Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 
  

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. 

However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 

No wonder people have trust issues. 

Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. 

Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 

So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]

And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 

I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 

In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 

So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 

On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 

I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

Trusting God

Everyone has stories of times when they trusted someone and were let down.

A few spring to mind for me, from someone literally just letting me fall during a trust exercise, or twice in my life when boys have pulled the chairs out from underneath me as I was about to sit down. However, one really takes centre stage. I was doing the high wires at a fitness camp- where you’ve got a harness, and your objective is to shimmy along these wires two or more metres off the ground- for the really brave, there are places where you have to just take leaps of faith to get to the next place of safety. However, you’re wearing these harnesses so that if you fall or want to stop, the person spotting you can let you down. I watched my partner with the vigilance of an eagle. When I looked down at her, she was chatting with someone else, and typically, the shock of betrayal caused me to fall. So, in the most awkward way possible, I dangled there like a flailing fish until I managed to catch her attention. 
No wonder people have trust issues. 
Two weeks ago today, I quit my job. I wish I could say I’d thought about it, and had the dignity of a speech and strutting out with my head held high. However, unfortunately that was not the case. There was yelling, and crying, and my brain sort of melted so that I went outside to finish the shredding before grabbing my cactus and waddling home in my high heels. [I had to sneak in the next day to get my tea and leave the key on the desk.] To be fair, I had always dreamed of quitting. I just always thought I’d have something to move on to, and I’d have my speech ready before I went in, not at 3 am the next morning. Then, the next day, my Dad was attending a meeting for the church’s kids holiday club and, running with my adrenaline, I decided that day that I would do kids club with absolutely no physical or mental preparation or planning. 
So that’s how I ended up doing kids club two days after quitting my job [and after telling everyone for six months there was absolutely no possible way I could help out because I’d be working.] [I got an award at the end for “Best Life Choices”.]
And, the day after kids club ended, I packed my bags and headed off to a week of leading on a high school camp. 
I can’t explain to you what I was thinking, because the easiest summary is that I wasn’t. I was trying to think of how to write a post-camp blog post yesterday, and my head was just spinning from two weeks of not sticking to my usual strict regimen. My hair is frizzy because I didn’t have time to wash it properly, and my face is breaking out because of what, stress? Lack of sleep? An unusual amount of physical exercise for someone who used to sit at a desk for nine hours a day? 

And I realised the only thing that is still true after two weeks, and maybe six months of falling down a rabbit hole of insanity, is that God is good. 
In the past six months, I have had my first major break up, transitioned into a new church, started uni, finished up with my old Sunday School, started a new one, and quit my job. But while my head has been spinning, “on Christ my solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
With no planning, I expected last week to be hard and disorganised. But I was surrounded by a team of people who trusted and loved God and worked to include but not overwhelm me. This week, I expected to be awful because the last high school camp I went on I was completely out of my depth. But once again, I was surrounded by a team of people who worked endlessly to pull their weight and make sure I was okay, plus I was blessed with an amazing group of girls and co leader. 

And for those two weeks, every time I thought about getting a job, a sense of panic began to well up inside of me, but I have been reminded time and time again- even when we are skeptical, God will never let us down. It’s just not in his nature. 
So, when none of my girls seemed to respond to the talks, I decided God has a plan for them, and I’m just not watching it play out yet. When I got half a dozen rejections for jobs I’d applied for, I figured I would just keep praying. And when I woke up each day at six thirty in the morning and it was dark, and freezing, and my eyes kept gluing shut during prayer in the leaders meetings, I reminded myself that this was a chance to prepare to make camp the quality God had in mind for it to be. 
On the last night of camp, we had a time for people to tell their testimonies. The amount of kids who are struggling with situations at home, at school and even struggling with demons in their own heads was heart breaking. And yet, in amongst it all, there was this incredible sense of hope. Because, as Christians, we know that even when we have no idea what is going on, and everything seems like it is just falling apart, God has got us and he knows what he has in store. It is for our good, and not to hurt us. 

I was reminded during one of the talks of a verse where Jesus says God is going to prune us- to non gardeners, it seems odd to cut off what seemed to be fruitful and beautiful branches, to leave the tree smaller and bleeding sap. But to those who know what they are doing, they know those trees are only going to produce more fruit, even if it takes a while. 
I have decided, in the end, that I’m not going to look for a job for the next two weeks of my uni holidays. When I go back to uni, I only have a little while before I’m on practical placement, so it makes sense logically, but also I started to think that maybe the reason I haven’t found a job is because instead of rushing to find one, and panicking about the future, maybe I just need to stop and rest for a while. I have worked full time during every holiday I’ve had since the beginning of last year. My longest actual “do-nothing, have-fun” holiday has been three days. 

I want to enjoy life instead of worry about the future. 

I want to spend time with the people I love instead of listening to the fear and the panic that has been fuelling me for a while now. 

I want to trust God. 

The Christian Feminist

Do you believe that women should be equal to men?

If you said yes, you’re a feminist. 

[Sorry if you were getting ready to fight me, it’s actually quite a simple principle.]

Feminism isn’t like a meringue- with precise measurements, and needing a lot of whipping into the perfect white shape. It’s more like being given the order of a “cake”. You can add or take away based on your own wants and passions, but there are a few foundational things without which it would not be counted as cake. 

As soon as you begin to believe that women are not considered or treated as equals globally, you begin to understand feminism. That women’s clothes and gendered products are more expensive despite the fact they get paid less, that displays of emotion are seen as feminine [and not masculine], that there are clear gender stereotypes, women can’t work in some societies, pornography and the sex slave trade are booming, and issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and harassment are deeply woven into every society. Once you start to think about all of this, it’s actually rather easy to consider the feminist perspective.

However, last night I was faced with a lady who had decided not to be known as feminist because she was a Christian, and so here I have decided to outline what I believe feminism means for Christians, both male and female. 

To keep it short and simple, I will list 3 cans and can’ts. 

A Christian feminist can be a Christian and a feminist. 

This seems remarkably obvious to me, but was not to the lady last night. She argued that feminism challenges the very foundations of what it means to be a woman, and destroys the ideas and purposes God has laid out for us. That feminism argues against the idea of [particularly a male] headship. However, a Christian feminist should listen to God as much as a normal feminist would listen to whoever is teaching her how to drive when she’s on her L plates. He is still sovereign, the Creator and loving. Like with science, political views need to correspond with biblical teaching, but often cover other or additional areas. Science explains the how, feminism explores a response to fighting for justice in a sinful world. 

I believe that feminism gives Christian women an opportunity to express freely what and who God has created them to be. In societies around the world, women are told what to wear, who to marry and how to behave. Feminism fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who she is, while Christianity fights for a world where a woman is valued just because of who God sees her as. If they work together, they can achieve aa world where God is sovereign and a woman can recognise how much she is to be loved despite her appearance, grades or social status. A world where a woman is not defined by whether she is dating, but simply by her relationship with Christ. 

A Christian feminist can decide what they will and will not support and still call themselves a feminist. 

Many Christians disagree with abortion and same sex marriage. Honestly, some Christian women are uncomfortable not shaving their legs, wearing make up or having short hair. But this doesn’t mean they are excluded from the movement of feminism. This just means they are choosing their battles with another perspective. You should not purposely ignore every invitation to go to a rally which supports or opposes something because it is based on feminism [for instance, political rallies, mental health days, fundraisers for organisations which benefit females]. Indeed, it is probably more helpful to present a positive Christian influence than to withdraw from a name for fear of incorrect association. 

A Christian feminist can disagree with other Christians and still call themselves a feminist. 

I disagree with the woman from last night about a couple of the things she said, and that’s okay. Just like with church and Bible study, and everywhere else I get challenged on things in the Bible, it means I have to have a humble heart and allow myself to be challenged before I write people off. Sometimes quarrels are unnecessary, and weirdly, she might just end up fighting for things that I do under a different name. But that doesn’t mean neither of us can be feminist. Complementarians and egalitarians alike can be feminist, Protestant and Catholic- as I say, anyone who thinks women should have equal rights to men.

A Christian feminist cannot choose feminism over Christianity. 

There are admittedly times where it seems preferable to ignore what the Bible is clearly saying to follow everyone else. However, we simply should not compromise our faith to follow an easier or more popular path. There are many issues many feminists support which I do not believe actually benefit women or their rights, due to my understanding of God’s plan for the world. That means I cop some flack. Christ will always come before anything of this world.

A Christian feminist cannot purposely do things just to bug others. 

This is a weird one, but it is one that was brought up last night and has stuck with me. Another of my friends doesn’t believe in feminism because she recognises all of the things the word is attached with rather than the simple definition I began this blog post with [whiny middle class “slacktivists” who are happy to retweet other people’s opinions but refuse to change their lifetyles, and wish to oppress men. For example, my high school drama teachers, who didn’t recognise a need for the male gender at all.] [I do not subscribe to this view.]

 Popping the word “Christian” on the front means that, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we still have a mandate to be kind and loving. To not shove our opinions in other people’s faces unhelpfully, and to test every opinion that comes our way before mindlessly adopting it. The woman last night said she purposely shaved her head and ignored authority because it annoyed men, and that’s what [she thought] feminism is. However, there is a way to fight for better rights and still be helpful, meek and humble. I have shaved my head, but it wasn’t to shove it in anyone’s face [it was for charity]. I still have short hair, not because I despise femininity but because it’s practical, and, I believe, better for the environment. As with everything in life, consider how it affects others, how others perceive it and what you would say if you were asked a question about it.

A Christian feminist should not be scared. 

There are many scary things in the world today, and often the feminist movement has an urgency about it. However, the best thing about being a Christian feminist is that I know I am fighting to make this world better, but a day is coming where there will be no inequality, no fear of the future. A Christian feminist doesn’t have to worry about what other people think, or when other people disagree with her, as long as she is fighting for a world which is like God’s kingdom. 

In conclusion, I believe every Christian should be a feminist, no matter whether they’re male or female, and no matter how many of the “extras”/hashtags/movements they partake in. I think feminism campaigns for a world like God wanted, where men and women worked together not for themselves, their individual genders or the competition of it all, but for God’s kingdom come, his will done and earth like it is in heaven. 

The Empty Pews

  
Last year I got to meet a Christian lady from Pakistan. She said where she’s from, people crowd in rented tents just to hear the gospel, until they are spilling out of the doors. Here, in what is known as a Christian country, we have beautiful buildings, and a freedom to believe what we want, but the preachers are speaking to empty pews. 

I have not been able to shake this image from my mind.

It is a large part of why I moved from Hillsong, a wildly expanding and very popular church, to a local Anglican Church. Because, although the preaching hits me in the heart, and the people are kind and welcoming, there are back few pews are pushed together, unused. And nothing has never stirred my heart so much as to see those pews filled.I think this feeling is common amongst Christians. The people who have been saved from drowning and are sitting safely in the boat drying off know better than anyone what it feels like to still be in the water. If nothing else, Jesus told us to make disciples and spread the gospel. That alone makes it worthy of our time, energy and passion. But I’ve come to realise three things in my mission to fill the pews.

Firstly, that we do not fill the pews to fill the pews. 
So often when you are passionate about converting people to Christianity, you let that become your focus and you begin to spurt utter nonsense in the hope of getting people to listen to you. I’ve seen Christians bring up the most controversial things in order to get attention, or start every conversation with “how do you feel about Christ?” There’s nothing especially wrong with this, but I’ve realised that forcing a reaction from someone on the spot is not the best way to get them into church, particularly with an open mind. For instance, when people stand on boxes in the city and shout bible verses about salvation and hell at passers by. They have this desire to see people saved, but they see the people in front of them as a mass. They are happy to fill their pews with people scared into being there, people they don’t know and who don’t know Christ, and to fill a yearly quota with numbers instead of humans. Something I had to decide from the get go was that I wasn’t making friends with people just to get them to church. People can smell fakes, and advertisers. No one wants to make friends with someone who is just going to try and sell them something. People want to make friends with the friendly. So we cannot blindly go about filling the pews with extras and randoms, just as it’s embarrassing when you find out your friend has an app that gives them followers on Instagram. 

Secondly, filling the pews takes time.
This is something that has been weighing on my heart recently. I’ve just started uni and everyone has been telling me this is the time I’ll have the best conversations and make life long friends. But, every time a class ends, someone has somewhere to rush off to. Every time I make conversation with someone, the next class they’ll be sitting next to someone else. And, as much as you may want to blame my lack of good friends and, consequently, good conversations, on my awkwardness, I had to realise that to get to a point where someone is willing to discuss religion with you, you will have to give them time. Just as you can’t make friends with only the intention to convert them, I think you can’t make friends until you’ve given some time to getting to know them. I think they are worth the time and effort in the first place.

Now, I’m having trouble making friends at all. But once I do, I need to remember, along with every other Christian who has any friends, that they may not say yes the first time, and there is no specified timing to it all. I became friends with my coworker when we started working together. A year on (this Monday, in fact), I gave her a book on Jesus. It isn’t instant, because people aren’t microwave popcorn. When you are genuine with people, you will get closer to their heart. It’s a simple truth, but one that means patience.

And finally, the pews may not always be full. 

When I joined the church I’m currently at, around 5 people left for good things in other places. And I realised that, even as I pray for God to use me to fill the pews, these pews are not the only ones that need filling. They will move, and fill other seats. But God will use them to fill 30, 60, 100 times what was planted. And I’ll just keep filling the seats I’ve got in front of me. And so, the church will grow. Do not be disheartened if your friend moves church- as long as they’ll be with you in heaven, both you and God can have a smile on your faces. The easiest way to fill a pew is to fill it with people who don’t yet believe, and get them to keep coming back. But if a Christian fills it, that’s great. If a person fills it for a while, that’s okay. It just means the work will not be done until Christ returns, and you knew that was the case anyway. 

So, in short, I’ve found my mission in life is summarised in the little catch phrase of “fill the pews”. I don’t care if that’s with kids, or they’re not real pews and were filling a football stadium for Christ. I don’t mind if it’s in Australia or Pakistan or if I’ll pioneer evangelism in Antarctica. I just want real people, with real problems and stories and hearts to come and hear the good news. 

Because there’s no point it being preached to empty pews in beautiful churches no one sees. 

If I Have Not Love

I’m standing in the middle of the room, seven girls in bed around me, reading 1 Corinthians 13, and one makes a farting noise with her mouth. I ignore it and continue. Another girl [her friend] calls out that I said something that sounded like a swear word. I’m about to raise my voice when I realise the line I just read says “love is not easily angered”. But she always interrupts me and never listens! “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.” I sigh, continue and say good night.

It is my belief that God has a sense of humour.

 

I’ve just gotten back from leading my third camp, and it’s left me with a lot to think about.

My main thought being, how do you love someone when it’s hard to?

In day to day life, you can avoid people you don’t like, which makes “loving your enemies” a lot easier. You can avoid them, and be kind for short spurts of time before running off and having a sob to God. But when you are designated to show the love of Christ to a group of kids that might have never have experienced that before, how do you continually love when all you meet is resistance?

Sure it’s easy to love the kids who make you smile.
The kids who grin at you and tell you you’re a good singer; the kids who write notes during the talk and ask questions during discussions. The girls who give you a sense of pride as you watch them do their dance routine during the talent quest, and help clean up after dinner. Those kids are deserving of your attention, a kinder tone when they’re mucking around [because you rarely have to tell them off] and some lenience at bed time.

But to the kids who just came to camp to have fun, I was the biggest obstacle.
What’s the point of getting them to stand for songs they won’t sing to?
What’s the point of asking them their opinion during discussion when they keep interrupting others?
Why should I care if they enjoy the day when they kept me up all night?
Why should I bother trying to start conversations when I know they couldn’t care less about me?

It felt like hitting my head against a brick wall to just keep trying with these girls.

But if I do not have love, I have nothing.

Leading a camp is a unique position in that it doesn’t present the typical authority figure that kids are used to. You’re not the distant teacher or the familiar parents- you meet these kids on the first day, and they just sort of have to listen to you, which gets easier as you form a relationship. The privilege of leading is that you’re in a position to form a deeper sort of relationship than usual, especially on Christian camps. You have the opportunity to start deep conversations, and ask personal questions kids might never have thought about or share your own story. For me, it’s special because I get to share the person I love most with the people I love most- Christ with kids. But I realised that, if they weren’t going to listen to what I had to say, maybe the only thing they couldn’t escape was the way I acted.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks about having what the world would consider everything- knowledge, money to give, religious zealousness- and says it means nothing if it’s not combined with love. Like sugar and flour are just a nasty tasting powder without some eggs. And I realised that, no matter how good I was at discipline and singing and leading discussion groups, if these girls couldn’t see that I loved them, and that I was putting everything I had into that, continuously, regardless of what they did, then I would have nothing. I would have accomplished nothing. Even telling them the most important message they’d ever hear and them believing it- that Jesus died for them and rose again- would mean little if they only had it in their head but didn’t feel it in their heart. 1 Corinthians 13:13- for now three remain- faith, hope and love- but the greatest of these is love.

There was no point in me leading if I couldn’t do it with love.

So I diverted some energy. Instead of just sitting with girls who I knew would love to chat, I sat with the girls who it was harder to talk with. I asked them about their lives, and sat through many awkward silences. And I should point out, at no point did the heavens open and Christ call out “good job, my faithful servant!” as doves descended and a triple rainbow flashed in the distance. Actually, they stayed resiliently resistant until they left, one without saying goodbye [and that stung]. But at the end of the day, I didn’t yell when I really wanted to. I didn’t give up when I was really tired. I didn’t abandon them for the other girls, because no one gets to be more important. I didn’t love perfectly [perfect love drives out all fear, and I’m pretty sure they were afraid I’d make them do the compost], but I loved as hard as I could and I hope God will use that.

I remember the leaders I had growing up at camp.
There were the ones who stopped to talk to me and ask me how I was going. I had a tough time, sometimes, getting along with the other kids, but always seemed to click with adults. There were the ones who listened to my endless nattering and told the cabin stories and read books to us to help us fall asleep, who sang the loudest and danced around and were silly. I can’t remember how we behaved, but I do remember the unconditional kindness shown again and again by so many different leaders. The curiosity about what made them different from the other people I knew.
I also remember the leaders who made me feel bad. The leaders who made me feel like I didn’t belong, and the leaders who we avoided. The leaders who I felt didn’t have time for me, or weren’t real Christians and led confusing double lives. The leaders who were sarcastic and only spoke to each other and told jokes we couldn’t understand.
I remember sitting in the rows of kids and thinking about what leader I wanted to be. I wanted to be a cool but kind leader and I wanted to sing in the band, as a six year old. I’m now known for singing in the band. I pray I am and will be known for being a cool but kind leader.

In the end, both my co-leader and I told the girls our testimonies, and I ended mine by pointing out we didn’t come to camp to tell them to go to bed, or make sure they didn’t get sunburnt. We came to tell and show them God loves them because we think it’s important. And I’d like to keep that as my priority in leading from now on.

Because, it’s sort of a double sided coin.

Insomuch as what I do, without love, I am not giving worth. If I have not love, I am nothing.

But insomuch as what God has already done, without love, I am not given worth. If I have not love, I am nothing.

 

 

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

 

Psalm 77

I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me. 

[Where are you? I’m hurt!
I’m banging on heaven’s door.]

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
At night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

[I’ve called out to you until my throat is dry.
I keep on praying, calling, screaming, pushing and
people are telling me I’m crazy, that’s it’ll all be okay but I want you.]

I remembered you, God, and I groaned.
I meditated and my spirit grew faint. Selah.

[I did what I was meant to do- you asked me to pray, so I did, even when I couldn’t find the worlds.
I couldn’t even eat, couldn’t drink, just sat and thought about you. Sigh.]

You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak. 

[I couldn’t sleep, restless in cold sweats
People keep asking me what’s wrong but I just shrug and look to the ground, and sometimes a tear will escape.]

I thought about the former days, the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.

[Remember the good old days? Playing and carefree when I was a kid;
I remember the songs I used to sing, and I sang them when darkness closed in.]

My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
“Will the Lord reject me forever?
Will he never show his favour again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

[Questions! They plague me, flittering around my head like wasps.
“Are you giving me the silent treatment, ignoring me?
Don’t you care about me? I don’t deserve this.
They call you loving, and yet how could a good God allow this? The God of Israel is nowhere to be found on Earth today.
Another promise broken- I thought you weren’t like everyone else?
Did you forget what you said, about protecting me? Did you forget about me?
Did I do something wrong?”]

Then I thought, “To this I will appeal
The year when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
Yes I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

[Something clicked though, and I remembered the Sunday School stories.
I thought “I remember all that you have already done,
and instead of letting my head be filled with questions and my heart be filled with hurt, I’ll concentrate on who you’ve already shown yourself to be, through what you have done.”]

Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
You display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. 

[The way you act is set apart.
I look at the way everyone is living and recognise this is the best.
You can do things beyond our control and our imagination,
and you’ve shown us again and again.
You sent your son to die on a cross for me, because you loved me
and now I get to be a part of your family, adopted]

The waters saw you, God
the waters saw you and writhed,
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth. 

[You’re not afraid of what I find scary
The scary things are afraid of you instead.
In the chaos, you have control
In the war, your weapons win.]

Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.

[Your voice calls above the cacophony of my terror,
I can see you through the storm
Your power shakes everything to its very core.]

Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

[I remember when you made a way for your people,
even when it seemed there was absolutely no way out,
and you were there even when it really seemed like you were nowhere to be found.]

You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

[We’re lost. We’re scared and scattered
But you’re a good shepherd who protects us from the wolves and brings us back.
You give us good leaders- mentors, friends, and people to guide us along the way.]

Me

Part 5

So, to conclude, how have I changed?

The strangest thing is, in many ways I don’t know. I feel like there should be a list of great revelations, and deep soul searching, but I figure that as time goes on, I’ll notice things that weren’t there before, like walking into my room and seeing Dad had “cleaned it” [he literally took everything on the floor and put it in two large black garbage bags in the middle of the room].

13709845_1754651398081877_6004007505959126349_n
Wearing a traditional sulu and petting a cat named Pineapples

I know my relationships have changed because I’ve seen those changes in the past couple of days. I wanted to write these posts before my mind subconsciously reverts back to what is expected. However, while I’m living in this bubble of wanting to talk to every sales person and getting surprised at the range in Coles, I figured I’d get the most out of it. I’ll be affronted by kisses on the street and the seemingly trivial problems everyone seems to have. Maybe after a while those things won’t seem as big any more- however, perhaps they will.

I thought I’d be more surprised by the difference in wealth, but walking into my local Westfields today was pretty normal. I guess it was because I remembered it. A discussion in the group was us having wealth. If poverty exists with wealth, does that mean everyone should be poor or everyone should be wealthy? I posed this question to my dad today, and he clarified what I’d been trying to verbalise. That those who God blesses should give to those who don’t have the same blessing and be the blessing. My friend left his guitar with our village, and another friend lugged around a few kilos to do one day of craft at kids club- in Australia, that could be giving a spare sleeping bag to a homeless person or old clothes to Vinnie’s instead of chucking them out. Thankfully I’ve had an upbringing where to do such a thing would be insane. Unfortunately I’ve grown up in a society where it isn’t. So no, I wasn’t surprised by the amount of food in my pantry, but I wasn’t upset when Mum gave half of tonight’s spinach pie to our elderly neighbour [if you’ve ever tasted it, you’d understand why someone would be upset].

I know I’ve left Fiji with some new lifelong friends. There is a small group of people in this world right now who know exactly what I’ve been through. There are new friends in another country who would happily open their houses up to me again. That’s such a strange feeling. I have shared tears, laughter and love with people I didn’t know six months ago. I trust these guys, and don’t know their middle names. There’s a different perspective of what is important to me, and I realise God has used that to His glory. Because our relationships aren’t based on common interests, or what we’ve seen on television, or who is the prettiest but rather the fact that we love God. He is the common thread, weaving together a tapestry of willing people.

13680881_482937175231704_6275463370100319053_n

I can honestly testify to how God can use a person if they are willing, because I was and I have just had one of the best, most life altering experiences of my life. I don’t know how I’m going to live it out, but I’ve got a newly refined character and heart which have been through the trials and survived them. Although it wasn’t always good, it was amazing at times, and all of that has been carefully planned by a God who loves me and knows what he’s doing. All of this is completely insane.

 

To those wondering what to do with your lives after high school, or even right now, I’d say take some time out for God. Your five minutes a day may accidentally be turning to three, you may have skipped a few church services, but if God is as significant as you say he is- as you feel he is- then give him your time and He’ll do the rest.

As for mission, I dunno. Maybe. Not a solid no, as a lot of people walked away saying. But perhaps I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing and let God lead me where he thinks I should go. But I know I can survive time away from what I know, and be used. And I know I’ll have these memories for a long time to come.

Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

13686599_1380639298629554_2918914119172016077_n
Last morning in Fiji, 5:00 AM

God

Part 4

The coolest thing about my time in Fiji was seeing how God works.

Every day we were off doing something. We began at an orphanage called Loloma [Love] House, playing with the kids and a lady began to cry because she couldn’t speak English with us. Straight off the bat, I knew we were doing something special. We visited church services and ran kids groups and some of my mates gave sermons. Especially every time we sang together, I could feel the room vibrate with a multitude of voices praising God. Wow, the Fijians have a talent for singing- harmonies that are just known and hymns that look simple but sound how I figure music will sound in heaven. The sense that God smiled every time we joined in on a hymn.

IMG_0475

A bit of a side note is my pastor pointing out that singing and liturgy is actually rather important because sometimes the message of the sermon gets a little lost [sometimes pastors aren’t actually theologically trained]. Originating in Britain, the translated books found in Methodist churches at least are the true and clear message of the gospel, and our lives as Christians. A regular reminder outlined in the words of timeless hymns and bluntly stated in what sometimes seem like stodgy creeds and prayers read every week.

I saw the way God works across the world. While the differences were striking, it occurred to me that we were all worshipping the same God, and all He requires is for you to profess with your mouth and believe in your heart that he is Lord and raised Christ from the dead to be saved [Romans 10:9]. Once that was straight in my head, I could enjoy the wild singing along with the solemn hymns, the yelling and the times of silent reflection, dancing with the kids and shaking hands with the adults. In all of these situations, God was working. As important as denomination is in the West, going to Fiji I learned to appreciate a living faith in the Seventh Day Adventists along with the Methodists simply due to the fact a clearly living faith meant they were going to heaven and not everyone who professed to be a Christian would. Seventh Day Adventists told me how they had been addicted to grog [kava] and alcohol but God had turned their lives around. Methodists told me they had been Seventh Day Adventists and found God in their current church. And I got a clear feeling that all God wanted was their love and acceptance and he loved them regardless of everything else. Year 13 itself is technically run by the Anglican church, but I go as a regular attendee of Hillsong, and mix with a melting pot of people simply in love with God.

IMG_0580

I saw the way God worked through every situation. While we can either see our wealth as a reason to rejoice in God or become numb to His blessing, I was struck by how Fijians can rejoice despite their poverty. I met so many people who seemed to have nothing but instead recognised what they did have as provision from God. My homestay family had a tin shed with no furniture but a few cupboards and a fuzzy television, yet the mother shared with us how her and her husband had begun with nothing and were so incredibly blessed to have a house now, and enough food for them and their son. She gushed about how even his talent in playing soccer was a gift from God because it meant he might one day have a career as a professional sportsman [a dream for a lot of Fijians] and neither her or her husband had given him that talent. Moments like that, of utter vulnerability when it came to discussing the Lord, became remarkably precious to me.

13692594_606639002846944_7410674400713596648_n
My homestay family.

I noticed the work of God not only in the Fijians, but in the people around me. From the first day, everyone was on their guard to be as loving as possible to one another. When we were tried and felt like snapping at someone who had done something stupid, we remembered they were just as tired. When someone cried, they immediately had a dozen shoulders to lean on, but no pressure to. God worked through everyone to both show his love and remind us he was still there. One night that really just exemplifies what I’m trying to say is the night I had a panic attack. I haven’t had one in so long that, when I began to cry in front of my friends and the concerned faces began to close in until I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t remember what to do. I ran away, down into a garden, and expected to either be ignored or for a bunch of well-meaning people to follow me, but just one did- my mentor Kiara, who sat with me and helped me to breathe as I tried to understand what had happened through shuddered sobs. The next few hours blew my mind. Kiara held my hand and didn’t push me, and when she left, a friend silently joined me and told me stories until I could focus on his breathing instead of my own. When I tried to ask a question about a story and my voice cracked, he didn’t comment, just simply drew me close and answered calmly before continuing his story. And, when I emerged from the depths, notes were waiting from my friends so I could feel the support while no one was watching.
I was overwhelmed by love. By support from a team who encouraged me, held my hand and built me up when I couldn’t stand up by myself. A group that had somehow managed to solve something without calling it a problem. Friends I could count on. And the most astounding thing was that they didn’t do that in their own strength. And how do I know? Because I’ve had panic attacks before. Told to be quiet, that I was making a scene and treated like a leper. To show astounding love is only possible when moved, I’ve discovered, by the One who is love [1 John 4:8]. And so, God moved the people around me, and reminded me that he was always there for me too. And the next time I felt like snapping at one of them, I tried to love them not as they had loved me, but as God had loved me.

 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. 19We love because He first loved us.”

1 John 4:18-19.

 

Confronted

Part 3

I wanted to write this blog post because, despite the fear that many people may skip it, or that it may hurt to write, I know it’s important.

 

I was most confronted by the things I didn’t see coming.

Growing up with an Indonesian mother, I’ve been to her hometown and the capital, Jakarta, a few times. I’m unfortunately not a stranger to poverty, so going to people’s houses in slums was frustrating, not confronting. No, the problem was in the problem- I was struck by how little I felt I could do about the problems I was facing. Kids getting sick by perfectly preventable and curable things like leaving sores on their legs uncovered and a lack of education about nutrition leading to people buying food that is cheap rather than useful. I was angry that I felt helpless.
During debrief one night, we were asked by what had confronted us and what we could do about it. My answer was that, even if I dedicated my life to medicine and tried to heal as many people as I could, I wouldn’t get to all of them. I wouldn’t get to enough. When I talked to people, whether for hours or minutes, I was aware that I could be speaking to a hard heart, with words going in one ear and out the other. When I slaved for hours in the sun painting what was to be a food hall for a women’s refuge, a voice in my head asked if anyone would even notice- we were mocked by the builders straight away for being women when they wanted us to move the building garbage outside first. I looked into the eyes of a little girl on the bus with a scab covering half of her face and I wondered how she would get it and how long it would last, my little first aid kit pointless. I was confronted by my own weakness, a drop in the ocean.

13501849_1367858879907596_5651850352441953100_n

Then there was the reaction of the people around me.
I was scared I would judge the Fijians, and I found myself instead judging my own friends. There’s this part in “Tomorrow When The War Began”, a great series of novels by John Marsden, where the main character, Ellie, thinks about an ice block she threw away. She describes how it’s burning hot and all she can think about is this ice block she threw away before leaving home because it had too many little icicles on it and what she would do to have it back. However, she reflects, given enough time back at home, she would probably throw it away again. We had just emerged from the slums and all around me was chatter about how the cordial was probably diseased and complaints that we had tuna curry for lunch. Some people outright threw it away. That was scary, the feeling of anger bubbling up inside of me and trying to hold my tongue in case something regrettable was said. I was rapidly remembering every time I hadn’t finished a meal, hadn’t put in offering at church, had gotten distracted during a video or presentation by missionaries trying to help these people because now I was one. I was feeling these emotions, raw and hard, and the scary thing is, the people around me were probably so frustrating because they were reflecting who I had been.

I’m not sure if confronted is the right word, but I was surprised by the easy attitude. Three quick examples are religion, time and use of things.
In Australia, it is perfectly okay to be an atheist. However, if you were to be some religion or of no religion, you are usually ready to defend your beliefs because into any conversation could slip a dangerous “why?” The amount of times people have questioned my religious beliefs at home, not out of curiosity but so they could tell me I’m wrong, means I’ve developed a nice little speech to use as a shield. In Fiji, there is no such thing. While it was easy to ask people what religion they were [pretty much the only answers being Christian or Hindu], and to enter into light-hearted conversations about God, there was no sense of having to be wary. It was hard to actually challenge people on their beliefs because I didn’t want to break this sense of assumed okayness- when people gave theologically wrong sermons, when Hindus told me Jesus was “one of their gods” and when people listened to my beliefs, it was all done with a smile and a nod. Almost bred to be trying to prove myself right, I found it both relaxing and frustrating to talk to people who were just happy to accept anything. I think this is a reason behind a lot of “nominalism” or being whatever religion because your parents were- it’s just easy. Cool beans, sure I’m a Christian.
Time! FIJI TIME!!! I love organising, plans, and being on time. But, when we woke up at five a.m. on our first Sunday in Naimalavau to be ready for a church service and there were only people from Year 13 there for the first 45 minutes, it was clear planning wasn’t going to be a priority for us. It was frustrating when people were late or just didn’t show up. On one hand, it’s a privilege and a great opportunity to be asked to put together a youth service with five minutes notice because there just happen to be a bunch of teens in the community hall. On the other hand, it’s remarkably stressful. However, I was truly challenged by this ease of attitude around time when one day, a rugby match which we had been excited for all week and prepared signs for with the kids was cancelled. We were literally walking to it, when Ma [homestay mum] noticed some people walking back and, in a casual tone, asked “is it on?”
“No,” they replied.
“Okay,” she said.
And we turned around and went home. She didn’t shrug, she didn’t appear mad or disappointed and I realised just how much it is a part of Australian culture to get righteously angry over things. If a rugby match was cancelled like that in Sydney [because some kids were playing cricket on the field and the school had forgotten the match was on], there would be a riot, letters written, angry rants on Facebook. But the Fijians were perfectly fine with it. After all, what could they do? It would probably be rescheduled and they’d post photos on Facebook of the kids with our signs. Then we decided to go to town to get the ingredients for Ma to teach us to make roti. Okie doke. Why spend the energy?
The use of things, though, and the ease of those attitudes stung. In Australia we are constantly being bombarded through advertising on television, bill boards and packaging to change. This is bad for the environment, they’ll be bad leaders of the country, your dog food isn’t good enough. And we’re taught to think critically and we’re convinced by reasoning. In Fiji, you just do things the way you do them. On one level this looks like burning your rubbish in a fire [including plastic], and using a machete to cut the grass. You have a problem, and a solution. On the other hand, this looks like feeding the chickens because you’re going to eat them and their eggs but neglecting the dogs because they don’t need to be fat to protect the house. We were followed around by a young dog we affectionately named Alfred, who enjoyed our company because we did the odd thing of patting him. However, one day he followed us to the house in which we had our meetings and a lady walked out with a wooden plank and beat him as a group of teenagers listened horrified. Things are used for what they are needed for. Dogs protect the house. Fire destroys the rubbish. Machetes cut things. And I know I’m not completely off in my understanding of this mentality due to the advertising in Fiji. Apart from the fact that there’s barely any, the government is clearly trying hard to change things because there is no polite reasoning- it’s blunt.

Seatbelts: “the belt your child actually needs.”
Speeding: “breadwinner dead to speeding.”
Pepsi: “Stop staring, start drinking.”
McDonalds: “Big Night? Big Mac.”

Australians, I feel, would be positively offended at being communicated to like that.

IMG_0591.JPG
Alfred

 

So, there were a lot of things that confronted me in Fiji. A lot of things I wanted to hide from, or attack or at least feel like I was making a dent on. However, when I wanted to shut off I realised that it would be cutting off a lot of change- I was here for a purpose, and that was to be used by God. I had no idea what to do in a lot of those situations, but I did realise I could do something in some situation. One story emerged of a woman who was heavily pregnant- it cost $20 Fijian to give birth in a hospital and we spent that on an average Macca’s run. When some people from Year 13 gave her that money, she broke down. I’ve been challenged by how I spend my money and time, and I am set on changing and challenging those around me.  I reckon, in a way, I caught a glimpse of what God feels every day- an overwhelming compassion to love and fix. While he has the power to do what he wants, our pastor Luther who gave a lot of talks on mission while we were over there, reminded us he is always with us and giving us that power as well. As helpless as we feel the reality is that we can and have the heart to fix things. In Fiji, it was generously giving and accepting the white teenagers. In Australia, it might be putting in more effort at Sunday School, upping my offering, supporting more organisations with my money or even one day dedicating my life to mission now that I’ve seen what it does and how it feels. No, things won’t be perfect until heaven and we live in a broken world. However, until then, I can only do what I can do, and, with His help, trust that it’s enough.

“18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20