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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The End Of 2014....

I'm doing this one a touch ahead of time, but it should post up on New Year's Eve. I want to have a bit of a reflection on this year and some of the things that have happened in it, because it's been pretty incredible for me.

This year....
I've cried tears of joy.
I've shared stories with people I never knew.
I've made closer and quicker friends than I have in a long time.
I've learnt that as I am, I am a man.
A son of God.
A brother of Jesus.
A bride of Christ.
That I am pursued and loved by my awesome Father.
I've been able to grow closer to my brother.
I've been shaken by fear.
And I've challenged that fear.
I've been able to share from the deepest, darkest places.
And have people still smiling, and still loving.
I've made a CD, and had an album launch.
Didn't go how I'd planned.
Seems to be a pattern with God.
Got to be in a play.
Where I was depicting domestic violence and religiosity.
Got to write music for a musical.
Gotten so much further in my battles with addiction and temptation.
Been part of an awesome group of brothers and sisters.
Learned so much, all over again. From the heart, this time.
Been able to use it.
Been part of another awesome group, because one clearly isn't enough.
Studied at Bible College.
Joined a Christian band.
I've been impacted and changed by so many people.
Many of them younger than me.
Walked on the beach with God, quite a few times.
Lived dreams.
Wrote another album.
Broke a ukelele.
Saw the musical Wicked.
Been encouraged.
Encouraged others.
Had the privilege of sharing at my church twice, and another church once.
Had God come through for me more times than I can count.
Wrote poetry.
Got to share it with Church of Christ leaders across NSW.
Ran in the City2Surf.
Went to see Adam Hills.
Completely revamped my room.
Saw Mythbusters live on stage.
Celebrated my Great-Nan's 100th birthday.
And my Dad's cousin's wedding.
Went canyoning.
Painted a few rooms and chairs at church.
And so many more, probably a lot that I've forgotten....but hopefully that's most of them.

Thank you so much to everyone who has journeyed with me through this year; everyone who I've done life with. Special mention to the Impart, Navigate, Tops, youth group and Zaō crew, who have seen the best and worst of me and still loved me through it all. You guys are super-duper-awesome, and I've been so blessed to live this year with each of you. You are all an inspiration an encouragement to me, and teach me so much about who I am and who God is. Keep being awesome, and I'm sure I'll see you all again before too long :)

This year, God has really been making the move from my head to my heart. Next year is going to be a little different. But that's for another post....

Goodbye, 2014. You were awesome!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Shine The Light.

There's a movie/TV show from a while back called Dinotopia. Essentially, it's about this hidden island where dinosaurs still exist, and castaways over the years have built a society around them.
As part of their society, they have the Code Of Dinotopia. There are eleven codes, but the last one is broken off. Eventually, it's revealed that the code is "Find the light." And that is a bit of a theme throughout the movie. 

It also related in really well to the sermon at my church the other night. The topic was on Jesus being the light of the world; we've been going through Jesus' "I Am" statements recently, and this one was wrapping up the series. And our pastor talked a lot about how we are very much drawn to light; and in the same way, people were drawn to Jesus and what he did. Throughout the Gospels, you get the stories of people crowding him to ridiculous lengths. And, of course, light very much relates in to the Christmas story - the light of the star, the angel Gabriel, the host of angels - seems to be a theme. 
So that very much reminded me of this idea, "Find the light."

But I think that it goes a bit further than this. I think that this light can still be found in our world today; shining out from people that are living lives like Jesus did. They are shining the light; they are helping others to find the light, to see the light of Jesus. Just like Jesus said, "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."

God calls us to shine the light, so that others can find the light. He will always be the light; but so that more may see the light, he asks us to shine.

So, this season, shine. Shine the light. 

Merry Christmas. :)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Merry Holidays! No, wait...

Just a quick one. There seems to be a growing political-correctness around the word Christmas. We've had Xmas for a while now, but now I'm hearing a lot more of the "Happy Holidays!" from people, particularly if they're high-profile and such. And honestly, I see it as a bit of a pity. I'm never a fan of political correctness in general - but Christmas? Seems like it's a bit far for me. You don't really wish people "happy holidays" any other time of the year. People know it's Christmas you're talking about. Why not just say, "merry Christmas"? I mean, for sure. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and for some people it might not have happy memories. But I don't think that should prevent people from using the word.

In other news, I'll be going away for a few days over Christmas. I'll probably do a Christmas post proper - but if not, then that's why. I'm also planning to do an end-of-year one, and a start-of-year one. So you've got those to look forward to :)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Throwing Out The Old?

A while back, I would sporadically have a look at some common misconceptions and myths surrounding the Bible, Christianity, Christians, God, etc. Thought I might have a go at doing that again every once in a while.

One that I heard recently, which I think can actually be a fairly common thought, goes something like this: "True Christians are supposed to throw out all of the Old Testament anyway, because Jesus said we're done with all of that." Essentially, saying that the Old Testament is no more than some interesting backstory at best, and has no relevance to how Christians are supposed to live today. There's a few reasons that I think this doesn't hold water, but firstly I'll have a look at why some people could see this as a legitimate idea.

Who It Was Written For
The Old Testament was written by, and for, the Israelite people. This is clearly shown throughout the books within it; and, as such, there are many references that only make sense in the time period. I talked about a few of those here a while back. There are lots of genealogies, lists of people, counts of things being sacrificed, rules and regulations specific to the Israelite people - none of which would have much immediate impact on our life today.

Jesus' Words
Jesus spoke about being the fulfilment of the Law (the Old Testament was commonly referred to in the Bible as the Law and the Prophets; the Law is specifically the first five books, also known as the Torah or Pentateuch); and many would argue that if something is fulfilled, it is no longer needed. There are also many times that Jesus seems to act in contrast to the Law; well-known examples include him healing people on the Sabbath, as well as associating with people that were 'unclean' - particularly lepers.

Paul's Words
There are specific times when Paul goes against the words of the Old Testament; for example, he says that new Christians do not have to practice circumcision. In one of his letters, Paul writes, "By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." (Hebrews 8:13) This would seem to be saying exactly what this argument is putting forward.

Now, let's have a look at the other side.

Jesus' Words
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them." These are the words that Jesus spoke, in Matthew 5:17. And a number of other times in the Gospels, Jesus references the Old Testament; speaks about the importance of what was written there; and says that, "...until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." That seems to be fairly definitive. But let's keep looking, shall we?

Paul's Words
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Here, Paul is talking about Old Testament scripture - the New Testament hadn't been written yet! And while there are many times that we can find Paul talking about Christians no longer being under the Law, clearly he still believes that the Old Testament is very important for Christian living.

Purpose Of The Old Testament
In the New Testament, both Jesus and Paul talk about the Law and the Prophets acting to point towards Jesus; they are the foreshadowing of what is to come. As such, the Old Testament can tell us about who Jesus is, and help us to see the reason that he came. The Old Testament also contains many standards for living that are still helpful to strive for today; the Ten Commandments are a good example of this.

The Verdict
So, we have a bit happening here from both sides. Paul writes about not being under the Law; yet talks about the benefits of Scripture. Jesus talks about fulfilling the Law; yet not being here to abolish it. And there are many things in the Old Testament that seem extraneous; yet many can also apply to our lives today. So where do we stand?

In the end, unfortunately, it gets a bit muddy. However, two things that I think can be definitively said are; Christians are not under the Law, but the Old Testament should not be thrown out. It still has relevance and importance today for people's lives. As to anything more specific than that - you'd probably have to go to a proper Bible scholar. But that's my look at it for now. Hopefully I'll be doing this more often over the next while!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Sorry it's been a little bit of time since my last post. Been a fair bit happening lately! But there was something in particular that I wanted to post about.

This year, there have been a lot of things that God has been making very real for me; things that I've gone from just knowing about, to really knowing and feeling in my heart. And then, hopefully, doing something about it, ideally! God doesn't want us to just rest with what we know is truth, but actually to live it. Pretty important.

And it's something that he's done again. You never really get used to it when it happens, it's always pretty incredible. But wow, this one knocked my socks off. (Strange expression, but anyway. It was good, okay?)

He showed me that he could do the impossible. And that was something that I'd always known he could do; you know that God is a God of miracles - and not just in Jesus' time, but with people here and now. But often, you don't see that many yourself. You see some things that are pretty darn incredible, don't get me wrong. But this is the first time - I'm pretty sure - that he's done something that I would have called impossible. In me. I'm pretty sure that at this point, younger me wouldn't recognise me any more. In a good way, but, you know. It's pretty incredible.

Yes, I'm being damn mysterious and vague again. I'm sorry. Hopefully not for too much longer - but God doesn't seem to be in the habit of showing me his calendar, unfortunately! So I guess we'll see. But yeah. It's pretty awesome :) So I just wanted to write about that.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Power of Expectation.

So, I haven't mentioned this before (I don't think), but I'm part of this awesome band/ministry called Shalom. Joined them earlier this year - they've been going for a few years now. Essentially, they needed a new keyboardist, and the drummer and the bassist (both of whom I knew from my church) thought of me first. Which is cool. We basically go round to churches and events and play our songs, bless people with our music. Pretty awesome.

This morning, we had a gig at a church that was having an anniversary. So, lots of food, which was cool. But that's not what I'm writing about!
The pastor there was finishing up a series called "Expecting God to be God". It was guessed it....expecting God to be God. Haha. It was really good, and there were some great things that spoke to me quite specifically.
Fast forward then to this evening, when I was doing the sound desk at my church. We were gathered together for prayer before the music team started practice, and Paul (worship pastor at our church), was talking about how Ryan (youth pastor) had been talking about expectation at some point, and was wondering about what we expected when we came to the service. More expectation....
Then the communion talked about expectation! We have a quick five-minute talk before communion, where people are pretty free to choose what they want to talk about - we've had everything from readings straight from the Bible, to people using medical ideas as metaphors, to people bringing up props to use. All relating back in to communion, of course. And this time, he was talking about the expectation leading up to Christmas - and then linking that back to communion and the lead-up to Jesus' death.
I think that Ryan may have actually mentioned it in his talk as well, but I'm actually not sure now....Paul may have just mixed the two talks up. Possible.

Anyway. Expectation was a bit of a recurring topic, as you can see.

For me, I've always been a person who tries not to have expectations. Particularly of people. Because I've found that people are fallible, funnily enough. So I don't set expectations. I have hopes - which can often be ludicrously high, I'm that sort of person - but I don't really have much in terms of expectations, I don't think. But I think God is really challenging me to not apply that over to him as well. Because people might be fallible, but he's not. And so he doesn't want me to just hope in him. He wants me to trust in him; have faith in him; expect him. Expect that he's going to do something, expect that he's going to come good on his promises, expect that he's going to be there for me. And act on that. Not just wait around, expecting him to do everything for me. That's just silly. But expecting that he's going to be active in my life - and wanting to be active in his as well, I think. That's important.

So yeah, just wanted to share that with you folks. Just a quick aside - I've been on an unofficial part-hiatus for much of this year. That's now done, so I'll probably be posting somewhat more regularly/frequently now. More the latter, at a guess. But yeah :)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Little Moments.

Like snow randomly happening while you're on a bushwalk.
Or watching a sunset out over the valley and ridges below you.
Seeing the sun rise over the water, standing on the beach.
Falling asleep under the stars in canoes.

Finding our own leap of faith, even if it was a touch too big.
Stepping from rock to rock around a lake, balancing things in our hands.
Playing songs and sharing stories together in the middle of a shopping centre.

Dancing away from you at the beach, giggling like a schoolgirl, getting caught by the waves.
Tears falling down my face, tears of joy and relief, as I am comforted.

Touching your hair for the first time, and feeling it within my fingers.

And yet, these are only the beginning....

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Storm's A-Coming.

A storm's a-coming.
Thundering, raging.
You can hear it, see it, smell it, feel it, taste it.
Hear the rumble.
See the flash.
Smell the petrichor.
Feel the cool.
Taste the dampness.

A storm's a-coming.
The atmosphere is electric.
The wind is chasing the clouds across the sky.
It whips through your hair -
Calling you, calling the wild.
The dangerous.
Will you come?
Will you surrender to the storm?

A storm's a-coming.
The power is more than you can live with.
The torrent is surging, and you can't keep it inside.
You have to release it, and the light rushes forth.
Bursting, blinding, coursing, brightening.

A storm's a-coming.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

200K + an update.

Well, I've just reached over 200,000 views! That's pretty cool. Admittedly, over three-quarters of that is just for my Four Chords post, but still, that's pretty cool. So thank you to everyone who still looks at this from time to time, and who has found my various ramblings and thoughts somewhat interesting.

I haven't posted very much - at all - this year. But this year is coming quickly to an end, and I'm thinking that I'll start to get back into posting on here more regularly. Or, more frequently, rather. Probably not regularly, knowing me. But there's been quite a bit happening this year, and I'm wondering how much of that I'll be writing up on here in some form or another. I'm not sure just at the moment. But I'm sure there will be something.

I'll give you a quick update on things looking forward, though. At the moment, I'm looking for work. Again. Or still, rather. I technically haven't stopped since I finished up last year. Bit annoying. But yeah. The money that I've had saved up is coming very close to being finished, and I know I won't be able to stretch it much further. I have one three-day camp between now and the end of the year, so that will sustain me for a little more. But it is something that's on my mind. Hoping/praying that God has something for me coming up. That would be nice.

Apart from that, though, there's a couple of projects that I'm working on into the new year. A new album; a friend's musical; a book I'm writing; and an idea. Very dangerous things, ideas. I get rather a lot of them. But yes.

So I know some things about next year. But other things are more up in the air. There's a fair bit that I'm praying about/hoping for. And there's a fair bit of work I'm doing on myself. Because I think that's important.

Anyway, I'll finish up there for now. Thanks for listening, folks!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

My Hope.

I've just come back from the last Impart Intensive, which is very sad. :( I'll probably do a post about it at some point. Maybe. But there was something that I wanted to put up here - a poem that I wrote while I was out there.

They took us out to Parramatta Lake, and told us we had a couple of hours or so for some time of solitude, reflection and so on. It was one of the last things we did, so it was really reflecting back on the whole time.
Now, we had been there before, so I decided to walk around the lake in the other direction. And what ended up happening is that there were particular spots where God got me to stop, and look around. And I would get out my Bible, and write a few short lines connecting what I was reading to what was happening - either around me, or inside me, or both. And it always seemed to connect in - sometimes I had to think a bit about it, but it did.

I had the privilege to share this poem as part of the last session at the Churches of Christ Ministers' Awakening, which has just finished; and it was received very well there, I think. I had a few people coming up to me and saying that they really connected well with it, which is good.

So, here's the poem. It's called "My Hope", because that was really the running theme. It's something that God had been working on with me for this last Intensive, so the poem was very much for me. For each section, I've got the section that I opened up to in the Bible, so if you want you can have a look yourself. I had the NLT, so I don't know if they won't connect as well with different translations.

My Hope

I sit under this tree; rough, yet light and grand;
And am reminded that our sins are rougher; his yoke, lighter; and his love, grander.
Therefore, my hope is in Him. (Psalm 130)
I sit near a great wall, offering its protection; and a pipe streaming water, seeming to provide;
But I remember that the Lord will protect me and sustain me more than I ever could.
Therefore, my hope is in Him. (2 Samuel 17:15-29)
I deviate from the main path, and wonder for a moment if I will be lost.
But I am reminded that the Lord always finds me, and I am never lost;
Therefore, my hope is in Him. (Amos 9:1-10)
I stand here next to the murky water, coughing, feeling full of phlegm;
But I am reminded that I am healed and cleansed by your power;
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Luke 8:1-3)
I sit and see beautiful lizards, hear melodious birds, and am captured by the lake's reflection;
But I remember that your glory is greater than all of these could ever be.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Isaiah 60)
I sit here so close to the beginning, yet I know it will also be the end -
And I am reminded that just as you have the power to give life, so you can take it away.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Ezekiel 26:1-14)
I sit on a great tree, that has now fallen to the ground;
And am reminded that no person is too great to escape your judgement.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Zephaniah 1)
I sit on the bank of a creek, looking across at the other bank;
And I am reminded of the separation between light and darkness, between you and what we were.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
I sit on a high rock, overlooking the water;
And I know that, even if I fell, your power could rescue me.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Isaiah 50:1-3)
I arrive at a house, but I cannot linger here;
I remember that you are my home, and not any building or land.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Acts 7)
I start to hurry, noting the time, but I almost miss the beautiful colours of spring;
And I am reminded that my attention and devotion to you must be pure and undivided;
Therefore, my hope is in you. (2 Corinthians 11:1-15)
I come to a bridge, and I sit down, the wood supporting me.
But I know that it is only your strength which I can rely on;
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Isaiah 31)
I sit near a swathe of vines, choking and surrounding trees and fences;
And I am reminded that the world may imprison us for what we do, but you give us grace and peace.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Philemon 1:1-3)
I stand near a road, and the noise brings to mind thoughts of home;
But I know that I must first build your house in my life, on solid foundations.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Haggai 1:1-11)
I rush forward, thinking I have much left to go; but I suddenly reach the end, and I stop -
For it is the beginning, but then, it is not. The old has gone, the new has come.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Colossians 3:1-17)
The end has come, and I am saddened; for I know the path ahead will be hard.
But you remind me that your Spirit and words will never leave me.
Therefore, my hope is in you. (Isaiah 59)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Pledge #15 - Ask God's Help

To constantly ask God for help, for none of this can I do without Him.

At all. Ever. Period. Fairly simple, but I'll expound on it slightly.

Do I mean by this, that I should not do anything? Well, no, I'm asking for help, that's something. But nothing apart from that? Just rely that God will do it all for me. No, I don't think that's what it's about.
I think God wants us to do our best with what we have. And that means putting in some effort, striving to be better. It also means praying and trusting in God - and it can be tricky knowing where which comes in more, and all this sort of thing. If in doubt, do both! God seems to be quite adept at making it work out, despite our lack of understanding in how it all works.

This concludes my series that I've been doing on this pledge of mine. Hopefully you've found it interesting. Until next time!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Pledge #14 - Harbour Peace

To not harbour resentment, anger, hate, jealousy, or other poisoners of the soul.

I've mentioned a fair few times before on here about how emotions self-perpetuate. If you haven't heard it before; essentially, all emotions want more of the said emotion. So the more you dwell on it, the bigger it grows, the less room you have for other emotions. Particularly less room for opposite emotions. This is true of both positive and negative emotions; so it can either be a great thing, or a bad thing. If you're dwelling on negative emotions - then you can easily get depressed, or much worse. It poisons your soul. If you dwell on positive emotions - then the negative emotions don't have any room to grow.
Now, that doesn't mean that when negative emotions legitimately arise for a proper reason, you act as if they're not there. You don't just ignore them and act like it's all fine and dandy. But when things go badly, you need to make sure that it's not all negative. Find that positive - if there's not one there, make one, put one there. We can always add a bit of positive. Often, having someone else there helps, a lot.
To me, this really matters, because I don't want to be a negative person. I know what wallowing in bad emotions can do, and it drowns you. It really does. So for me, harbouring instead hope, peace, joy, and love - that's really important. It's very reminiscent of Philippians 4:8 - "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Friday, 12 September 2014

Pledge #13 - Seek Understanding

To seek understanding in the places that I lack.

Particularly so that I may understand people, and avoid the previous point of judging people on things that I don't understand. And also because the more you understand people, the better you can empathise with them, see where they're coming from - or maybe it's the other way around. They're related, anyway. And people are just interesting.

But it's also broader than just that - it's about learning, but going deeper than just knowing facts; understanding the way things work, the why and the how of it, that's what's really interesting. Getting into it and having a go for yourself. Doing it. That's often how we grow our understanding.

This is, of course, an ongoing process; you can never understand everything, and chances are you don't understand a lot of the things you think you do. It's just the nature of things, as it were. There's always a lot more to them than we can get.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Pledge #12 - Judging Slowly

To never judge another on something that I do not understand.

It's something that is very easy for us, as people, to do. Because we often think that we do understand, when in reality we don't. And so we make these snap decisions, thinking that we know the best - but actually, we have no clue. We're judging people; and doing so unjustly. As such, it's so important that we really think before we judge others; because there's always more to the story than we know. Often, there's more to it than they know as well, but one thing at a time.
You always hate it when people make snap decisions about you - so don't do it to others.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Hope Diaries.

I've started a little project that I've called the Hope Diaries. I got the idea because I was wearing my Hope 103.2 beanie when I did the first one, so I thought, "Why not call it that?" Because it actually works really well.

This probably isn't something that I'll be putting up anywhere. I don't know. Maybe. But I thought I'd put up the idea, anyway.

Essentially, there are things we can do that aren't so great. But, because we're human, we tend to do them anyway. Some aren't that bad. Some really are. Each person struggles with a few of them. There's one in particular I'm working at that maybe I'll talk about at some point, but not in this post.

But I was in a place again today where I wanted to go back there. And then the thought came to me, to instead of doing that, play a song. A song that brought me hope. Rather than doing something that would diminish it. And so that's why the name works nicely.

Now, because I'm a 4 (the Tragic Romantic, for those not yet familiar with the Enneagram), a lot of them will probably be love songs, to some degree. Maybe I'll have a couple of my own, not sure. Hopefully there will be a few Christian ones in there as well. But basically, it will be the first one I see that works.

So yeah. That's the project. Knowing me, it could either happen very sporadically/barely at all, or maybe for quite a while. Guess we'll see.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Pledge #11 - Growing

To always learn and grow, in good times and bad.

This is something that God has been showing me a fair bit of this year as well. Because all the things that happen in our life have a purpose, a reason to them; and even when we are struggling, even when we are falling, we can learn from that place, and in that place. Learn how to get out; learn how to not find ourselves there again. There is always something more to learn, always something that we can grow in. We are not perfect; we need to constantly be learning and growing.

Because otherwise, we are stagnant; and not really living. If a tree is not growing; if a plant is not growing; we may wait for a while and give it some time, but often we will pull it out. It's not growing, it's not developing, it's not bearing fruit. And while we don't pull out people that aren't growing, I think that they aren't really living life. Because life is about growth, and maturing, and all this sort of thing. It's really important. And, of course, because of that, it's really important to help others to grow as well. Otherwise, it's kind of like being the big tree that's blocking out the sun for all the trees around. When you learn things, you share it with people. Being in community is the best way to grow and learn, because everyone has something to contribute, something that's different.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Pledge #10 - Supporting Others

To encourage and support others.

So, this one follows on pretty well from the previous. But this is specifically about building up; being positive, being a driving energy for other people. I've really already spoken a bit about this in the last one, so I'll keep it shorter.

But this is one that is so important, and I've seen the impact this has this year - with me. This year, I've been part of a group that exists to encourage and support the people within the group, and it's been incredible. It's been such a positive and growing experience; a challenging experience, yes, but you can only grow so far without breaking out of your skin, without outgrowing your rock-pool.

When you encourage and support others, they in turn will do the same for you. That's the truth.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Spinning, spinning
Through my mind
These emotions, these thoughts
Undefined in direction
And yet so familiar
They build themselves up
Higher and higher
Spin faster and faster
So much that it hurts
And I am left
In a cloud
I know what it is
But cannot see through
Until I move
But when-
I do not know
I can only
Or rather
That he does know
And he does see
That he will guide me
Show me
I hope
I know
That he knows
But I wish
That I would too
But I trust
That he
Knows best

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

On Not Being Yourself.

A while back (couple of years ago), I wrote a piece called On Assuming A Character. The link is here, if you're interested. Essentially, I said that you needed to find a link between who you were and who the character was, and build the character out of that.

But what do you do if you find yourself with a part that's - very much not you? Perhaps you can find common ground, but the character is very different, perhaps even opposing to much of who you are.

At some point, as an actor, it can be pretty much guaranteed that you'll play a part that you're not completely comfortable with. It's a given, and I've certainly played roles that are very different to who I am. My first role was as The Devil, for goodness' sake. (As an aside, it was a great role that I had a lot of fun with, and how I really first got in to acting.) And there's a couple of things that you can do/are often done in this instance.

Firstly, acclimatisation. This is pretty much guaranteed, to be honest. This essentially means making the character a little bit more manageable - trimming off a couple of the rougher edges if you're a bit warmer, adding a bit of bite in if it's a bit too coddly for you. This will pretty much inevitably happen because of who you are, but it can also be a deliberate thing as well.

Secondly, understanding. Often, when you go deep into the script, it will help you to understand the psychology and philosophy of the character, and why they act that way. And sometimes, that will help you to be able to rationalise it a bit (if you're a rationalising sort of person), and find it easier to perform.

Thirdly, adjustment. Not ideal, but at times (particularly if it's a bit more improv-based and such), your character may have a bit of wiggle room, and you can ask the director if you can do things a bit differently. If you can explain it well and show them how your way will still be effective and how you'll be able to do it better that way, they might be willing to give it a go. Not so much for when you've got a set script, and certainly not for bigger stuff.

Fourthly - just do it. There are some bits that you just have to suck it up, swallow your pride, not worry about what your friends or family might think of you for what you're going to do or say, and just go for it. It will be hard the first couple of times, but it gets easier. (In some instances, this is something that you need to watch, because there are some things you don't want to become easy - but that's another discussion.) Don't sacrifice the power and potential of what's written because you're getting a bit queasy. Make the part yours, yes. But you also need to be the part. It's a two-way street; acting isn't (contrary to popular opinion) just about you!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Pledge #9 - Being There

To be there when I am needed most.

Which is often not at an easy time. It never rains, but it pours, as they say. And I've found that often when I'm in a tight spot, it can really help me being able to help others in a similar situation; focussing outwards rather than inwards. It gives you a sense of perspective, I think. Or something.

But for me, being there in the hard times is the mark of real friendship. I know it's at these times that I've had the most impact on others, and that they've had the most impact on me. When friendships are tried and tested, and show their worth. That's what it's really about.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Pledge #8 - Facing Fear

To face and overcome my fears, so that I may in turn help others to overcome theirs.

This is something in particular that God has been challenging me with this year, on many different levels. On some base levels, with basic (though still very real) fears like fear of pain, or of heights, or of drowning, etc. But then also with more complex and involved fears, like fear of rejection, or of isolation, or even of boredom. (I've probably got a bit of 7 in me. Weird thought.)

But if I can’t do this - if I can't face these fears, face situations when these arise and overcome them - how can I help and encourage others to? I can't. And that's something that I want to be able to do for other people. Because fear and anxiety can prevent you from doing so much in your life, and can rule you. But God doesn't want us to be servants to fear. He wants us to be free from fear; he wants us to live courageously. And that's what I'm striving to be.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Pledge #7 - Never Hurting

To never hurt others.

This may seem obvious. But often, the times when you hurt people most is when you don't think about it. So for me, this is a challenge to really think about what I'm doing, and how it could effect other people around me, people that I care about.

Because when I hurt other people, I hurt myself even more. The times when I've been the most down is when I've seen how I've hurt other people, not when I've been hurt by other people. I feel other people's pain quite acutely; and when I know that I've caused that pain, then even more so. And so, I don't hurt people. That means physically, emotionally, verbally, in any way. Of course, it's an impossible goal. But really, these all are. That's why you keep striving for them.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Pledge #6 - Be Proactive

To be proactive, not just reactive.

Proactivity and reactivity. We see a lot of the second, not so much of the first. And that's certainly been the case with me. I'm very good at responding to things, and reacting when things happen; but not so good at taking the initiative, and being on the front foot. In some cases, that's a fear issue. In other cases, it's a laziness issue. It's something I'm trying to work on.

But why - why is this proactivity important? Because otherwise, you're always going to be on the back foot; and there's some things in particular where you don't want that to be the case. Just some little things, you know - employment, relationships, family, that sort of thing. True, there are some instances where you need to wait and see. But often, more (smart) proactivity would be a good thing to see.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Pledge #5 - Valuing People.

To treat all people as priceless.

People are important. Just in case you never quite got that from me before. People are so, so important. But the thing is, often, people don't get that. Maybe on a head level, they do - in fact, often overly on a head level - but deep in their heart, often people still harbour the idea that they are worthless or don't matter. But that isn't true. It never was, and never will be.

And so, I work to treat every person as priceless. Because they are. Just inherently, they are. Not because of anything that they have done or not done, but just because of who they are, they are priceless.
Often, when it comes to works of art, their price is often due to who made them. Well, we were made by the God who created the universe. I think that puts a price on us higher than anyone can fathom. And that's pretty awesome. :)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pledge #4 - Loving Good

To love and cherish that which is good.

This is quite heavily taken from Philippians 4:8; "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Essentially, it goes back to this idea of self-perpetuation; when you keep thinking about these things that are good, then these thoughts will perpetuate, and become behaviour and feelings. The inverse, of course, is also true; when we think on things that are not good, and impure, then these will perpetuate, and become behaviour and feelings. And all the time, these two are in contest with each other. So the more we think on what is good, the easier it is to not think on that which is not good. In essence.

So, why love and cherish these things? For these are what my Father also loves and cherishes. And that he has said are good.

Pledge #3 - Taking A Stand

To be courageous, and stand up for what I believe in.

A few people have said that courage isn't the lack of fear; it's continuing in spite of it. I quite like this idea; however, the Bible also often tells us, "Do not be afraid!" (e.g. 1 Chronicles 22:13). So not sure if they're contradictory or I just don't understand them well enough.
But what I think is true is that courage is very similar to the idea of strength that I talked about in my sermon. And that is, that you don't just have courage. It isn't an attribute that someone just happens to have. It's something you demonstrate. It's something you use. It's something you do.

Particularly when it’s hard. Particularly when there are people up against you. Particularly when it seems impossible.
That also seems to be the time that God likes to drop in, I've found. Not that he wasn't there before. He just shows you that he's with you then....a bit more clearly, I guess.

So why is it important to stand up for what you believe in?
Well....really, only you can. Other people can stand up for what they believe in - which, in some cases, might be the same things that you believe in - but only you can stand up for what you believe in. You are unique. And that means that you have something unique to offer.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Centred, Founded, Immersed.

This is a little thought that God's been learning me in this year, that I thought I'd take this opportunity to put up.

You've probably heard of putting God at the centre of your life. Or first in your life. Primary. Above all else. And, in many aspects, this is awesome. Because you definitely don't want worldly/bad stuff in that spot. And we can easily do that, make other things our focus. But, as a great friend of mine so nicely put it - even if we're putting God as the centre of our lives; that's still a place we're putting him. And it's easy to switch him out for something else. (If you want to hear his whole talk on it [which is awesome], look here.) So why can't he be in all of our lives?

Enter, being founded in God. Living a life with God as your foundation, that you build off of. So that even when your house is all crashing down - God's still there. He's still got you. You're just building some better foundations.
But God was like, hey, we can take that a little further.

And so we have, being immersed in God. Here, I like to think of God as like an ocean (an image which I may have borrowed somewhat from Ted Dekker's The Circle), that we are being called to. And, as another great friend of mine put it, the ocean looks pretty big, and dark, and scary; but we know we're too big for the rock pool. We can try to dangle our feet in, but we know that we need more. We don't want to go back, but if we go forward....we know it's going to be scary. We know that it's going to be more than we can handle.
God is bigger, and more powerful, and deeper, than any ocean we can imagine. And that can be pretty scary. But he loves us. And that's pretty awesome. And he's calling us to dive in - to surrender everything to him, to drown ourselves in his love, in his presence. That's what he's calling us to.

So where does that leave the foundation and the centre? The foundation, I think, is for the ideas that we build on. Ideas like living a new life, or redemption, or discipleship, and many other great things. The centre - I think it's our focus. It's where our energy is at any one particular time. And that changes pretty often and quickly, sometimes. And that's okay. But we do need to be focussing, centring, on good, Godly things.

But immersion - that's just love. That's diving into God. That's what it needs to be about. :)

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Favourites - Loving All With All 6/7/14

This is the text from my sermon that I did recently. These are the notes that I read from, not the transcript of what I said. As such, there may be some differences between the two. There is a link to the video here, and to the audio here.

Good evening. How are we all doing? If you don't know me, my name is Brendan Raymond, and I'm one of the ministry students here. And, in fact, you'll be seeing a lot of us in the weeks to come, because Troy and Ed have given us this whole month to each talk about our favourite verse of the Bible, why it's significant to us, and how it's changed us. As Timothy writes, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true.” (2 Timothy 3:16a) Though I'm yet to hear a sermon from Numbers, I must say... 
So you're going to be hearing some great people talking about very different ideas, from quite contrasting sections of the Bible, and giving you some great insight and wisdom from their collective experience. For now, though, you've just got me. But hopefully, this series will deepen your own interest in the Bible, and get you thinking about the words and ideas that have most impacted and changed you. 

You're probably quite familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. If not, have a look, great example of how we should be as Christians, as well as an interesting example of Jesus challenging Jewish ideas and societal norms. That's not what I'll be looking at, however. I'll be looking at the conversation that led up to the telling of that story. The passage is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but we'll be looking at the one in Luke. It comes just after the seventy disciples (yes, seventy; he had twelve apostles, but seventy disciples, or at least at this time) were sent out and had come back, saying that they had even cast out demons, and Jesus rejoiced and praised the Lord. The passage we’re looking at is in Luke chapter 10, verses 27-28, but I'll read from verse 25 to give you some context.

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ 27 The man answered, ‘“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”’ 28 ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and love all of mankind as you would love yourself and...
That's what we remember. A kid's song, with seemingly not much to it. Yet, in these verses, there lies a lot more than you would realise. I’m going to go through some different ideas with you; specifically, two different ideas: what loving in all these different ways actually means, and looks like; and also, giving that love to God, your neighbour, and to yourself.
Now, I just want to go into that second idea quickly before I look a bit more closely at the passage, because it’s an idea that you’ve probably heard before. And the way you’ve probably heard it is something like this; First, love God, then love others, then love yourself. However, I want to be a bit radical, and suggest something a bit different. That first, you need to figure out how to love yourself; then, in doing this, you will be able to love others; and, by doing that, you will be loving God.

I’ll expand on that a bit more later, but for now, let's focus on the bit before that. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. 
Now, I love words. So I'm going to be looking into the meaning of these words as they were written, and seeing what's there. Because the New Testament was written in Greek; and often, there can be a whole extra layer of meaning there that we miss in the English. One simple example here is the word 'all'. The Greek word actually means all parts together, and being greater than the sum of the parts. So in saying this, there is an emphasis on these four parts being used together - heart, soul, strength, and mind. Also, the word love here is talking about an active love; it's a verb - and it's agape love, which you may have heard of before. It seems to be a favourite amongst the Greek words used in sermons; and for good reason - the word agape refers to the sort of love that God has for us. And here, the passage is saying that we should have this same sort of love for God. Already, you might think that this is sounding difficult. We're just getting started.

Now, you have the four parts mentioned; heart, soul, strength, and mind. And these words can mean very different things to our own understanding, when we look back into the Greek. And I think they actually relate in really nicely with the idea of the four elements, so I’ve played with that a bit, and you can make your own judgement on that.

So, we’re going to learn a few words of Greek here. And the first one is kardia. So, I want you to think of the brand Kia, and then card; so it’s card-Kia, but then you take out the k in the middle, so it’s card-ia. Then just make it car-dia. Kardia is the word for heart. But it's actually more about your will; and about your desire, and the decisions you make based on this desire. It's about your intention. So this means, loving God through what we desire; and through the decisions we make from our desires. If we have desires that aren't Christ-like, that we're fighting against - each time we make a decision against that desire, we're loving God. But even more so, when we make decisions out of a desire to glorify God, or to know him more, or to serve his Kingdom and people; he loves and honours these desires within us. 
For this, fire was the natural choice. Because fire and desire are very similar in that they can both be very powerful; for either good or bad. A fire can bring great light and warmth in darkness; or it can bring destruction and brokenness. So too, desire.

Second word, psuche. Here, I want you to think soup-okay. Then take off the p on the end of soup, and the o on the beginning of okay; sou-kay. Psuche is the word for soul. And here, it means who you individually are. Your personality. Your self, your identity. So it's important to God that we love him with who we uniquely are - with the gifts, talents and passions that he has given to you. 
Here, I have chosen air, or wind. And I chose this because it is so changeable; always so different. And each of us have a personality that is very different from each other. We have similarities - thankfully, because then we can relate to each other - but there are so many differences. But it’s in those differences, with those differences, through those differences that we can love and serve God. God doesn’t want you to try and become the perfect Sunday School Christian. He wants you to love him with who you are. Nobody else can do that.

Our third word is ischus. Here, I want you to think miss and couscous. Now, just one cous, and take off the m of miss; iss-cous. Ischus is the word for strength. But specifically to overcome resistance. Strength when you're opposed, when you're persecuted. This is perhaps closer to our word perseverance. Showing strength when it's hardest to - and this is one way to love God. 
For this, I couldn’t go past water. Water is the strongest thing on this planet. If the ocean is in a bad mood, nothing can stop it. The oceans, rivers and seas have formed the earth; they’ve worn away cliffs into beaches. And yet, there is nothing smoother or softer than water. It just gently wears away things over time. And that seems very similar to the idea of perseverance. It may seem to take ages, particularly when you are in the moment. And you can feel like you are getting absolutely nowhere. But later on, looking back, it can be quite incredible how much has been worn away, how much difference has been made, how much has changed. Now, that isn’t the case for all things, and there are some situations that you need to remove yourself from, rather than try to weather; but I think it’s an interesting analogy. 

Now, we have a trickier one, dianoia. I want you to imagine that you know someone who is really annoying. I’m sure many of you aren’t imagining right now, but never mind. They’re so annoying, that you call them ‘The Annoyer”. But for some reason, you’re doing a Dracula impression, so it becomes “De Annoyer”. Dianoia is the word for mind. The word means thorough - literally, from side to side, using all the brain - reasoning. It's about understanding the other side of the argument; critical thinking, thinking from someone else's point of view. So this means that by knowing God more - and not just knowing, but understanding - we are loving him. Too often, we can downplay or even degrade a questioning mind, when it comes to faith; however, this passage encourages us to use thorough reasoning, to question, to doubt, to wonder - because then, we can draw closer to the truth, and understand better who God is. But also when we take time to understand other people, and where they are coming from, we are loving God - because we are loving his people. 
In this case, I used the earth. Because, even though the waters are deep - beneath them is always the earth. And I specifically chose a picture of a cave here; because caves can be so winding, and intricate, and deep, and you get wide open areas, and small nooks and crannies; and to me, it brings to mind this sort of thorough reasoning that I was talking about. There’s no area that’s unexplored; no place that you haven’t looked at. And from that there comes a depth of understanding as complex and deep as the biggest cave system you can imagine.

Interesting aside here - in Greek, they had masculine and feminine nouns. Each one of these is feminine. Just thought I’d throw that in there; masculinity and femininity in the Bible is a very interesting topic, but much too lengthy to go into here.
Notice - there is nothing there about loving God with your emotions. With your feelings. Because the love that is meant here, is something a lot deeper than that. Now, you may be thinking - that all sounds amazing (or maybe you're not, but I'd like you to be) - but what does that look like? Well, thankfully, that comes straight afterwards. 

"Love your neighbour as yourself." Where this story is recorded in Matthew, Jesus actually says these lines, saying that these are the greatest two commandments. The two are separated by the words, "And the second is like it…”. The word for ‘like’ here means that they’re not just sort of similar-ish; but that they could even be so alike as to be the same.  
As I mentioned before, this comes straight before the story of the Good Samaritan, which is brought on by this same man asking, "Who is my neighbour?" Hopefully, you’re not just thinking about these guys, or these guys. Now, the original meaning from the Greek essentially says that your neighbour is anyone; but I think it's important to look at the context here. Jesus specifically talks about a Samaritan loving a Jew through what he does; two people that would not typically be seen together. As such, perhaps a better way to define it would be to say that your neighbour is anybody and everybody, but particularly the people who are hard to love, or you don't want to love. And the idea is that you are again loving these people with all of you; heart, soul, strength, mind.

The other essential part, however, is the self. And this is where I think that little song we all know is very unhelpful. And love all of mankind as you would love yourself... Because I don't think that's what the passage is saying at all. I think that The Message version of the Bible says it a little better here; “Love your neighbour as well as you do yourself.” But I think there’s still a bit more to it. Perhaps I'm going a step too far in my interpretation here, but I think a better way to put it would be, "You need to love yourself as God loves you. Then, give this love to your neighbour." But hang on, you're saying - we're supposed to put others first, and self last, right? Well yes, we are. But I think part of what this verse is saying is that you can only truly love your neighbour with a Godly love, when we also love ourselves this way.

I don't know about you, but I find that idea really hard. When I was looking into this verse, I was getting really excited about the first bit, and then I looked at this bit, and I was like - Oh. Right. Okay then. Because I can say that it's certainly not something I've been good at. A lot of the time, I barely even trust myself, never mind love myself. And God has really been showing me, through this verse as well as other things, that I really need to work on that. And that loving myself - loving this person that God created - is actually really important. Now, does that mean that you get bigheaded and egotistical? No! But so often, with Christianity, we talk about self-denial, and putting others first. And that is something that we need to do, that's so important. But if we're not careful, that can turn into a degrading of self; a self-shame; and at times, even a self-hatred, or a self-loathing. And if you are in that place right now, I just want you to know that God loves you, so much. So much. Don't even worry about anything else I've said, just remember that. You are precious to God; you matter so much to him. He created you, and he is calling you as his sons and daughters. I have been in that place, and I know how dark it is. But I also know that, with God - and some incredible, amazing friends and family - that place is not the end. You can get out of that place. 

But what happens then? What is the result of doing these things? Well, Jesus spells it out quite clearly in the next line. "Do this, and you will live." And the word he uses here for live is zōē; which is the sort of life that God wants us to live, a life to the full, as it talks about in John 10:10. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Do these things, and you will live life to the full.
Now, I want to put an important aside in here; Jesus does not say, “Do this, and you are saved.” Or, “Do this, and you are forgiven.” Or, “Do this, and you are loved.” You are already saved; you are already forgiven; you are already loved. But God also wants us to live out the best life we can on this earth, to best use the time that we’ve been given. And that’s what Jesus is talking about here.

I've only discovered this verse and its significance quite recently; but God has been bringing me some of these ideas for a while. Over the course of this year, God has been showing me - through the Bible and through people - that there's a lot more to loving God than being passionate. Loving God with what you do; loving God with who you are; loving God with how you think; loving God with how you give; loving God with the decisions you make; loving God with what you choose not to do, not just what you choose to do; loving God by persevering through it all. And he's also been showing me that loving other people is awesome, and he wants me to do that - but I won't be able to love them fully if I can't love myself; if I don't trust myself, if I don't care about myself. That second one was particularly hard for me to realise, but both of them are hard to do. And I'm still working at them, and I'm going to be working for a while. Because it is really, really hard. I'm not sugarcoating it guys, there's nothing about this that's easy. 

But I do it because I know it's worth it. "Do this, and you will live." You will live a new life. The old has gone, the new has come. And even now, I'm starting to see this new life. I've got a long way to go - I'm still learning, I'm still growing - but the glimpses that God has given me have spurred me on to really put some effort into this, some time, some thought, some heart, some of myself. And I hope that I've spurred you as well - to dig deeper into what it means to love God with all that you are, your heart, your soul, your strength, your mind; and what it means to love your neighbour as yourself; and to live a new life - but also I hope I've renewed your interest in the Bible, I hope that you just want to go home and grab out your Bible and start digging deeper into it, use that thorough reasoning, because there's so much there. So much truth, so much life, so much love. 

Pledge #2 - Life Is Precious

To value and protect life of all kinds.

This is a fairly simple one, really. Life of all kinds means humans, animals, plants....probably fungi, and protozoa, and bacteria or something as well....Mainly animals and plants as well as people. And it's talking about two important things: valuing and protecting this life.

Valuing something is about seeing it as important. Too often these days, there is life in this world that is considered unimportant. Less important. Of secondary importance. Doesn't really matter. But I believe that all life matters. (Okay, someone's probably going to pull me up on the protozoa and bacteria. Oh well.) And matters a lot, you know.

To me, the second follows on naturally from the first. When you value something, you protect it. You hear a lot from various animal and environmental activists about whaling, and bees disappearing, and the reef getting in danger, and many other things. At the moment, I'm not actively involved in any of these sorts of groups. I'm not much of a protester, to be honest. But if something that I value is in danger, I do want to protect it.

Because all life is precious.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Pledge #1 - Your Word

To be honest and faithful to my word, no matter who I give it to.

I'm continuing my look at this pledge I've come up with, with this first line. It's sort of following the idea from James 5:12 and Matthew 5:37 - "Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no." It's about staying true to what you've said. Keeping your promises. Living up to what you say you'll do.

But why is that so important to me? Because sometimes I haven’t been able to, and that hurts. Both me and them. Sometimes that's been because of the circumstances; most of the time, it was because I said that I could do something I couldn't. And to me, it means a lot to be able to live up to what I say. It matters that I follow through when I say I'll do something, or be somewhere. Otherwise, I'm letting people down. And I really, really don't like that. Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. I don't know. It's important to me.

Next one should be up in the next while.

Friday, 25 July 2014

On a Pledge.

Hey folks. I haven't been posting too much this year, and that's been intentional. So sorry to those that have been missing that! But this year is a year of growth and learning for me, and I'm wanting to focus in on that.

However, I'm going to do a post mini-series over the next little while (not sure how long), around something I made a while ago.

That something is a pledge.

I've had pretty firm ideas about who I am and the kinds of standards that I live by and aspire to for a long time; but I wanted to put it down into something concrete. A promise to myself, if you will. But it turns out it's good I used the word pledge; defines a pledge as "a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something." Action is implicit in the definition. It's not just something you say, it's something you do. And that's something really important.

So, there are a few different points to my pledge. There's bits and pieces in it that relate across to My Ten Commandments - which, if you're not familiar with, you should go have a look at - but it's also a lot more specific. I'm going to be doing a post explaining each point. Not sure how much explaining each will take, but that's the idea. This post is just introducing the idea, and explaining the overarching point at the end.

My name is Brendan Raymond, and this is my pledge.
  1. To be honest and faithful to my word, no matter who I give it to.
  2. To value and protect life of all kinds.
  3. To be courageous, and stand up for what I believe in.
  4. To love and cherish that which is good.
  5. To treat all people as priceless.
  6. To be proactive, not just reactive.
  7. To never hurt others.
  8. To face and overcome my fears, so that I may in turn help others to overcome theirs.
  9. To be there when I am needed most.
  10. To encourage and support others.
  11. To always learn and grow, in good times and bad.
  12. To never judge another on something that I do not understand.
  13. To seek understanding in the places that I lack.
  14. To not harbour resentment, anger, hate, jealousy, or other poisoners of the soul.
  15. To constantly ask God for help, for none of this can I do without Him.
And in all; to act with grace, mercy, and love to all.

"And in all; to act with grace, mercy, and love to all." And with all, ala my recent sermon on the topic.
This one is, for the most part, self-explanatory. But I'll delve in to it a little.

Mercy and grace can be bundled in to the one thing by many. But there is actually a difference. Mercy is not getting what you deserve; for example, if you should get punished for something you have done, and the person to deal it out chooses not to, that is mercy. Grace, however, is getting more than you deserve. It's then taking that same person, and loving them, and throwing a massive banquet for them, and bringing them into the family, and being incredible to them. There's a big difference.
Of course, if we have grace; then why mercy? Part of me is saying, darn, that's a good question. Is there a point to mercy when you already have grace? Honestly, I'm not really sure. Perhaps it was my way of acknowledging that I'm not always going to be able to be gracious (because I'm not perfect). One I'm going to need to think on.

But the other one is love. And this is very much in the stream of the well-known passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13; that without love, even if we can do incredible, amazing things, it all comes down to nothing. Love is the key. Love is the starting point. Love is the foundation.

Keep an eye out for the rest of these posts coming up. I'll put this one up on the Facebooks, but not the rest of them. You'll need to actually be proactive about that ;) I'm also thinking about perhaps doing a post on centred, foundational, and immersed before too long. If you don't get what that's about, then good. Means you can't read my mind.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Shaking to the New!

MercyMe have had a pretty good history of releasing some great music. Most Christians will know at least a couple of their songs, and a lot of people will have heard of their hit I Can Only Imagine. However, their latest offering looks to be their best yet.

Welcome To The New starts off with the title track, and it's full speed ahead. The song is about realising that there is no need to try and win God's approval; God loves as just as we are. It's a fun, fast-paced song, and sets the album off to a great start. It keeps up the tempo with "Gotta Let It Go", a song that's a little bit heavier, a little bit sparser with the lyrics, but still with as much energy to it as the previous. This song talks about needing to let go of the past life, rather than trying to hold on to it all. The next song - "Shake" - is the single of the album, with a music video viewable here. It's got a very different feel to it, but still isn't slowing down. This one is more about the 'oomph' factor than lyrically being deep - the song is talking about being alive and being changed by God, and how that transformation happens. Our next song gives us some space to breathe, and by now we need it! "Greater" is the second single on the album, and it's at a much slower pace. However, it's still got some drive behind it, and the lyrics really speak deeply. This one focusses in on 1 John 4:4; "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." It's about saying that the lies of the Devil about who we are are just that - lies. God is bigger than the Devil, and God is bigger than our pain. We continue at a similar pace with "Finish What He Started", where the lyrics talk about God working in us until the end; never giving up on us. The pace starts to pick up a bit with "Flawless", another lyrically quick number, that talks about how redemption has wiped us clean of our sins. It brings in nicely a couple of spots from Amazing Grace. Then we get right back into it with "New Lease On Life", and I'm not quite even sure what to call this one. It's a bit dirty, maybe a bit country, a bit loud. It's fun, and the sort of song you start singing along loudly to in the car before really realising what you're singing. This one twists around the YOLO craze to say - well, actually, we live twice, because of what God's done for us. The next one is a bit more of a soulful ballad, called "Wishful Thinking". It talks about how what God has done for us might seem incredible, but it's not wishful thinking - it's real, it's true. It's why it's called amazing grace. The penultimate track, "Burn Baby Burn", might remind you of another number with the title - but the song is very different. It plays cleverly with timing and the music; the lyrics are about being the light of the world, and burning in the darkness. The final track, "Dear Younger Me", is a story told from the perspective of the singer, speaking to his younger self. It's quieter, but still has a beat to it. It's a beautiful ending note, and it leaves you wanting more.

Good job if you got through all of that. That's one thick block of text.
Overall; this is my favourite CD at the moment, so I'm very, very biased. But I think this is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. Each song is different; it's not just the same thing over again, and it's not just the same as their older material. And while the pace never drops down completely, it gives you enough space to breathe without losing your focus. Because none of this is background music. This is sing-along music, really sit down and listen to it music. And that's the other reason I love it - because of the depth and thought behind the lyrics. You can feel it in the songs, and it's so evident in the album how much time and energy has been put into it.
Another reason why this has been so big for me has simply been when it's come out. This year has been a year of the new for me, as I talked lengthily about in a post earlier this year; and these songs have just spoken right to where my heart is at at the moment. And my head. Which is good too.

Tl;dr - the album is really, really good. Go buy it. No, seriously, go buy it. It's awesome.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Immersion or Interaction?

In the RPG gaming world, there are two (very broad) categories; interactive (which encompasses all tabletop games, as well as forum interaction and the like) and immersive (video games; console or PC). And these two categories have very dedicated followings; very different approaches; and very different goals. 

Interactive games are primarily focused on engaging the player with other players. As such, there is often mechanics within the game that pits players against each other, or gets them to band together. In many of these games, there is intentional comedy used to help interaction, or opportunity for this to arise in the form of player-driven narrative. Immersion with the game, however, is secondary; players are always very aware that it is a game world, and while they may be taken up by a good story, there is little or no immersion in the game itself - partly due to player interaction, as well as environmental distraction. As such, they are focused more on fun, competition or community than story, philosophy or intense experience. 

Immersive games, on the other hand, are primarily focused on engaging the player with the game or story itself. It does this through the use of immersive audio and music, visual effects, and often a near-cinematic experience. The story is paramount; and at times, player engagement with the story and characters within it can become a very tangible emotional connection. As such, these games can attempt to introduce moral, philosophical and other ideas to the player; sometimes with the intent to convince, at other times simply to inform, or to help people understand. Interaction with other players, however, is either non-existent or very secondary to the main story and experience. And so, we have a focus on the meaning, story and experience, rather than interacting with other players and having a good time. 

It is fair to note, at this point, that there have been some attempts to blend these genres together, or bridge them. The MMORPG genre has grown significantly, and while this is both immersive and interactive, it does neither well. The interaction is hampered by the lack of face-to-face contact, and the immersion is hampered by the lack of emotional connection to the fading story; it is impeded by the interaction. While there are some immersive games (more and more, recently) that do have a multiplayer component, these parts do not try to have a story to themselves. They stay true within the main story, but they are primarily focused on interaction. It could also be argued that they cease to be an RPG at this point, and are instead a shooter. But that's another discussion. 

Each of these categories has their strengths; each has their weaknesses. One is made to tell a story to one; the other to bring people together to make a story. One creates an experience with you and for you; in the other, together, you are the experience.
And we can try to make our interactive games more immersive, certainly; we can attempt to make our immersive games interactive (arguably counter-intuitive). But ultimately, we cannot do both well in the same space. We can love both one and the other, certainly; but we do need to recognise which one we are looking for at any given time. Do we want a story? Do we want to have fun with friends? Do we want an experience? Do we want to make the story however we like?

Thankfully, we are never stuck with just one, because both are important. But next time you want to buy a game, or play a game - think about what it is that you're looking for.

Friday, 23 May 2014

On The Production Of Energy.

You may be familiar with the ideas of introversion and extroversion. The idea is fairly simple; introverted people gain energy by taking time by themselves - typically quiet, and get drained through social interaction. Extroverted people, on the other hand, gain energy through social energy; but they are drained when they are left to their own devices.

Note that these do not necessarily correlate to shyness, or even social aptitude. You can have a shy extrovert, and a social introvert. They might be less common, sure, but they're not mutually exclusive.

Now, I have always considered myself an introvert. No questions asked. That's obviously where I'm at. Not even a thing.


The definition of extraversion is when you are recharged, energised, through social interaction. When I meet up with people one-on-one, I feel energised. Like the world has a million new opportunities. I often need to take time afterwards by myself, yes, but to process what has been said - not because I feel depleted. The times when I feel the most drained - are when I'm by myself. When I can't motivate myself (I've got a decent chunk of 9 in me [NB: Chances are I'll be doing the odd Enneagram joke in my posts. Just saying.]), and I just feel tired and gluggy. I've found that doing things like going outside, actually getting dressed (from pajamas, that is) and having some food can help that quite a bit. But that's one of the big times I feel drained. The only other one is when I'm around lots of people - (aha! you say. He must be introverted! Wait for it.) - and I don't have anyone to talk to. I just wander around, amidst heaps of people, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, and it drains me worse than anything.

So, to some up; I'm most drained when I'm by myself, and when I can't interact with people. I'm most energised when I'm interacting with people, particularly one-on-one. (I get energised by other stuff as well - projects and such is a big one - but that's off-topic.) I think you can see where I'm going.

Apparently, I'm extroverted.

If I've slipped up somewhere, please feel free to correct me. Because the idea of me as extroverted just seems weird.... (even with the proviso that I gave earlier re: shy extroverts.) But yeah. That's the conclusion I came to.

Try drawing this Venn diagram...

I watched the new X-Men movie yesterday. This isn't going to be a review of that movie; but I'm going to look at one idea that the movie centred around. And it was quite interesting; because you'd think, that because it was dealing with time travel and such, it'd be talking about Fate, and whether you can really change history, (ala Oedipus) and all that jazz. And they do have one good scene for that - but what they do instead is pay gratis to that idea, but continue on with the one they want to focus on, which I think is really good to see.

That is the idea that one person's action can change the world; therefore, be the best of yourself. The latter is the bit they really focus on, but without the former it wouldn't be there. It's basically taken for granted, because that's established right at the beginning. But the idea is particularly that if you're part of a group (e.g. mutants), and you do something that shows the worst of you, people are going to think the worst of your group, not just you.

Thankfully, these days, there's a few more people realising that people just do stupid things sometimes, because they're people. But there is still a heck of a lot of group attribution going back. The problem is, though, which group do you attribute it to? Every person is part of dozens of society groups - their actions could be impacted by any one, or multiple of them.

I, for example, am a human, a male, a young adult, an older brother, a first child, a Christian, a musician, an actor, a writer, an ex-uni student, a churchgoer, a choir member, a youth group leader, a sound desk operator, a Macarthur Anglican School alumnus, a Narellan resident, an Australian, a New South Welshman - and that's just the ones I can come up with off the top of my head.

But, even with so many possibilities, we can often attribute things people do to particular areas, because of our bias. (Unless they're a politician; in which case we often just say they're stupid.) Religion is a popular one. Political affiliation, sometimes. But hey - maybe it's because they're a Dad. Maybe it's because of the uni they went to. Or the mentor they had. Or maybe they've just had a rough day/month/year/life.

People are people. We can try to be the best of ourselves; but we won't always be. And you'll see that. It's your call as to how you decide to respond.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Story.

Come in, I’ll tell you a story; sit down!
For this is going to take a while.
I’m sorry if it’s sad from time to time,
But hopefully it will end with a smile.

For there was this man, perhaps like you
(Unless you’re a woman, that is);
Who knew in no uncertain terms
That Mud was bad - that’s just the way it is.

And he knew why, of course he did;
It wasn’t just a matter of say-so.
It was dirty, and messy, and quite unbecoming;
It stuck to you and smelled worse than Aunt Jo.

So he stayed away from the Mud, yes siree;
He didn’t want any of that monstrosity.
And that, my darlings, is where the story would end;
If not for a little thing called Curiosity.

Curiosity, you see, can be good or bad;
It’s a little whispering in the ear - 
Wondering what it is that things are like,
That you haven’t had the chance to be near.

And when these things are jelly, roller-coasters or waterfalls,
Then that’s perfectly fine, you see;
But when it is something like Mud,
That’s when it becomes dangerous, unfortunately.

You see, this man John (for that was his name),
Started to wonder how it was Mud did look;
And so he decided to walk one day,
To see some - a glance was all he took.

But Curiosity is never sated with just a glance, no;
It must always have more.
And so John found himself getting closer to the Mud,
Though he knew quite well what was in store.

One day, he got so close to touch it - then he did!
And he didn’t know quite what to do;
Because people would see, and people would know -
And John didn’t want that. Would you?

So he did his best to wash that bit off,
And it wasn’t really too hard;
But he still kept worrying that there was some left somewhere;
And so he started putting up his guard.

Yet he kept going back to the Mud,
Starting to go deeper and deeper;
And each time, trying to wash himself off,
But the danger got steeper and steeper.

Washing himself got harder as well,
‘Specially in those hard-to-reach bits;
And the worry got worse as he thought,
“What about the smell?”, and “I couldn’t take the hits.”

For he knew what people thought of Mud;
Knew that he would be cast out.
Never to see his friends, or family again;
And so he tried to turn about.

He tried to stay away from the Mud;
But that was easier said than done.
For he found, quite quickly, that he couldn’t stop;
The worst of him, it seemed, had won.

So he gave up; he went back in,
In the Mud up to his neck.
And he probably would have drowned one day,
He was really a total wreck.

But, hold on! Wait up! That’s not the end!
I told you it’s not all bad!
Because along came another Man,
Who saw through John, and the fake cleanness he had.

And John saw him too - and for a moment,
Thought that it was the end.
But then the Man smiled, and said,
“Relax, John; I’m your friend.”

“You have tried and tried to wash yourself clean,
But it was never about your look.
It’s what’s inside that needs to be new;
That’s what’s been the hook.

“But now, I’m here - and I have living water,
That washes the inside.
You’ll be a new man - the old will be gone;
You won’t ever again need to hide.”

But John exclaimed, “How can that be?
How can I ever be clean?
I’ve been in the Mud up to my neck - 
Don’t you know what that means?

“I’m dirty! I’m messy! I’m brown! and what’s worse, I stink!
Why do you even pretend to like me?
People would run away if they’d known what I’d done;
And for good reason - just leave me be.”

The Man smiled, and somehow, in that smile,
Conveyed the pain that he felt for John.
“I know what it is to be in the Mud, friend,” he said,
“Because I drowned in it so it would be gone.”

“But it’s still here!” John shouted,
“I don’t understand! What are you trying to say?
Even if you did drown, if you did what you said,
How would that make it go away?”

“John,” the Man said, “I know that you’re hurting;
But right now, you need to trust me.
It’s only when I clean you,
That you can be truly new and free.”

The words sounded crazy, like that of a madman;
Yet somehow, John knew he spoke true.
He didn’t know how, he didn’t know why - 
But he also knew there was nothing he could do.

“Okay,” John said, “Do it.”
And he closed his eyes, and raised his hands.
A few moments passed, but nothing happened.
He opened his eyes - “I don’t understand.”

The Man smiled again - it was annoying, yet beautiful - 
“I may be a miracle man;
But how do you expect me to clean you,
When two feet in the Mud you stand?”

“But,” John railed, “You promised,
That you could fully clean me!
Why does it matter where I stand,
If you can truly set me free?”

Yet even as he said the words,
He knew that they didn’t ring true.
They made sense, perhaps; quite logical indeed;
But that wouldn’t help him pull through.

Because all along, it was his heart that had feared;
Feared the rejection and the shame.
It was the brain that had tried to cover it up,
But he was tired of playing that game.

And somehow, John knew that this Man
Whom he had never met in his life before,
Could set his heart free of that fear, at last,
And give him new life forevermore.

And that little spark - that glimmer of Hope -
That was what helped him then.
He gave one hand to the Man, and then the other,
And the Man pulled him out again.

Then the Man washed him, from head to toe,
He felt so incredibly clean;
More even than before he’d even touched the Mud,
Or before it he’d ever seen.

And the Love that he felt from that Man
Was incredible, powerful and strange;
And slowly, his fear ebbed away;
His heart began to change.

Many years have passed since then,
And John is a brand new man;
Not only that, but now he makes others new,
By helping them to understand.

Because it’s not that he never touched or saw the Mud again
(For it can’t be thrown off overnight);
But it was that Hope and Love had found a place
Inside him, that burned bright.

And while he still stumbles along the way,
The Man is never too far;
And he always smiles - he always loves,
No matter how Muddy you are.

That’s the end of this story, dear folks,
And I hope that you’ve come to see,
That it’s not a story of Mud and despair - 

But a story of Hope and Love, for you and for me.