends, I did Christian things on the weekends, everything I did, and everyone I spent time with was just like me! Muslims...what are they, don't they live in Pakistan?...Buddhists...don't they sit all day humming?...Non-Christians...aren't they just immature and can't talk about anything but the last time they got pissed? (Don't even get me started on what a judgmental cow I was!)


Yes, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't know any better, and growing up in a Christian family, and following it through, the whole 9 yards, I hadn't had the opportunity to move outside of my bubble.

I am SO grateful now that I came here, (with a pin, so to speak), and popped my bubble, to see the real world waiting beyond. Sure, its messy, and screwed up, and painful, and chaotic...but its real, and fun, and full of life and excitement and challenges. But most of all it is made up of a millions different people. And that's what makes it exciting...its difference! How boring would it be, if this was not the case?

So if its our difference that makes life the chaotic, messy, brilliant that it is, then why take offense?

Why hide from it?

Why keep to just those that are the same?

Why not embrace the difference, for what it is...a colorful world?