Come

I guess the big thing about mission is that a lot of it is out of my hands. 
As much as I can pray and organise and beg for people to donate to my cause, it’s still has so little to do with me whether it’s all accomplished. When I asked for prayer from my friend, she said she wouldn’t even pray that it would be a success because she was so sure that God had plans for it to be good. As reassuring as that was meant to be, it just stirred panic. Christians dance the line between trusting God to fulfil his promises and imploring him to (read any Psalm and you’ll see it’s been a problem for a while). Do my plans match up with Gods? So often, it feels like the only instruction we are given is to jump and fall, praying that he will catch us.
After I am pushed to trust God, then there are the people. For all my pleads and posts, I’m depending on the generosity of those around me. I can have amazing music for my band night and no one to play for. We can make hundreds of cakes and have no one to eat them. 
As much as I am willing to go out and be active and work my fingers to the bone, I’m quickly learning that mission is as much about come as it is about go. Hoping that God would dwell in the midst of a scary situation. Praying that people would turn up when I’m in need. 
When we first set out to fundraise, my lecturer said something that has stuck with me ever since. Peoples response to need will either encourage you or break your heart. While I watch the dismal numbers of my invitations slowly rise, and pray for just one more person to click come (and actually, you know, come), I am shocked by the surprising generosity from places I wasn’t even looking to. As I am called to go, so I realise the need to come.

Mission isn’t something you can do by yourself. It’s like watching a pianist compared to a walking one man band. Everything needs to work together just to get one seemingly simple thing to happen, and that’s terrifying. As humans, made in the image of a God that is in control, we don’t enjoy feeling helpless. But as humans, made under a God who is in control, we can find rest. Similarly we’re brought up to be independent and self sufficient but people neglect to mention that sometimes you just can’t be.
And then there is the actual mission itself. As I think about going overseas with people that on one hand are my friends and on the other hand I feel like I still barely know, I’m being stretched even at the thought of being away from home for a month. Going through training makes me realise how little I actually feel equipped to do this. The amount of trust that is put in those around you, unspoken, that they will support and watch over you. Once again I’m reminded of the one man band, each member doing their own job to make one perfect song, God the conductor. Looking straight ahead,we all take a step forwards and hope everyone else is moving with us. 

As we are called to go, we must hope other people come. Thankfully we know God will always turn up. 
By the way, if you do want to help out, the link to donate is here.
  

Go

This June, I’ll be heading to Fiji for a short term mission trip. 

So far all I know is that we are helping them and they are helping us. Through door knocking, visiting people in gaol, helping them rebuild after a recent tropical cyclone and actually bringing resources with them, we will all be sharing Jesus in our own ways, while learning how churches are run in different contexts and how God works across His world. 

I’ve been doing all I can to prepare for this. We were challenged not to use our own money to pay for our fees but rather raise everything through fundraising, so I’ve been organising a band night which is harder than it seems. This leads to explaining to my friends and complete strangers what mission is and why they should sow into it. That’s highlighted the gap between my Christian and non Christian friends- it’s strange how much the whole thing has forced me to realise how large or little a part Christ plays in my every day life, resisting the temptation to hide the fact that the money is primarily to spread a gospel some people don’t believe in themselves. But that’s the amazing thing, in a way- that I finally get the opportunity to involve people in something I’m really passionate about. While I tell people that the money goes to helping humanity in another country, I get to tell them the driving force- what would compel me to jump on a plane for a month and spend all of this time and energy- Jesus. 

As we’ve been studying the culture and people of the place we are going to go and visit, I’ve been challenged by the differences, experiencing culture shock before I’ve even left home. Mission is great because it’s a chance to go and see. Go and interact with another culture where the need is just as real for Christ and good solid churches. The culture may be different, but the people are still, in many ways, the same. I’m interested to see what differences and similarities I’ll find in their families, churches, homes. 
I’ve been thinking of the verse where Paul says “faith without works is dead”. We are clearly called to go when it comes to being Christians. Not keeping the amazing news of salvation and love and grace and mercy to ourselves but spreading it around. While that is significant for our own every day contexts, Jesus also called us to spread his message to the ends of the earth and mission is a great way to do both. You can start conversations with the people around you as you think about the people you are going to start conversations to with people overseas. It’s a great way for the people around you to get involved as well as they can practically donate and pray for you.
I am preparing to go and get my hands dirty- I’m excited to go and do something practical when so often it can seem like I sitting on my hands. 
And so I am called to go. 

Vegetarian Verdict

It’s been three months since I started being a vegetarian. Complete with complaints about tofu, kale and (worst of all) supplements and vitamins, I’ve heard a lot of people’s opinions on giving up meat. I’ve tried things I never thought I’d touch, and interestingly bonded with people simply over the fact that we’re at the dietary requirements table, but you know, it hasn’t been so bad.
I guess vegetarianism can sound scary if, for instance, your first reaction even thinking about it is “gee, I couldn’t survive without my bacon and eggs.” Honestly, though, I haven’t really noticed a difference. Going out with friends is a lot easier because there are fewer things to choose from and they’re usually things I would never have considered. Three of my most hated foods (don’t hate me) were haloumi, avocado and spinach. Apparently when you toast them in a bagel, God blesses them. And add pesto. New appreciation for eggplant- I sound sad and maybe slightly brainwashed, but I’m serious. Life on the green side is amazing, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Sure there are times when I think about Ruebens (the best sandwich in the world), pepperoni pizzas and beef jerky, but when it comes down to it, I’m perfectly content with my tofu pad Thai. 
Funnily enough, I did make a rule to accept food that would otherwise go to waste, as I’m trying to be helpful to the environment, but I tried to eat some leftover mince pizza I found in the fridge the other day, and it made me feel queasy (hopefully not because the pizza was older than I thought it was). So maybe my body is starting to catch on as well as my mind. 
I became a vegetarian because animals are treated terribly in Australia as there is such a demand for it. It’s cheaper to squish heaps of animals into a tiny space rather than give them their own little apartments and paddocks to frolick in. You know, Australia eats enough pigs for three per person (all the Australians make up for the non pork eaters, including Muslims, Buddhists and infants. Good job). If we all just celebrated Meatless Monday (one day a week!) we’d do the environment a favour. But that doesn’t look so possible, so I’ve taken up giving meat up 365 days a year (not including slip ups) to make up for it. 

Maybe you should give it a go for a bit- try enjoying one day a week or trialling a month. You definitely won’t regret the health benefits and at the very least you can say you tried it. The last dinner I had was at a vegetarian restaurant and no one complained!

Push

When people asked me what I was doing this year, I said I was taking a break. A gap year between crazy stressful HSC and university to recalibrate. So far, I haven’t really found that break. What I found is much better.
This year, I’m doing a course called Year 13. Basically what that entails is Dad pushing me out the door on a Wednesday, going to classes, sleeping over and getting an hour long train ride back just to hang out with a bunch of Christians. I’ve started courses in theology and ethics, done my SRE and first aid training and seen a (dead) red belly black snake already. Surprisingly, though, it isn’t the course itself I was most stressed about. From the beginning, I decided that my marks weren’t going to be the most important thing this year- which is good because as soon as I made that decision they dropped dismally. No, the thing I knew I was going to struggle the most with wasn’t writing a reflection that is read by someone else, writing a bibliography in a group or reading the bible from Genesis (which is terrifying). No, the scariest thing about it all has been people.
Someone asked me what I actually hope to get out of this year and my answer was simply to have made friends. They laughed it off, as so far I’ve been doing a good job (if I do say so myself) of meeting people and remembering names, but I explained how I’m being completely honest. After years of going down the path of least resistance- pushing myself to get marks because they’re predictable and easy, and shying away from the social scene, this year I felt God pushed me towards making friends. Even when it’s uncomfortable, or I’m nervous, or it seems absolutely impossible, this year I decided to beat my anxiety. Even writing it looks scary, and you know, it might not be fully gone by the end of the year. But this year, I decided to push.
So I decided I would learn everyone’s name. That was a heck of a lot easier when everyone had name tags on, but there are only 52 people in my class and I’ve had a conversation with almost all of them. I realised a smallish group of people your own age with similar interests doing the same thing is a pretty awesome environment to grow in. Much less intimidating than high school. At first it was easy without feeling nervous, but weirdly as I’ve gotten to know people better, it’s gotten scarier because they like me! What if I screw up! And it’s a constant struggle to remember that is not a voice that should be listened to- not the voice of God, honestly, who wants me to make friends in such an amazing community.

I’ve also been pushing myself in areas outside of year 13. I became a youth leader this year, got a job and have continued teaching Sunday school. I’ve somehow managed to go from a functioning hermit to seeing people every day of the week. It’s both insane and super fun, although as an introvert, I still find it exhausting.
It’s moments like this I really need to point to God. He’s let me crawl into a corner and lick my wounds, and, just when I was starting to get comfortable, year 12 ended and I had to take a next step. Yet, he made sure I was prepared. He made sure there were plenty of freaking awesome people to greet me when I stepped out of my bubble. I can honestly say, he’s never left my side. Yes, he pushes me, but I reckon I’m also in a place where I want to push myself a little bit. I’ve been organising a band night for the mission trip that is also part of Year 13, and that’s pushed me (trying to get over a hundred people congregated in one building just to listen to me play music!) I’ve organised dinners, and managed to calm myself down better and quicker than in the past. Year 13 is the spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine of hanging out with humans go down, and gee, it’s sweet.
To God be the glory.

Worthless and Priceless

  

I bought this little carousel a few years ago for a friend of mine. It came relatively plain and faded, but when you wind it, the horses go around and it plays music and I figured she would love it, so I bought it cheap and started to hand paint it. It took me hours over a couple of days to get it perfect, and when it was ready, I put it on my drawers ready to grab to give to her soon afterwards. Then, one day, as I was opening my door, I must have bumped it and it fell. A tiny little chip fell out, and my parents tried to convince me she wouldn’t notice or even care because I’d spent so much time and effort on it, but I wouldn’t listen to any of it. I’d spent so much hard work on this, and now, it was broken. 

One of the greatest lies ever told is that someone is worthless. Many people are told this lie by others, while some tell it to themselves. Sometimes it’s something in life that tells you- your marks, the fact you can’t get a date, anxiety. I was practicing music the other day, and I did it until my fingers ached and I was exhausted, just so I could play music for Sunday school the next day. I rocked up just to find out someone else was doing it, and a little voice in my head said, “well I probably wasn’t good enough.” Worthless comes in many forms- “fat”, “stupid”, “ugly”, “weird”. Worthless is just, you are not enough. Not worth the effort, time, energy or love. Worthless. 

Time and time again I see girls whose problems are rooted in this feeling that they aren’t worth it, and when I look at my own problems, often they too revolve around the niggling feeling that I need to do more to be worth it. 

And so we try to encourage people to feel more worthwhile. Sometimes it’s in vapid ways, like “try wearing something a little tighter, a little more make up, and then he’ll see who you really are, once he gets to know you.” Sometimes it’s in trying to convince yourself, “baby I’m worth it”(a Fifth Harmony -all girl band- song). Sometimes we rely on one area- if I just have enough friends, if I just put enough effort into this guy, if I study for hours instead of going to church- but eventually, they let us down. The hard truth is that even when things reflect how much we are worth something, like that diamond ring, or the dog that almost falls over with glee every time you walk through the door, nothing ever fills the gap of worthlessness. 

The worst thing about this lie, though, is that it is perpetuated sometimes in church. Fire and brimstone preachers who convince people that they are tiny little humans who aren’t worth anything. Puny ants who live on this crazy distant planet in the middle of nowhere. Gee, thanks guys. 
Technically, the carousel was worthless. It cost me $5 and would have sold for maybe $1 with the chip in it. The mechanics didn’t work after I dropped it, so maybe not even the dollar. But to me, it was priceless. I made it, and I took care of it- to me, it was priceless. 

God didn’t die for a people he made accidentally or didn’t care about. God didn’t create each of his people unique and beautiful for no reason, and he certainly didn’t do it so we could believe we’re worthless. Every time someone hurts themselves, or hurts someone else, I imagine him cradling his creation in his hands, weeping. But they’re worthless, surely, to the God of everything! No one will notice, if just a little bit isn’t where it’s meant to be- they need to lose weight, they need to get surgery to look prettier, they only deserve that boyfriend! And God looks over his shoulder, as I did with my carousel, tears in his eyes, and says “but I made that.” 

A God that pursues his people, and will not rest until each one has had the chance to hear the good news. A God that knows the numbers of hair on each head, and knits each child together in its mothers womb, regardless of whether the world thinks they are good enough, God says they are very good. God says they are worth dying for. God says they are priceless. 
God says you are priceless. 

Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani 

If you’ve swum in Christian circles for long enough, you would have heard the question or asked it yourself – “if God is so good, why does that happen?” Covering everything from why do wars start to why do babies die, from good people encountering hardships to bad people living great lives, and the overwhelming notion of a sovereign God in a fallen world, we can often feel, simply, abandoned. 
My mum has a severe disability which only gets worse as she gets older. It means she can’t walk so well, and now has a wheelchair but this leads to greater problems- she could only have one child, and sometimes can’t go to church or spend time window shopping. When she cries, as someone who loves her, I cry. And the question is asked, if God is so powerful, why does that happen? As a Christian, I ask furthermore, why does he let that happen? Because he has the power to stop it, but also, the nature to want to stop it. I guess that calls into question the two fundamentals of Christianity, though- does God really have the power, and is he really good?
There many stories in the bible of Jesus healing people. Often he turns around and he says it is because of their faith. People will then say Jesus’ motive – the secret ingredient – was their faith. Have enough faith, pray enough, and you’ll get healed. Pastor Chris Mendez, famous within my church (and I’m guessing to quite a few people who will read this) once said that God doesn’t respond to need, he responds to faith. My dad and I went into the parking lot and wept. As a family, we have faith. As husband and wife, my parents have faith. As a Christian, my mother has faith. And yet she is not healed. It is not because we don’t have enough faith. It is not because we have not asked. 
If you ask any of us, and indeed many Christians, we will say without missing a beat that yes, God does have the power to- it’s revealed in those miracles performed in the bible, and it’s done even sometimes today. God has the power to heal- he created this world and he can restore what he pleases. That leaves us with the much more troubling question- so why doesn’t he?
As human beings, we are hard wired to feel pain. Even if something hasn’t happened to us, soon enough empathy will get a hold of you and you will feel pain for someone else. Even though I don’t have any sort of disability, I can still feel the pain for my mum. My heart still aches, because I love her. And so I wonder why God wouldn’t heal her. Make it better, just for a little while. I don’t have to explain to you pain- the mother who can’t conceive, the boy dealing with a pornography addiction as it tears apart his relationships, the sibling that has a degenerative disease, the loved one who died. But something that stopped me in my tracks of feeling rage at a God who would allow this is a God who also experienced this. When Jesus’ mate died, he wept. When he looked at the poverty, depravity and wickedness of his people, he cried out for their salvation and when he himself was on the cross, he calls out to God- “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani?” Or, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And this confounds me even more! Because why would God himself go through such pain? He loves us, so he must also hurt for us. On the cross, people mocked Jesus because he had the power to get off the cross, but he didn’t. I have no doubt God could heal my mum of disability, me of anxiety, my dad of his disability but he doesn’t. Does this make him super bad, or is there more? 
So, pain. It undeniably exists, and God clearly has the power to fix it, but he doesn’t, and why? I realise that, strangely, instead of pushing me away from him, pain has drawn me closer. I note the difference between those who come out of hardship with Christ, and have an inexplicable sense of hope and peace, and those who come out of hardship without him. I don’t know what the purpose is, but when you know there is one, it makes the process easier. If you’re a piece of marble being chipped away at, you know you’ll be a masterpiece soon enough. The bible says its like we’re gold, being refined in the fire. Mum says that her disability has made her evermore grateful to have a family when she was told she would never have one. She knows she has heaven to look forward to, where every body is perfect. Dad knows many people have been touched through his story, and it led him to be a counsellor. Yes, everyone goes through suffering. No, it doesn’t always end. But with Christ, there’s a hope, and a future. And we’ll only know the full extent when we reach heaven. 
To conclude, it’s my belief that God never abandons us. Although it may seem like that, he is right beside us, going through every heart break and crying every tear. If he is willing to do that, it must be worth something. Even on the cross, God was separated but still there, watching over it all, and enduring it because he knew what it would mean. 
“Even when the world caves

Even when the fight calls 

Even when the wars waged

I’ll take heart 
I know you are greater

Forever you are saviour

I will sing your praise

With all that I have, with all that I am Lord.”