Stepping off my Soapbox

image

I love being right. It’s one of my favourite things ever. The allure of things such as quiz nights and games like Pictionary is the chance to be rewarded for rightness. It’s something inherent in my personality, I was always very black and white in my younger days. It’s something that must have made me insufferable at times – you know, that kid that’s raising their hand so high to answer a question that it looks like they’re about to pop a fufu. As with most characteristics, there is both a shadow side, and a strength side to this. Along with my moral policing of my friends, it also meant that I had a hunger for truth and a conviction to live out what I believed to be right.

I recently listened to a podcast called ‘The War is Over, if you Want it to be,’ by Brian Zahnd (Word of Life Church – I highly recommend, btw). Amongst other things, he highlights the current social media climate, pointing out that it seems that for many of us, rightness trumps relationship (no pun intended). Ouch. That got me. Although my black and whiteness of yesteryear has long become much more nuanced, I realised that my mind has been following some really unhealthy tracks in this regard. I often feel genuinely justified in thinking that it’s ok to disregard authentic relationship with people that act in a way that I perceive as wrong. At times I almost convince myself that Jesus stands on my side and would back me up 100%. Which is pretty sick.

It’s not that rightness doesn’t matter; I believe it really does. But things get a bit blurry when the issues we are willing to battle over are often a matter of perception. Do I believe in absolute truth? Yes. Absolutely. However, none of us individually have the all-encompassing global view and insight on any one issue that would constitute complete understanding.The irony that strikes me is that if younger me got the chance to meet me now, we wouldn’t see eye-to-eye on so many things. So many. I was passionately convinced of so many things that I now know were just plain wrong (like my conviction that I had a future as a gymnast – despite the fact I couldn’t do a cartwheel or touch my toes).

My best friend at primary school was from a Mormon family, and I remember us having a conversation one day trying to figure out what the differences between our faiths were. After a short discussion, she said that their bible had Mary Magdalene in it, while I said I thought ours was just Mary. End of discussion. Sorted. And on we went with our merry friendship. I LOVE that! What mattered was not who was right or wrong, despite the fact that we obviously didn’t really have a handle on our respective religions; what mattered was that we were buddies.

When you look at the New Testament, it’s so very clear that Jesus was much more interested in loving people first, and from that place he taught truth. He was happy just hanging out with people, regardless of the fact they were oftentimes societal outcasts, and most certainly not your average pew-dweller. In fact, you only see him getting super shirty with the Pharisees; the people who were obsessed with being right. Let this be a lesson to us all – and a red flag next time we’re tempted to start standing on our righteous soap boxes at the risk of breaking relationship.

Our search for truth is vitally important; but not nearly as important as our quest to live out a Kingdom life by loving people the way Jesus did.

Much love,
Deb x

Row, Row, Row your Boat

image

Some of our very favourite people were in town recently for a conference. They popped in for lunch, and over tomato soup and toasties, we caught up and discussed some of what they had heard at the conference. One of the speakers had just shared a message about seasons of obscurity, which struck a chord for our friends, but also for me. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It feels like there’s nothing quite so obscure as being a stay-at-home-mum. I don’t get paid. My kid pretty much only says ‘thanks’ because we’re trying teaching him to not be a snotty brat, and he knows he doesn’t get what he wants unless he uses his manners. When I clean the house it takes all of 36.5 seconds for it to get undone again. Nobody gives me high fives for creatively arranging the afternoon-tea plate.

I have to stop myself from longing for the day when my as-yet-unborn son is old enough for kindy and I can get on with some ‘real’ work. Work where I get remunerated for my time, where I get to be part of a team building something valuable, where my ideas count for something and I receive recognition for my efforts.

In a bible study this week, I learned that the Greek translation for the word Paul uses as ‘servant’ in 2 Timothy alludes to the rower of a big ship. You know those big old ships that had a whole heap of slaves at the very bottom of the boat? Now surely THAT is the very picture of obscurity! Stuck in the bowels of a filthy great ship, no windows, no idea which direction you’re going, and breathing the meaty sweat of a shipload of smelly dudes. So unappealing, yet this is the kind of servanthood we’re called to. One in which the work we do is not for our own glory and gratification, but for that of our Captain Jesus. Now mercifully, God does so often give us tasks and work that ARE enjoyable and fulfilling. But we need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of using our gifts, abilities and daily tasks to meet inner needs for significance and love.

I quickly learned in church life that if I could be ‘good’ at doing Christian stuff, I would get plenty of encouragement and admiration. I felt significant if ‘important’ people recognised my hard work, so I got real good at doing what it took to gain that affirmation. When people were falling off the bible-in-a-year bandwagon left, right and centre, there I was still going strong four years in. I was the moral police amongst my group of friends at school, correcting a swear word there, casting disapproving looks at anything that, in my holier-than-thou opinion, may tarnish the good name of the Gospel. In fact, looking back now, the true miracle is that I had any friends at all! (I’ve since thanked some of my old friends for putting up with me. For real.)

This way of looking at the world was unfortunately encouraged by many a sermon and youth conference; where the altar call was all too often given only for those felt called to ‘full time ministry’, or to be a businessperson for the Kingdom, and occasionally, if you were lucky, a full time missionary. There was never a mention of the person who wanted to be a P.E. teacher, chef, artist, builder, bus driver, stay-at-home parent, shopkeeper or accountant. The clear preference of the cultural climate was that one should aspire to something with social prominence. Or in other words, minor Christian celebrity. The upshot of which meant you had people auditioning for the worship team who couldn’t sing to save themselves, and a dearth of volunteers willing to help with the kiddos.

What I’m slowly learning over this season of my life, is that it will never get more significant than a moment spent singing a song to Jesus on my back porch, just the two of us. Or making a meal for a family in need. Or sitting with my son while he takes an inordinately long time to squeeze out a wee treasure on the potty. ‘Cause the thing is, Jesus is the prize. He is it. And we get Him whether we’re manning the oars or captaining the ship. We are significant because He loves us, not because of what we do. And that, my friends, is true joy!!

Love you,
Deb xx

Family Ties

image

This pregnancy has been pretty rough. The first one was a total breeze compared to this! I’ve had chronic migraines and a host of other lesser issues, and it’s just been sucky really. People have asked me how my summer was, and I feel like I didn’t really have one! I was a total hermity-hermit. I went underground. I lay in bed with frozen peas on my head/neck, the blinds down, and on the bad days, a tea towel tied around my head to cover my eyes. My saving grace on the bad days was audiobooks downloaded from the library (The Magician’s Nephew is so worth a re-read), and on better days I managed to churn through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. For the third time.

Needless to say, it’s been more than a bit dumb. I’ve been the closest to feeling depressed than I ever have before. And it got me thinking about people who live with illness all the time. The silver lining for me has been that I know it’s just a temporary arrangement. For others it’s a lifetime.

After a particularly bad spell, which ended in a trip to the ER, my mum-in-law stayed over, did the grocery shopping and made a bunch of meals for the freezer. I cannot tell you how appreciated that was. Another friend keeps texting me at random intervals and telling me that she’s bringing food around. Others have offered to hang out with Judah. These are the things that represent who Jesus is in such a real way. These are also the things that have challenged me to the core.

I’ve got friends that are amazing cooks and just seem to be able to whip up a meal for another family; blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. Let me just say, I’m not that person. When a text goes out requesting a meal for a family in need, I’m ashamed to admit that my thought process goes though a wee grid. Do I know this family well? Will it be blatantly obvious if I don’t help out? Have they helped me before in the past? How many kids do they have? What can I make that’s big enough to split so I don’t have to cook for my family as well? But I’m realising that this thought process is just not the Kingdom way!! People in the New Testament church went so far as to sell excess land in order to make sure their brothers and sisters didn’t go without. I can’t be bothered going out of my way to make a blimmin meal.

I’m not just talking about food here. I’m talking about helping each other out with whatever needs to be done. Errands, yard work, house projects, childcare, finances. It shouldn’t be something we even have to think about. It’s just what the community of Christ does. At what point did it become just an option? What on earth has ever lead me to the place where it’s an added extra, rather than part of the fabric of life?

The thing about supporting each other in times of need is that it’s not only helpful, but it makes us part of the same family. When we lived in Christchurch we went through the fire. I won’t go into it here, but we lived a lifetime of crazy over those four years. I’ll never forget the outpouring of kindness and practical love after Caleb got impaled. I didn’t have to cook a meal for at least six weeks. People we’d never met kept bringing food over. They skipped their lunch breaks at work in order to spend time with Caleb in hospital. Magazines and HD drives with movies were delivered. Gas vouchers were given. It was incredible. And it marked for us the transition from people that attended that church, to family members that had been adopted.

You often hear people saying that “it’s just what you do for family”. That’s what we need to be doing for our Christ family. And also our human family, but that’s another post for another day.

So consider me challenged. I’m gonna just say ‘yes’ when I hear of a need. It needs to be the default.

Love you,
Deb xx

Friends are Friends Forever?

image

I’ve been feeling super nostalgic lately. I listened to a podcast where the dude mentioned how you never forget your friends from high school days, and it set me thinking about friendships. Friendship and I traversed some pretty rocky terrain when I was a kid. My best friend from Kindergarten moved to Australia. My best friend from my very first day at school took off to Picton with her family several months after we established our BFF status. And then my very best friend at church had another BFF – it was a very awkward friendship triangle, and I always felt like the second best friend.

After my school buddy left, I found it really hard to find new close buddies for a number of years, right up until the last year of primary school, in fact. I remember wandering around the the playground by myself and asking people if I could play with them. I remember joining in other kids’ groups for a bit, but never feeling like I was part of it. I distinctly recall finally making a friend in one class, and then having to be moved to a new classroom halfway through the year because the school was growing too much. The said friend addressed me with her new cohort and informed me that, sadly, I couldn’t be her friend anymore because we weren’t in the same class.

These experiences obviously didn’t injure my quirkiness at all. I remember convincing a bunch of kids that if we wrapped certain dead flower pods in our discarded plastic lunch wrap, that they would most certainly turn into gold. I actually had a certain Narnian kind of belief that this could happen. Another game I distinctly remember having created was one called, “Handicapped-four eyes-geeky-express.” I can’t remember exactly what that one was about, but I know it involved a lot of sitting in trees and answering the ‘phone’. Undoubtedly the most destructive/dangerous was ‘The Bee Clinic’. It was as it sounds…we would stand on bees, and then ‘fix’ them in the clinic. I told everyone that when the white stuff came out of its tail, it was all healed. For all you bee lovers out there, I’m so sorry.

The funny thing is that in recent years I have gone back and read my primary school reports, and during that one particular year I was made to transition classrooms, the teacher wrote something like this, “Deborah is a natural leader, she organises people and they follow.” That is not at ALL how I remember that time in my life, but my perspective was obviously somewhat coloured by my friendship experiences. I think that perspective still clouds my perception of my friendships. I have since gone on to have many dear and close friends. As well as a lot of counselling and prayer and journeying. I can write about childhood friendships and no longer feel the sting I once did. But I do still often feel a mild feeling of detachment in the atmosphere when I’m around friends. I feel very slightly suspicious that they perhaps don’t like me as much as I like them. I’m almost subconsciously waiting for them to go hang out with their number one BFF.

None of these irrational thoughts bear any resemblance to real life happenings. My friends are gracious and amazing! It’s the echoes from an earlier time whispering to the present. I’m convinced it won’t always be like this, mostly because I’m aware of it and don’t like to stay stagnant. However, it got me thinking about the way I view friendship, and that atmosphere of detachment is a selfish one. It’s self-protective. It’s trying to keep me safe from potential heartbreak. And it’s introspective.

My view of friendship needs to make the essential shift from one where I’m primarily concerned with receiving, to one where my priority is giving. I have lately been praying the prayer of St Francis, so I’ll leave it here, because it does a better job of explaining what needs to happen than I ever could.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Deb xx
P.s. Wanna be my friend?