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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dear Jesus, please make me skinny!

Hysterical breakdowns are not an unknown phenomenon in our household. I live with four boys and at least once a month one of us five has a meltdown.

10 points for guessing who it is.

That's right, it's Luke.

Jokes, it's totally the one with the ovaries.

Despite the fact that I totally hate fulfilling a stereotype, I can't help it! The emotions, and tears, and snot, and sobbing just won't stay down, no matter how hard I try and suppress them. It's sooo embarrassing (especially if it ever happens at work....holla at me emotional ladies!) but it happens and I can't stop it. 

This month, despite trying desperately to channel the stoneheartedness of my testosterone fueled flatmates, I ended up crying like a wee baby about (yet again) my weight issues.

I have come to learn that I don't like being fat (shocker!). Like, I really really really don't like it. I don't like the stares I get in the street ( no jokes, I saw a guy driving do a HUGE double take once and, unless I am the sexiest thing going, the only conclusion I can come to is that he had in fact never seen a fat person before). I don't like people at work giving me tips on how to lose weight. I don't like having to avoid foods I like. I don't like not being able to fit some clothes.

So I decided to quit. 

I told Luke that I was over it and I was gonna eat what I want and get fat and die happy. And he found this hilarious. Apparently it was not the right day for him to laugh at that because I got rather pissed off and then cried lots.

See, as much as I want to be skinny, I sabotage myself all the time. In my concious mind I am working hard at losing weight. In my subconcious mind I am a scared little girl who is trying to protect herself from the world by creating a fat suit. 

As much as I want to be skinny, I more afraid of it than anything. 

I am afraid that when I get there I still won't be happy with what I have. I am afraid that I will get hurt by men again. I am afraid that I won't be able to maintain it. I am scared that I still won't be good enough.

Which is the fundamental problem.

It is not about the weight. Yes, I do need to loose it in order to be healthy. But focusing on the weight has meant that I have forgotten about the reasons I got fat in the first place. 

I have started idolising being skinny. I started to think that when I use to be skinny I was happy and will be again if I could just get skinny again. The truth is that it is bollocks. If I am not happy in myself now then I won't be when I lose weight. And I wasn't happy when I was skinny...which is why I ended up fat.

So I am trying to change my mindset from focusing on losing weight to one that is focused on being healthy and happy. This still means I have to avoid foods that aren't good for me, and I still have to exercise and all that, because that is part of being healthy in body and mind, but the outlook is totally different.

Still, as I write this, I am overcome by a sense of desperation and yet resignation. I am really struggling to understand how to keep going in the face of weight that is getting harder and harder to shift. The thought of this being a lifelong struggle fills me full of helplessness. 

I hate that I have done this to myself. I hate that I now have to battle everyday of my life in order to live well. It makes me angry and dejected. I say I don't care anymore but the fact is I really really do. It hurts a lot knowing that this is my fault.

I feel like I have tried every diet in the book and still have so far to go. Luke described it as running a marathon, where you get half way through and wanna die on the spot but you keep going coz there is no other way to finish. There is also a billboard on the way to my work that says "The pain of doing it is not as bad as the pain of regretting not doing it." Funnily enough it is a billboard for a gym!

It is hard trying to put into words what it is like staring your own regret in the mirror every morning to people who may have never had weight issues. It is hard to explain how it isn't a just physical battle, it is a mental and emotional one as well. It is hard to tell people who say "just count calories in and calories out and you should loose weight" that it isn't that simple. 

I find blogging helpful. I hope it reaches people who. like me, want to lose weight and yet want to give up at the same time. I hope this reaches those who are so confused as to what they really want that they sabotage themselves and then hate themselves for it. I hope this reaches people who are losing hope.

Because at the end of the day, underneath all the pain and heartache, I do have hope. I have hope that it isn't always going to be like this. My faith in Christ tells me that one day every tear will wiped away and all pain will end. I believe that my pain about weight counts. And so I have hope.

For those of a different faith, or of no faith, please don't give up just yet. Please comment below and let me know so I can support you and in turn feel supported. Your battle with weight is no small thing and I understand the pain that it causes you and how little you feel understood.

We are not alone. even though our fat suits attempt to lie to us and tell us we are.

Just keep breathing, keep living, keep listening to the people who love you, and let's find a way to live a life that we dream of!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Which is more important....forgiveness or healing?

On my way to work in the mornings I tend to arrive at the train station about 10mins early so I can sit in my car and read my bible and pray a bit (I know, I am so holy and I put you all to shame). I do this so I start my day the right way, focused on God and not on how tired, grumpy, wanting to be in bed I feel.

Sometimes I just go through the motions. I don't really take in what I am reading and/or I don't really care (maybe not that holy after all). But sometimes what I have read really gets me thinking.

Like yesterday for example.

I was reading Mark 2:1-13. For those who don't know their bibles off by heart (shame on are going stright to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200...jokes) this bit tells the story of a paralytic man. Jesus is chilling in a house, maybe eating some dinner or something, when the people of the town hear he is there. Like the celebrating swarming of the 1st Century, they all flock to see him, filling the house and the road outside and basically acting like people do around the Kardashians today, but for much better reasons (hopefully). 

In this town there is a paralytic man who is hanging out with his mates, who start to think to themselves that maybe they should get him to see Jesus and maybe something like a healing would happen (because by now stories of Jesus' healings have spread). So they pick up this guy on his mattress and start carrying to the place where Jesus is.

When they get there the doorway is full of people who are not gonna give up their precious opportunity to see and hear Jesus. Perplexed, these fellas start brainstorming and decide to climb up on the roof (which is flat in this part of the world, and usually has stairway access), and dig a hole through the roof (really hope the owner was pissed off that this) and then lowered the man, mattress and all, down to right smack bag in front of the great man himself.

Now I can imagine Jesus looking at the man on the mat, then looking up at the hole in the ceiling and breaking into a huge smile. He is really impressed with the faith and commitment they have all shown. So he looks at the man and says "your sins are forgiven." Some religious elders and stuff and kinda annoyed by this because in their reckoning only God has the authority to forgive sins and Jesus is a man. So Jesus (apparently reading their minds!!!) looks at them and says "which is easier, to forgive sins or to tell this man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. But so you know that the Son of Man [a title Jesus uses for himself] has the authority to forgive sins..." he looks at the paralytic man "stand up, pick up your mat and walk home." And the dude, who is paralysed remember, gets up, picks up his mat and walks out.

Now there are many amazing things about this story. I mean, the paralysed guy would have had muscles that were all shrunken and munted and yet he could get up and walk straight away! The full body healing that occurred here is mind blowing in medical terms. It is not just the cause of his paralysis that is healed, but all of the issues associated with that. All instantaneously!! Flippin wow!

But what struck me yesterday was not the healing. It was that the healing was almost an afterthought in the story. 

Jesus didn't heal the guy immediately. He forgave him first. And then he implies that it is harder to forgive sins than to heal this man.

The healing is not of the first importance to him!!

This made me think about the priorities I would have placed on this story. If I had been Jesus I would have healed the guy first then said something like "BOOM! Look at what I can do! Now believe all you peeps, because I am badass and,as a bonus, I will forgive his sins too!"

In churches I see the same thing. We pray often for people's healing, but how often is there salvation or relationship to God seen as more important than their physical ills. It is the mentality that says "show me a miracle first and then I will believe and ask to be saved."

And yet that is directly opposite to what Jesus does here. His main focus is on the spiritual ill of the man. He sees that the healing that had to occur between this man and God was more deadly, more disastrous than the physical disabilities he had. This reconciliation of man and God was the priority.

How would this attitude impact how we speak to people with disabilities and illnesses? If we adopted this attitude what would change in our hearts towards others? Would we stop seeing people with disabilities as something to be pitied but rather view the state of their faith as more important? Would their disability pale in comparison to their knowledge of God? Would we approach them differently? Would we approach our own issues differently?

I for one am someone who empathizes greatly with people who suffer from disabilities; I have been one and, but for the grace of God, would still be one. I remember feeling like if people prayed for my healing and it didn't happen, that I or they had failed in their faith. I stopped asking for prayer because I felt ashamed.

It was in the prayers of some ladies who prayed for God to be made known to me, not to be healed, that I was healed. They prayed for my salvation, and God, like in this story, forgave me first and healed me second. And the first was more important for me than the second. My shame and fear was lifted. Even if I had remained in my illness I believe that my experience with God in that moment would have changed my life anyway, even if not others perception of my life.

So when you pray for healing for others (and I am not saying not to) remember that of greater importance to God is that this suffering person would know the love and forgiveness of Christ. It is then that true, deep healing is found, that the broken is made whole, and the world is reconciled to its Creator.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Christianity in the Workplace

After years of study I have finally completed my Masters degree and am back in the real world working.

Though I loved my study, I really do enjoy the challenge of working each day (though getting up early every morning sucks). I am someone who thrives on a challenge, on deadlines, and on getting paid! I am made for work it seems. I get a kick out of being depended on to get stuff done in time and I am very good at leaving work at work so I can spend time happily at home.

Being back in the work place has raised some interesting issues that I have not had to face in years. Studying theology meant that the majority of the people I saw everyday shared the same beliefs as me, if not the same doctrines, and I was reasonably certain that I could talk about my faith openly and honestly with any of them.

Being in the workplace doesn't offer such opportunities. I am NOT an evangelist. Going up to people and talking to them about Jesus is not one of my giftings. I am able to talk to them about their lives, their issues, their families, but when it comes to faith I get very uncomfortable. I am never sure what to say without offending people. I feel like I am being bigoted if I voice my feelings. I am not sure how to say that I don't agree with someone without coming across as a b***h. 

I think my main issue is that I am a straight talker. I tend to tell it like it is. If I don't agree with you then I will say so. This doesn't lend itself well to situations where people of other faiths may take offense. Though it has its place, straight talk is not always welcome. 

And so I find myself feeling embarrassed and awkward. Not because of my faith but because of my inability to vocalize it well to non-believers. Gimme a room full of Christians wanting to learn more about the Bible and I am away! But fill that same room with non-Christians and I break out in a cold sweat.

This leaves me in an interesting predicament. How do I as a Christian speak well about my faith in the workplace? 

I have already meet a man from the Christadelphian sect/cult. He told me that Jesus is merely a man whom God has honoured above all others, but he is not God. Immediately I was thinking of all the correct theological answers to this statement. But the reality is that this man was raised in this faith and may not appreciate being told he is wrong. Not doubt he is already aware of what other Christians think about Jesus and is use to being told he is wrong. In this situation being silent was much more helpful than

So how does one be a Christian in a workplace filled with different faiths? Does my theological training simply go on the back burner to be used at home and at church only?

To put it simply, no. I did not study theology as a job but as something that impacts my whole life. It is part of my faith and as such impacts my entire life.

Instead of theology being put aside, what I need to do is put my outspokenness aside. 

All Christians, not just me, need to learn when to speak and when to stay silent. We need wisdom to read a situation and know what would best serve the person we are talking to. Love is about catering to them, not about our own need to be proven right.

We also need to remember that it is our lives that speak for us. St. Francis of Assisi once said that Christians need to "preach the kingdom of God constantly, when necessary use words." What he meant was that in our actions, our love for others, our attitude towards our bosses, our ethic toward our work, the way we treat our team mates, it is in those things that our faith is made apparent to others. This isn't always easy. There are days when we don't feel very loving (6:30am everyday for me!) and it may not come through that we are any different from others. But with God's grace, and with the Spirit to strengthen us, we can endure all things.

So what does it mean to speak about my faith at work?

It means to sometimes just stop speaking.

Monday, September 15, 2014

My time in 'Merica: The land of the Free

It has been a couple of weeks since I got back from America. I went to a place called Sequim, which is about two hours outside of Seattle. It is on the east coast and you can see Canada across the water.

In short, it is a beautiful area that reminds me a lot of New Zealand. It is very green and clean, has a beautiful mountain range that surrounds the harbour at Port Angeles.

 The deer there wander freely around the highways, carparks, and back gardens. I spotted this little guy when we went up into the mountains one day.

Apart from the amazing views and stunning scenery, I was mainly there for my friend Lauren's wedding. Lauren and I met when she spent a year over in NZ and I have missed not having my bff in the same country. When I heard she was getting married I was determined to get to the US of A to be there. Her asking me to be a bridesmaid just sealed the deal.

I spent three weeks catching up with my gurl, eating amazing food, running around doing wedding stuff, and meeting great people. There is so much to say about my trip that I am not really sure where to start. Nothing I say will adequately sum up what I experienced. So instead I have decided to list some of the main things that really hit home about America.

America: Thoughts, feelings, and memories

  1. There is so much stuff!!

One thing that I could not get over, in fact can still not get over, is the amount of stuff that America has. It is not only the variety of different things that you can get, but also the variety within each individual genre of things. Take cereal for example. The Americans know how to do cereal. The sheer number of different types of cereal that you can buy just staggers my mind. Then there is the fact that there is never just one packet of a particular cereal, but 20 or 30 packets, just in case they may run out. There is so much stuff!!! I can't even begin to tell you how much stuff there is. You can buy anything you want. Want half popped popcorn because you like to chew the hard bits? Don't just buy ordinary popcorn and dig to the bottom, buy a whole packet perfectly half popped for you. Want Cappuccino flavoured chips? Why the frick not?

So get the drift.

2. I should be an American

It surprised me how well I fit in to American society! My loudness, openness, and general craziness seems to be more American than it ever has been Kiwi. I have always found it fairly difficult to make girlfriends, I always seemed to be on a different page to many of them. Not so in America! I meet so many amazing women and bonded with them. We had so many laughs and good times. They are amazing women and I am so glad I got to meet them. It was so hard saying goodbye even though I had only known them for 3 weeks. Love you ladies!

3. I could be persuaded to move there

Despite the assumption that all Americans are bigots and all have guns (sorry, but we do think it!), the truth of Washington state is very different. Very few people I met had guns, many had never experienced violence of any sort, and the state itself is very liberal. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I would actually be pretty happy living there. I had always been a little bit nervous about the idea of going to America as I always assumed pretty bad things about it. But I am happy to report that TV lives up to its reputation of being complete crap, and most of the stuff on it is not true (at least not where I was). I loved the area I was in and really want to take my husband there to meet everyone. 

This is a fairly short post because, really, I have no idea how to put everything into words. I loved my time there, spent most of it in awe of everything and feeling like a small country cousin visiting the big city. It is nice to be home, but life is now a lot bigger having seen more that is out there.

Now, all my American friends, you must come over here!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Loving My LGBT Neighbour?

I, like everyone else not living under a rock, is aware of the fact that the world is changing in regards to homosexuality. Laws are changing in many countries to allow homosexual couples to marry, decriminalising homosexual lifestyles and basically allowing homosexuals the same rights as their straight counterparts.

However, this isn't the case in other countries. Uganda is one such example. Watch the below video to catch up a little as to what is going on.

This clip is satirical in nature so maybe something a little more serious is in order.

It cannot be denied that to be homosexual in Uganda is somewhat dangerous these days and that this atmosphere of intolerance has been fuelled by extreme views by pastors claiming to be of the Christian persuasion.

So what? I hear you ask. Why do we care? Uganda is all the way over there and we are here and it doesn't affect us. Why don't the homosexuals just go to another country and leave Ugandan's to their ideas?

Well, let me just throw a few things out there for you.

1) This issue has been inflamed by the West stirring things up in Africa. This makes it our problem because it began as our problem.

2) Anything that hurts human rights for any human being should be our business. We are human. We don't like being treated like less human than other people. Therefore we should be really concerned if some people are being treated that way. Just as we now get upset if anyone claims that a black person is less human than a white person (which use to be law just fyi), we should be upset if someone says that a gay person does not deserve the same rights as a straight person. Saying that basically relegates the gay person as less human as the straight person. If you wouldn't like to be treated that way then you should be flipping upset if it is happening to someone else.

3) Why should people be kicked out of their country because they choose to live in a different way with a consenting adult? I am not talking about a crime that is dangerous and hurtful. Homosexuals are not paedophiles or dangerous to anyone. They just want to be treated as a human being who gets to choose their lifestyle. Why should they have to leave for that?

Now I need to state something before I go any further. I am a Christian and I do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle. I don't believe that being Christian and not agreeing with homosexuality goes hand in hand for many people, but for me they are linked. HOWEVER, my gay friends (yes, I do have them) know this and we are able to talk about our opposing views with love and respect. 

My views on homosexuality HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH my views on human rights.

And this is an issue of human rights NOT religion, faith, belief, sexuality or anything like that.

As a Christian, above and beyond everything else, I love God and I love others. 

To love others is to always, no matter the issue, stand with those who are being oppressed. It doesn't matter if they are being oppressed for being a woman, being black, being Muslim, being gay, or being a vegetarian. If someone is being oppressed, if their dignity and worth as a human being is being taken away and/or abused, then it is my duty as a Christian to stand with them, to speak for them, and to fight for them.

What is happening in Uganda to the LBGT community is WRONG. 

It is wrong that people are living in fear because of sexual orientation.

It is wrong that when I watch the above video I am ashamed of the Christians and being associated with them (on another note it is not wrong that I totally proud how Pepe dealt with that awful interview).

It is wrong that when I post pro gay statements on Facebook that I get slammed by Christians who see it as bad that I can support people fighting to be heard as equal human beings.

When Christians speak only about why we stand against homosexuality all we do is paint Christians with the homophobic brush. Everyone is well aware of how we feel about homosexuality by now. I don't think anyone is surprised when a Christian says that they don't agree with that lifestyle. Duh!

But to stand with the LBGT community as they fight for equal rights is something unheard of. It is something that has the potential to bring reconciliation and love between to opposing camps. It has the possibility of showing the love of Christ to those who are all to aware of what we stand against.

So I guess the last reason Uganda should be on our radar is because it is symptomatic of the arguments that are occurring between Christians and LBGT communities. It shows what happens when those conversations become part of law. It shows how hate can be taken to a national scale.

Uganda, if nothing else, should make us pause and think about what our words sound like to those who are LBGT and what impact that may be having on the wider global community.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Christine goes Carb Free

I have talked on this blog before about my problems with weight and weight loss (see here, here, here, and here for just some of my blogs on this). I am a big girl and have been for a decade now. I put on weight for a number of reasons and have tried to loss weight for just as many reasons. 

6 months ago I decided to try a different tack. Instead of combating the bulge by itself I decided to think like an addict. As an alcoholic I learned that moderation with alcohol doesn't work. As an addict to food I needed to work out what I needed to stay away from instead of looking at the end result. 

Sugar and carbs are basically my enemy. Refined carbs and sugar are more addictive than heroine and just as bad for my health. I am not capable of only eating a little bit, I am an addict. 

As such, I cut them both out of my diet completely.

The first week of that was absolute hell.

My diet was suddenly so boring! I was having bacon and eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch, and eggs and meat for dinner. And that was it. Every day. After a week I was able to put a few veges back into my diet but even now my diet is very limited compared to what it was.

I haven't seen much of a weight difference but I have noticed a lot of changes. I feel clearer in my head, and I feel healthier in my body. I have also noticed that I don't eat as much. When you are eating only meat you end up getting sick of eating before you get full. No more eating til bursting or feeling sick and bloated.

I feel a lot more natural in what I eat and a lot better for it. I haven't lost dramatic amounts of weight but I haven't put any on either and it is coming off, albeit slowly.

6 months down with only a couple of slip ups and I am feeling much better than when I have tried to moderate food alone.

It is hard though, especially because I love to feed people when they come to my house. I love to cook brownie and have people enjoy it. I also love to go out and eat at restaurants etc with friends.

This has been a little bit of a challenge but the majority of people I know have been so good and accommodating. My friends now tend to bring a diet drink with them when they come round so I can enjoy something too. We also now go to restaurants that have no carb options, like Nando's chicken.

I do still have moments of feeling left out though. I find it hard especially around ice cream. I love me some ice cream. And when everyone is around enjoying a yummy dessert I find it difficult. But the hardest times are when I am alone and emotionally vulnerable. It is then that I really struggle and long to go and buy a big block of chocolate or a big tub of ice cream and pig out. So far I have resisted and it is getting easier.

It has been a learning curve for me. I have chosen to view sugar as an addiction that is like alcohol, something that I must avoid in order to live well. That means that this is not a diet for a time but a lifestyle change. Viewing sugar this way has made it easier to live with but it has put me face to face with some of my demons and fears around weight. 

So if you are struggling with weight maybe it is time to stop acting as if diets are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and instead start acting on the addictions that keep you in your destructive life styles. It is helping me, in ways I never thought it would.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Gospel and Geordie Shore

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. This is due to the fact that I have been finishing my Masters Thesis. Now it is done!!! Handed in and everything!!! So now I am back and ready to look at life, the gospel and everything!!

Tonight I am home alone with a lung infection while my man goes out and plays a gig. That means that this lonely heart is flicking through the channels and wondering why there are so many crap shows on! I have hundreds of channels and nothing to watch!

Geordie Shore flicked across my screen and, like an idiot, I decided to kill a few brain cells by watching it. If you have never seen Geordie Shore a) don't and b) here is a short synopsis:

4 guys and 4 girls in Newcastle, England (also known as Geordies) are put into a flat Big Brother style and then they drink, have sex with each other, have dramas, and drink some more. It's quality stuff.

Maybe my lung infection has spread to my brain but I started to wonder why this show existed. Can that many people find this show interesting enough that it warrants not only this show but Valley Nights, Here Come the Geordies, and Ex On the Beach (all spin offs)?

The crazy thing to me about this show is the way that every single one of the members has sex with each other, despite having partners and/or sleeping with others of the team, and yet they all get upset about relationship failures. If one of the girls sees her man of the hour hooking up with another girl they go psycho with rage, but then do exactly the same thing back.

It made me wonder, what does the gospel say to people who live like this? How can Jesus reach people like this who spend most of their time drunk out of their minds and having sex with random people?

The funny thing is, I have quite a good insight into this as I was once one of those people. I like to think I wasn't as bad as these guys but the reality was that my life hung on alcohol and boys. 

What I recognise in this show is the desperation that all of these people have for someone to love them. Even if it starts with a one night stand, the reactions show that each of these guys and girls have a desire to be loved, to mean something to the person they are sleeping with. They pretend not to care when they get rejected or cheated on, but it doesn't quite work and they inevitably end up in tears or in a rage.

Ultimately, these people are lonely and desperate for love.

They fill their lives with alcohol and sex thinking that these two things will make them feel less lonely, make them feel loved. One girl said tellingly that she wasn't use to guys not paying attention to her so when a guy she liked ignored her she felt lost and confused. She has equated sex and sexual attention as love, and when that doesn't happen her whole understanding of herself and her life is called into question. 

The gospel would say to people like this that they are loved, that they don't need to give their body to find love. Yet, Christianity is not a faith that is based on extreme sensory experience. Faith does not feel like a drunken party, and being in love with Jesus is not the same as having someone sexually attracted to you. So faith can seem boring compared to a life full of sensual desire.

The challenge that we face in professing the gospel to a generation that is fuelled by drugs, alcohol and sex, is that we first need to explain what love actually means. We are speaking a different language to them when we say the word 'love'. To them love has always been used to get them into bed, as a way to manipulate. Love in terms of the gospel is the exact opposite of this. There is no manipulation involved, merely a desire to bring wholeness to a persons life.

So what do we do with that? 

I believe the first step is to live out gospel love at all times. Being Christians who get drunk or sleep with people outside of marriage is not necessarily bad for our own faith (though I would argue it still is) but actually shows people that our understanding of love through Christ is still not enough to overcome the sensual temptations of the world. Through our actions everyday we say whether or not the love of Christ is something that overcomes the world, or is merely something we profess with our mouths but not with our lives.

With people who spend their life seeing another, false form of love lived out, it is through our every day actions of real love that will show them a alternative that is worth living.

Too many Christians think that getting drunk and having sex with their partner outside of marriage is either ok, or not ok because the rules say so. But actually it is about whether or not the love of Christ is something we take seriously, that impacts our whole life and becomes a testament to a world that has gone crazy on its own desires.

Once we recapture what it means to be loved, then maybe we can start reaching those who are so desperate for it.

Perhaps it is when we start taking seriously the love of Christ in our own lives that this will start to impact the lives of those around us. We don't want to offer Christianity as a Jesusified version of a drunken party. We don't want people giving up drugs just to get high on the Holy Spirit. We believe that Christ's love offers an alternative to everything in life because it transforms life to the point where sensual desires are not the be all and end all.

I watch Geordie Shore and feel deeply sad for the young girls and guys on the show who don't know love and appear to have no one living it out in front of them. I pray that one day someone will be salt and light to those people, and until then I hope I can be the same for people I meet in my life.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Mother to Hold

Mother's day is coming up fast in New Zealand. It is a time of families celebrating the woman who brought them into the world. Churches around the country will be holding special services that have children handing out gifts to mothers and a sermon focusing on someone like Mary, the mother of Christ.

There is a lot of stuff around mothers happening around me at the moment. My new niece was born a few days ago. Many of my friends are pregnant and giving birth. My mother in law is battling cancer so my thoughts are with her a lot. Hubby and I are thinking about babies and when to start trying for them.

Mothers have such an impact on our lives, for good or bad.

And recently I have been missing my mum.

I have talked briefly about my breakdown in relationship with my parents without giving too many details. I don't think this is the place to vent my issues with them. But suffice to say that it is coming up three years since I have seen or had any contact with either my mother or father.

I love my parents deeply, we just have some issues that we can seem to sort out.

Every month or something hits me that makes me miss my mother like crazy.

This month it is mothers day.

It makes my heart hurt when I think about her. I feel empty and lost, like a part of me is missing. I wish that things could be different and we could talk about things but life is not like that. Things happen.

The thing I have been thinking about is around all of this.

Mother's day was created by a card company that wanted to make profit. The church in NZ has bought into it hook line and sinker. And though I admire the sentiment I think it is wrong.

It is wrong to have one day alone when we celebrate mothers. I think it is wrong because it puts pressure on all those people who don't have mothers, can't be mothers, or have issues with their mothers. It affectively isolates those who are already hurting by pushing in their face what they don't have.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to push my misery on everyone but being a grinch about mothers day. I am all for celebrating mothers. But I don't think that the church, a place that is (or should be) full of broken and hurting people, should be focusing on this topic when the rest of society already does.

I mean let's face it, if my church doesn't do mothers day, I am not exactly going to miss it am I. It is all over TV, shop windows, and magazines. I would have to live in a cave to miss the sales that are being pushed in my face to buy my mother things like diamond rings and dishwashers. 

Kids will still be able to get cards for their mums, make them breakfast in bed, and show love to the special woman in their life.

But church? Church should be at least one place where people can find solace for their pain. That on a day that might be really hard for people there is a place where they can go and not have it shoved in their face. Where grief is acknowledged as much as joy.

But the church doesn't do grief well. We don't know how to lament with others. Church songs tend to focus on how happy we are that Jesus has saved us, rather than the pain of still living in a fallen world. We emphasise one and totally ignore the other.

In the last 24 hours I have talked to three women who find mothers day hard. One cannot have children, one doesn't have children yet but really wants them, and one whose mother has passed. Each of these women go to church and each them told me how they would avoid church on mother's day. 

There is something wrong when the people who are hurting are avoiding church in order to avoid more pain.

It's time to rethink how we do this in such a way that we don't diminish the joy but don't ignore the pain either.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Enter Shikari, Exit Hope

Something strange has happened in my life.

I have always loved music, but have tended to favour artists such as Adele, Florence and the Machine, Il Divo, and perhaps a little Creed. 

Since marrying my husband however, this has changed radically. His metal music has influenced my musical tastes and now I say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my favourite album of all time is 'A Flash Flood of Colour' by the band Enter Shikari.


I love the hard hitting lyrics, the breakdowns, the vocals, the musicianship...everything really. Below is a sample of their lyrics. It is from my fav song of theirs, 'Ghandi Mate, Ghandi'. It contains swearwords (WARNING) but speaks so much truth about the evils of society today.

"Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think the primary purpose of your life, of my life and the entirety of the human race's is just to blindingly consume to support a failing economy and a faulty system. Forever and ever until we run out of every resource and have to resort to blowing each other up to ensure our own survival. I don't think we're supposed to sit by either while we continue to use a long outdated system that produces war, poverty, collusion, corruption, ruins our environment and threatens every aspect of our health and does nothing but divide and segregate us. I don't think how much military equipment we are selling to other countries, how many hydrocarbons we're burning, how much money is being printed and exchanged, is a good measure of how healthy our society is but I do think I can speak for everyone when I say, we're sick of this shit."

Time to mobilize
Time to open eyes.
We are not a quiet pocket of resistance
This is real, but we cannot afford to fail
Act with, act with persistence
This is real, but we cannot afford to fail
Army, establish order
Respect me and fear me
Fuck you! We have no respect
And when tomorrow comes
We're gonna step on your head
Woah, woah
Calm down, (calm down mate), calm the fuck down
Gandhi mate, remember Gandhi 
Alright, alright I'm fine

See if we keep them silent then they'll resort to violence
And that's how we criminalize change

Awww, yabba dabba do one, son
We don't want your rules
Who you fooling son, we've got all the tools
We need to build a whole new system
To correct these flaws

(You know what?)
I've already listed them
You're a communist
You're a fucking utopianist
Ah here come, the immersive labels
For their attempt, it fails

Cause man, we're so far out your comfort zone

We stop, think, begin to revive
We stop, think, begin to revive
We stop, we think, we begin to revive
We begin to revive

Put the call out to the frontline
Get the message out to the contact squad
Transmit emergency frequencies
Put the call out to the frontline
Get the message out to the contact squad
Put the call out, put the call out, put-the-call-ohhhhh

Oh and the jigsaw starts to build
Oh and the jigsaw starts to build

Piece by piece

Open their minds
Transmit emergency frequencies
Open their minds

Transmit emergency frequencies
Emergency frequencies
Emergency frequencies
Emergency frequencies
Emergency frequencies

While I love this song, and all their songs, I find that they leave something lacking. They speak of what is wrong, but they never offer any solutions. 

I have written the following as a poetic response to Enter Shikari. Remember, even though I seem to slam them, I really love this band and what they offer. I just think they stop short...

Enter Shikari, Exit Hope

Now I don't know about you,
But it seems the primary purpose of your life,
Is to spout anger and vitriol towards society
Without ever asking
What is the alternative to reality?
Your lyrics offer nothing
Except a prolonged mastication of verbal diarrhoea
That spurts forth with no direction
Covering everything and adding to the problem.
I don't think that we are suppose to sit
And blindly absorb the anger of someone else
Without asking the question that you never verbalise
Of "yeah, but what the hell do we do about it?"
When noise on airwaves
Takes up precious minutes of my day
I don't think we are meant to hear our own voices echoed at us
But rather an alternative solution
Yet what can you offer?

You see the problems and have no answer
Except to rant at the machine 
Created to serve us, which we now serve
Which holds you in servitude too
With no Saviour to help you.
By rejecting everything
You have rejected EVERYTHING
And by doing so ensured your slavery forever
Without any hope for relief.
Anger is your cry
Yet it is hollow and empty without any grounding.
You have sold out by raging against the sell outs
You have become a label that has nothing to sell
Other than pointless words of fury
Against the very people who buy your albums
Putting food on your tables.

So what is your answer?
What do you have to say to that?
Your assessment of society is sound, yet flawed
Due to the fact that you are flawed
And none of you see the truth.
For you missed it while staring at the faces around you
Missed the one who died to save them
Who raged against it all until death
And offered his own life to put it at an end.
You offer no Saviour
You offer nothing but empty sound bites.
He offers eternity, he offers life.
Enter Jesus, humanity learns to cope.
Enter Shikari, exit hope.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Thorn in my Side

Most people who know me describe me in similar ways (trust me, I know, I have asked). They say I am bubbly, outgoing, talkative, friendly, loyal, sometimes a bit know-it-all and controlling when I want things done my way (which is, of course, the right way!). I know my strengths and I know my faults.

I have learnt these things not just from talking to others but from the soul searching I have done over the last few years since my first marriage fell apart. I know what I like and what I don't like. I know to listen to my gut about things as usually my feelings are spot on, even when I don't have a logical explanation for them. I know I have a tendency to be competitive and aggressive in certain situations, so for the most part I avoid those scenarios. I have issues with food and weight, as well as other addictions that I have had to combat.

I am ok being honest about these things.

But there is something in my life that I am not ok with.

I don't talk about it.

I don't like to acknowledge it.

It makes me feel weak and useless.

And if there is one thing I don't like, it is feeling weak and useless.

It won't seem major to you guys. I know it seems like I am building this up, but I doing that less than I am just not sure how to say it without sounding stupid.

Because I get sick.

A lot.

I have migraines that put me in bed for a couple of days at a time. 

I have other days where my body shuts down and I can sleep the entire day.

If I don't do this I get migraines or illness or who knows what other ailments. 

For every two days I work/study I spend one day recuperating. 

And it pisses. me. off.

It also scares the bejeezus out of me. This is because when I was married the first time I was very mentally unwell. I was on a lot of medications to deal with what was going on in my head, and one of the side affects of this was that I slept. A lot. Like 20 hours a day, no jokes. I get terrified every time I feel tired that I am going back to that. That one day it will move from a physical tired to a mental illness tired and I will be back in the hell I lived in for years and yet, by the grace of God, managed to escape.

My ex also hated it. I get afraid that my hubby now will one day get sick of it just like ex did. That he won't be able to handle me being like this and will pull away from me and leave. I know that he isn't like that (one of the reasons I love him so much) yet the scars remain and so does the fear.

I get scared that I will not be able to achieve all I dream about doing. I feel like God has pulled me in certain directions to do certain things and yet I feel that my body is stopping me doing it. That makes me scared that I am hearing from God wrong or that somehow I will fail. In my theological mind I know that the God I know doesn't have a achieve/fail rating on people, but in my emotional mind I am afraid of letting God down. I have been given so much back, should I not being giving everything?

I am afraid that I will always be like this. I know that there are others out there with much worse health issues than me. Off the top of my head I can think of three people that I keep in contact with whose health issues cause them pain, are degenerative, or have them in wheelchairs. I also have a mother-in-law who is battling for her life against her own body, fighting against cancer. I am grateful that I have a body that can do what it does and a mind that is able to write a thesis and be mentally well. Yet I am afraid that I will never have enough energy for having children, working full time, doing ministry, and a variety of other things.

At these times I remember Paul and the thorn in his side. No one really knows what it was, but some educated guesses reckon he was going blind. For someone who relied on getting letters to people, that must've been a huge blow. He must have hated it. Yet he speaks of giving thanks in all circumstances, of praising God for what has been given. This man founded most of the early church and was going blind! And while that should give me hope, it makes me feel the pressure of my own expectations to do as well with or without my health issues. I mean, if a blind man could, why can't I?

Growing up in this world we are faced with too many expectations. I had them from my family. I remember distinctly being told that our family aimed to be CEO's, not the workers. And to some extent I am proud of that ethos, even if it is misguided. Then the rest of my life I have been bombarded with images of what it means to be the perfect woman, mother, wife, worker. At church I am told how to be a great mother but that also church people are involved in 101 church activities. Even now my pastor and his family (who are great people and whom I love very much) set the bar pretty high by being involved in so many things I don't think they actually sleep.

Yet when I tell people what I am struggling with I am told to take it easy, rest it worship, do what I can and no more. But this is at odds with everything else that the world is screaming at me, what I see in my church, and what I fundamentally believe about myself from what I grew up with.

So how does one accept where they are at? 

I was talking to my friend, and theologian, Immanuel Koks the other day about this. He is in a wheelchair because of dealing with Cerebral Palsy since birth. He is highly intelligent, gentle, and teaches me so much about love and peace just by being around him. I asked him how do I accept where I am at. He answered that it is less about accepting the illness and more about accepting the days when you don't accept it. In other words, it is ok to have days where you are pissed off, and you have to be ok with them.

Well people, I am pissed off.

And I am NOT ok with that.

I am not ok with not knowing each day if I will make it out of bed.

I am not ok with my hubby having to watch his wife have bad days.

I am not ok with this at all.

And what I am really not ok with is that this is most likely my fault.

That is right. I did this.

When I was mentally unstable I was on so many drugs I can't even remember all of their names. They were all drugs that affected my brain. And when I decided that life was too hard, I decided to try and OD on some of these potent drugs. I ended up in hospital, vomiting up charcoal they forced down my throat, being observed in ICU. The lethal dose I took of these pills and the type of pills they were means that there is a very high chance that I was the one who damaged my body.

I am to blame.

I don't know if I can put into words what knowing that does to me. I don't know if I can capture the regret and anger and frustration that I feel. I don't know if you will understand how that compounds all the other feelings of failure and guilt that I feel around this issue.

I believe in a God who takes away the sins of the world. I believe it and know it to be true. I know that I have been forgiven, accepted, healed, and delivered from my past just as effectively as if it had been someone else's life. Yet the repercussions remain and I feel bad for praying for healing because I feel I deserve the pain for what I did to myself. I feel like it is pay back.

I know that is wrong.

I know I am worth more than that.

I know if I was counselling someone else in this position I would be telling them that they were forgiven and don't have anything to pay back.

I know it.

So how do I believe it??

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why I am Safe from Serial Killers (and other stories)

Hubby and I love the programme Criminal Minds. We have all the seasons on dvd which we watch fairly regularly. We just got the latest season so most nights are spent curled up in front of the tv watching people learn new ways of killing others.

It's good fun.

I have learned a lot from this programme about how to avoid death at the hands of a serial killer. But what I have discovered is that I am in fact pretty safe from the psycho's that roam the world. 

Here are my top 5 ways that you too can be safe from serial killers:

5. Be a Snob
You are a social person who loves to meet new people. Well, stop it. Criminal minds has shown me that staying at home and avoiding people at all costs is really the only way to go. When you finally get to the desperate situation of HAVING to go out to get food, toilet paper, or any other essentials (and trust me, you can learn to live without a lot) then ignore anyone who may talk to you. Check out assistant asks how your day was? Avoid eye contact and say nothing. World Vision collector asks for your spare change? Scream, throw some newly acquired shopping at them, and run to your car. An old friend wants to catch up? Tell them (better to yell it at full volume) to leave you alone, you don't know them. Snobbing people could save your life.

4. Never, ever, under any circumstances, move to America
We all know that Americans are strange. But did you know, as Crim Minds has enlightened me, that all next-door neighbours in America are in fact psychopaths just biding their time? It's true! The nice old man to the sweet little child are all waiting to kill you! So avoid the whole country. It is simply easier that way. You just have to pretend that this very large country doesn't exist and then you will never want to visit it.

3. Stop exercising
That run that makes you feel really great is going to kill you, but not in the way that you think. Serial killers seem to hang out along running trails. They have their serial killer meetings in places where people will be jogging or biking or anything that involves exhausting your body and making you easy prey. Fit people are targets simply because they exercise. If you HAVE to exercise then make sure you do it in a group. But be warned, this too can be deadly unless you have police checked the backgrounds of everyone you are running with. Apparently it is most likely to be someone you know that kills you. You put that together with the whole serial killer obsession with running tracks and all I am saying is that you are gonna die if you keep doing this.

2. Shave your head
It is a well documented fact on Crim Minds that all the victims have perfect hair. Psychos love their hair do's. I mean who doesn't. So it is obvious that in order to avoid said killers, you should go home immediately and shave all your hair off. No crazy person wants to pick up a bald chick, it just doesn't happen. Some of the people on Crim Minds could be hair models!! All you will have to do when attacked it shine your gleaming bald pate at them and they will be the ones running away screaming. 

1. Get Fat.
This is my number one tip. It ties in nicely with number three, though number two may inhibit the amount you can eat to achieve this. All I am saying is that you never see a fat chick on the slab in the morgue. I may not be able to run fast from a person with a knife/gun/rope/taser but have you ever tried to move 140kg of dead weight? That sucker is never gonna get me in his car/van/basement. They are gonna give up after all of 5 seconds. If by some miracle they do manage to get me into their psycho pit of doom, there is the added benefit of a sharp instrument not penetrating as far into my body as with a skinny chick. I may survive a stabbing due to my bulk, whereas those skinny girls will definitely have a major organ hit. So start putting on the pounds people, it may save your life.

I can tell you without a word of a lie that these steps will save your life. I should now, I am a bald, fat, non-exercising, recluse who hates America. And I am safe from some tortured soul torturing me!!

I in fact did not go bald to save my life, but to support someone who is fighting for theirs. My mother in law has breast cancer (let me take this moment to say CHECK YOUR BOOBS LADIES). She is one stage below terminal and going through chemo at the moment. And her hair is falling out. Though this potentially is a bonus at keeping her safe from crazies, it is a difficult and emotional process and one that is not fun to go through.

When we saw how much she was struggling with losing her hair, hubby and I decided to shave our heads to show her that it is just hair, you can be bald and beautiful, and that we are with her every step of the way. 

I didn't think it was that big of a step before I did it, really I just though "woo, let's cut it all off!" Yet afterwards I realised a few things. Femininity, in our culture, is so tied to our hair that when I took it off I felt ugly, less of a woman, exposed, and...well, weird. I became worried that my husband wouldn't find me attractive anymore. I worried about going out into public because it felt like I had branded myself with "CANCER" on my forehead, even though i am not the one with it. I was emotionally rubbed raw, all from just losing my hair.

It has been eye opening to go through it though. I feel I am beginning to understand what my MIL is going through. I feel like I am getting an insight into what it must be like to not be able to hide your illness from others, to see them look, to see the sympathy in their eyes and yet have no one actually say anything about it. It is quite a journey and I have so much respect for the women who have to go through it. It has brought me so much more emotionally closer to my MIL, in ways I never thought would happen due to hair. 

Mama, we love you, and are praying for you.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gaming Crisis

As many of you know, I have spent the last year working on a thesis about video gaming and Christian ethics (for related posts see here, here, and here). Apart from this meaning that I haven't blogged consistently for a while, it has also lead me to conclusions that I never thought I would reach. I am, in fact, having a GAMING CRISIS.

When I first started out on my thesis, I was pretty sure I knew where I was gonna end up. I am a pacifist by faith and by nature and the violence that I saw on video games haunted me. Watching my hubby and his friends play Black Ops together really use to bother me, even though what they were 'killing' was a) zombies and b) pixels. My first inclination was to run away and hide.

So when I started talking to hubby and friends about their gaming I was pretty sure that it was wrong. I thought it only glorified violence and killing and that didn't sit well with how I understood my faith and the person of Christ. I also just didn't think it was normal for anyone, no matter what faith, to enjoy watching others get killed, pixelated or not.

I was a student who started on research believing I knew what the conclusion would be. Hopefully I am not the only one who has ever done that.

Colour me shocked when I realised about two months ago that I was changing my mind.

Thanks largely to the work of Kevin Schut and his book Of Games and God (if you are into this kind of stuff seriously spend the few dollars to get this book, it is epic and so well written and easy to understand!) I started to delve into the world of Christianity and gaming and the beauty that there is in this art form. Schut, to my delight, didn't gloss over the difficult questions of violence etc, but rather engaged with it in a way that showed deep commitment to his faith and deep consideration of his love of gaming.

In short, his book blew my mind....and changed my thesis.

I began to seriously consider if I was one of those Christians that I had always despised. You know the ones. They are outside stores that are selling GTA with signs telling people how evil gaming is. I never wanted to be one of those people and yet my attitude was such that I was closed off to the idea that gaming could be anything other than violent and disturbing.

Meet my gaming crisis.

It is rather like a faith crisis, when you suddenly realise that everything you ever thought about the Bible was actually taught to you by a broken human being and maybe they didn't have everything right and maybe, just maybe, you know nothing at all about anything. That was my gaming crisis in a nut shell. I realised that I had formed my biased opinions on a small segment of gaming that I had seen and then blindly applied that to everything without stopping to ask if I actually knew what gaming was.

I was adrift in an ocean of gaming uncertainty.

To some extent I am still there. My thesis is not complete. In fact I am due to start writing my concluding chapters next week. Though I am excited about the discoveries I have made, I am also very uncertain that I really know anything about what I am trying to say anymore. All I know is, my conclusion will not be the same as I thought it would be.

I guess that is the nature of true research.

I have even started to game a little. I have started with Skyrim as my first game because of the possibilities that it offers. I am not tied into a particular character, nor do I have to engage in killing if I don't want to. It is perhaps a baby step, but it is something. This has come about due to the fact that Schut argues that you can't engage with a medium if you aren't involved with it. My friend Kent will be face palming right about now as he has been saying this to me for years, and I simply ignored him, so sorry Kent, I guess I couldn't ignore it when it was in print from a scholar of media haha.

So where does this leave me??


Give me another two months to complete this thesis and I will get back to you. 

Just know, this crisis may end with me playing Black Ops after all.