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Monday, 19 March 2018

Jesus Is.

This week is mission week for something called the "Jesus is          ." campaign. The basic idea is talking about who Jesus is - getting people to fill in the blank, seeing what they say. Maybe you think Jesus is fictional, or a fairytale, or only a myth or legend, or just a good person, like Gandhi or Mother Teresa or something.

For myself, though, I instantly realised that you could remove the blank, and it was already a complete sentence. Jesus is. And that works in two ways, as well!

Firstly, it works as a parallel of God's "I AM," which is the name that he gives to Moses, and is generally written as LORD in the Old Testament. In the Hebrew, that's the YHWH, tetragrammaton, or Yahweh, as you might know. Some people write it as JHVH and Jehovah instead. But the idea is that God exists, that Jesus exists, not because of anything else. We are here because of our parents, who are here because of their parents, etc etc. But the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit - God just is. Irrespective of what happens in the world, irrespective of what people believe or think; he doesn't require your belief in him to exist, or have power, or have form, or anything. God was around for - well, negative infinity, I guess, before anyone else or anything else was. It's pretty crazy stuff.

The other reason it works, though, is in contrast to how some people might put it. Some people might say, "Jesus was...." That Jesus was this or that, way back when, two thousand years ago. But that's the thing. And that's one of the most exciting things about Christianity, and about Jesus. That Jesus is alive. It's not Jesus was - it's Jesus is! Jesus has defeated death, and lives once more. And that's where there's rather a point of difference between Jesus and - well, anyone else. There aren't many that can claim to still be alive that lived a couple of thousand years ago on Earth...

But this is why we have hope. Because death has been defeated, and Jesus is alive. Jesus is still here. Not as a human person walking among us, but rather, his Spirit is with us. And because he has defeated death - death has no power over us either. That's pretty awesome. :)

Anyway. Thought I'd just reflect on that. Let me know what you'd put in the blank!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Strong Women.

Today is a rather significant day. It's International Women's Day. Or at least, it will be when this is posted. I'm writing it early, while I actually have a moment. It started back in the early 1900s, with a group of thousands of women marching in New York City urging for shorter hours, for better pay, and to get the vote. It wasn't until a couple of years later, though, that International Women's Day officially started. But I love this idea that it started on the ground - with strong women. Women making a stand.

Now, I very much realise that I am a guy, talking about IWD. Which seems a bit topsy-turvy. And that's fair enough! But I think it's important that us guys are part of the movement to speak out for women, and to support them and their rights. It shouldn't be solely their responsibility. Why? Because stronger women means a stronger humanity. And a more united humanity. We can be very divided, and divisive, as a species. But when we encourage and support each other - that makes all of us stronger, not just some of us. We all share in that. As such, I'd like to take the opportunity to talk about some of the strong women in my life.

I've had some exceptional female role models over the years, and I know many women that are strong in different ways. (I mean, I have one friend who's in the army - certainly much stronger and braver than me!) There are many different examples that I could give; but for now, I'm going to stick with one. My sister.

For those who don't know, I'm the eldest of four. It went boy-girl-boy-girl. I'm going to be talking about the one that came directly after me, rather than my youngest sister. (Though she's strong in her own way as well.) Firstly in her favour, my sister had to put up with me growing up. And my brother. Though we didn't know it at the time, we bot had Asperger's happening. Then our youngest sister had Down's Syndrome. My sister was the one that stepped up to the plate. People are often surprised when I say that I'm her older brother, because she acts more like an older sister, like she was the first-born. And for good reason! I was off with the fairies most of the time as a kid. I wasn't much of a leader - so she was instead. I wasn't competitive - she was. She was always striving to be the best that she could be, in whatever she pursued - whether it was horse riding, music, Tae Kwon Do (she happens to be a black belt), or at uni. And she really was the best.

My sister was always a doer. Very smart as well, and can talk to you about things just fine - but she's about action, more than talking about it. But that doesn't mean that she doesn't care. Probably the way that I've seen her love most has been in that for her husband - yes, she's now married! - they were together for something like eight years before being engaged. I think that's about right. Maybe nine. Somewhere around there. A long time. Seeing them get married was pretty awesome, just seeing the incredible love that they had for each other, and the excitement around the day. (She'd had some things planned for a while....)

And she's been through some hard times, and difficult things. Some of those I've seen, because we've gone through them together - but most, I haven't. But I see her pushing on, regardless. Maybe I gave her a bit of my stubbornness. Or maybe I got it from her! Who knows.

My sister is one of the strongest people that I know, and I still look up to her so much. Not that I want to be like her, because we're very different people. But I have an immense respect for her, and for what she's done in life, and where she is now. At the same time, though, I could've easily done a similar story for a number of other women in my life - my mum (who is easily the other strongest person I know), many of the women that I know from church, Bible college, family friends, and many others - people who have gone through so much, and done so much, and who are so much. And I don't really have good words for that. But thank you, all of you. You have helped me incredibly in my life, in so many ways that you can't even imagine.

I find it strange that there are places where women are considered less than men, in any sense. They'll often work harder, putting in more of their own time. They care more. They often put more time and energy into their families. They have to go through more insults, more rubbish, more - everything that they just shouldn't have to go through. That really shouldn't happen in today's world, but it still does. And they stand up for themselves, and are a voice of reason, often so much more. By any logic that I can come up with, that means that they should be, that's it, more! Not less. That's just absurd. Let's change the dynamic. Let's #PressforProgress. Moving towards a world and a time where women are celebrated, and treated with the respect, love, care, and admiration that they deserve. And the pay, folks.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

On Expectations.

Apologies if this is....ramblier than usual. I'm not doing great.

I realised an interesting thing the other day, in talking to myself. So thought I'd share that on here.

Generally speaking, whenever you see me, I'm not actually doing as well as you'll think/as I appear. If you think that I'm doing about an 8 out of 10, it's probably a 6. A 5 will be more like a 3. Just take away two and you'll be about right.

And that's because of a couple of things. Firstly, I tend to just perk up around people in general, because I enjoy being around people. Unless I don't have the energy to. That's when I'm really not doing well. (Today is one of those days.) But typically, even if I'm not doing that great in general, if I'm catching up with people - I'll feel a lot better. Because I really enjoy that time. So people generally think I'm doing quite well, when I might be struggling when I get home, or when I'm alone.

But the other reason links back more to when I was growing up.

From when I was quite young, I was the smart kid. I was reading and writing really early (reading before I went to school - thanks mum!), and I just picked up things really quickly. That continued throughout primary school, where I skipped a year (year 2, because I did all of it in year 1), and went into Opportunity Class; and then went to a private high school with a scholarship, where I did most of the sciences, plus history. And I was pretty good at maths as well (they wanted me to do Extension 1, and then 2 - I ended up just doing Advanced).

It was towards the latter end of high school that I started being the creative kid as well. I started writing music, and I had been writing stories for a while. I got more involved with drama, and acting - and that all really took off after school, with me doing a Bachelor of Music at uni, being involved with plays and musicals at Campbelltown Theatre, writing a book, making a language, writing so many songs (running count is over 250, probably closer to 270 or even 300).

Then I started doing things with Bible college, and preaching here and there, from which I drew on a background that I'd already had in public speaking. And I got fairly good at that as well, and started doing that a bit here and there.

The expectations of me have always been high. Super high. I can't remember a time when people weren't going, "Oh, I can't imagine what you're going to do with your life, it's going to be amazing!" Where people weren't pretty much expecting me to be the smartest person in the room, to know the answer before everyone else, to always be able to figure out the problem. That's a lot of expectation to live up to. And while I'm not saying that I'm terrible at everything - because I'm not, and I've been given many gifts - I often feel like I haven't lived up to people's expectations. Like I fall short just a little bit, in pretty much everything. Which is still somehow better than most people, but also somehow not as good as I could be.....

I'm human, folks. Might not seem like it sometimes, but I am. I make mistakes. Many of them. I can't do everything (though that may seem true at times). But I don't like to fall short of those expectations. I don't want to disappoint people - and I don't want to feel like everyone else (as much as I am). And so I tend to act like I'm doing a bit better than I am. Like I have more of an idea of what I'm doing than I do. Like I'm more sure of myself than I ever really have been.

Every now and then, someone manages to catch me on it, though not very often. Most of the time - people see what they want to see, what they expect to see. They don't really realise what I go through, or what I'm struggling with, pretty much every day. (Aside from you, of course, dear readers! For which I am very thankful.)

Most days, as my more regular readers will probably know, I struggle with loneliness, with emptiness, with self-confidence, with tiredness, with motivation, with feeling depressed, with temptation. Not all of them, each day; but most of them, most days. Probably a couple more into the bargain that I've forgotten.

I'm trying to understand it all better, so that I can move past it. Trying to feel more "okay" about being normal. Which feels weird. But there you go.

I think I connected relationships into all of this somehow as well when I was thinking about it before, but I really don't know how. Springboarding off things I struggle with? Maybe. Anyway. I talk about that often enough. That's enough to ramble about for now.

God is helping. He's good at that. But it's still quite hard. It's nice to know that people out there are supporting me, or even listening. So thank you. :)