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.

KP-TheBabesProjectAnnual-93

(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

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

BLOG_IneedHelpBanner3.001

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.

155726099584693022o8cmFJIgc

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).

help

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

BLOG_IneedHelpBanner2.001

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.

need

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.

tumblr_lblefeRJns1qbgvpzo1_1280

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.

tumblr_ljal1gzrbQ1qa6pa0

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