On making moments

Foam plugs stuffed in my ears, shoes attached to the sticky floor, neck craned, back aching, complete strangers in intimate proximity, blinding lights and of course…the kind of loud, live music you can feel in your chest.

A couple of nights ago we went to see MuteMath play at the Hifi. I like their music and their creative expressions of faith and Adam was confident their live show (first tour in Australia in eight years), would be something special.

Several times throughout the evening I wondered, ‘Why am I here again?’ It crossed my mind over dinner at the Bavarian Bier Cafe. 5 guys and me. Apart from us, the other guys all have kids.

‘Why am I here?’ was also in the back of my mind during the average support band,  in the long half hour waiting for the guys to start playing and over and over from around 10.30pm as my feet, back and legs ached from standing up so long in the packed-in-surrounded-by-tall-people crowd. Now I acknowledge this is a first world problem, and I’m really thankful that I have the money, time, freedom and opportunity to see live music. Really. Yet I was planning a conversation with ‘future Nai’ where I would say no to the next live concert. Those thoughts didn’t stick around though, because deep down I know that given the opportunity (and a reasonable ticket price!), it will almost always be a yes. Why?

Great live music is about making moments. I remember seeing Chris Martin from Coldplay sing an entire chorus lying down on his back, minutes after literally sprinting around the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 2006. Last year we saw Jon Foreman from Switchfoot climb into the audience and on to the stage from a second storey balcony railing, all the while singing the opening of the first song. Like so many things  in life, it’s all about creatively engaging with the people.

MuteMath did not disappoint. The whole band entered from the back of the venue, walking through the crowd like they were in a parade – with drum and percussion and carrying a banner of fairy lights. Unique. The lead singer crowd surfed on a giant mattress and did handstands off the keyboard.  The drummer did some epic drum solos including one where he let the crowd hold his ___ drum as he played it. So many moments. And then this:

In the midst of the giant crowd, I was suddenly front row as lead singer Paul Mooney sang an entire song right next to me, while standing on a big black box. I don’t usually swoon over celebrities but I must confess, this was my favourite part of the show. The waiting and the pain, the tall people whose heads I was trying to see over and the late night and clumsiness at work the next day – it was all worth it. MuteMath might do similar things at every show on their tour, but it felt pretty special nonetheless.

Adam was right. The show was something special and while I don’t have his  passion for live music, I have come to love the anticipation and the experience of previously Ipod constrained songs coming to life on stage. Who knows what moments await us at our next live show?

“I can’t believe I never noticed my heart before.” Noticed, MuteMath

Worship worthy

Yesterday I went along to the City Bible Forum in Sydney for the first time – a weekly lunchtime meeting investigating what the Bible says about different issues.

Working with missionaries all over the world as part of my job exposes me to some of the realities of life for people serving and living in countries where security risks for Christians are high. It reminds me to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy in Australia to gather around the Word.

The talk was on the theme, “Must love always end in tears?”  Now, tonight I’m sitting here with dry tears on my face after watching the start of a romantic comedy where a man loses his wife in a car accident.

The end of love whether through death or otherwise, is excruciatingly painful.

Worship of something is inevitable for humans. Bertrand Russell said “love ceases to be a demon when it ceases to be a god.” I don’t think we can love someone too much, but we can put the wrong thing in first place – and that will certainly end in tears.

God has always commanded that we make him our first love. We were challenged yesterday to consider that if the object of our worship is anyone/thing other than God, it will almost certainly, destroy us. The object of our worship must be worthy of it.

Love is painful. Jesus has been there – confronted by his friends mourning for the loss of their brother Lazarus, he wept (John 11). He had compassion for the woman at the well whose own love life had likely been deeply painful and unsatisfying. He pointed her to himself, the Christ, the one who could offer living water, eternal life – through the only truly satisfying love relationship possible.

How good it is that there is a bigger picture, one who is truly worthy of our love, a God who from the beginning has called us to worship Him alone and who came to earth to show us how.

I long to love God with all my heart, soul and mind. It’s a regular prayer of mine. And as I love him more, though there will certainly be pain, I will love others more like Jesus did. I will love my husband well.

Though inevitable, death is not the end. Our hope is in an eternity with our supreme love, the all-powerful, gracious God who romances us like no human being ever could or will.

I did it!

Earlier this year, my friend Kath inspired me to embark on a two month challenge of not spending money on myself (with the exception of essential items) until my birthday. The goal – to think less about me and my wants and more about… God and other more important things. She was doing a three month challenge and is still going strong!

Today is my birthday, so I’m happy to say that I made it!

The shops were essentially off-limits, except for buying gifts for others. I was liberated from being lured into the clothing and accessories shops that lie between the office and the train station. I’d like to say I didn’t do any net browsing for pretty clothes and shoes but I mostly blame joining Pinterest for that! I have spent most lunch times outside, often reading my Bible, instead of in the shops.

now what?

We’ve always channelled some of our income into separate ‘spending’ accounts, since we got married. As a rule, he likes to spend, I like to save. It has worked a dream for us. So Adam challenged me to consider giving the money I saved by not doing any spending, to someone else. Good challenge. I prayed about it and I’m eager to do this.

But there’s more. Going to the Hillsong Colour Conference last week has left me pondering whether I could make this challenge not just a one-off thing, but a way of life. I’m so thankful for all I have received, from education to jobs to friends and family – I’m very blessed – so how could I be more generous and help others? Stay tuned! If you pray, pray for wisdom and guidance from God about the ideas and stirrings on my heart.

So what about me? (Part 1)

Which ones today? Thanks husb. Fun, beautiful gift!

What should I wear out tonight? I need more sleep. I really feel like a smoothie. I hope Adam comes home soon. I wonder if anyone has liked my Facebook status?

me. me. me.

I don’t know about you, but I think a lot about myself and all the things that (have the potential to) affect me. I worry, wonder, ponder, think, ruminate. And I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Sure, self-preservation is probably just part of being human, but I know deep down that me, me, me, is not the way I was intended to spend my days.

For the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on my self-centredness as I’ve been reading The Meaning of Marriage, by Tim Keller and I’m only a few chapters in. So far it’s authentic and a very interesting examination of marriage – firstly from society’s point of view and then digging into the meaning of marriage according to the Bible.

There can be no doubt that marriage exposes our sinfulness, our selfishness, who we really are. Married friends counselled us with this advice before we got married and we nodded and smiled. How right they were. The ups and downs on the marriage journey have brought to light ugly parts of my character that I barely knew existed.

The book has put words on a page for my own struggles with self-centredness (guess that’s almost ironic) and the ways that this has brought difficulty to us.

Self-centredness by its very character makes you blind to your own while being hypersensitive, offended and angered by that of others. (p.57)

Yes. Blind. How many times have I thought “He’s being selfish…Why doesn’t he think of me?” It’s almost ironic.

Every day offers opportunities to pursue our own gain or that of others. One Saturday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I had my usual to-do list – baking washing and grocery shopping, and probably other wishful ideas in my head. But Adam needed me to help him make his music video.

I’m not going to lie, I said yes to helping because on some level I knew it was right but for the first half an hour or so I wrestled with anxiety about not doing my things. By the end of the session, I knew I had made the right call. We struggled to understand each other at times, but it was lots of fun and we had this rare opportunity to get outside and wander around our area and create a story together. The fruit of that afternoon (and a few others) will be public in the not too distant future, we hope! Keller writes (p 60),

Fulfilment is on the far side of sustained unselfish service, not the near side.

I’m pretty sure that joyful unselfish service is the key to authentic love. In the famous Bible passage about love, Paul explains to the Corinthians…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

After four and a half years of marriage God continues to reveal my selfishness on at least a daily basis. Apparently, it goes to a whole new level when you have kids, so I’m glad to trust in God’s perfect timing for this and look forward to the ways it may refine and grow me anew!

This is how we are to love – by being others focused and it is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the ultimate picture of what this truly means.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

So what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about God. Stay tuned for Part 2…

more than proud.

“Proud” goes some way to conveying how I felt last night as I stood amongst loyal friends – old and new – and family watching my dear husband launch his EP – “Foreground Vice, Background Sky.” I felt the kind of joy and love that sits right down in my gut and makes me well up if I think about it for too long.

The words, melodies and beats forged together with his passionate heart and intensely focused mind, as he overcame barriers, both technical and personal, over long days and late nights, are completed and released. Set free rather like wild birds released from a cage.

It would be a lie to say it has been easy to walk alongside him on this road. But when a friend asked me last night whether it had all been worth it, the answer has always been and still is, a resounding YES!

It has been a privilege to be there each step of the way – from hearing the newly written songs in the raw to making decisions about mixing, from clapping out percussion tracks in the studio with friends to celebrating the completion of the final mix. I loved being involved.

To those who partied with us at the Launch last night – in spirit (from Mexico to the UK and in between), and in person (from the Shire to Blacktown), thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for encouraging Adam in the pursuit of this dream.

Adam – you continue to amaze me. It is such an honour to be your wife.

Above all, may God receive the glory! Last night saw many prayers answered. We are deeply thankful for His grace, gifts and guidance and are filled with hopeful expectation at what may lie ahead.

Curious to hear his songs? You can buy them here!

Watch Adam’s pre-launch video here.

Nothing compares to this love.

On a different note (and because I might be a little behind on my post-a-week commitment) this song has been in my head since I heard it for the first time just over a week ago. It’s beautiful so I wanted to share it with you lovely people who read my blog (in case you haven’t heard it yet).

 

 

I find myself here on my knees again. Caught up in grace like an avalanche. Nothing compares to this love.

So profoundly true. Thank you Jesus for your endless love and grace.

Generous Justice – A book review

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I can be pretty naughty when it comes to reading non-fiction books. Seriously. I tend to have at least 2 going at a time, and if I start reading a fiction book, the non-fiction ones have no hope of being read until the fiction one is done – despite being (usually) far more inspiring and challenging. So, I recently set myself a challenge of reading a non-fiction book all the way through without picking up a fiction one. I haven’t quite finished it yet and I did briefly pick up a fiction book, but the first two pages were so strange that I wasn’t easily captivated.

Thankfully I picked a book for my challenge that I am really enjoying reading – “Generous Justice” by Timothy Keller. I feel that God is using this book to grow both my understanding of how God’s grace to us in Jesus, makes us just in the way we live, and also to deepen my heart for justice, as I dream and imagine how I might help bring this into others’ lives.

Chapter 2 of the book is all about Old Testament laws of justice. I confess that my Old Testament knowledge is not great (though I’m working on it – currently read up to Genesis 23) and so I was amazed at the detailed rules and requirements God had for his people in order to ensure that “there should be no poor among you” (Deuteronomy 15:4-5).

The year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55) is part of this – every 49th year, God’s laws required that all the land would return to the original landowners – so that if you had made decisions or calamity had come upon you, there was an approximately once in a lifetime second chance at life, without the baggage of past poverty. Keller doesn’t propose a return to the year of Jubilee (my mind wandered there though, trust me!) although there is much we can learn from this idea – of somehow breaking the cycles of poverty which are so present in many communities in Australia and overseas.

I also had a ‘lightbulb’ moment reading through an examination of Jesus sermon on the mount. Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). I have never thought deeply about this statement, and I have never really understood it either. Most scholars believe that God’s blessing and salvation come to those who acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy(p.101). I had a debt because of my sin, I can’t do anything to repay it or redeem myself but God’s generous gift of grace in sending Jesus  is the only thing that saved me.

As a person who has received God’s grace can I look at a woman who is deep in debt and say “get yourself out of this mess.”  God didn’t do this to me. This is profoundly challenging for me. Where and to whom is God calling me to be generous?

Lots of the examples given in the book are about churches helping to transform poor communities in the US. As you may know I go to church in Redfern – a part of Sydney where the middle to upper class live across the road from the unemployed, the forgotten and the struggling in Department of Housing towers. There is huge spiritual need in Redfern for all of these people but there is also great physical needs – and this has been on my mind and heart a lot as I have read this book. I’m super encouraged that some of the guys from our church are running a Soup Kitchen a couple of nights a week to start to help meet some of the needs.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I want to learn to live justly, to live generously and to keep growing in my understanding of what this means. I have much still to learn and that is really exciting to me. How will God’s grace make me just?

This may be only part 1 of my review of this book – if I get inspired to share more of what I have learned once I’m finished.

letting go of control.

Train, train, bus. That’s how I get to work and vice versa home. You know how it goes…one is late and you miss the next one or two. When one of the trains just stops plain still on the tracks, not at the station, I get frustrated and anxious and struggle to think about anything other than being late and losing precious minutes of time…

I want control. I want a plan. I want the weather forecast, the train timetable, the social agenda for the month ahead. I also need the cupboard doors to be shut when I go to bed. I’ve needed that for as long as I can remember.

So what to do when the weather turns surprisingly cold, people cancel, trains run late or all the other things in life that don’t go to plan. My default: get angry, anxious or sad or a combination of the three.

This is crazy isn’t it? Cupboard doors aside, I have no control over any of these things! So why do I yearn for it? The (elusive) promises of comfort, security, efficiency, ease.

I can be controlling over people in my life too (or at least on some level I want to be). Again, I have zero control here. I have struggled with this temptation to sin by being controlling for a long time. I confess it to God on an almost daily basis – probably should be about 10 times that! As part of a new Bible Reading Plan, I was reading Genesis the other day….

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”

Genesis 3:16

And the part about the “desire to control my husband” really struck me. On one level, this passage validates the desire I have, as one of Eve’s daughters, as a result of the Fall. God knew when He made me, that one day I’d want to control my husband. But it doesn’t end there. He also made me for a relationship of trust in Him. For a life where we choose to let Him ‘take the wheel.’

The world and the evil one, seem to love spinning me the lie, that I can or should be in control. Believing this always ends badly, with anger, disappointment and tears. Being controlling isn’t the way God intended me to relate to people. God’s plan for me and for all people is…

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

What an astonishing counter-cultural instruction and promise this is:  entrust your whole heart to God, don’t go thinking you know what’s best, let Him be in control and this is the way to life!

The words in this very passage recently played a big part in a step of faith for some very newly married friends of ours. They went to the other side of the world to study at Bible College less than a month after they got married. Doesn’t make sense, but then God’s plans are bigger than ours. Always.

A personal challenge

Inspired by a friend’s commitment to abstain from TV for a week cos she spends too much time watching, I’m thinking of trying to “let go” for a week in an area where I seek control regularly. Next week’s probably not the week to face the train times or the cupboard doors since I’ll be away for a work training course in the Blue Mountains all week. I wonder if I could abstain from looking at my weather app? Scary thought. I’ll see how I go!

And perhaps every time I worry about the weather, and the potential consequences of it being different to what I expected, I can recite the words from Proverbs 3 in my head! I suspect that the more I let go and trust God, the more life I will find in Him, the more adventures to be had.

An update…

I posted a couple of weeks ago about two things which were very much on my heart to pursue and I made a commitment to take steps to pursue them. Read more here.

1. Missions at Church – I’m taking on being the missions person at church. We have an exciting opportunity to be strategic about who/what we support in the year/s ahead because of various changes happening at the moment.

2. Volunteering at IARC – Application submitted this week. Got a response that said no need at the moment but we’ll put you on the list. To be honest I’m really ok with this. Applying was most of the battle

holding on to hope

As I read news broadcasts and see photos and videos about the flooding in Queensland, I’m reminded both that life is precious and this world is a broken place. It is hard to comprehend that much water, that much devastation to lives and families, happening in my own country.

And today I have also been thinking of Haiti. It’s one year today since the earthquake. Though there are stories of hope and survival which have come out of this very poor country at its darkest hour, I have read news reports today that life remains dangerous, many people are still suffering and homeless and rebuilding is slow.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be there. But a few months ago we met Joel and Rachel when they were looking for a church and thought ours in Redfern might be local to where they hoped to live. This amazing couple have helped us get some kind of idea.  Joel and Rachel were working as missionaries in Haiti and were two of only a few people in their building to survive the quake. They lost almost everything except their lives. They left Haiti soon after the quake for medical treatment etc and sensed God moving them on from there – ultimately to Sydney. Today Joel posted a song on their blog which paints a picture of what it was like.

As we have shared meals and life together over the past few months, I have gotten this deep sense that God has purposed this friendship. Joel and Adam share a unique passion for creative expression and Rachel and I share a heart for justice for the poor and oppressed.

I’m so thankful that God was watching over them and that we have the honour of being their friends. In their courage, passion, wisdom and strength, they inspire me. I’m praying for them today – how hard to reflect on something so harrowing and life-changing one year on.

In times like these – as floods and earthquakes devastate the physical world and human life – that I am struck again by what really matters in life. For me that’s people – family, friends, the lost, the poor and oppressed.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

I want to hold on to hope because I know Jesus will be ultimately victorious and that a day will come when the turmoil of this earth will end.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)

hanging out with rachel and joel in Balmain

 

 

a new year!

sydney fireworks!

A new year. New hopes. New adventures to be had. New challenges to face.

I’m not really a new years resolution kind of girl.

Although in the back of my mind there are thoughts like…this year I’ll… do more exercise, spend more time with my family, read my bible more often, be a better friend… As I reflect on these things I see that while all very good things to aspire to, they are very immeasurable goals. More than what? More than in 2010? Knowing me I’ll probably feel like I’ve failed at these things by next Wednesday because I tend to think alot in terms of “I should…[fill in the blank with some kind of regret].”

This brings me back to something I have written about in a couple of posts about living from the heart and pursuing that which makes you truly come alive. I have realised lately that while I have been seeking to encourage Adam and others in the desires of their heart, I have been ignoring my own.

One thing I have done to help Adam is to schedule in time in our calendar for him to work on his EP and then try to ‘defend’ that time when other also good things come up. It is easy to support Adam in making his EP.  I believe in him and I think he’s capable and that it is a worthwhile pursuit in line with his passion to make music. And besides I love him and want to see him doing that which makes him come alive.

Believing in myself however, is so much harder. I don’t default to belief in my own capability – I default to thinking up a million reasons why I might fail or it might not be the perfect thing to pursue. I forget God’s promise that when I trust Him and not my own understanding, He will give me the desires of my heart (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I also get sucked into believing that dangerous lie that life should be easy and hard work is to be avoided. Believing this lie is poisonous to living from the heart. It leads to a pursuit of comfort, ease and pleasure and constant disappointment – because the truth is, life is hard.

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.”

(Bruce Cockburn, ‘Lovers in a Dangerous Time,’ quoted in Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge).

And so I must, we must, embrace the fight, the battle, the hard work. Annoying but true. Especially if I want to live a better, brighter story with my life.

While I don’t have a huge amount of clarity about the desires on my heart, here are a couple of little things that Adam teased out of me last night which I want to pursue (but to date have found reasons not to do so);

  1. I have been eager to play a role in helping our church do Missions for some time now.
  2. I want to apply to be volunteer at the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (I filled out the form a month ago and then filed it away in the ‘too hard’ pile, because I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to do it).

We prayed about them and I have now written them down here, so the plan is that I am going to take the first step towards pursuing them! First step with #1 is to get contact details for our church’s link missionaries & perhaps write down my missions ideas for church. And first step for #2 is to write a covering letter and update my CV, and then submit them with the form.

I don’t expect it will be easy, but just as I am still learning every day, hard work is ok. I’ll update you on my progress soon.

New Year’s PS: We were blessed to celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 in Bellevue Hill at our friends’ apartment. Here’s a pic of us all down at Redleaf Beach waiting for the fireworks! Amazing!

happy new year - bellevue hill style!