What if?

I feel like the world is trying to live in a paradox.

One where everybody wants to be loved for who they are, but only love certain parts of themselves. One where people are hurt when they are not accepted, but do not accept others. One where we are all striving for something- we may not be sure what it is, but we’ll know when we get there.

There seems to be a lack of satisfaction within my generation. On social media, we make fun of ourselves for how self deprecating we are, posting about our insatiable desire for validation in an attempt to gain some “likes”. The irony of it is not lost on me. Perhaps this resounds throughout history, but the sound of it is just getting louder.

That we would present ourselves to society and expect everyone to accept us does not seem possible. Surely, in a world full of unique individuals, it would stand to reason that you cannot expect 100% of the population to agree on anything, including [but by no means limited to] your fashion statement, sexuality or religious beliefs. Furthermore, this seems like such an impossibility to me because we are bound by a tendency to not even completely accept ourselves. Take, for instance, in dating. One partner would have it that they are loved completely and wholly, mistakes and quirks included. That when they are irritated, it is for a reason and that is understood and absorbed by their significant other. When they indulge in bad habits, it is taken with a pinch of salt as it’s just “who they are”. And yet, there are things about us that, no matter how much we try, we cannot love. Memories that lurk, regrets woven into our personality, a temptation to be what we are tired of fighting. And yet, when we are rejected, even be it by one person in a sea of admirers, we take it to heart, and moan that no one truly understands.

And what about tolerance?

That what I say is the truth and what you have to say is a combination of your upbringing, background and probably some misunderstanding. Deep down, it makes me feel better to think you’re a little bit foolish for thinking in such a way. And of course we can’t discuss or explore our differences on the off chance someone will say something even remotely challenging, because that wouldn’t be… tolerating me. That might hurt. That might take some time and energy to understand. And I would rather not, thank you.

What about this sense that the world is not right? That we may never be able to make it right, what with all the violence and pain and hungry and global warming, for heaven’s sake, on top of all that. And we just don’t know how to fix it, but we know we have to so we’d better buy recycled toilet paper and give a dollar to the Salvo’s man.

I will here suggest something that will seem impossible.

Just as impossible as being accepted.

Just as impossible as everyone being tolerating.

Just as impossible as saving the world.

That there has been an answer all along.

What if there was someone who knew all of your flaws before you’d even really met them, and loved you completely? Loved you enough that, despite knowing everything you are ashamed of and afraid of, they died for you? Someone to fulfil your greatest desire of knowing that all the pieces of you weren’t to be displayed or hidden, but were puzzle pieces that form a beautiful picture.

What if there was an ultimate truth? Some people fight over what it may be, some people argue it doesn’t exist. But what if it did? And it was all mapped out, by someone who knew what they were doing? And it sort of just… felt right? A list of directions, so to speak, that you’d always been trying to follow, to a point, all laid out for you. A list of directions you could point others to. You always knew eggs, sugar and milk went together but now you’ve found a precise recipe.

And, what if there was a point?. A way to fix everything? And someone who was willing to do it, save the world? To make things right and beautiful again?

Maybe there is.

I believe there is.

I believe it’s Christ who loves you, Christianity which directs you, and God who is going to save the world.

And if you disagree with me, that’s fine. Just tolerate my opinions.

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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. 

Rubbish

I began this year with
 
51 Shirts
18 Pants
12 Skirts
18 Dresses 
15 Coats
6 pairs of Shoes
11 Jumpers 
 

  
Before you judge me, maybe you should start by counting your own clothes. It’s kind of scary.

I’m sorry to admit that about a quarter of that was accumulated just over the last year. I got a job for the first time, a bank card with access to online shopping and a lot more free time to browse. Therefore, I ended up with a lot of things I never knew I’d needed. And, at the end of last year, I decided that it had to stop.

A few things sparked this.

Firstly, a lot less money in my bank account than I should have had for someone who had been working for a year. I had no idea what to do with my savings, and so hadn’t really been budgeting to save. Now, I realise, that was quite silly. [I have, since then, set up a budget. I have not, since then, kept to my budget. Baby steps.] I wanted a pair of running shoes because I started running, so asked for some money from my Nan. After spending the money on the shoes, I realized I could have just kept the money and bought a pair second hand from the markets or an op shop. That left me rather disappointed in myself, thinking of a hundred better uses for that money. 

Secondly was realizing that, even if I went to the effort of looking up ethical clothing or trying to buy from good companies, the amount of energy and resource it takes just to create clothing is enormous. I read an article by a group I follow, 1 Million Women, about a documentary called “The True Cost”, and freaked out a bit. Even if you’re trying to do the right thing, it’s clear a lot of companies have cottoned on to the fact that a lot of people are looking for “sustainable”, “eco friendly” substitutes because Western society is being pummeled with information about a dying environment. Things with green tags have popped up- I most recently saw them at Ikea, H&M AND Bonds- advertising how they’re helping the environment by reducing the impact of the product. However, even if I buy from a company which has signed treaties and has certificates which say they’re doing their part, there is no guarantee no animal, person, worker, or child is not going to get hurt- it takes energy and people to make stuff, simple as that. Buying from these people wasn’t doing as much good as not buying from anyone.

And finally, looking at all the clothes I actually have, the question is raised- do I actually need any more? The answer is simply, no. In a society where we complain constantly that we have “nothing to wear”, I attempted to reconcile that with cultures where they do not wear clothes, or where the same dresses are passed down to generations, resewn, rehemmed, redesigned, but of the same material someone’s grandmother wore. And the amount of stuff I owned, simply because I wanted to own it, embarrassed me. It still does. The number of clothes that I began this article with is after I donated everything I didn’t want or haven’t worn in ages to charity.

 I originally wanted to make a resolution not to buy any new clothes, or anything new that I didn’t need, including a laptop which I’d been considering for a while. After all, my family shares a good PC and I have a tablet to myself. But then I realized that I couldn’t rely on the loophole of going and buying second hand clothes because the mentality of MORE and the actual spending of money wouldn’t change. It’s a mentality that because I can, I should. Even if, in fact, I can’t and shouldn’t.           
 
So, this year I’m going to try and not buy stuff. I saw an article about a woman who could fit her entire years worth of rubbish in a glass jar. In a household where I fill my bin once a month and my family fills the bin at least once a week, I figured that was a bit of a stretch. But I want to change my heart. I decided that, for the majority of gifts, I would still buy things but stick to the companies which I know are doing good. As for myself, it’s time to start wearing what I already own. There’s a Japanese theory that you should only own what makes you happy [which significantly reduces the amount of stuff in your life], regardless of sentiment and monetary value. That was also sort of an inspiration, although I own a lot of bland smart casual stuff for work I should probably keep [despite the fact that a t-shirt and jeans makes me very, very happy]. 

I want to wear everything I own until it’s literally falling apart-this has only happened with a few pairs of shoes, a shirt [which my mum threw out on my behalf] and a pair of pants [which I took part of and made a bag]. Apparently the average person in the U.S. throws out 86 pounds of clothes a year- that’s insane. But I realized that, if I’m going to stick to the clothes I have, I am going to have to wear them until there is so little left that I will have to throw them out and no one will recognize them. Old t-shirts will become pyjamas, and old/odd socks will go in the rag bin. I want to live a life where I get creative, not consumerist. I want to live a life which doesn’t have a lasting negative impact on the planet, or on the people making mass produced clothes. I want to live a life I can be proud of. 

And so, this year, that’s going to be me not buying new stuff [and subtly implying a few things to friends for my birthday].
 
Feel free to join me.

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.”

Throw The First Stone

  

I recently heard Stephen Fry’s opinion of Gods justice based on the verse where Jesus defends an adulterer with the words “that of you which has not sinned, throw the first stone.” I don’t often listen to Fry as he is one of those people who will express his opinion in such a way that if he disagrees with you, you are bound to get your feathers ruffled. However, I have decided to dispute this particular opinion because I figure it is shared by other, less hostile people. 
Interestingly enough, I seem to have done more research than Fry on the background of this story. Of course, a seventeen year old knowing more theology than a celebrated atheist isn’t so bad when you consider he is trying to prove a point against who I believe to be a perfect and blameless God. That was always going to be hard. Fry’s qualm was basically that God cannot be a God of justice if Jesus were to defend a woman caught in sin with “you can stone her to death (the punishment of the day) if you haven’t done anything wrong”. Well, we’ve all done something wrong, and so the Jewish teachers walked away. As is the best way to breed ignorance, however, the idea was taken out of context and not further explored. 
First of all, God is a god of justice. It saddens me that our society tries to deal with this either by magnifying it or minimising it, while its just a fact of Holy existence. God is pure – we were given free will, which we use to do things that arent pure and so we are separated, like clean and unclean laundry. Some people (who call themselves Christians, which I will contain to describing as “laughable”) would emphasise this means that everyone is going to hell- they love merciless, sweeping generalisations- fire and brimstone garbage. This is forgetting that Gods justice means a fair trial, and further forgetting that God is omniscient so he knew we would all fall short (Romans 3:23). He therefore sent Jesus so we wouldn’t have to try to be good to be pure enough to be with God- just accept his gift of Jesus and apologise for what we’ve done (intro to Christianity in two sentences). 

This is where some (including a man that I actually really admire, Russell Brand), when faced with the opposing view, try to ignore Gods justice. This will never work as God makes it very clear he is just. God loves the world but will judge everyone’s heart in the end. It’s the solace for people who wonder what will happen to murderers and rapists in heaven, as well as bigots and hypocrites even within the church- God only accepts those who have repented in their hearts, because he knows (omniscience). And so were faced with a perfect, merciful and loving justice. It’s something we face with our parents, in our relationships and of course in court, and something we strive for. 
Then we get to the verse, which Fry insists means God isn’t a fair judge. 

First for a little context. Ironically, the Bible says (we’re in John 8) the Pharisees had brought this woman before Jesus to try and incriminate him. You’d think Fry would have avoided one of the instances Jesus rebukes intellectuals trying to use dogma to embarrass God. Jesus was known for his teaching and mercy to even those who didn’t seem to deserve it (does anyone?) , while God was seen for his strict justice, a great cop out for the Pharisees who lived to follow each of the 214 rules. They, like Fry, didn’t understand the concept of this “merciful justice” and were trying to test the man who claimed to be the Son of God and see how he would strike a balance. However, even in court today a judge without mercy is a terrible sight. It is at this point that Jesus bends over and begins writing in the dirt. While the Bible doesn’t specify what he wrote, and some commentators don’t believe it’s significant, I read one very interesting theory. Jesus doesn’t say much out loud, but in those moments, the Pharisees understand he isn’t just referring to any sin ever. The Pharisees had found and brought the woman to Jesus as she was caught, undeniably, in the midst of adultery. However, as Jesus may have quietly written on the ground, they couldn’t have been occupied with justice as they claimed because they had only brought the woman- where was the man? (It takes two to tango). The wrongdoing of this story isn’t just by the woman who Jesus seemingly defends, but the Pharisees who were trying to use anything to trap Jesus. Fry has taken the quote so out of context but summed it up so beautifully in that we cannot unmercifully judge our fellow human beings as we commit such sins ourself. 

In a cold way of thinking, there is just black and white fairness. But in Gods world, we use mercy. If something hurts someone else, consequences include punishment unless deemed sufficiently insignificant. The justice system is just that on a larger scale. If a person commits a murder, it is the job of the judge and jury to decide the effect this is to have on society and the punishment to discourage others. We expect them to have mercy in their judgement, and trust them, although none of them is perfect, to do so. We have a conscience for a reason- as we are made in the image of a just Creator, so we strive for fairness within our society. And so it is with God. Jesus was teaching the Pharisees that no one is exempt from Gods justice, not even them who had been willing to throw someone under the bus to prove him wrong. God is just but he exercises mercy as we would hope of any judge. 
To conclude, the woman didn’t get off scot free. Jesus looks up from drawing on the ground and asks if anyone threw anything- she replies no. He says to her, as he says to everyone who has sinned, “go on your way and from now on leave your life of sin.” God isn’t aiming to punish everyone. He gives everyone on Earth infinite chances until they finally stand before him and have to answer to whether or not they accepted him in their heart during their time on earth. As for Christianity and the justice system, it is important to remember that we must strive not just for love or for fairness but for both, as God does. 

  

Learning

Although I struggle, as every hipster does, against being mainstream and sort of shallow (I recently went blonde, so I’ve been fighting the stereotypes, although, as it turns out, blondes do have more fun) I recently started a gratitude journal. I had a few empty books lying around the house as people know I’m a writer (although they never seem to realise I spend most of my time writing online, which needs neither paper nor pen) and I picked the prettiest one up a few month ago and started writing what I am grateful for in my life. 
First came a lot of the obvious ones. My family, friends, religion,my dog, but then I found myself realising how much I had grown since the beginning of the year. It comes about as you think of what is in your life that wasn’t there before- a new youth means new friends, etc. I mean, it’s the start of another year, and that time that you start looking back on who you have become. 
A lot happened this year, including a few bad things but as I took an internal audit, I began to recognise how they had shaped me, and for the better. So, as scary as it was, I took pen to paper and began to look at being grateful for the bad things. A few big ones included my Mum getting her wheelchair, which made us closer as a family, however it was a struggle adjusting and, I guess, each of us had to accept that our dynamic was going to shift. Having my first boyfriend was in so many ways a chaotic disaster, but I found it taught me a lot about relationships and about how I respond to different things. It spurred me to write about dating non Christians because I had ignored advice that I can now say was spot on. I also see it helping me in my new relationships, as well as helping me to appreciate the people I’m around more. I know I’ll do better in my next relationship thanks for the hardships of the first one. The HSC was hard, and stressful, but I finished it and was rewarded with a sense if accomplishment. That sense of relief, and release was worth the long hours and frustration- watching the fruition of my hard work pay me above and beyond.
I realised, writing in my journal, that I need to be grateful for the pain. Someone once said pain can make you bitter or better, and as I wrote down every person, circumstance and moment that hurt me so badly, I could not help but thank God that he had stretched me and I had trusted him to come out stronger. Pain sucks, it’s true, but when you weather the storm, the reward is far greater. You don’t break, but build. You get angry, and sad and hurt, but it gets better. And that is something to be grateful for. 
I can now be grateful for a terrible year, even though the year was terrible while I was in it. I can now be stronger for the next terrible time, and remember this moment, knowing it will come around again. 

Blame

So the question asked to me to write on was “Why does god blame us for the causes of suffering although he created us sinful beings?” A very, very loaded question which I will attempt to slowly unpack. If you disagree or have anything to comment or ask, feel free to do so in the comments bar 🙂 

I’m going to split this question, and then, like a good chef, tie everything together at the end. 

Why does God blame us?

This  was, funnily enough, what I saw as the biggest part of the question because it’s a misunderstanding that is the precursor to the other parts. To believe that God sees us as the causes of suffering and to be confused  about him creating us to be sinful, we must first accept that he’s blaming us, and that is unacceptable. 

Picture it like this. A child grows up and while they are growing up, they make mistakes. That is unavoidable. Sometimes those mistakes are simple, sometimes they hurt other people, but in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul states that when we were children we thought as children, while Jesus refers to the innocence of a child. They don’t know what they’re doing wrong. This is the state that Adam and Eve started off in. Innocence, because they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. 

Then we grow up into adults and we’re expected to know better. Adam and Eve could have stayed in bliss, but chose not to. Life, parents, people teach us what we can and can’t do. And this is where the concept of “blame” comes in. Because if an adult commits a crime (makes a mistake, does something wrong), then a judge and indeed a jury will charge them for it. You expect it- it’s justice. However, here is also where grace comes in. Because the Bible doesn’t say our God is one of blame, but one of love. I can’t say it happens all the time,  because we’re only human, but there are times when someone commits a crime and the ones they love them don’t blame them but find the grace to live them. Stick by them. And that is just a tiny example of how God feels about us. For everyone, for every mistake, he offers love and forgiveness. 

We know he’s a god is grace and love, and the mentality of blame just doesn’t fit into that. 


For the causes of suffering 

I’ve outlined on here before about suffering. I’ll use the same principle, but with the nice little metaphor I’ve just set up. 

So, we serve a God of love, and yet look around us and it is clear that we do not occupy a world of love. Why is that so? I have speculated that we need to first examine “love”. This inherent urge to protect, provide, have compassion for, experience empathy, forgive and love other people, from which stems happiness and peace (which can sometimes seem lost in amongst the cloud of sad dreariness that occupies our society)- where does it come from? I believe, from the plan set out in the very beginning, that these qualities come from God. In Genesis, God says “we will create man and he will be like us.” I’ll come back to that later. But basically, we were clearly given the capacity to be good people. The world was given to us with the intention that we’d take good care of it. Other people were put in this world so that we could get more out of life, experience the love and companionship a community provides. They were good plans! But if you drop a pebble into a pool of water, you’d better expect there to be ripples. 

So, earlier in the story, we saw God as the loving father. The Bible refers to him as this many times. Because a God of love- the God who I follow, the God who is preached to me, the God in the Bible- does not sit on his little throne with his little thunderbolts waiting for us to screw up. The loving father doesn’t hit his kids every time they do something bad. But say an adult does something bad. If they ask their parents for forgiveness, the parents might forgive them. Even the victim and the judge might forgive them. But the Bible refers to God as just, and he wouldn’t be just if there was no punishment. That wouldn’t be fair. So the judge sentences the man to gaol. 

Sin causes suffering not because God likes it that way. Sin causes suffering because God had a plan for Good and sin is literally the decision to turn away from that plan. If a politician decides to be greedy, he can start a war and cause the suffering of millions of innocent people. If a country perpetrates the ideals that we can own everything (*cough cough capitalism*), then millions of children can be confined to sweatshops, forced to work sixteen hours a day and get paid a dollar- sin has consequences. If you lie to someone and they find out they can get hurt. Simple. And are you expecting a God of love to sit back and watch this happening without hurting? He doesn’t. He won’t. No, God doesn’t create suffering. We do that easily enough. But he is just and so he doesn’t shield us from ourselves and the consequences of what we do. This is where the judge and the father meet. The father also has to let his kids, one day, figure it out for themselves. He’s there, he’s loving, and he’s ready to help, but bad stuff happens because we live in a world where people keep choosing to do bad things. This is sin. Not the wild party advertised, but the root of suffering.

Although he created us sinful beings.

Genesis, first book, God says, let’s make them like us. God is not sinful. 

The gospels, first chapter, Mary gives birth to a son from God. Jesus is therefore Gods son. God is not sinful. 

I once had a preacher say to me that there are things God cannot do. This is a lie. I was like ten at the time and I knew it was a lie. I just didn’t have the time to tell him. Sing with me- “my God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do! (That’s true!)” The man speaking told the congregation that God cannot sin. That is a lie. Where is the proof? If he created us in his image, and we can sin, then he can sin. If he sent Jesus and Jesus was tempted like we are all tempted (hebrews 4:15), then God can sin. If you know the difference between right and wrong, you can sin. The problem with getting to heaven, though, is that God doesnt sinHe is not sinful. Every day, he picks right, which is how I know he’s not an angry or vengeful God, because he has said not to be. I know he’s loving be cause he tells me to be loving. And when he created us, humanity, me, you (who asked yhis question), he created us in his image and that was to be not sinful. He sent Christ and told us to follow Christ (thats all that being a christian is) and Christ was not sinful! So therefore, God didnt create us sinful beings. He created us with intelligence and the capacity to choose whatever we want to do. A loving father does not control every action of his kids. If you sin, and you get hurt, there is a God out there watching over you whom is hurts very much, and he really wishes you’d turn around and come home. 

I’d like to finish with another image. The prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) He leaves a father who loves him and has taught him everything he can. A father who sounds like a great guy. A father who has, as most fathers sdo, raised his son in his own image. The son rebels, the father lets gim go. The son lives against his fathers wishes and warnings and winds up feeding pigs, suffering the consequences of his own rash actions. The son realises he was much better off living with his father. He returns not to judgement but to open arms. Because even a God of just judgement figured it out so that we would not suffer being apart from him anyway, but instead  sacrificed his son so that even when we seperate ourselves from him, we can always come back.

That is a God of love. 

To conclude. God doesnt blame us. He made you smart enough to make your own choices, which is what everyone wants anyway, and then told you how to do it safely and having the most fun. A little handibook called the Bible. Whether you do it or not is up to you. If you dont go the way of the plan, like putting toothpaste in a car that clearly needs fuel, then you have to face the consequences, like a car that won’t drive. And yet, God will always accept you home. 
I hope this has answered your question. 

The Love Song of Us

Don’t dismiss the messages of old as ones meant for those in times gone by. Don’t ignore the warnings of the writers and poets who were trying to communicate something to the wide audience of humanity. Humanity has not changed all that much. And so, when I look at men such as T.S. Eliot and the men he created, such as J. Alfred Prufrock, all I can hear is the blaring scream of this is you, and you must fix this. One of my favourite poems, and, indeed, one I believe is potent to society, is the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

In the room women come and go, talking of Michelangelo.

In a world where we have access to almost every piece of canvas that has had paint touched to its skin, to every scrap of paper that has met the nib of a pen, how can we simply glance over someone’s life work and label it “nice”? The mentality of Instagram- to scroll past images that flash before our eyes only long enough for our brain to determine whether they are worth a like. Is it so that we cannot comprehend such beauty, as it is so overpowering, that we find ways in which we can condense it to a single image? We cannot absorb the landscapes that call sublimity, we cannot gather the focus to examine the detail of true beauty, and so we snap it, post it, like it, scroll. A never ending world of pictures is at our fingertips, and so we rely on that to tell us what is happening outside our very window. Anesthetise the senses, because it’s all too much to deal with.

There will be time, there will be time, to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.

Social media- a medium where you can present only the face that you’ve, like a piece of fabric, applied the correct filter to. Cropped out what is not meant to be there, in order for your life to be perfect. Rubbed out any imperfections, spent hours on making up a mask to present to a community that will spend three seconds judging it before they continue on. How much time do we spent preparing our face? How much do we think people will judge us by it? Apparently it takes a tenth of a second to judge whether you trust someone, your entire relationship with them. So we must present our very best face. Not a hair out of place. And where do we take this time from? What else could we do with the hours we spend painstakingly crafting an eyebrow?

Do I dare Disturb the universe?

Do I dare disturb my friends and tell them I am not okay?
Do I dare disturb my teachers and tell them I am struggling?
Do I dare disturb the ebb and flow of my life to make a decision that may or may not go well?
After all, it mayn’t. Indeed, I shouldn’t. I should just continue living life the way it is. That is easier, after all. I shall continue wishing that someone asks me how I am, knowing full well if they did I’d say fine. I shall continue to play my role as a cog in life, hoping that I can continue knowing full well I am breaking into fragments slowly, and when I do crack, the life I know will come tumbling around me. Because I do not dare.

But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed, though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter.

For, if we do turn to a greater power to offer us some solace, we are faced with a great Silence, whom we soon turn from. The effort of giving all to life is much belittled by the fear of giving all to a god. As humanity, are we not scared that, although it is clear we cannot do what we wish with our life, giving it over to someone else will be oh so much worse? Our life is ours to live, to choose and to screw up. Do not consider the alternatives, friend, for surely this is the best way? Surely, to fast, to pray, will lead to nothing. We cannot face our own spirituality because we are stemmed by the inherent rebellious belief that it will lead to nowhere and is therefore not worth the time or energy it would take, indeed if it saves us time or energy in the end. We are fine. Well, we are not fine. But we are finer than we would be if we left it to God.

And would it have been worth it after all…

Would it? Will I ever know? For I did not do. And now I wonder, would it have been worth it after all?

If one, settling a pillow by her head, should say “that is not what I meant at all; that is not it, at all.”

To be dismissed by those we trusted with the most potent gift we could offer- our thoughts. For, our thoughts determine the matter of our hearts, and our hearts are what we aim most to protect. Therefore, to give our thoughts- phwoar. To be dismissed by our peers should we offer a thought- to be tossed aside by our friends if we were to utter an opinion- oh, to be shunned by our parents lest we disappoint them with the thoughts clouding our minds? Why is it that public speaking scares so many so? Because you are being asked to look people in the eye and present your beliefs. And a roll of the eye, the crossing of arms, are blows to not only our ego, but everything we are, for if you dismiss my head, you dismiss my heart, and my being. And so, perhaps it’s better to stay quiet. Speak without saying in case one is to hear without listening.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?

We deny ourselves the simplest pleasures for fear of looking foolish. Wear uncomfortable clothes because the others do not fit the criteria. Avoid desserts because they will make us fat. Refuse to laugh because we are acutely aware, perhaps due to a flippant comment, perhaps due to our preconceptions of the audience to which we constantly perform, of how we are perceived. We must exercise control. A certain smile is acceptable, certain jokes in certain companies. How do I look? How do you think I look? It does not matter if I wish to eat a peach, but rather, do I dare accept the consequences of what may occur if I indulge?

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think they will sing to me.

For, at the end of the day, is this not what we consider? That we are not worth it. We do not wish to express our feelings or thoughts because we do not think we are worth the time it takes to listen. We stay with people who put us down because that is all we deserve, and we reject compliments when they come because we cannot believe they were true. We are not worth the attention of even mermaids- they will stop singing when we go by, as our friends stop talking when we enter the room. How has our generation deteriorated so? Surely, with the consistent reassurance of people literally “liking” us, and taking the time to “comment” and “share” what we’ve said, we should be at the very least able to believe that, amongst the amount of friends we have, some of them must be legitimate? But we cannot allow ourselves to believe such things lest we be proven wrong. To hope and fall is worse than to not hope and, perhaps, one day, fly. Isn’t it?

Poem copied from : http://www.bartleby.com/198/1.html

The Gay Marriage Thing

Before you read this, I’d like to point out I’ve attempted to express my opinions with as much grace as possible. If you read this, I’d love to hear your opinions, but not if they’re filled with hate simply for outlining what I believe.

At this point in time, I don’t know where I stand on gay marriage. As a Christian teen with a lot of non Christian friends, I get asked a lot, and it’s left me with the feeling that I need to stand on a “side”. One either represents the “against” side, which is the one with all the stodgy old people, or the “for” side, which is all the “dude, but are you really a Christian though?” people. Well, yea, I am really a Christian, but this is hard.

The “for” side looks appealing. Firstly, it would mean that I fit in with my generation, and, surprisingly this has very little [for me personally] to do with peer pressure. You see, it’s widely recognised that generation X and Y are the ones that are pioneering. We’re getting rid of all the rubbish people have been struggling with for centuries, toppling things such as sexism, racism, illogical thinking [particularly when it comes to advances in the fields of science and technology], and domestic violence. We’re finishing off these beasts, and moving on from antiquated thinking.
When it comes to Christianity, however, the mentality shifts a little. How do you maintain a dynamic religion in contemporary Australia when you serves a God who is the same “yesterday, today and forever” [Hebrews 13:8]? A good point that has been raised is, how do we know that this whole thing about homosexuality in the Bible isn’t like this whole thing about modesty in the Bible? [Applicable to a very specific context which has changed over time.] I was reading an article [yes, I’ve actually done research] a few weeks ago on sex before marriage, and while there were some good points, one that rubbed the wrong way was, “but if you cut out that bit of the Bible, why not cut out everything that just doesn’t suit you?” [it was said rather patronisingly, as well]. Well, that’s not right, because yea, the Bible is there for guidelines that have been pretty helpful for society, and it’s clear [to me, and a lot of other Christians] that when humanity tries to live without those guidelines, we stuff up. But what about 1 Timothy 2:9? “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” It ticks a lot of boxes- New Testament, so we’re subscribing to the New Covenant, and it’s in amongst a lot of good words of wisdom. But if we think about it today, a lot of Christian women do their hair nicely and wear gold and pearls and stuff… So we back it up with a bit more Bible. 1 Peter 3:3 says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.” Now, that’s logical and explains a little more. He’s talking about modesty, pride. So you can wear that stuff and not be proud, but you could dress very, very modestly and still have internal issues of the heart. Okay. But homosexuality?

Another point that’s been raised is, “well, whatever people do with themselves is fine [1 Corinthians 10:23] but gay marriage means it won’t be marriage any more”. This is a hard one. It’s caused such a ruckus that the Presbyterians have begun considering dropping out of the Marriage Act of Australia if it goes ahead, because homosexual marriage just wouldn’t be marriage. The thing that makes the “for” side of gay marriage all the more appealing for me is that this hasn’t been handled with much grace. It just seems that every time I read an article on it, someone is having a hissy fit with a large lack of love. I’ve seen it referred to as turning marriage into a “government and societal register of sexual friendships”, and that, I find, is quite rude. I was trying to read with an open mind, but if all the people against it are speaking like that, I can see why people default to the for side. I wanna be where the people are! [Not the grumpy old grouches of the Christian world…]
And, presented with love, I can see the “for” side’s argument quite clearly [although, feel free to correct me in the comments section]- we love each other just as much as heterosexual people who decide to get married to, and deserve the right to declare a life long commitment to each other in the same way. Well, at least that’s what I’m hearing. Becuaes that’s what marriage, at it’s core, is- a public statement that you have found the person you want to dedicate the rest of your life to loving [hence the whole “in sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part” thing]. No matter what marriage has become, or how some people [inside and outside of the church] see it, that’s marriage. Except, this is where the “against” side rocks up.

Because [and this is kind of the major part of their argument, and what keeps me on the fence], marriage is a religious tradition, and therefore how it’s defined by religion is quite significant. God sets the rules out for marriage at the very beginning of the Bible- it’s clearly important.
“That is why a man leaves his mother and father and is united to his wife and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.

Not much room for interpretation. Yes, marriage is a major declaration of love, and a new level of relationship [which is what leads to debates on the “divorce” thing] but the Bible clearly states it’s between a man and a woman. This isn’t some concept but a definition. The following example may help visualise.
If you were to build something with four legs, made of wood, and then a board across the top, which you may add a cushion to, before adding a solid back, what would you call it? A chair, probably. And if someone were to argue and say it were a table? Well, no, because a table is built differently to serve a different purpose. It may be wider, and impracticle to place a cushion on. It may be taller, too. You can’t debate the word “chair” or what it’s made for, or that a table is something different. Yes, you might rest something on a chair, but that isn’t what defines it. Similarly you can sit on a table, but that wasn’t what it was built for.

So, I have to say that I’m sitting on the fence. I’ve heard some great arguments for both sides, and I’ll continue to ponder it, but at the end of the day, I think we ignore what’s important. Jesus did not outline to his followers what we must think about the rules of the Bible. Indeed, check out Matthew 23– he rebukes those who spend their time concentrating on the laws and rules, and who try to shove those rules down other people’s throats. The only things he said are important, and sum up everything, are Mark 12:31-32. Love God, love each other. If you can’t present your opinions without hurting people’s feelings, or disregarding them, then stop expressing your opinions. They don’t matter [no offense], not when it comes at the cost of loving people. That’s what Jesus said we need to do. If you’re so dogmatic that you post hate on people’s walls, unfriend them, stop hanging out with people of different sexualities or constantly bicker over interpretations of the Bible, “you are in for trouble!” [Matthew 23:16a]

Questions That Have Perfectly Logical Answers To Them But Still Need To Be Asked

The one that makes the first on my list is- what do people think they’ll accomplish by shouting? If you don’t listen to other people doing it, they probably won’t listen to you.

Where did we get the word jiffy from? And “smidgen” [which is apparently a good enough unit of measurement for cook books. Also, “pinch”, and “dash”]. Who made these words up? And how do we get these words? Were they named after people? And if so, why isn’t everything made up of names? Why do we get names from random Latin words, and from Greece, and from Germany and then add in names? Why not one or the other?

Make up-what are you trying to make up for?

Love is an open door- but to what?

What are people meant to do when their pregnant? I mean, so many things come with a warning on them for pregnant people not to participate, it’s crazy. You can’t have medicine to make you feel better, and you can’t go on that ride to make you feel better. You can’t eat that food [even if it’s your favourite] or drink that drink [even if it may also make the pain and mood swings go away]. What are you actually allowed to do?

Why are there so many voices for Shaun the Sheep? And did the voice actors actually have scripts?

Why do girl’s jeans have flies? I mean, sure, they’re a spin off from boys jeans, but let’s be honest people- we don’t use them, and their pointless wastes of zippers.

Where are single dad’s meant to change their babies? If there are only handy pull out changing tables and nappy bins in the ladies toilets, and apparently it’s socially unacceptable to allow a man to come in, even if it’s to change his smelly child, where are they supposed to do it? However, women are allowed to bring their small male children into the female bathrooms and to that I ask why didn’t the father do it? I don’t want to see your child doing a stand up wee as you proudly admire from the stall with the door open.

If you can’t do the “performing arts” [a.k.a. drama or dance] that’s completely fine, but if you can’t do maths, that makes you an idiot. Why? Just because I picked Drama over Maths does not mean I can’t add up my grocery bill or figure out what time you’re going to get here. And furthermore, you’re probably going to use those Drama skills more often in life anyway. But the point is, why is this just an assumption so much of society makes [and then feels the need to impress upon us Drama kids because of course we’ve never heard the pity we should receive that we were clearly too thick to pick the right subject].

How did people survive for so long with so little baths? I mean, we’ve got the Vikings who were considered a clean civilisation when they were only bathing occasionally, and then the rest of the world who just didn’t do it. How did they get along with each other when they must have smelt so bad? And how did they get through it without body scrub, soap, shampoo, conditioner, “extra lathers if required” and body lotion?

Why do we rely so much on other people’s opinions of us? Surely if I’m changing to fit your likes and needs, you never really liked me in the first place? And if you did, you probably won’t like me once I get to being who I’m becoming in an effort to please you?

How are you meant to do things like kissing? Unlike going to the toilet and brushing your teeth, no one is teaching you. No one really wants to teach you. Although I suppose no one wanted to teach you to wipe your bum or use small, circular motions to clean the remnants of last night’s leftovers off your molars.  But no, in all seriousness, if you read half of the crap that Girlfriend magazine tells you on how to pick up guys, it’s a wonder anyone is ever in a relationship. Or worse, listen to the crap advice people sometimes do offer up- thanks grandma. But how are you just meant to learn this stuff?

Why are there separate things for men and women? It’s not like I can’t finish off a man sized can of Solo. It’s not like I can’t use a man sized box of tissues [is that just a subtle poke by the women working at Kleenex at the man flu?] Why are there pink toys and blue toys for girls and boys and why do the blue ones always look better and seem cooler?

Why does Australia have such a crap Prime Minister? And why do people who don’t even know what he’s doing or saying already know that he’s a crap Prime Minister?

Why do we have the Queen? Why do we need the Queen? What does she do, except occupy the sides of our money, make great memes and sort of mill about cutting cakes?

Why do dogs wag their tails? I mean, yea I know you’re happy, but why can’t you just- I dunno, smile or something? Or just tell me? Or I’ll just assume… But why the tail?

Why are there sequels to movies that don’t need sequels and vice versa?

Why does my nail polish stay perfect on some of my fingers and not on others? Then I have to take the whole lot off and start again.

Why does my hair grow differently depending on where it sits on my head? And why do some people suit some haircuts and others just don’t?

Where do socks go? [That one has plagued humanity for centuries.]

Why do we say a “pair of jeans” and a “pair of glasses” but only “a shirt”? I mean, surely if we say a pair because there are two leg holes [what do you even call the leg holes?!] we should say that the shirt is a “pair of shirts” because there are two arm holes? And what about the glasses- because there are two arms? Because there are actually two bits of glass? And if you have two pairs of glasses, are you allowed to say you have “a pair of glasseses”? [Because you should be.]

Why do we have things that are “children movies”? Or “family movies”? That just makes all of the people who think that “Up” is one of the best movies of all times but is over the age of 18 and doesn’t have offspring ashamed, and that’s not good.

I’m sure there are plenty of other questions out there, and I’m sure there are plenty of logical answers [as I said] to many of the questions I’ve asked today. If you’ve got a question, feel free to post it in a comment. If you’ve got an answer, may I ask- why?