Together. Always

This year I’ve come to understand what it means to be content. Not complacent but being able to look at my life and smile truthfully. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, in fact this has been one of if not the most challenging year of my life. I’ve had to balance multiple commitments with work, church, fellowship and a thesis that may have robbed me of most of my brain cells and self esteem.

What’s responsible for this contentment has honestly been the faith community I’ve found myself in. Not only did I find a women’s fellowship which has taken me leaps and bounds over the limits I had put on myself and my relationship with God, but I’ve found a community of young people where Christ knits us together in love and fellowship. Both groups have lifted my confidence in myself and have helped me address my own insecurities. They’re not the reason I’m writing though.

I watch a lot of faith conference talks, apologetics and sermons on YouTube and on occasion I’ll look into the comments. YouTube comments 80% of the time contain the less attractive traits of humanity but these video are almost always filled with encouraging comments and thought filled discussions. On one such occasion there was a plea from a 13 year old boy who explained how he kept trying to follow Jesus and be good and holy but he felt like he was never good enough for God’s love. My heart broke for him because if you’ve ever been accused of being too hard on yourself this boy was exactly that.

The response was the most honest out pouring of love for this boy who felt so alone and so persecuted in his own heart. I commented as well and afterward he wrote to me in thanks. I told him that I could empathise with his fears and that the response from all those who commented was exactly what family is. The church is a family. Not the building, not the denominations, not the arguments but the individuals who live and love Jesus are a family. God through his love gave us a family we never would have thought to ask for. Brothers and sisters who want to walk with us on the path to holiness and people who genuinely want to see us get to heaven.

I was telling my dad about the youth group I’m part of and when I described it to him these were my words:
“There’s such a genuine atmosphere of love and acceptance. I think this is what it was like for the early Christians. They were a community of believers who loved God and each other.”

I really believe the Holy Spirit gave me that.

It’s because of this experience that I’m so passionate about church. It’s not just time out of your week to sing some songs, say some prayers and listen to a encouraging words. It’s an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries and be part of a community that doesn’t pressure us to be anything other than what God made us. It’s friendship, faith and family.

It doesn’t always play this part and no church is perfect, they’re all lacking in something but they are human. If God is the foundation then they will not fall and instead He will raise them up.

We all need to get our churches to that place. As individuals we need to be those people who love, encourage, serve and support all leaders in the faith not just those in our respective churches and denominations.

Family doesn’t begin in the united joys of heaven. It begins in the day to day wanderings of this life. Take from this what you will saints, but all I ask of you is to love. Love like Jesus. Love like a friend who would give everything up for the sake of a neighbour.

Singleness: the ongoing struggle

I’ve been wanting to write a post about singleness and contentment for a while and it’s funny that I’m writing it now when I’m really frustrated by my singleness and contentment is out galavanting somewhere else.

One of my closest friends has disconnected with our network of young women because she’s had enough of hearing about dating and being a ‘Ruth’, that it actually drove her into depression. If she’s pursuing all these things then how come the Hagars of the world are getting all the guys?

I’ve been in a similar place when I see women who choose differently with regard to chastity or modesty and they’re the ones metaphorically ‘bringing all the boys to the yard‘. It can really get a girl down. Plus I’ve had my hopes dashed more times than I dare to count by unrequited affections. In that respect God’s shown me that I still have a lot to improve upon. There are things He needs me to work on while I still have that freedom.

What concerns me though is how in our women’s network there’s constant talk about getting married and finding a husband. There’s plenty of independence in there as well. A lot of encouragement for building yourself up and taking the bull by the horns so you don’t have to start doing that post marriage.

One thing I appreciated about my growth in church was that we knew and were reminded that marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-5), but we were also taught that not everyone’s going to get married and that’s okay. Amongst Catholics there’s an understanding that people will either be priests, religious (nuns, brothers, friars, etc), married or single. Three of these vocations will mean a life of celibacy and serving God (1 Corinth 7:7-8) the latter of which is possible in married life but this is why it’s a vocation, it’s a way you’ve been called to by God.

It’s now that I’ve come to network with more Pentecostal, Evangelical, non denominational etc Christians that I’ve been perplexed by the emphasis on people finding a spouse. There’s plenty of spiritual teaching but dang if someone doesn’t mention a spouse at least once during a session there’s something up. It makes me wonder why this is the case. I know other denominations don’t have priests or people serving from a religious order, but why is it so alien to have someone led to a life of singleness?

Not everyone in the Bible got married. A lot of them just dedicated themselves to God until they went to heaven. This is the whole thing about priests and the religious. The 12 Apostles didn’t get married (or if they did it wasn’t recorded in Scripture), they just lived and died for the faith. I’d love that level of being enamoured with the Father so much that it stilled that occasional ache for my other half (wherever he is).

I’m not saying the Catholic way is the way everyone should go, that’s between each person and Jesus, but I do think the other denominations could learn something. We’re all pursuing that same satisfaction in the Lord (Psalm 42), chasing holiness and if we can help each other along the way that would be great. We’d be showing each other a lot of grace.

19/10/16 I’ve since made a Spotify playlist for the days when singleness doesn’t feel like a blessing. If you’re interested here’s the link Content & Beloved

 

“I choose the sky”

We’ve all had or heard of that one Facebook friend who sees their Facebook friendship as so invaluable that they can bend your will. I mean the ones who write things like
“If you don’t support *insert cause here* then unfriend me”.
I’m often left sitting there with a blank expression on my face followed by an ‘okay’ and an unfriending.
Right, let me be honest. That’s only happened once. The unfriending part.

A guy I studied with, who is one of those guys who’s so cool he reminds me of the ‘cool kid’ in American college movies, is the latest to post something like that. It was a short address on how freedom of speech cannot justify speaking against same sex marriage  (SSM), refugees, supporting blackface etc.

Now the latter two I get it, and this coming from a white Australian I admire him for understanding why these are issues that can strip a person’s humanity. It was the SSM bit that got me and I sighed.

The one other person I remember deleting for using the line mentioned above had the same issue with people who don’t support SSM. I wasn’t friends with her so removing her didn’t faze me but with this guy it’s different. We were friends in the loose sense of the term at one point. So when I read his post, the cynic in me sighed and started getting ready to unfriend him but the rest of me stopped.

Why? Because I still want to be friends with him. That doesn’t mean I’m going to compromise my faith though. No relationship on this earth is worth me adapting or accommodating my faith to make someone else like me more.

Then I thought about this issue of freedom of expression and let’s be honest, it’s not real freedom. There’s an understanding throughout humanity that unadulterated freedom would create pandemonium. Exhibit A: the internet.

The only true freedom I could think of is our freedom of choice. Regardless of what laws or moral codes exist we always have the freedom to choose whether or not to do something. Each day is us making choices, some for our livelihood (will I sleep now? will I eat now? etc) and other choices are those that affect people (will I kill someone? will I park across three parking bays? etc). From that stems our understanding of right and wrong together with what we’re taught.

Which makes things interesting when someone makes up this definition of right and wrong according to their own experiences and perceptions. Thus what’s right for you may not necessarily be right for me.

My ‘right and wrong’ come from God and my views will change when His do. Which leaves me looking at my friend wondering if he understands why I don’t agree with him on the issue of SSM.
There needs to be a point of understanding rather than the argument that I ‘don’t want everyone to love and be loved’. Of course I do! Have you met Jesus? He is literally the embodiment of love and I strive to be that every day. But how are you defining love? It’s not just a feeling. It’s a sacrifice. It’s the Cross. In a marriage, it’s a reflection of Christ and the Church aka His Bride. If that’s not the definition you believe in then we may not believe in the same love.

It’s a hard battle but when it comes down to it, in the face of unpopularity vs losing my place in heaven to go with the popular view, in the words of Emily Wilson “I choose the sky.”

People and the Screen

Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

The verse above contains two things that have made me wonder. A thought occurred to me and I was hoping some of you could help me think of the answers; God speaking in first person plural and man having dominion over all the earth.

I believe that most of us would know that God’s referring to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, they are a single God in three persons. An amazing mystery which I won’t go into today. What struck me is the sense of community. God is not alone, nor is Jesus nor the Holy Spirit. They never have been alone and never will be because they are together in one. When God created Adam all was well except the fact that he was alone and so he made Eve. Together they formed a community and it was good. As creations of the Almighty God we’re not designed to be alone which is why we live in a society and go crazy if we’re in solitary confinement or just alone for too long.

Facebook and social sites are leading to rises in the cases of depression globally and thanks to the internet more and more people are finding it difficult to handle social situations in person. My question is do you think this could be some sort of decay or diversion from what God intended? People are spending more time alone and less time with each other and it has led to real life problems in families, relationships, etc. By trading community for a ‘manicured screen personality’ do you think we may be moving away from God’s will for us as His creations?

I’d be very interested in hearing what you have to say and your general views.

I pray that God continues to bless you all and that you may call to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead you in everything that you do. Make God your compass and go where He points you.

*I’ll address the second thought in a follow up post.