Finding peace and joy against the odds

What if joy is more a function of the gratefulness you express than that of what you have or what surrounds you? In other words – joy is more a function of perspective than circumstances.

We swim in an ocean that surrounds us with agenda driven messaging that says you can control your circumstances. It tells us that says you can have joy by having things or doing things.

And perhaps these are terrible lies that plague our minds and hearts. They are lies that feeds the horrible mindset that we can be god of our own lives and beyond. Lies that feed our pride. Lies that kill joy and contentment, and breed fear, anxiety and depression.

So why not run into the face of our generation’s deepest fears and let go of your need to reason and understand and control everything, and give away your possessions. So often we run away from the sources of fear – when the answer is to run headlong into it.

Begin celebrate what you have.

Begin to daily choose contentment

And you may find that you will be quite alright, and the things that you thought you needed, you are perfectly fine without.

And you may find that a joy and a peace and a contentment will begin to spring up, if but a seed.

May we be known for being a generation that runs headlong in the opposite direction of everything around it.

May we choose gratitude, and choose generosity, daily.

May we be filled to overflowing with an outrageous and contagious joy.

Seasons.

I’m looking out of the cafe I usually sit at in Beecroft and I have been noticing a particular tree change over the last 5 months. From having countless beautiful tiny white flowery blooms in late winter to tender light green spring leaves in spring to a darker harsher full and strong foliage as it holds right now at the start of summer.

And I have been noticing that my heart is sometimes in a state of unhealthy waiting and wanting for something better. For the “next step” to arrive. For more money, for more pleasure, for more of Christ and his kingdom, for more happiness, for a better job, for more of my dreams to be fulfilled. It is a wanting that has a dangerous thought tacked on: “if only”. “If only” I got to this place in my business, or “if only” I had this or that. And indeed the fact is that our hearts are constantly presented with a smorgasbord of delights and pleasures in our media-crazy society that most of us don’t have the capacity to have. Perhaps I contribute to that – I sent my first marketing email for the dental surgery a few weeks ago.

And yet, longing and desiring for better or more is actually, I think, a beautiful thing in itself. For there must be some measure of dissatisfaction before there can be a measure of satisfaction. It takes some measure of hunger to enjoy any kind of food. It takes longing and desire for there to be fulfilment.

So I am noticing a tension that must exist – of the need holding my heart and my mind in a place of complete contentment and complete dissatisfaction. It’s almost this paradoxical state of wanting for something more without needing it. I can’t describe it fully, nor do I probably have the emotional capacity to walk it out fully.

But let me just say there is something beautiful about being able to yield to the season which we are in, whether it be hard or easy, barren or productive, painful or joyful. For there are no glorious summers without the beautiful spring. There are no beautiful springs without the harsh and cold winters. There are no harsh and cold winters without the peaceful autumns. And I sense that a stretching and a growing is always occurring in the waiting. There is a reason for every season. Nothing is wasted.

It’s all about the destination, but perhaps equally if more all about the journey.

Birthday ruminations: Let the wild dancing begin

A few thoughts after 29 years in this party we are all invited to…

“The man who seeks to gain his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life for me will gain it”

There is something that taps deeply into what it means to be a human in this statement. The depths of this statement will never be plumbed but here’s a thought it has sparked: this statement finds expression in the necessity for a human being to not take himself too seriously. I’ve been learning lately a little bit more about what this means. And I’ve thought that, ironically, it is the person who takes himself far too seriously that commits suicide.

And so life should and could be more about the fun that you have along the way. Rather than getting somewhere. The adventure is in the journey. And if I’ve forgotten or been too serious about it all to have fun and be silly then I’ve also missed out on a big part of God’s plan for me. Because in fact he is not mostly sad or mad – but I think that he is most glad and happy when he sees his son laughing and silly.

This is the paradox though – you need to invest yourself in all of your pursuits wholly and unreservedly, and yet have the freedom to hold it all lightly, to laugh at yourself and others along the way. Because actually, the one who has the freedom to be silly is the one who is able to invest himself and do the journey most effectively.

And in this party you can mope on the sidelines, or you can suck it up. You can throw your fear to the wind, and begin to step and move your body to the music of the dance-floor. And perhaps you might then throw caution to the wind. And whirl and spin and move and jump. And laugh into the air. Like a wildman. I know what I’m going to be trying to do every year after my 29th.

For there is a pulsing, flowing and freeing melody that a Man 2000 years ago danced perfectly to. And though today some are out of sync, it is a sound that emanates through all things that cannot be ignored. It is a beautiful sound. More beautiful, more alluring, more freeing, more life-giving than anything we have ever heard. And soon, so very soon, every heart and mind and soul and dog and tree and atom and quark of the universe will be dancing to it’s rhythms and flows.

 

 

 

The Beautiful Person #2

Of late I have been looking inside of myself to find a bit of a jungle. Right and wrong perspectives and ideas, right and wrong thoughts and emotions all intertwined and mingling.

…but for the grace of God eh? At every point in my life. Every moment has been and is filled with beauty, and every day begins with mercy.

And we are much more the affective beings than we understand ourselves to be. For so long, human beings have supposed that health and wealth and life come purely from right thinking, and from knowing the right things. I am suspecting that, fundamentally, this is the wrong way to understand the human being.

And this is what I notice from my introspection – that there is a force at work much more powerful than having the right thoughts in my mind.

It is my emotions.

Emotions are what drive our behaviour regardless of any other factor (our thoughts, our gender, the time of day). For many people their behaviour is actually in contradiction with their thoughts and words – purely because they are unaware and blind of the true driving force. Indeed whether you are aware or not of what you are feeling, sooner or later, you will do and behave as you feel.

And a person with the emotional intelligence to know what they are feeling can only cover it up in pretense for so long (if it is the wrong kind of emotion). It is too tiring an activity to not live from your heart for any extended period of time – and not the way the human being was designed to live.

 

So what if I began to look at life and events and situations through this one priority – how is this making me a more beautiful person?

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

For perhaps this is God’s will for us above and beyond all else: that we be conformed to the image of his Son. My point is that perhaps this is more of an emotional, psychological state than a place of acquiring theology and knowledge.

What if I were to apply this one overarching priority to my life – regardless of the money, regardless of the time, regardless of the cost – if it is making me a better more beautiful person then I will pursue it.

And while seemingly selfish, it is a selfishness that has complete selflessness as it’s end goal. For the beautiful person is not selfish at all.

And what a beautiful paradox. What incredible freedom.

 

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart

 

Reflections on my last year or so in Sydney

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps

At the end of 2012 I was making plans to go on missions full-time to ‘the unreached’. God had other plans, and I found myself smack-bang in the middle of the craziness and busyness of Sydney, delivering and running a health service instead of preaching the gospel in a deep, dark jungle somewhere in Africa or PNG.

The last year and a half has been a year of extremes of sickness and health, of quietness and busyness. And as I reflect on the last year and a half or so I’ve spent in Sydney, I realise I’ve been forced to re-do my theology, and re-think the way it plays out in my life. There has been radical shifts of perspectives and world-views.

I’ve discovered and I am discovering a Jesus that is as practical and earthy as he is spiritual. There is no split in his mind, in terms of value, regarding his activities of eating, helping, praying, and teaching. And I feel that, when he looks at my life, there is no sense in which he tiers my ‘spiritual’ activities of praying and bible-reading above the other more ‘earthy’ activities of eating, road cycling, and dentistrying. He values it all, and indeed – he is probably most happy when he finds me doing the things I was created to do and love to do.

If there was one word I could use to describe the place I’ve been brought to, I would use the word ‘Freedom’. It’s freedom because somehow Jesus has led me to a place where everything matters. And that satisfies something deep inside of me. Human beings are meaning machines. And yet we are always at risk of placing too much meaning in things i.e. idolizing what is ultimately meaningless. I saw countless children and adults crying when Brazil was crushed in this morning’s World Cup semi-final. We witnessed a defeat of a football team, but also the idol of a nation being smashed to pieces on the floor.

And somehow placing all your meaning in Jesus Christ doesn’t lead you to a high and mighty, overly spiritual place where everything else is relegated to meaninglessness, but placing all your hope and meaning in Jesus enables everything finds it’s rightful position. There is the freedom to enjoy and pursue and do and love without the trap of being consumed by those things.

And a beautiful man and his desires and affections and purposes is finding his way into our lives and into this world. He is a man that refuses to be boxed and contained by anything, not the wrong constructs in our minds, nor the extravagance and selfishness of the west, nor any power or principality in any realm. He is coming on the clouds, He is shining like the sun. He is coming for his bride. And he is bringing freedom, desire, authenticity and ridiculous amounts of productivity.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful people

“The life of man becomes an unbroken chain of movements dictated by his anxious desire for assurances” – Karl Barth

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things” – Morrie Schwartz

I spent the last half a week in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia visiting a House of Prayer and a Church.

I am still trying to figure out the people I saw and met there. Typical me.

When I met these people, I could only describe what I saw/felt as a purity and a simplicity that was incredibly beautiful. I want it. I want what they have!

I feel as if most westerners walk around with great weights on our shoulders. You can see it on people’s faces and in the way they stand. There are a great many concerns weighing the modern man down. Children in the west generally don’t have these concerns and so they seem to have the same sort of purity.

“The Western world is healthy, powerful, and educated. We are blessed with enormous conveniences and luxuries, the abundance of every conceivable good. But we have lost the freedom to enjoy any of it. We are so anxious and frantic, so busy trying to find ourselves and our purpose, we look over and beyond our true glory and never even see it, let alone enjoy it.” – Baxter Kruger

There were varying degrees of what I could perhaps call a weightlessness about them. The women and the children in this context were more ‘weightless’ but I seemed to sense some ‘weight’ on the young men.

But when you see them worship God. Oh wow, this purity stands out. There is a singleness of devotion, and uninhibited expression. There is a freedom, and a degree of focus that puts our busy and distracted and heavy western minds to shame.

I wonder if it is a sense of responsibility that causes this weight. And I’m wondering if the more you own, the larger the size of your bank account, the more you have to be responsible for and care about.

But I’m also wondering if the ‘kingdom person’ (a person living in the fullness of the realities of the word of God) could live with this weightlessness and purity in a seeming paradox of mindsets. That is, he could have the “weight of the world on his shoulders” so to speak because of his responsibilities (pastoring/ministry and company/business activities or ventures), and yet have a purity and a freedom that comes from knowing the responsibility for all things lies in the hands of one infinitely more wise and powerful and ‘for him’, than he could ever be.

Perhaps here-in lies the meaning and beauty and power of Jesus’ statement that we must receive the kingdom like little children.

The wondrous dance of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

We must be sure of the reality that human beings have complete freedom and free-will. And yet in and the fullness of human freedom, God is completely sovereign. I don’t believe God has a plan B, he is far too sovereign. Jesus was not plan B. Somehow in the glorious dance of divine sovereignty and human freedom, both are fully in expression, and in this sense you cannot possibly miss out on what is God’s plan A for you.

The words of Joseph to his brothers in Pharoah’s palace come to mind:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Gen 50:20)”

Disobedience is not a cause for you to miss out on that God has for you. He is far too good to us, and far too sovereign. This reality doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we actually were disobedient. And this is the beauty of this ‘dance’ – divine will does not smother human freedom.

This is our hope – that there is redemption in every fall, hope in every valley, life in every death. When we look upon the events of crucifixion of Christ, in what was a great display of human ignorance and arrogance, lay the greatest redeeming act in the history of the universe. In that one event, in the fullness of human disobedience, hatred, pride and ignorance, the son of God was crucified by men. In that same event, in the fullness of divine design and goodness and redemption, the race of men was redeemed by God.

We are without a doubt the most blessed race to ever exist for the fact that we have perfect reason for the fullness of hope in every moment, and in particular in the darkest moments of our lives.

And so in such a way, we can see that in the beautiful reality of the Kingdom of God, there exists the space for the fullness of responsibility and accountability and yet a fullness of rest, peace and joy.