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Friday, 29 September 2017

Cracked Pots.

Hey folks. I did write up a post a bit over a week ago, but I wasn't able to post it up for reasons. Not sure as yet whether I'll end up posting and edited version, or just posting it up at a later date....though then it will be edited anyway, because I talked about stuff that was in the future at the time, that is now in the past. Anyway.

Life has been a bit crazy of late. A lot crazy, really.

Work is starting to pick up, from a couple of different places, which is awesome. But it's still early days as yet, and rather a lot that's still being worked out there. I've just come home from two nearly back-to-back camps - one for work, and one for Crusaders that I was speaking on. They've both been awesome and tiring in their own ways. I think I was able to really notice this week how drained I was feeling emotionally - not so much from the camp, because I've done that before. I think it just reinforces that I'm not in the best place emotionally at present. Keep wondering about whether I need to actually look at getting professional help or something - but yeah, money. Ha.

And that's the fun one to come back to. At the end of the first camp, I came back to my car after a couple of days and found that I'd left the headlights on, and needed to call the NRMA. But, it turns out I'd discontinued my membership, because I didn't have a car for a I needed to pay for the full year, and the call-out, on the spot. Yay.

Also, yeah, I have a car now. It's rather nice, and I got it quite cheaply. But still, another expense, that I'm working on paying off. Because it was a bit cheaper, rego/green slip is due soon - end of next month. The car also has a push/pull lever for someone that can't use the pedals, and I'm supposed to have it removed (because I'm not disabled). That costs another fair amount. Bank balance is currently sitting in the red, by a fair bit - mainly because of the unexpected NRMA callout. Not fun.

It's hard to know what you're supposed to do, sometimes. Was it too soon to buy the car? Should I have waited longer? Should I not even be considering moving out until next year? I'm wanting to move out shortly after my sister gets married (now only two weeks away, it's crazy....), but the mounting costs seem to be pushing that further and further away. Is this God asking me to trust him to provide - or is it God teaching me to be careful and a good steward of what I'm given? I just don't know. I really don't.

The camp this week was - hard, in a way. Speaking is one of the things that I do quite naturally, but I found these talks harder to write; I also think I didn't like that I didn't have much opportunity to share from my own story, even though I ended up working it in at the end. But when I was giving the talks, and on the camp - a lot of the time, I felt I was wearing a mask. I would get comments about how great the talks were, or things like that; but I just felt terrible. And it was hard to be....honest, in that. Because you have to be on all the time, for the kids. You don't really have space for much of your own emotion, if you're not doing well. You're up before the kids, stay up after them, and then the only time you have to yourself, you're asleep. Or in the bathroom. I actually ended up being glad that I'd forgotten a couple of things, because it meant that I had a quick drive back home and then out again. Some of that I spent just praying - but a lot of it was more....stewing? That might be the right word. Just letting the emotions have some space, because I'd been too busy to let anything have space for a while.

Don't get me wrong, the camp was amazing. I'm not saying anything against the people running the camp, that's not my intention, please don't think that, they're awesome people - I just felt like I was in an unhealthy place when I went on camp, and have been for the past while. I'm preaching on Sunday as well, and don't really know how that's going to go.

The great thing was, though - despite where I was at, God still used me in powerful ways. The kids were engaging in the talks, the leaders were engaging in the talks - I had a few kids that kept asking me to play worship songs with them on the uke. That was fun. Even though I often felt pretty terrible, God was able to work through me. And I think that says rather a lot about what he can do, and the power that he has. And the patience and grace he has with people like me, who are still rather incredibly broken.

Each day that goes by, I seem to just see more cracks, and places that need healing. But each day, he shows me love, and calls me beautiful. And I am swept away.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Enneagram Stress Arrow.

And Why It Makes Relationships Challenging.....or, Why Brendan Is Too Picky. :P

I've previously touched on the Enneagram here and there, but this post is going to go a bit more into it. And why one part of it - the Stress Arrow - makes finding the right person a damn nightmare.

Below is a picture of the Enneagram, with the Nine Types, as described by Riso-Hudson.

For those who haven't seen it mentioned previously, I'm a Four. The one called "The Individualist" here. Because we want to be the most special....

Now, you may notice a sort of pathway between the different numbers. This is quite intentional. The pathway is formed by two different shapes; firstly, an equilateral triangle that joins 9-6-3. I often refer to this as just 'the triangle' to myself, and talk about someone being 'on the triangle'. You find most guys will sit there quite happily. The other shape is a sort of hexagram that bounces between the other numbers; 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8, though not in that order. If you start at 1, it then goes to 4, then 2, then 8, then 5, then 7, and back to 1. And this is where the Stress Arrow comes in.

The tricky part to remember is which way the arrow goes. So, to help, I've got it going both ways below. First the wrong way, and then the right way.
Path of Disintegration (bad)
Path of Integration (good!)
It can get a little bit confusing sometimes, so you don't have to get it straight away. If you can just remember one of the movements, then you can figure out how the rest go. Well, the rest on that cycle, anyway - either the six or the triangle.

So the idea is that with each Type, they have a direction along the path that they move when they are stressed, or not doing well (Path of Disintegration), and then a direction that they move when they are doing well, and growing (Path of Integration). A Four (that is, me), for example, will usually move to Two under stress, and One when they are growing. This does not mean that they become the One or the Two; but they start to exhibit either the better or the worse qualities of them, respectively. For instance, when moving towards the One, becoming more organised and objective.

How does this apply to relationships? Well.

Because my direction of Growth/Integration is towards the One, I find that also tends to represent what I'm looking for in a partner; because they are a good example of what I want to become more like, work more towards, etc. However, the opposite will be true for them. I will represent exactly what they don't want to become - unless they are already at an unhealthy place, and just don't know it yet. But then I probably wouldn't be drawn towards them as much. (Well, maybe. But then I have a thing for broken people. But that's a whole 'nother topic. [Which I probably won't do a post on. If I did a post on all the 'things' I have, it would get rather repetitive - more so than usual.])

On the other hand, a Two may be drawn towards me, because a Four looks like what is more healthy for them. But I would not return it in kind, because they represent what is unhealthy for me.

In short: what you like doesn't like you, and what likes you you don't like.

What he chases after will not let him draw close; neither will he let draw close that which chases him.

It's rather a quandary. But there you go. Relationships still seem to be working out for other people, so I must only assume it's no nail in the coffin. Just takes a bit of time. *sighs* Time....

NB: Diagrams are not my own. They, along with the information about the Stress Arrow, come from this website, which I heartily recommend if you want to learn more about the Enneagram.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Okay? Okay.

Today is R U OK? day. If you haven't heard of it before, it's fairly simple. It's about asking people you know, "Are you okay?" It's about starting a conversation, making it okay to say that you're not okay. Because things like depression, anxiety, and other mental issues are not just issues for some people here and there - they're front and centre as issues that the vast majority of people will have to deal with at some point in their lives.

For me, depression has been on the table for a while now, in one way or another. There's a bit here and there in the family, so I'm probably predisposed towards it. I'm also a 4, and that's their classic struggle. But while there's always been some sort of undertone of sadness (as I talked about in this post quite a while back), I've never really thought that I had depression proper. For two main reasons; firstly, it never lasted long. It might be a day or two, on and off. Never for, say, a week at a time, or more. And secondly, I could always quite clearly communicate what it was that was making me feel down. And that seemed to me to be quite different from my understanding of proper "depression" per say.

Last year, and this year in particular, though, I think there's been more of this creeping in. Particularly recently, and in ways that I can't really explain or put a finger on. When day after day, I'm feeling sluggish, have no motivation, feel quite tired, sad, and down. Of course, it may well be partly due to not getting outside enough, and not really having work for ages. I do tend to perk up when I'm actually outside, or doing something, rather than just sitting at home by myself. Strange, that....

But whether it's caused by stuff that's going on or if it's more ingrained, there's something somewhat dangerous about it that I'm aware of. People will never notice it. Because when I'm around people, I feel good! I enjoy being around other people. (Unless I'm just in the midst of a massive crowd with no-one to connect to, or when it's just random people. Then not as much.) And so, when I'm around others, I feel a lot better than I otherwise might. But when I'm by myself, or at home, I tend to feel a lot more negative, and a lot more down.

Which makes this "Are you okay?" stuff really difficult! Because most of the time, if someone is there to ask me that - then I will be at the time, because I'm around people! But I might not be generally going okay, looking at the bigger picture. And I'm guessing that's not just a me thing - though with others, masking may be more of the problem. Either way, though, that bypasses the power of this question.

And so I guess I want to encourage people to dig a bit deeper. Don't assume that every time a person says they're okay that they are. At the moment, for myself, I think I am - but life is a bit crazy at the moment, so my emotions can be the same. They tend to get rather blown about by whatever's happening, which isn't great....

But yeah. That's enough from me for now. Are you okay? :)

Monday, 11 September 2017

The Black Swan.

At one point in time, Western society had only seen white swans. They had not seen black swans. As such, there was an assumption that all swans were white; and for one reason or another, the black swan became entangled with the idea of impossibility. Unicorns were more likely.

But, of course, then people went and found Australia, much to the despair of the hundreds of thousands of people who already called the place home.

And they found a lot of animals that they found rather ridiculous and absurd. Among them - the black swan. It's now the state emblem of Western Australia.

We see them a fair bit in NSW as well, though. Also, since when is it MA8 rather than M8? Anyway.

After they found black swans, the reference changed from being one of impossibility to one of improbability. It's also an interesting case of confirmation bias. You think there are only white swans, because that's all you've ever seen; and for each white swan you see, that theory is only strengthened. But you only need one black swan to show that it's baloney. It's a demonstration that, often, we don't have as good an idea of how things are as we think we do. That they have a habit of changing around on us.

Now, that's all a good story, but that's not why I'm writing it. That was all just context! Because I wanted to use this as an example of something for me that I struggle with.

Because for me, relationships have been a bit like a black swan. It's seemed improbable, I'm standing in the middle of a Venn diagram that just doesn't like me.

Something like this....
NB: Circles not scaled. Purple circle would be rather smaller than the other two, though hopefully not non-existent....

My previous experience with relationships (in short: hasn't worked out/nothing happening) has left me feeling at times like I'll never be in one. That the hurdles are too big, that the mountain I have to climb is rather ridiculous for me or anyone else to get over. That I can't find the 'right' person, or I'm too introverted/shy/weird, or the things I've done wrong and what I struggle with is going to be too hard for someone to deal with. Or if that doesn't do the trick, that I'll just wreck it by bursting out of the gate at 100km/h. I blame it on not being able to actually be romantic with someone while dreaming about it for the last ten years or so.

Preach it, Sirius!
I can thank being a Four for that. But yeah.

The thing is, like the black swan instance, we have the problem of confirmation bias. If I have a belief that a relationship can't work out - then until one does, pretty much everything else bolsters that belief. Which isn't healthy.

Particularly when I know that there are black swans out there. I live in Australia, damn it, we have the black swans! But I know that a real relationship, a good one, is possible. I believe that. That's not just me hoping, it's a God thing. But I'll hold on to that bit for myself, for now. But I know that it's somewhere in my future. I don't know how. Certainly don't know why, knowing me like I do. Don't know when - in a week, month, year, ten years, more? But God knows.

That's rather hard. Trying to figure out how much of a hand he wants you to have in it - am I supposed to be actively seeking her out, or will God bring her to me? Do I already know her, or is this still all in the murky future? I don't know. But he does.

So I'm trusting; that some day, this old crow will see the black swan. But soon would be nice, God. That would be really nice....

Screwtape #2 - Social Justice

Didn't take me long to come back to this format. It's surprisingly easy to those who missed the first one, it's here.

My dear Wormwood,

You mention that your patient has decided to become a stickler for social justice. Do not see this as a quandary, oh no; in fact, this is a great opportunity to turn that fervour to support our own cause. As you are still yet to learn, every path can be twisted to follow our own. Let him, for example, look to the recent High Court decision, and declare that they are obstructors of equality; that they are denying people their basic human rights (which are, of course, meaningless, being inventions of humans themselves); and that they are standing against love. Let him demonise them, belittle them, insult them, question their morality or their allegiances; all of this just sits him more firmly in our grasp.

In all of this, our greatest weapon is the social media. All you need to convince them of is that the posts they make or share, the videos that they watch, the people they re-tweet - that this is making a tangible difference. That this is all they need to do; that they can change the world from their computer, and what need is there to actually interact with people? He can interact with them just fine from his own couch, with his coffee in his hand, listening to his favourite music. And, of course, social media already reinforces this message for us! Everything is at his fingertips; there is no need to be uncomfortable. He must believe that comfort and justice are perfect bedfellows, rather than at stark contrast to each other.

I notice your point that the patient is starting to feel some pity for those affected by the hurricanes across the globe. This can be a problem if it gets out of hand; pity, we can deal with, as long as it does not progress to empathy. This may lead him back into the Enemy's camp. So, use that weapon of social media! Get him to post about the people that are suffering, saying that his thoughts and prayers are with them; and then, convince him that he has done his duty. That this is all that he can do, and nothing more can be expected of him. After all, they are so far away, and he has a busy life, and other things to attend to. Let him feel the relief of the burden slipping away....when, of course, it has not gone anywhere. It has just been forgotten. Eventually, these forgotten burdens will bend him over like a cripple, and he will not understand why - for hasn't he dealt with these already?

And if you can convince him to take pride in his fight for justice, well, then that is icing on the cake, and he is even further in our camp than we might dare to think. Have him believe that this fight makes him an outstanding model of a human being, that he is more, better, and should be recognised for the work he has done. Have him post about it on social media, so that all may see how good he is! All of this just brings him closer to us, and further from the Enemy.

Your affectionate uncle,

I should note that Screwtape has his own twisted view of everything, that is not necessarily accurate. Comments should be taken with a good measure of salt. Or, indeed, the whole shaker....

Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Screwtape Letter.

Seventy-seven years ago, a man called Jack by his friends wrote a series of letters from the point of view of a senior devil to a junior one; intending it as a discussion on theology, from a somewhat different perspective. I thought I'd give my own letter a go, in regards to a current issue in Australia (and, indeed, in many other places, but coming to a head here). Make of it what you will.

My dear Wormwood,

I see that your patient has become quite intrigued by the debate over same-sex marriage. This is all well and good. Anything that can distract a man from feelings such as love or kindness towards those around him, and instead turn him towards argument or even hatred, should be encouraged.

You ask the question of which side you should turn your patient towards. Wormwood, I think you have failed to grasp something rather fundamental about the nature of all argument - we are on both sides. It does not so much matter which side will hurt the Enemy more - rather, it is the very nature of arguing, the idea of division rather than unification, of separation rather than joining, that we must emphasise. Any time that a man disagrees with his brother is a good time for us. And if he should come to believe that his brother is somehow less because of that belief - which, of course, from our patient's perspective, is foolishly mistaken - then all the better. Our job is not to pick the winning side; instead, we must prolong the argument for as long as possible!

As such, simply turn the patient further in whichever direction he is already turning. If he thinks that it should not be legalised, then let him be embittered against those base people with their wanton lusts, changing the very face of marriage and dirtying that which should be pure; and if he thinks that it should - why, then, have him cry outrage at the very idea of these people having their freedoms curtailed, and these neanderthals whose idea of marriage comes from a book that advocates slavery and the silence of women.

It may stagger you to learn this, Wormwood, but the strange truth is this; most humans know that argument provokes argument. And yet, once it has started, they find it very difficult to stop. And let me tell you, the flame is well and truly lit this time. So just sit back and enjoy the blaze! Our job has never been easier. For how can they have space to love the Enemy when they cannot love their brother?

Your affectionate uncle,

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. 1 John 2:9-11