Wanting

A few people have recently commented on my analytical mind. I do a thing a lot of the time where my mind will identify something as a problem, take it, and work it out [unfortunately, sometimes it does this with things that really aren’t problems, but oh well]. I can sit for hours on end, pondering how to fix something- once, I wrote sixteen pages over four hours just trying to figure out how to deal with something that might or might not happen. Planning and thinking makes me feel better so I don’t get shocked by anything, due to the fear that I won’t be able to deal with it. Therefore, everything in my world is gone over with a fine tooth comb.

While you may be able to tell how much I think about things just from reading my blog, I don’t understand why so many people accept this but don’t recognise how far it reaches. A comment I get too often that I’m smart, but Christianity makes no sense. It’s a crutch, it’s illogical, God can’t exist, and if he does, he’s not worth following. And they look at me, and believe that my entire life is a paradox, because I overthink where I’m going to stand, how I’ve phrased sentences, and if one eyeliner wing is bigger than the other, and yet am a Christian.

Well, friends, I am many things, but I try to avoid being a hypocrite.

Like everything in my life, I have gone over the religion and God I have chosen to follow with a fine tooth comb.

Christianity isn’t a crutch. I grew up with Christian parents, yes, and they had the amazing influence of teaching me about a God that loved me. But they never forced it upon me, and I have found God in so many other ways in my life. I know many people who grew up with Christian parents and rejected God, and many Christians who didn’t have God until much later in their life.
I knew from the beginning of life that life would continue to be hard, no matter if I had a God or not- indeed, it might be worse because I chose to follow Christ. I’ve been bullied, mocked, and unable to date certain people simply because I have the word Christian written across my forehead and embedded in my heart. I knew that was coming, and yet, even before I knew who Jesus was, that surely it must be worth following him. My parents are disabled, particularly my mother, and yet told me stories of hope from when I was a little girl. A strange story is that even before I became a Christian, the Gideons came to give Bibles to us at school. One girl looked at it and said “why would they give us this piece of shit?” and I began to cry. It was maths, I was at the front of the room, and I bawled in front of everyone. I didn’t know why it meant so much to me, as I didn’t even understand or think about God that often, and yet what she had said about this man, and his word, struck me. I knew there was going to be more of that, I knew life would still be tough, but examining the lives of those around me who had decided to follow Christ, I went over it and over it and decided to look into this God. Having been a Christian for six years now, and following in the footsteps of those who have been Christians for many more, I can honestly say, I have not found the lifestyle wanting.

Christianity is illogical [because] God can’t exist. This was a big step, and I had a listen to those for and against. I didn’t assume anything, because I never assume anything. I looked into people who had set out to write books against God and turned into Christians. I looked into the science behind a God of imaginative creation. I listened to all the arguments that my friends had to throw against him, and I realised that funnily enough, all of the answers for those were pre-downloaded into my brain. I could think of an argument for every bit of offence, and weirdly it made my faith that much stronger. I knew the Bible backwards- I was an annoying know-it-all kid, also spurred on by my need to know about things before I accept them- and it made sense to me. For those who read the Bible, I encourage you to look at it with an open heart and blank mind. Look at devotionals or talks by others who have analysed what it’s trying to say. There is so much meaning behind every word, it would take a lifetime to understand and know all of it, but I certainly tried and have continued to learn more from it about God. I continue to let myself be challenged by what it says, and that the world is just God’s work on show. Romans 1:8 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” God does exist. I have come out of every search, every trial, fully believing this. I have the rest of my life to continue to find that in all of its honesty, but Jesus said he is the truth. This is real. I have investigated, and this is what I have found, with one hundred percent certainty. God is real. As Sherlock Holmes often said, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

And finally that, even if God does exist, he shouldn’t be followed. Christianity is dedicating your entire life, all you are, to this God and the way of life he dictates. To assume that anyone would undertake that lightly is folly. I looked into what Jesus asked me to do- love my enemy? Forgive those who sin against me? Allow myself to be changed by him? This was going to be tough. I need to make it as explicit as possible that this wasn’t something that took a day to decide, or weeks. It has taken me years to accept everything, and will take me my entire life to become the person the Bible says I need to be. I continue to think about this, and to simply dismiss Christianity as something people do just because their parents did or because it seems cool is not discovering true Christianity. I took Studies of Religion so I could fully understand what other people do and who and how they worship. I will probably do a theology course. I go to church not because it’s expected but because I actually want to find out what the Bible is trying to say and why [I encourage the curious to do the same]. But the truth is that I looked over God and the Bible again and again, and unlike so many things in my life that have disappointed me and let me down- people are only human, after all- I have never found God wanting. I have never been disappointed by him, never been left alone, looking back at all the times I felt so lonely. This God sent his son to die for me. Jesus exists, there is proof. He was an amazing guy, many people would agree. He taught a lot of people a lot of things. But he didn’t come for that reason, but to die for me, and you. This is a God of love. And I have been over every book of the Bible, and looked at all the acts God has committed in the past. I watch the news, keep updated with the suffering going on around the world, and have experienced suffering myself. And yet, I have never found this God wanting, but only myself wanting this God. That’s why I follow this God. This God that created me, and loves me, and died for me. Because I have looked high and low, and near and far, and found God.

I have thought about this, a lot. I encourage people to do the same- there is no reason not to. God is big enough to handle our questions, and our anger, and our fear. He can do anything, and we can do all things through him. So ask, seek. All I can say is that although I think, analyse, criticise, I have never wanted more, but have been overwhelmed by the God of more than enough. I have been left not wanting, but with the realisation that I am wanted.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7

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Being Schooled by some Primary Kids

This week I led a Primary School camp for the first time, and gee. Just wow. [I could probably start a Camp Kedron fan page with all that they’ve done for me, and all that I write about them. Anyway.]

I think that the main things I learned from this week can be summarised in three points.

Firstly, I learned that God has a plan.
This may sound a little weird, and I’ve got to point out that I was aware of it before, but this week it was truly lain before my eyes in a way that was crystal clear. Ironically, the talks for the kids were about God having a plan, but I’ve got to say, I didn’t get it from the talks. Lead by an amazing director, I came to realise, watching the nine little girls in my cabin and doing a bit of maths that God has been working a plan in my life and has a plan for everyone’s lives. Let me explain.
I’ve wanted to lead camp for years. Literally since the first time I went to a camp, at the age of say, six, I realised that I wanted to be exactly like my leaders. Then, in year 10, I went to leadership camps, talked to whoever I could get my hands on, trying to get into leading somehow, and yet, as all of my friends began to lead, it never happened to me. So, when I got the call from the director asking what I was doing these holidays, approximately 28 days before the beginning of my HSC, I wondered what God was doing. I don’t miss opportunities, but on the other hand, I’ve got enough on my plate. I decided just to go with it, as I find is the best to do with God’s plans, and found myself on camp, clutching my revision booklets and highlighters, wondering what was going to happen. It turns out my co-leader was a woman of God who I had in January as my leader and was now here to encourage me in a completely new way, and who I could now support and work with- she had spontaneously decided to accept the invitation to lead, and they’d immediately put us together as a team. The rest of the team were amazing young people, and I realised that, being in year 12, I’ve effectively finished high school camps and leading now means that I can straight away transition so I never have to pause going to camp [which is, in itself, something to thank God for]. I had an amazing time, got some studying done, encouraged some people, and weirdly, got more strengthened than weakened for the weeks of studying ahead. God has a plan. [There’s the maths bit.]
Speaking of plans, it was also pointed out to me that God’s word never goes back to him empty handed.
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:11]. Now, I’ve read that verse before, but this week began to ponder it. There seems to be this mentality amongst Christians that every time we bring a friend to church, that’s it. We’ve got one chance to convert them in case they never come again, and it was like that for me at the beginning of camp. I thought, I’ve got these girls now, and I’ve got to do all I can to make sure they want to follow Jesus- this is important. But the director said something at the very beginning that stuck with me for the entire week and will continue to stick with me. We, as leaders, friends, mentors, aren’t there to fully convert. Just to plant seeds, or water whatever is already there. One day, when God is ready- when it’s in his plan- those seeds will flourish, due to our hard work now, even if we can’t see the fruit of our labour yet. God has a plan. Light bulb moment.

I learned a lot about myself.
I figured that I would learn from camps directed at me and sort of teach, I suppose, to my campers, but in so many ways, they taught me. There was one moment in particular, when I was being awkward [as I am], dancing around, and one of the girls just grabbed me and showed me how to “whip” [if you don’t know what that is, be prepared for a song that will get stuck in your head.] [However, apparently everyone knows what that is, and how to do it, apart from me. I have received adequate education.] I then went outside for a breather, and got into a really spontaneous conversation with a boy I didn’t know about God, and his greatness. I was continually surprised this week by children this week, as, despite my hatred of categorising and stereotyping, I’d really forgotten just how amazing, deep and beautiful kids can be, mixed with a confidence, fun and energy I’d somewhat also forgotten. I was reminded of my ability to and love of making kids laugh, my confidence was stretched and my faith was tested as I tried to answer everyone’s questions in a loving way, recognising so many of the struggles I went through. It was strange, in a way, to be a leader, when leaders were always people that I’d looked up to as role models. I guess at the beginning of the week, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to achieve it, but to be honest, once the week gets into the swing of it, your head is too full to be worried about such things. I got to day one, decided to give Jesus the wheel, and by the end, I realised God had pushed me to be the best I could have been.

Finally, the thing that I learned this week was the importance of what I was doing.
I guess I sort of went into camp thinking it would be a fun week hanging out with some kids and answering any questions they had on Jesus, but by the end of it, I was hit by how important camp, or children’s ministry- really just ministry is. The girls in my cabin had so many questions and misconceptions about Jesus, and what it was all about- they were so unaware of his love for them, while about half of my cabin had ended up at camp just by the hand of God- from non-Christian backgrounds with no clue what was going on. Talking to them about this unconditional love that we become so comfortable with, so familiar with, and seeing this awe come across their faces was an insane experience, and kindled this immense longing in me to see them truly meet him. Today, the speaker to the kids began with the idea that if each of them became Christians and, later on leaders, how much Christianity could grow, and the camp could too- this outreach, just spreading across the world. That was an amazing image to have. I reckon that it’s too easy to lose sight of why we’re doing this- you just get up in the morning, and, unless you have a specific reason to share the gospel, such as being in church or running some sort of group, you just sort of forget about Christ during the work day. But, looking into the glistening eyes of nine beautiful young girls, I realised how much they needed a loving God who would stick by them through the next few years. I was in a position to help them with that, and that was an incredible honour. This week showed me that, and the importance of being in that position. I truly hope I never forget it.

So, wow. This week. Not even a full seven days, it was just amazing. I had a great time with some awesome girls, a wonderful co-leader [I’m running out of synonyms for all the super people I met this week] and some sweet other leaders and directors.

Now, when can I do it again?

Categories

I am a white, half Asian [a.k.a. “halfie”], Christian, feminist, Australian, heterosexual female, with a particular interest in music, children’s ministry, and fandoms [eg: MerWhoLock and Game of Thrones].

Categories.

I hate them.

Categories suck because everyone feels like they need them to belong somewhere, but sometimes they stop us from connecting with people who don’t line up with our categories. What would I possibly have in common with an African American muslim male who doesn’t own a television? How will I ever find out?

But, by far the worst thing about categories, are the ones you don’t give yourself.

Quiet.

I hate the word quiet. It’s on half of my school reports, and is the word that I use to figure out which of my teachers doesn’t really know me. I particularly hate the word “quiet”, because it’s not how I see myself yet it defines so much of my life. Once someone thinks they know which category you fit into, it’s very hard to get out of it. For me, “quiet” is the word that’s said in with a dodgy look across dinner tables, behind hands or with a laugh over the shoulder without a second thought, but once it’s out there, it’s out there. “Oh, she’s quiet.” I think everyone has these words- “fat”, “ugly”, “dumb”, “silly”, “bad”, “wrong”. Categories we don’t want to be in.

I’ll admit, I’m a little uncomfortable around new people. But if you start a conversation with me, I can natter on for ages. I think it’s the thing with a lot of introverts and anxious people- we love being talked to, because we don’t know how to talk to others. But quiet suggests I want to be, and I don’t. It’s perhaps an easier label than “slightly awkward with a great love of talking to people but terrible social skills”, but it doesn’t mean I’m quiet. I hate this category because it’s dismissive- it means that conversations aren’t started, because people think they aren’t wanted or won’t be continued. My message is this: never avoid talking to someone because they can’t talk to you.

I think this category comes with a lot of tags too. When you categorise people as you want, without actually getting to know them, you unintentionally assume a lot of things about them. Is she quiet because she’s stuck up? Because she’s mean? Sometimes when I start off teaching kids, they think that I just don’t get excited about anything, because I’m quiet, and therefore that I don’t care. Then, when I praise them, or we play a game and I’m running around like a headless chicken, they get the shock of their lives. However, it’s not always that I’ll get the opportunity to show off my enthusiasm and often sheer insane happiness, and I get the overwhelming feeling that people leave social situations with me thinking that I’m just… well… quiet…

Weird

This one I’m pretty proud of, but I sometimes recognise that it’s not a positive thing in everyone’s eyes. I knew that displaying my personality outwardly would cause categorising. In case you’re reading this and don’t know what I look like, I have bleached blonde hair [as of last week], an industrial piercing, a cartilage piercing on the other ear, and a pixie cut. I also have a preference for collared shirts and jeans instead of skirts [side category, “tomboy”]. Categorising means that not a lot of people know why. I’ve got to say, in testament to the awesomeness of people, after one conversation, many people don’t care. But not getting to know someone because you’ve immediately judged them weird means you miss out on a lot. I got my hair cut because long hair is impractical and I was sick of being compared to my very feminine cousin at dinner parties. I got my piercings because I wanted to show my Sunday School kids that they can be whomever they please [we all go to an Indonesian church with somewhat conservative thinking] [they all knew that was never going to fly with me, but I figured I’d make it clear].  I wanted to challenge their ideas of “Christians”, and what girls can and can’t be.

In conclusion, have a conversation with someone, please. We make snap judgements and can’t help it, but what we can help is what we do with those judgements. Talk to the quiet people, approach the person you usually wouldn’t approach. This is 2015, and as a society we should be ready to move past the traditional norms of interaction. If you want to talk to someone, then do so. If we can get past these judgements, maybe we can find out more about the person behind the face. As someone who often feels glanced over as someone put in the wrong categories, I know I speak for a lot of people saying I’d appreciate it.

Food for thought.

RUOK?

Scrolling through the friends that are online at the moment, it occurs to me just how few of their stories I actually know, and just how many I feel uncomfortable actually saying hello to. After this post, I’m going to go and start as many conversations as I can because, hey, yolo, but I wanted to say this quickly first. 
The words “are you okay?” hold power. 

Around July and September last year I went through a really rough patch. I lost the people that were closest to me in a teen flick style split from the group, and I really wasn’t emotionally prepared for it. What had happened ran through my mind a million times and, with no outlet, snowballed until I was considering some stuff that I had hoped would never cross my mind. All I wanted was for someone to ask me if I was okay, but every time they did, I plastered a smile on my face and nodded. 

Why?

 Because I didn’t want to be a burden? 

Because I didn’t think they really wanted to hear? 

For me, it was because at the time I thought that if I was alone, I should make it a choice rather than something that was happening to me. I should distance myself from the rest of the people I loved because I couldn’t bare to lose them. I was being bullied, and I couldn’t help that, but I wasn’t helping myself, I realise that now. However, during that time, I don’t know where I would have ended up without the people that kept asking me if I was okay. Because just them asking, no matter what my response was, let me know that I wasn’t alone. I was reminded with every instance that I had people who wanted to be let in through the walls I had built around myself, and, with their persistence, I started letting them in. I started seeing a counsellor, and trusting people again. I realised that it wasn’t so much that people weren’t listening as that I wasn’t talking. They took not just the first step but the first handful, and that’s how I’m not only still here, but stronger. I went through another break up a few weeks ago, and it didn’t hurt as bad. I had a stronger community around me, ready to catch me. I knew who to turn to- the people who had been there the first time round were there the second time round. 
If you’re in the position to ask someone if they’re okay, please, do so. If they say they are, remember that asking isn’t confined to today, but a part of being their mate. If they say they aren’t, recognise that admitting you’re hurt is one of the hardest parts of being hurt. Listen. 
If you’re on the flip side, take it one day at a time. Seek help, and when it’s freely given to you, take it. I was on the ground for a long time because I was too weak to stand up, but when I lifted my eyes, I realised I was surrounded by people ready to help me to my feet.

Dating Non Christians

It bugs me when people say there are things you can and can’t do in Christianity. There’s no can’t in Christianity [well, if you rearrange the letters a little bit…], and I’ll always go back to “everything is permissible”. However, as I grow a little older, I’m starting to realise the reason Paul tagged a “but” on the end. “But, not everything is beneficial.” Well, Paul’s hit the nail on the head, because dating a non-Christian, I gotta say, fits into that category.

I’d like to point out here that this is a post for Christians. If you’re non-Christian, you’ll probably be happier dating a non-Christian- just reverse all of the reasons I’m about to list. And if you’re a Christian, this is just a suggestion from personal experience, as most of the things I say on this blog are. But I ignored a lot of advice before I started dating, and I got myself into strife I realise I could have avoided. So maybe this post is worth a scan.

Basically, the first problem I came across was morals. There is the common misconception, as I’ve talked about, that Christianity is just a set of rules. That’s not true. But God has set out a few guidelines. I don’t think that any of them mention who you should or shouldn’t marry, but they do say that these guidelines for how you should live your life are pretty darn important.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” Deuteronomy 11:18 [NIV]

The Bible says we ought to stand our ground, albeit respectfully and in love, so when it comes to choosing the person that you’re essentially looking to spend the rest of your life with, it was never going to be easy picking one who does not have these same guidelines. I fought, tooth and nail, over everything, because it was important to me, and a part of me hoped that maybe something would go off in the guy’s head, and he’d see a light. That God is real, that he loves usthat you should follow the rules of the Bible, that the Bible isn’t outdated. Let me tell you- fighting with friends isn’t easy, but fighting with the guy you are falling for is exhausting. I couldn’t sustain the level of energy I needed to keep explaining my entire life, and its foundations, especially attempting to keep patient and not swear or lose my temper. Something I think many Christians need to understand is that, as important as these beliefs are to us, so are others opinions to them. This is why, by the way, missionary dating doesn’t work- because once you’re in a deep relationship, the other person is blinded by you and it’s never going to be easy pointing them to something else. It is only when you are looking at someone who the Bible says you will become one person with, that this becomes pivotal to the relationship. It took me a while, but I finally realised that, with the person most important in the world to me, I shouldn’t have to fight.
We should be encouraging each other in love, challenging each other in the Word, not on it.

Then there was time. You’ve only got so much time, and some of that is God’s.

“For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the LORD.” Exodus 35:2a [NIV]

You need to be connected in your church life, even if that means only going on Sundays. This is to build your faith and strengthen yourself in a community of worshippers. Learn from others, sing and praise. However, many non-Christians don’t get this sense of devotion. I mean, do you have to go every Sunday? My schedule includes youth, Sunday school every second week and church every Sunday. The problem is that the guy or girl you’re dating will want your time too. They won’t understand why your Friday night and Sundays are taken up- two prime days for dating and going out. And they might even challenge you to start missing it. So, either they miss out or you do. And that’s not fair. Some of the most painful words I had to deal with were “so, God’s more important than me?” to which my only answer was, “yes.” By the end, I was tempted to say no, and that’s when I knew I was in a bad spot. Because God needs to be more important.

“He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind‘; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27

And you deserve someone who understands that. Furthermore, someone you met at Church comes with the added bonus of already going to church, and therefore you get to spend more time together. Don’t force yourself to have to choose, especially over someone who doesn’t get why they’ll always come second.

Then comes love and lust. I’m going to make this quick, like a band aid, but it needs to be said- the odds are you’re going to end up with a non-Christian who wants to have sex. We live in a sexual society where pre-marital sex is encouraged, and seen as a way in which any couple can get closer to each other. It needs to be done to be real, apparently. Most Christians will firmly say that you should have one sexual partner, and the best way to ensure that is to wait until marriage. Once again, it’s not good for you to constantly be tempted if you want to remain celibate, and it’s not fair to them to have to wait if they don’t have the same mindset and don’t want to remain celibate. Don’t get into the situation. It’s not good, and it will hurt if you fall in love first, and have to deal with how far you can go later. It’s like getting in a car and driving without a destination. You’ll probably end up lost.

My final point is this. To continue that car metaphor, you don’t usually get in a car without a destination anyway, right? And what is your destination as a Christian?

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

You want to help people find their way to God, and live a life glorifying him. I don’t think that a non-Christian partner helps with this at all. At the end of the day, dating a non-Christian was amazing in many ways, none of which had anything to do with religion. We had other things in common, other interests, but none of them were the most important thing in my life. The most important thing in my life was something that he couldn’t relate to, and something he didn’t want to help with. I mean, I didn’t expect him to, but when I think of the man I want to marry, I want to marry a guy who wants what I want. Who wants to work in ministry, spreading the gospel. One I can discuss Bible verses with, and go to church with. A man who’ll raise kids with me who know that Jesus loves them. And that guy needs to be a Christian. This is the message I’m trying to get across.

You may find a wonderful person, who is great in every other way. But something that had to be pointed out to me is that God has the best in store for us. He doesn’t deal in half done jobs. He has someone out there for all of us who will be just who we need, and we need someone who loves Him. God will provide- he has amazing plans, no matter how good this plan may seem.
This plan may end in pain, friend. For me, it really did.

So wait,
trust,
pray.

They’re out there.
They’re coming.