Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Choose your words carefully

When it comes to communication, what we “say” and what we “mean” can be two different things as much as what we “say” and what others “hear.” Our words can be inclusive or exclusive; they can be soothing or cause pain. The words we choose to use really do make a difference. While I believe this, I do not profess to always do it well.  I have been in trouble many times, for things I have said and not meant and even things that I have meant and not said. I have read many a truth from the Bible and often wished I could be silent more often, sensing this is the only way I can avoid getting into trouble. 
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,
For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
I was taught since a young child “that if I have nothing good to say, then best not to say anything at all”. I believe this is wise counsel, however this doesn’t seem to be what we are teaching today.
I have been particularly saddened by language and words that have been used over the past months regarding issues all over the world in politics, gender issues, women’s rights, terrorism, Islam, refugees and the list goes on. I find myself in conversation with people daily and depending on how I choose to respond, I feel more than ever before, an argument could be started and a wall can be built. For a while now my choice has simply been to be silent in the midst of increasingly polarised views. Yet, in my silence I have read more and listened more to world events than I have ever done before in my lifetime. We live in a time where everyone (all ages) has an opinion to express and the ability to express their words on a potential world stage through social media. With great opportunities comes great responsibility and yet daily I see more walls are being built rather than bridges to hearing each other’s views. Never before have I sat amongst peers and friends and felt like silence is the only option.  
But are we called to be silent? As Christians in an increasingly secular western society, what are the “words” God is calling us to use and in what way? Maybe sometimes we are called to be silent, but not all the time. And if we are not called to be silent, then Lord, when are we called to speak and how are we called to speak? Perhaps when the world is so polarised it is precisely when the right words are the most important. In fact, some would say that to be silent at this time is a cop out. For me, I must confess, choosing silence has often been the easy option, for the sake of peace, fear, miscommunication and even at times fear of what people will think of me, but mostly because I do not want to speak anything other than what God would be pleased with and because honest “Truth” has been muddied for me. 
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
While I choose to believe this is true, how is it then that I can be in a room of colleagues, be at dinner with friends, read blogs and twitter feeds and hear Christians choose words and say things that I simply cannot agree with, words that suggest that “truth” is not “truth”, but in fact is simply relative. 
But I say again ... is silence the only option? Is it the Godly option? When is it best to listen?  When are we called to speak? And when we speak what words do we choose? 
Or is it more about HOW we choose to communicate, how we choose our words carefully and how we treat each other. When communication gets heated or misunderstood in our family, I say to my children, “it is all in the way you say it,” and surely it is the same everywhere. If when we chose to speak there is mutual “empathy” and “respect,” we might have a better chance to cross the great polarised divide. If we can’t do that as Christians first with each other, then what right and hope do we have to be a voice in these troubled times. I do believe that now, more than ever before, it is time to choose our words carefully; with empathy and respect. 

As Robb Miller says, 
We owe it to each other and our country to try to reach out and try to connect. We can’t afford to hate them any longer and let them hate us. Empathy and respect ... when you think about it, is the very least we can do for our fellow citizens”. (https://www.ted.com/talks/robb_willer_how_to_have_better_political_conversations)

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A mothers rant on sex and love

As I sat and watched one of my favourite Aussie TV shows with my family, I was saddened as the young teen character decided that after ‘weeks’ of going out with his new girlfriend, they ‘loved’ each other so much that they wanted to have sex together. She was leaving town very soon, because she was only here on vacation when they met, so before she leaves they decide that having sex would be the best way to say goodbye to each other. 

He talks to his dad about it and while the father’s first response is “are you sure?” which indicates a little reservation, the son’s reply is “but I love her.”  So, the father and everyone in the family encourage him to “be safe” and “have a good time.” 

I am so sad that something so important in life (i.e love and sex) is seen as something so flippant. I know it is just the norm now. If you want to and it feels right, just do it. The teens I minister with think I am too conservative or think I don't know what I am talking about when I say, “wait.” They simply feel they know better. 

I have been married for 29 years and still my marriage and sex life, while wonderful, is certainly not simple or just a “bit of fun.” True love is complex and hard work and true intimacy is worth all the required self-sacrifice and other-centeredness that comes with it.

So, I ask, “How can you know in three weeks you really ‘love’ someone and simply see sex as, ‘if it feels good do it?’ I don't think the world is being honest as they disconnect sex from the deep emotions that go with it.  

The world tells us that the key is to “be protected” 
A poster I saw in the doctor’s surgery the other day said this: 

"Because sleeping with one person is sleeping with  many" 

So as a result the NSW Health Care's advice is: 

“Wear a condom and check for SDI’s whenever you start with a new partner.” 

There is nowhere on the poster that says there are other alternatives, no mention of the emotional scars that might result from giving yourself to many partners, and no sense that something so precious is really worth waiting to share with one person for a lifetime. 

I sit on the lounge with my 16 and 19 year olds and feel worried for the world they are in where the only morals we are allowed to talk about are, “if it feels good do it.”

It was interesting that when the father on the TV show wanted to talk in detail with the boy about what he was about to do, the boy was embarrassed and ran away. Interesting how somehow they can't talk about it with anyone and yet feel they are old enough and mature enough to actually do it. It is the same with the young people I work with. They won't talk about how they feel and what they are doing but are happy to give a precious part of themselves to anyone who gives them some attention. 

I know this is a topic no one really wants to talk about and yet relationships and love are the bases of nearly every movie, every book, every TV show, most songs, and the list goes on. Love and relationships are at the very core of who we are, the need for love and safety, for trust and acceptance, and yet no one seems to see that most of the problems we have in society today are due to the abuse of love, the lack of it, the misunderstanding of it and the deep need we have to acquire it. 

So how can something so deep and important to us have become so abused, misused and shallow? It seems if we make out that it doesn't really matter, then we fool ourselves into believing we won’t get hurt. 

I know it is not a new thing. It has always been there under the surface, but the changing culture even from when I was young, finds us in a place where it is even the ‘norm’ for Christians to sleep together. I am simply laughed at, to believe that to stay pure for your wedding night is even possible, not to mention that it is God's preference and desire for us all to commit to one person and to love them for a lifetime. 

I am simply sad for those who will never know that kind of love. For me, true intimacy is a glimpse of the way our Father in Heaven loves us; jealously and purely, unconditionally, completely, holding nothing back, sacrificially and completely other-centered.

I have been with my  lifelong partner for over 30 years. We have a long way to go to get close to “true intimacy” as stated above, but the adventure and rewards are worth it. It is a love like no other and I know that God longs for that for all his children. 

In John 4, the woman at the well was looking for love. She was so thirsty for love that she searched for it in many men. When she met Jesus, He said, “Anyone who drinks from this well will thirst again, but anyone who drinks the water I give, will never thirst again.”

If we give our love away so easily, how will we ever understand the pure love God longs for us to have with Him: not multiple Gods, just one jealous God who wants ALL of us! The Devil revels in watering down that kind of love. 

I am not sorry if this offends or sounds like a rant. If most TV shows, movies, books, songs, magazines, not to mention our Health Services, who are considered authorities we should listen to today, can so easily make statements about the way we should view sex and love, then surely I have a right to do so as well. If our young people are never given an alternate story, how will they ever know there is an alternative, a different way, a way that our Creator/Father made us so we might enjoy life to the full. (John 10:10)