everything is going to be just fine

As another year comes to a close we turn our thoughts to the rush and tumble of Christmas, and I have to confess that I do love it. Amidst the high-paced madness found in buying gifts, meeting friends and consuming food there is so much fun to be had. I mean, Christmas gives us an excuse for parties, presents and feasting, and who amongst us doesn’t enjoy such things?xmas-540x405

That said most people will find the silly-season a little overwhelming (or completely all-consuming) at some point, and if you’re anything like me you may also find yourself asking… ‘why?’

Why am I so stressed?

Why am I so busy?

Why am I so time-poor?

Why am I so debt ridden?

Why am I so preoccupied with everything other than the things that really matter?

Why am I subjecting myself to the chaos of Christmas yet again and when will this madness end?

Whilst I understand that such questions emerge as we are faced with all things Christmas, I do think we are being a little bit hard on ourselves. Make no mistake the very first Christmas was chaotic! A pregnant teenager and a shocked father-to-be homeless and on the road, it doesn’t get more messy than that! One can only imagine what they must have been experiencing. (Check out the short clip below made by my good friends at YesHeIs.com for a modern day spin on Mary & Joseph’s journey).

G O D  W I T H  U S

I’ve often pondered what Mary and Joseph must have felt as they approached that very first Christmas. Perhaps the chaos as we know it today is not that different to those who lived out the very first Christmas? And if this is the case, perhaps we have more in common with those who were expecting the birth of Jesus than we care to admit?

You see, when a child is born (expected or not) EVERYTHING changes. People pause to stare at new-life and they believe for a moment that hope is somehow real. Their hearts soften. They marvel at the beauty before them, a new-creation with the freedom to write a new story through a life unfolding. The blank page of possibility reflects from their blurry big eyes and it’s unlike anything else ever seen. This is true for newborns today, and this was especially true for the Christ child born in Bethlehem.

For many, a baby born in a manger two thousand years ago to a teenage girl and unsuspecting father is completely unbelievable. Even more unbelievable is that this child is claimed to be the Saviour of the universe – the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. Some were unsure about this at the time of Christ’s birth, and it comes as no surprise that people today would still find this difficult to believe. I mean how could a perfect God be present in such an imperfect situation?

I happen to believe that ALL of Christmas, even the manic crazy and chaotic aspect of it contains something of the subtext of Jesus’ coming into this world. I guess no matter which way you look at it Christmas can only ever be about Jesus. Preparation for His coming, His arrival, and His life-giving presence all point us to the redeeming nature of God in this world. And I believe that God can be found in this time, even in the lives of unlikely, unmarried, expectant teens.

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(c) 2014 The Babes Project, photo taken by Kipindi Photography. Used with permission.

U N L I K E L Y  H E R O E S

There are thousands of young women and men in Australia (and abroad) who enter this season as Joseph and Mary once did – experiencing all of the doubts, fears, and anxiety known at the very first Christmas. They too are about to become parents. For them it’s messy, challenging, unexpected and perhaps we owe it to them to offer an alternative perspective of their situation?

If it was good enough for the God of the universe to enter human history this way, maybe it is possible these struggling parents-to-be also bear the image of the same God in the context of their circumstances? Perhaps we would do well to point that out rather than pointing the finger and adding further condemnation to their already difficult situation?

I have witnessed first hand the work of organisations like Compassion* and The Babes Project* who continue to do exactly that. They offer practical support and care to young people facing crisis pregnancy. Their efforts extend beyond giving them stuff (although they do this too and it is extremely helpful). They offer love, acceptance, care and hope. Their resounding message is ‘you are not alone because we are with you!’

It is their presence alongside these often frightened and vulnerable people that is the reaI gift of hope.

I can only lament that these incredible people and programs did not exist when I was faced with the prospect of becoming a Dad for the first time, for if ever there was a sign of the hope of Christmas they are it!

I T ‘ S  L I F E ,  B U T  N O T  A S  W E  K N O W  I T

Pondering the first Christmas a friend of mine once mused,

“… I was struck by the outrageous way that the reputation of Christ born into a patriarchal society, was tied in with that of a young unwed woman. Why wasn’t someone chosen of more proven moral standing? Anyone wishing to deny Christ only need deny the character of a teenage girl. It’s not the most watertight basis for a claim of divinity. But isn’t this like our God that he throws his lot in with the unproven and stands in solidarity with the unlikely? And when the character of those he stands with is rubbished, his image is tarnished too.” – Laura Florisson

New life is always a gift. This is true today and we can be sure that this is true of Jesus born over two thousand years ago. A baby born is always good news and Jesus birth is the Ultimate good-news story of the day. It was (and is) God screaming to all creation ‘you are not alone – I AM with you!’

In your fears, I AM with you.

In your anxiety, I AM with you.

In your shame, I AM with you.

In your pain, I AM with you.

In your uncertainty, I AM with you.

In your brokenness, I AM with you.

In the chaos of Christmas, I AM with you.

The great I AM comes in the form of new-life and new-life is to be found everywhere. Can you see it, even amidst the chaos? Because paradoxically the joy and peace of Christmas can also be found there. So pause. Remember Him. Examine His life. His words. His actions. Look for the many signs of new life all around you. Oh… and of His birth? Consider what it is His birth represents.

“All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

For when it’s all said and done everything is going to be just fine. A baby has been born.

Merry Christmas.

BK

*Not sponsored. I simply admire their work

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3 simple words that could save your life – part 3 of 3

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A Youth Worker a Nun and a drunk are seated on a plane together… I know, it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but the story I shared in the short clip above is 100% true. I (the youth worker, just to be clear) found myself in a near impossible situation stuck in the middle of two people with whom I was unable to connect with or escape. To the left of me, a person who was about to share the inside of their stomach, to the right of me a person that represented all things good and wonderful and holy. And then there’s me, completely and utterly stuck in the middle.

Everyone feels stuck from time to time. Life has a way of sometimes taking us to some very tough places. We look one way and we see challenges and struggles, it feels as though the proverbial bile of the universe is moments away from dropping into our lap. We look in the other direction and we see all things good, beautiful and wonderful, we desperately want to find our way there but it seems as though there is no conceivable pathway to get there.

Stuck.

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Stuck somewhere between the fear that our challenges will never ease and the hope that maybe one-day we will somehow come through the other side. You know the feeling?

Like when we crave the restoration of a relationship gone wrong.

As we deal with the rejection of a lost a job whilst trying to find another.

Like when we face the bully who won’t go away.

Like living in a period of ill-health without a foreseeable improvement.

Or just feeling ‘blah’ for no apparent reason. All of these can leave us feeling totally and completely STUCK with no way out.

Situations like these might take us to the end of our tether, but they do not need to be the end of the story. There’s more to be written. A new script. A new day. A new story. Full redemption is possible and it begins with a conversation.

It’s exactly at this point that we need to call on the most valuable of all our assets. We pull out the big guns, the high-end ammunition and attack it with the full arsenal of weapons at our disposal –

W E  A S K  F O R  H E L P

So I’m sitting on a plane, stuck between fear and hope. My anxiety was paralyzing and my feelings of panic were off the chart. What did I do (aside form panic) you might ask? Well I did the only thing I could do. I reached out and hit the button. I called out for HELP. The flight attendant came to my aid, ushered the spanish speaking Nun from her seat. I was able to get out, the vomitus vixen to my right was able to get to the bathroom and do whatever she needed to do. Shortly after we all resumed our seat and continued on the journey. Problem addressed. Sometimes all we can do is call out I NEED HELP and sometimes that is enough. But how will we ever know unless we speak up?

I have felt really stuck many times, and many times I have had to ask for help. On one occasion it saved my life. I suspect that you might be surprised at just how many people there are who are also willing to help you. But in order to unlock this support it’s possible you need to speak up. Talk to a friend, your family, your parents, your doctor. Or if you prefer contact one of the many HELP lines available (I’ve listed some below).

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The bottom line is you’ve got to seek some HELP and now is the time to do it. Coincidentally today is R U OK? day, so consider yourself asked! Should you need to I hope you can answer with these three simple words:

I  N E E D  H E L P

Say them, repeat them, type them, write them, send them to someone, SCREAM them if you have to.

I  N E E D  H E L P

Oh… and if someone trusts you enough to share these words, please respond well. Sometimes it is as simple as just listening as they talk about what is troubling them, but this simple act can indeed save a life. (You might like to check out the R U OK site for some excellent tips and resources for both helpers and those seeking help.)

Saying ‘I need help’ reminds us of our worth.

Saying ‘I need help’ moves us toward others and an experience of connection and belonging.

Saying ‘I need help’ is an important step toward hope, change and becoming un-stuck.

So remember these three simple words. They could very well save your life.

This is the last of the three post series on the topic. Thanks for hanging in there with me, I know it’s been pretty heavy. As always, I’m keen to know your thoughts. Where have you found help? What or who gives you hope? When have you said ‘I Need Help’?. Lets keep this important conversation alive.

BK

If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact:

Lifeline    |    Beyond Blue    |    Man Therapy    |    Kids Help Line    |    Headspace


3 simple words that could save your life – part 2 of 3

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As the adage goes ‘no man is an island…’ and don’t we know it to be true! Whilst every human being is unique and valuable it is also true that we are not able to exist entirely on our own.

In part one of this three-part-post we explored the concept of I. We discussed questions of identity, personal value and life purpose (if you haven’t already, you can read part one here). In this post I want to look at the second of my three life saving words to further explore a simple yet profound truth about what you and I really NEED. But, before we begin let me remind you of the journey we are all on and reiterate why I’m writing these posts in the first place:

“If you are ever conflicted about your existence, especially to the point of thinking that it’s not worth living I want you to remember these three words – I  N E E D  H E L P . Say them out loud, to others and to yourself. Say them louder, again and again especially if you think that others have not seen you, heard you or understood you. And keep saying them for as long as your life depends on it. These three words might just save your life. – I   N E E D   H E L P !” 

So let’s continue the conversation – NEED.

I  W A N T  T O  D I S A P P E A R

I love going out to listen to bands. Something special occurs when people get together to feel the raw emotion of live music and engage in a couple of hours of hero-adulation. The musicians, the crowd, the venue and the music all intertwine to create something of a spiritual experience for me. It’s more than a ‘gig’. There’s a connection that occurs, or at least that’s what I think is going on.

I recently got to see one of my favourite Australian artists, and as I stood there and listened to her music with about a thousand other admirers I began to think about how great her life must be. I mean she gets to experience this feeling, this connection, as part of her every day working life!

She began to share something of her story and how it informed the next song she was about to perform. I listened as she completely dismantled my perception of her life. She talked about loneliness, disconnect and feeling ‘invisible’ a lot of the time. She then performed a song inspired by her celebrity musician existence that tells the tale of having many admirers, but few real friends – long flights, always away from home, she lamented

‘If one more person looks through me I could disappear… It could be sweet release, but I don’t want to cry, not here…’ – Kate Miller-Heidke, Nightflight

I looked around the room and people nodded with solace as if to identify with every word she said.

It seems my favourite celebrity muso is not that different to the everyday regular person. People today are more connected than ever. With the click of a button we can discover personal information about pretty much anyone. There are over a billion active FB users worldwide, hundreds of millions active Twitter users, over three billion hits a day on YouTube… LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr… the list goes on (and some people still use MySpace!?). But for all this connection and ability to engage with the world around us it seems we are not much better off. Some of the biggest challenges facing people in the 21st century stem from issues related to loneliness and isolation. It would seem that despite of our over connected technologically obsessed society, many within it feel completely… and utterly… INVISIBLE. Just like my favourite artist, we are surrounded by crowds of people and the more that others look through us, the more we feel like we are disappearing.

connected and lonelyI  S E E  Y O U

So when did we shift from being a culture that esteemed the worth of people and become a society where people are consumed, accumulated and ignored? And more importantly how can we recover from this? Maybe we could learn a thing or two from cultures that seem to do this better. Perhaps the best way to ensure that people don’t feel invisible is to truly ‘see them’.

I love how Zulu people exchange these words upon greeting. One says Sawubona, (I see you) the other says Ngikhona (I am here). Some things are lost in a literal translate of this conversation, because what is actually being said in the midst of this exchange is,

until you saw me I did not exist.

Seeing people is more than just looking at them. To really see someone is to recognise that what stands before us more than just flesh, and blood and bones. Seeing people requires an intentional and honest look into the life and being of another human. It’s more than a passing glance, its pausing long enough to be present to those who are before us, to acknowledge their value simply because they ‘are’. Here’s the thing, when we truly see another person, we give them permission to see us and then begin to connect in quite a profound way. Perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be?

W O L F  P A C K

We humans are highly social beings, pack-animals if you like, and I don’t believe it was ever intended that we live in isolation. A large portion of personal meaning is discovered in belonging, so it comes as no surprise that without positive interpersonal connection we’re bound to struggle. It has been well documented that loneliness is one of the most significant issues in our day and time. More people, young and old report as feeling isolated and lonely than in any other point in history.

Whilst food, water and oxygen might keep our heart beating and our physical well-being in tact, it would be fair to say that these essential elements on their own are simply not enough to sustain us. We NEED meaningful contact with others, friends, relatives, even contact with strangers is important.

Developing meaningful connections can be a complicated business and this is all the more reason to ensure that we are intentional with our efforts. In a recent visit to Australia Dr. Daniel Sweeney (George Fox University, USA) was asked what do people need in order to connect meaningfully and belong. His response,

Everyone needs to know that someone is  H E R E  (present to them in body and mind).

That someone is  L I S T E N I N G  (fully attentive to them).

That someone  U N D E R S T A N D S  them (identifies with them and their circumstances).

And that someone  C A R E S  (demonstrates like or love of them in some way by their response).

In other words what we really need to know from our interactions with others is

“I see you. I hear you. I understand you. I care for you.” We all NEED this.

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A strong relational connection to an individual or community is crucial to everyone’s health and well-being. You might be ok as far as a roof over your head, food for your belly, stuff in your garage, but if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and self-harm it’s definitely time to revisit your relationships and broader community connections. We all NEED to belong, especially when we’re struggling. And when we’re not struggling we NEED to see, hear, understand and extend care toward others. It’s confronting to think that we might be just what someone else needs to survive their current circumstances, but I suspect it is true more often than we realise.

In my final post in this series I will look at what it means to offer and receive HELP, but for now it’s over to you. Where do you find positive connection and belonging? How is this NEED met for you and how do you meet that need for others? I’m always interested in your thoughts!

BK

If you’re in need of immediate support or medical assistance call 000, or contact:

Lifeline    |    Beyond Blue    |    Man Therapy    |    Kids Help Line    |    Headspace


Roses, Roller-coasters and Unfailing Love

In 2012 the most frequent question asked of Google was ‘what is love?’ Seriously!? Of all the thoughts and ideas and facts to be devoured in our information saturated world the most desired enquired and sought after topic was,

The mind-altering-behavior-bending-soul-breaking-loneliness-elixir, THE BIG L, that’s right I’m talking about ‘that word, say it clear now, L.O.V.E. love.’ (whatever happened to the Rockmelons anyway? Hehe.)

It’s either really important to lots of people, or, we’re all sitting at home on the weekend lonely as all get-up seeking comfort from a search engine – totally legit reason I guess. Oh… and for the record in 2013 we asked Google ‘what is twerking’ more than any other question. Wow. No. Comment. Necessary.

So at the risk of alienating half of my reader-list I want to talk about LOVE. The nasty the wonderful and everything in-between. I figure that if we’re interested enough to seek wisdom from an inanimate object then I’m probably justified and qualified to comment.

L O V E  I S  C O N F U S I N G

Now… before you roll your eyes at yet another love-blog-post I challenge you to take a moment and consider what it is you actually understand about love. For those of us in an English speaking culture we’re a little disadvantaged when it comes to talking about love. Many cultures use multiple words to describe the different types of love that can be expressed and experienced. But aside from adding the occasional adjective to help clarify our use of the word, there is only one word to describe this life altering state of being. It’s any wonder we attribute and equate love with all sorts of different things.

I think it is fair to say most people think a lot about the subject of love, and you can be sure there are as many different definitions of love as there are people who consider it. Why does this matter? Because what one understands about love informs how one experiences love, which will inevitably affect how one holds the love of another. And EVERYONE has an opinion and an experience of love. It’s fair to say that the confusion about love is often because people are speaking a different language even though they are using the same word!

I love you more than...

You see the way I love my brother is different to the way I love my children, but to both my brother and my children I say ‘I love you’. The way I love my parents is different to the way I love my wife. But to both my parents and my wife I say ‘I love you’. And whilst it is true that I love my brother, children, parents and wife, ‘I love you’ means something very different to each of them as they receive those words from me. It’s any wonder we get confused and desperate to understand love.

So on our quest to better understand and describe love we turn to metaphors of contrast. People refer to things like the ‘white knuckle relationship roller coaster’. You know that feeling? The terrifying and exhilarating experience as we travel at breakneck speed clinging on for dear life through the love induced relational highs and lows? Or perhaps you identify with the more romantic amongst us who like to think of love as a rose. A symbol of searing beauty with velvet red petals inviting us closer with its alluring sweet scent. We reach out to take hold of this prized beauty only to discover that is has the power and potential to cut deep with its viscous thorns (thank you Bette Midler… if you’re under the age of thirty you can Google that too). It seems there is no end to imagery and art dedicated to describe the paradox that is love.

P L E A S U R E  &  P A I N

Love is enchanting. Love can cost. Love fills us with passion for another. Love can make us furious with anger. Love is beautiful and to love is also to risk pain, rejection and hurt. Love discovered is wonderful, and love lost is excruciating. It really is bizarre, and it leaves me wondering how one emotion can cause people to behave in such diverse and opposite ways?

Heaven knows that I have made a mess of love often enough, but…

“I have come to accept that much of how I experience life is directly related to how I hold love and what I expect of it.”

So I ask you again, what do you understand love to be? How do you hold it? And what do you expect of it? Because sometimes it sure feels like love can fail us.

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A loving husband fails a hurting wife with a careless word.

A parent’s love fails an abused child and their world is no longer safe.

A son’s love fails a lonely and aging parent when they don’t call.

A loving woman fails her self by giving into the expectations for love from others.

A man fails his closest friends when he is found out to be living a double life.

And we begin to think that love has failed us.

L O V E  I S  A L W A Y S  G O O D

But is it possible for love to fail? I’m not so sure. Love is in essence always good, but it’s important to remember that love is always outworked and controlled by people – fallible, broken, and imperfect people. Whilst it is true that people may fail in their endeavor to love-well, I would argue that Unfailing Love still remains.

When life, relationships and experiences feel like shifting sand beneath our feet it is important to remember that Love has not shifted with it. Love can be known, held well and experienced fully. It is found in the One who is described as ‘pure love’. Whilst there are not words adequate to completely and comprehensively describe this love heres a few words that work for me:

Unfailing Love is…

Strong – Humble – Sacrificial – Intimate – Hospitable – Generous – Committed – Gracious…

There’s more to be said but that’s not a bad start.

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I don’t know about you, but I could do with a love like that. I know that I can’t always be that for another, nor should I come to expect that others can always be that for me, but I sure will try. And I’d like to think that others will also try to extend this sort of love in return. Inevitably we’ll fail to do this well but it’s then that I choose to remember the One who has and does extend love in this way.

The song at the beginning of this post is wonderful, I really do like it* (kudos to Jess, Dan and the Insideout team for writing and recording such fantastic music). It reminds me of some of the most beautiful words ever written on the subject of love. That in spite of the fallible nature of human affection there is such a love that demands my attention and embrace, that there IS such a thing as Unfailing Love.

May this inform how we hold, understand, and offer love.

BK

*Not sponsored

My big little secret

It might shock you, but I have been foolish enough to carry a big little secret (or two) in my life.

  • There was the time that I accidentally vacuumed up part of a deceased persons ashes and then proceeded to do my best to cover it up.
  • Then there was the time I stole a friends watch and pretended that someone gave me one just like it.
  • Then there was the time that I hurt someone dear to me through a dishonest and deceitful act.
  • Then there was the time I had lied to others around me regarding a significant personal character issue.

All. Embarrassingly. True.

It would be easy for me to write this post and focus on all the public figures that have been caught out living a lie in recent times. Who would blame me? Celebrities are often very easy prey. Their lives are out there for the world to see feeding our insatiable appetite for peering into the private lives of others, and indeed we feast when they appear to be failing.

This need to see others at their most broken has always intrigued me. I mean, if I want to look deep into a life that has a history of wrong doing, deception, and foolishness I need look no further than my own life. I suspect many of us could say the same. Why look to others? The answer to this is rather simple,

focussing on the foolishness of others takes the focus away from my own failings and insecurities, and for that moment I am deceived into thinking that I am somehow better, especially better than the likes of (insert latest celebrity failure here…).

A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

It is amazing though how secrets seem to make a way out, even after a VERY long time in hiding. And the ramifications are usually dire. It would seem the longer one prolongs the inevitable uncovering of the truth, the greater the impact and long term effect. Little secrets have big consequences. One thing we can be sure of however, is that everyone has a secret. Whether it is a secret the size of a giant squid lurking beneath the surface of our lie ladened ocean with consequences stretching like tentacles into multiple areas of our life, OR, whether a simple personal and private faux-pa, it is fair to say that most people have a skeleton or two in the closet.

‘Big deal’ you might say…

‘So people have a few skeletons in the closet, what business is it of mine? If someone is stupid enough to take performance enhancing drugs, lie about it, and then get caught, they deserve everything that’s coming… why waste time on this? why does this matter?’

If only it were that simple. Whether we like it or not our actions have far reaching consequences – good or bad. They have a direct effect on ourselves, on those closest to us, on that which we represent, and also on the culture we form.

1.  Every culture is formed by the collective stories of the people that make up that culture.

Think about it… when your life and experiences combine with the lives and experiences of others, a bigger experience (or story) is formed. Whilst it is possible to live a totally isolated and disconnected life, when we do participate in life with others we develop common threads and common points of connection. For example, in the early days of Australian settlement convicts would support each other as they faced mistreatment and discipline by the authorities. the Aussie spirit of supporting the underdog began and today we still take great pride in supporting the ‘Aussie-battler’, those who are fighting against the odds. How we understand and experience each other (and ultimately ourselves) completely informs the culture we develop. So it stands to reason that;

When the stories of the individuals don’t represent the truth of their existence, our collective story becomes distorted. This means that (culturally speaking) we become influenced by things that just aren’t real.The result of this is that cultures develop patterns of operating, systems, expectations, and social norms that inevitably encourage others to become distorted images of their true selves as well.

Think about the effects of this on our families, our society, our organisations, our businesses, our churches and our communities. In the case of Lance Armstrong people the world over celebrated a man who had ‘achieved the impossible’, who had overcome great odds and who then earned millions of dollars telling that story. And many aspired to do the same. Of course this actually was impossible – even for the one who had supposedly done these things!

2.  It’s never just the wrong-doer that is affected by their poor behaviour, the action becomes another reason to not trust what it is they represent.

Many have said they can never trust another champion cyclist – in their mind the sport of cycling has been forever tarnished as a result of Armstrong’s dishonesty. The same can be said for anyone that has knowingly misrepresented themselves.

  • For the politicians who do a backflip on policy promises – yet again it proves that politicians and political systems can’t be trusted…
  • the minister that is stood down for moral failings – another reason for people to never trust the church…
  • the CEO that didn’t pay their taxes – another name on the list of greedy business owners…
  • the wife that cheats on her husband – further proof that the institution of marriage is doomed. You get my point.

On the other hand, people and cultures that practice honesty and truthfulness, are freed of the shame of their failings and can cultivate a future based on possibility. Their personal (and collective) story is usually one of humility, openness, grace, acceptance and healing. Such cultures have a more accepting view of people and society, and therefore they’re better equipped and better placed to develop forward (rather than simply trying to maintain that which is not real). Consider for a moment the incredible healing that has begun for Australia as a nation and our indigenous people after the Prime Ministers ‘sorry speech’. On this particular issue there is a long way to go, but that moment which acknowledged all that was wrong, covered up, and misrepresented marked the beginning of restoration for many individuals (some would say a whole country) affected through the events of the stolen generation.

3.  It may be cliche but I still believe that ‘honesty is the best policy’

Admitting we have done the wrong thing and then living as though we mean it is not only better for individuals, it is better for relationships, families, communities, cultures and humanity at large! In old school terms we call it confession and repentance – not simply a discipline for the Christian, it is just good plain and simple common sense. There is healing in the sharing of secrets. That shame, that embarrassment, that pain… it can be dealt with – I’m living proof of that. The writer of James put it this way…

“…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 (TNIV)

I happen to believe that God wants us to be free of our secrets, what ever it is. This is not a free pass form the consequences of our actions, but it is a promise of freedom from a God that is first and foremost about grace. There is healing in sharing our secrets. So… before we jump to pointing the finger at the likes of Lance Armstrong, Peter Slipper, Arnold Schwarzenegger or whoever else you might like to add, we would do well to pause and remember the time we made a mess of things. It is for times such as these that these words were penned…

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (TNIV)

So… What’s your big little secret? Might I suggest that now is the time to fess up and begin the work of healing? If you’re brave enough, start right now. Tell someone. If you’re really brave, you can tell us right here, right now and comment below.

BK

St. Valentine was probably a virgin

Valentine’s day is upon us, and I for one am looking forward to it! Like many, I always enjoy the chance to celebrate love shared with my wife. But Valentine’s Day seems to give us permission to celebrate this in a way that other days do not. I have to ask why? What is it about Feb 14 that it demands attention of lovers the world over? Why does this day hold such special significance? And what exactly are we celebrating anyway?

It is significant for me NOT because I spoil my wife with the obligatory roses and Lindt dark chocolate. Nor do we see it as a reason to find an overpriced hotel room and make love late into the night – as if we need an excuse for that anyway (pretty sure many of you are wishing I had not said that… over share?). It is significant because I see it as an opportunity to remember the KIND of love that makes our relationship. Let me explain.

A lot of the hoohaa surrounding valentines day is based on the hope of individuals who desire to be swept off their feet and showered with gifts. This supposed act of romance and love is basically an expression of worship at the altar of ME. That is –

“I, the demigod deserving of ALL attention and affection, will be celebrated, honoured and ravished beyond reason, because I simply DESERVE this sort of treatment. I need not do anything to earn it, I simply have a right to be treated this way, because I AM the most important person in the world.”

This is a reflection of some of the most common motivations observed in our culture – the individuals desire to be known, revered and adored… basically, to be treated like a god. In old-school terms we call it idolatry.

Furthermore, the measure of success relating to such attention is viewed through the lens of sexual power. On Valentines Day many a person will seek out a Valentine’s date with a view to being ravished at the altar of desire. Whilst many don’t think twice about such an encounter, for some it is the ultimate sign of a successful Valentine’s Day. For some, they even feel loved for a moment (or two… if they’re lucky). Who can blame them? Such an encounter only resembles the attitude and inference of the numerous trashy rom-coms beamed into our homes 24/7. And what of it you say? Well, when a quickie and a one night stand is portrayed as either comical or the pinnacle of personal ecstasy, humans are devalued and love is cheapened. It’s a bit like bingeing on a bag of Snakes Alive but convincing yourself you’re dining on fine Belgian truffles.

This is far from the original significance associated with Valentine’s Day. February 14 has an origin and a history, and like most things its truth and significance are found there. The legend of St. Valentine extends far beyond the often ascribed commercial value of roses, chocolates and meaningless sex. It is a powerful reminder of the essential nature of love and what love really looks like.

St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught aiding and marrying young Christian couples who were under persecution by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. It is said that Claudius took a liking to this prisoner, and understandably so. After all, Valentinus was attributed with healing a prison guard’s blind daughter. However Valentinus made one fatal mistake. He tried to convert the Emperor and as a consequence on February 14, 269 CE he was sentenced to death, beaten with clubs and stoned; when that failed to kill him he was then beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Valentinus was later made the patron Saint of love, young people and happy marriages.

St. Valentine is mostly remembered for his willingness to help those who were being persecuted – the outcast, marginalised and disadvantaged. He was known for his commitment to serve those with need. He was known for his willingness to live for the sake of others, even at the cost of his own life. Indeed his desire to see young love set free in marriage when the present authorities would not recognise their union was in itself an act of love. It could be said that his willingness to share his faith in God with the Emperor, who ultimately ordered his death, was motivated by love. And indeed his willingness to do these things, knowing it could well cost him his life, demonstrates love in the highest order. It seems that personal gain, adoration and pleasure were not at all part of the equation for St. Valentine.

The life and love expressed by St. Valentine was nothing like an episode of Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Two and a Half Men or Two Broke Girls. The life of St. Valentine displays something far more meaningful.

A love that seeks to serve the other, not the self.

An active love, demonstrated by personal cost.

A love that fights for human rights and personal freedom.

A love that celebrates the sanctity of marriage and elevates the beauty of that.

Perhaps Jesus said it best –

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 (TNIV)

So… long after the chocolates are eaten, the roses are dead and the physical pleasure is gone, what kind of love will you celebrate on Valentine’s Day? St. Valentine stood for the kind of love that deserves our full attention. It was tough, gritty, sacrificial and real. He offered the greatest possible human expression of love – his life. That’s the kind of love that will sustain a relationship for the long haul. It’s the kind of love that anyone can outwork regardless of their relationship status. And that is the kind of love that I choose to celebrate on Valentine’s Day.

Over to you… How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What action demonstrates this kind of love to someone special in your life? How can you express these attributes of love in the everyday?

BK