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Monday, 29 April 2019

Dreams, Money, Family, and God

Hey folks! Apologies I haven't been keeping up with the blog series, should be doing the next post in that sometime this week. But I had another thought come to mind that I wanted to work through on here, so that's what I'm doing.

Heading back to thoughts about work and the like.
A few times, people have said to me something along the lines of, the creative stuff that you're doing is great and all, but that's a dream. By focusing on that, you're sacrificing safety, stability, security, etc. And that's an understandable argument; but one that, to some degree, you can argue against. After all, if you look in the Bible at some of what Jesus says, you'll see fairly quickly that he's not really about safety, stability, or security. In fact, he's very much about risk, challenge, the unknown, trust.

But then, people pull out their trump card. They say that by chasing these dreams, you're sacrificing family.

And that's a gut punch. The classic reference here is 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT; "But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." I've had that one quoted at me before. And yeah, that hits a sore spot. Nobody wants to feel like they're letting down their family, that they've failed their family. And particularly as I come towards starting a family of my own, and being married at the start of next year - these fears and worries are very much real, and alive.

Then, however, I remembered something. Which may seem small - but I don't think so. Because the thing is, this isn't just a dream that I have, something that I want to do because I like the sound of it or whatever.
Instead, this is something that has repeatedly and continuously been put onto my heart by God. He has been constantly and consistently been calling me back to the albums and songs that I've written. To the book that I'm working on. To preaching. To establishing a creative community. To being there for the broken and the hurting. Yes, these are things that I'm passionate about - but that's a passion that God has placed there himself. This is a calling that God has given.

And when we reframe it this way, we suddenly have a very different discussion. Because we're no longer talking about chasing dreams or supporting a family. We're talking about following God; or following money.
In case you're unaware, this is something that Jesus is fairly clear on. "No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." Matthew 6:24 NLT. Jesus specifically tells us - at a few points, actually - not to be chasing after things of this world. Not to be chasing after money. Not to be worrying about things like food, clothing, having a roof over your head. As Jesus continues on later in this passage, "These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matthew 6:32-33 NLT)

But what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God? Well, I might be a bit off here, but I think it comes from following where the Spirit leads. As those who have done old Biblical Studies classes might (groaningly) recall, his kingdom is where God's rule and reign is. Where he is the king. So being part of his kingdom, means being under his rule. Means following what he says, where he calls me to go, what he calls me to do.

Now, does this mean that everyone should go and quit their jobs, go out into the wilderness to seek God, and expect a pile of money to fall into their laps? That's not how it works.
Often, God works through the (seemingly) ordinary things around us. The people we interact with. The opportunities that arise. The job that you have at the moment - that could very well be the way that he's providing for you. Or it could be what he's calling you away from. I don't know. Only you and God can, really.

I'm not trying to say I've got it all figured out. I'm 26. I'm human. I don't. But I think in our modern, Western, money-centred world, we can find ourselves serving money quite easily if we're not careful. For me, that's not something I ever want to be doing. Sure, things can be nice sometimes. But people are nicer. And God is better still.

Still working out what God is doing in this time. But I'm trusting in him. Hopefully, you are too.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Big Issues: Climate Change

Well, it's starting a bit late, but here we are!

For those that aren't in the know, I'm starting a new blog series - because why not? - looking at some of the big issues in the world today. I asked Facebook what they thought those were, and these are the ones they came up with. This series won't be so much trying to solve these issues; rather, it's looking more at trying to understand why these are such big issues for here and now.

Strangely enough, one of the ones that popped up was climate change. Global warming. All this fun stuff. And so that's what we'll be tackling first.

Now. I don't really want this post to be about proving that climate change and global warming are real things. Because if you can't figure that out by now, I don't know what's going to prove it to you. Natural disasters are going crazy, temperatures are very much misbehaving, and fossil fuel companies have been trying to cover it up for decades. But let's move on from that for now.

It's not too much to say that this may well be the biggest issue of our time. Within our lifetimes, we're likely going to see things around the world getting worse and worse, even if we start making some big changes right now (which probably won't happen). How bad are we talking? Well, given enough time (and what that amount of time is is still pretty up in the air at this point), it would be looking pretty similar to an extinction-level event. We're talking about whether or not the human race will even exist, in a few generations' time. Or at least, exist in the way we know it now. That's the seriousness we're looking at this with.

And perhaps there are some (though I hope not many) more conservative Christians that welcome this idea, and see it as the promised end times - the quicker we all die, the quicker Jesus comes back! Right?
Ahem. Rest assured, that is not where I stand on the issue of climate change. This an issue of tremendous weight that we have needed to combat with serious action for decades, and have done very little about. As such, we are starting to feel the repercussions.
It's starting to get to the level where I think there are probably people that are deciding not to have kids, because they see things only getting worse, and they don't want to raise children to face that future. (Not to mention the other things we'll be talking about over the rest of the series.) And I can understand that. Things are getting pretty crazy, and a lot of the time, they don't seem to be getting any better. Maybe we'll be able to fix it, maybe we won't - but right now, we don't really know. And that's a tough spot to be in.

But hey, let's not end on too negative a note. Let's find some things that we can do. These aren't solutions - but if enough people start doing them, maybe it will help a bit.
1. Eat less meat. This is actually a thing. Meat production is super-bad for the environment. If everyone ate less meat - we'd be doing a lot better. I'm not saying everyone should turn vegetarian (though it's much easier to do these days), but less meat is good. Just make sure you're doing it properly and getting your protein and everything! Eggs are awesome.
2. Don't just recycle. Particularly with China not accepting recycling as much any more, it's tricky to know what's happening with our recycling now, and that process of things. In some cases, depending on where you are, it may just be sitting in storehouses waiting for things to happen to it, or even going to the tip. As such, it's much, much better if you can re-use things as much as possible. Buying less plastic is always good, but hopefully you know that by now. And when you do recycle - please, do it properly. The right things in the right bin. Recycling contamination isn't good.
3. Make a little noise. I'm not very good at this - but if we keep letting our politicians know that this is a big issue for us, that this is the big issue for us, then they might actually agree to do something about it. We only have so much sway as individuals, so we need to get the people that can actually do things to start doing things, you know.

I'm sure other people can add other good things to that list, but there are three to start off with.
This was a tricky issue to start with, because it's both so big, but also rather obvious in many ways - at least, in terms of why it's an issue for our time. I mean, we kinda made it one, because we done goofed and all that jazz. Hopefully we'll be able to get a bit more nuance with some of the other posts to come.

In the meantime, feel free to comment below, and let me know if you like these sorts of posts. Maybe I'll do more!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Two Weeks In.

I meant to start off the blog series yesterday, but didn't quite get there. I don't think I'll be getting there today, either. Needed to write something else first.

I'm finding myself in a very annoying loop when it comes to work. Get job -> enjoy it for a bit -> job becomes stale -> move on (usually to a different job). And depending on the job, the length at each point in the cycle has changed. But the longest I've had a job has been about two years or so. Which, to me, is crazy, because most of them have been less than a year. I've had about fifteen or so different jobs, not including volunteer positions. But to other people, who have been in jobs for five, ten, twenty years, this idea of going between so many jobs is crazy.

I've also never had a full-time job, and technically only just transitioned to a part-time one. Though I've had the equivalent of full-time (and more) hours before, I've only ever had casual work. Which generally works well for me - I like the flexibility, and never having had the full-time benefits, I don't really miss them! But I also don't get paid leave like many do.

One of the reasons that I find more hours (or the prospect of full-time work) difficult is because it allows me much less time to be creative. To do music, or acting, or writing, or poetry, or whatever else takes my fancy. Like designing board games! But then, when I do have the time - like now - I find that, generally speaking, I find it very hard to motivate myself to do these things anyway. Which seems rather counter-intuitive.

Apparently, I'm not particularly good at motivating myself. Which isn't ideal, to say the least. It's gotten worse over the last months, and I'm wondering if it's also a depression thing. I don't really know. I don't know heaps on that front.
But there are many days where I'm struggling to get anything useful done. Where things are getting put off to the next day. And the next day. I'm not getting back to people like I should. I'm forgetting things that are important. Mess is piling up. And so, I'm finding, are negative thoughts.

Though I don't think much of work - it's rather a favourite topic of mine, if you've been reading my blog at all previously - many people in this world do. And so not having a regular job (okay, I do have a regular job, but one day a week isn't much) can make you feel - less, somehow. Couple that with probable difficulty with paying the bills in the near future, and attempting to figure out what on earth you're going to be doing to sort that out - it can get you a bit down, and stressed, at times. Particularly when you're heading towards getting married early next year, which is a rather expensive thing. And then having a shared financial burden of two people, rather than just yourself.

It adds up to quite a bit, in terms of expectation. And when you feel like you can't meet that - or even worse, like you never could - that hurts. It's very difficult. And that's what I'm working through. (I should note, by the way, that these are not expectations imposed upon me by other people, or my fiancée. It's just me.)
At the moment, it's making me feel things like worthless, useless, those sorts of fun words. And somewhere, I know that they're not true. But that part of me isn't doing very well at being able to fight back at the moment. And so, I start to believe them.

Which, needless to say, isn't good. In fact, it's very not good. It's very very not good, and I need to figure out how to stop this downward spiral. So far, I've tried stopping most of work, because I was finding that that was making things harder. I think that's helped a bit, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped. Medication doesn't seem to be doing as much as I'd like yet either. Don't know if it's because I'm not taking the right type, or because I'm not taking enough. Guess we'll see when I see the doctor next. That's still a couple of weeks away. I was doing running at one point, but I need to actually have the motivation to do it. I haven't for a while. I've been playing music a bit more regularly, and that's been good. So I'll keep doing that.

I feel like I've got a lot to work through, but the busyness and money-centredness of this world doesn't allow much leeway for that.

I don't really know where I'm going. I don't think I have for a long time. I have too many ideas that are very vague and wispy, and I jump at near anything that moves.

I don't know. I just don't know. Hoping that God does.

Monday, 15 April 2019

The Big Issues.

I want to be writing a bit more, so I thought I'd do a series on here! Haven't done one of those in a while. And the series I thought I'd do is looking at the big issues of today. I'm talking global-level big here, pandemic level big, affecting humanity as a whole big.

After asking my reliable Facebook folks for some examples, and generalising the more specific ones, here's what we have insofar:
- Climate change
- Discrimination (based on race/gender/sexual identity/etc)
- Capitalism
- Nationalism/Right-wing extremism
- Overpopulation
- Food/starvation
- Religion
- Mental health

Hopefully people feel like their ideas are represented under one or more of those. If you think there's another one to add, let me know! A couple of these are a bit intertwined, so I may end up doing one post for two sometimes - it will depend a bit on length - and I may have a couple of my own that I come up with. Masculinity/femininity is one big one I'd add.

So keep an eye out for those coming soon! The idea isn't to be solving issues, but to be trying to understand why these are such big issues for today, why they've become such a problem. Hopefully it can be a good starting point for discussion and the like.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Myths About Hell.

Quite a while back, one of the things I used to do from time to time was dispel some common misconceptions that people had about Christianity. Today, after reading quite an interesting article on hell - I'll leave you to make up your own mind about it, because it does make some big claims - I thought I'd dispel some myths that people have about hell.

Myth 1: the devil rules over hell.
You see this idea a lot in popular culture - particularly depictions that show demons in hell torturing people in there, enjoying themselves, all of that sort of thing. Sorry, but this doesn't line up with what you see in the Bible at all.
Hell is clearly a place of punishment as much - if not more - for Satan and his demons than it is for people. It's where he was 'cast down' to out of heaven when he rebelled against God. He's trapped there, and he can't get out - but he still has a limited influence over this world, during this age we live in (however long that lasts for).

Myth 2: the devil created hell.
Closely related to the previous myth, this one is also no good. God created everything - the heavens, and the earth, and also a place that the devil was trapped in. That's what we call hell. The devil also can't really 'create' things. He doesn't have that power. He can only twist what God has already created.

Myth 3: hell is a place of complete separation from God.
This has become a popular idea more recently, particularly with the pushback against the more traditional 'fire and brimstone' view of hell - the idea that instead, hell is just a complete and total separation from God. However, Paul very clearly writes:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39, New Living Translation
Nothing, in all creation, will ever be able to separate us from God's love. (You may argue that the presence of God and God's love are two different things, but seeing as God is love, I think that's a tricky argument.) Satan and hell are both part of creation. Therefore, they cannot separate us from God. God is present, in some form, in hell. Which means that his love also will be.
This seems impossible to many of us in our ideas that we have about hell, as a place of eternal torment - but God has a habit of never giving up or letting go of his people. I don't think we've seen the last chapter of this story yet.

Myth 4: hell is where you go if you've done bad things.
A slight oversimplification, but you get the gist. Many people seem to think that God works by the Ancient Egyptian model - where your heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, a symbol of truth and justice, to see if it was good enough. But that's not how God works.
You see, sin isn't an accumulative thing. It's not a, "how bad was your sin?" kinda thing. It's a binary thing. One or zero. Either you have sinned, or you haven't sinned. And, being human - unless you're Jesus - you have sinned. Which means there's a problem.
Thankfully, God works on the grace model. What does that mean? Basically, it means he gives us a substitute. Someone that didn't sin, who can stand in our place. (If you missed the memo, that's Jesus, by the way.) And because of Jesus, even if we've sinned - no matter how much we've done, no matter what it is we've done - God accepts us into his family, to be with him. (And if you're thinking that you've done too much bad for God to love you - keep in mind that there are examples in the Bible of murderers, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and even pretty much a full-on terrorist [Paul was pretty crazy] following him.)

On a related note, Satan is never described in the Bible as being red, or having a pitchfork or horns (in fact, there's very little or no description of him at all). We get bits of that from other mythologies that artists have used to influence their work.

I'll note that I haven't been definitive on what hell is, and that's partly on purpose. I like to leave room for discussion and debate, and for people to explore for themselves. But it's also because it's still something I'm working out as well! But I hope you've found these points interesting, and I might try doing a few more of these on other subjects in future. Let me know if there's anything in particular you'd like me to cover.