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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. :)