Just say No.

I’ve just read a meh-don’t-bother book called Love Skip Jump; Start Living the Adventure of Yes (what can I say, I’ve got a thing about Evangelical American women who write forgettable books). It’s about…oh god I can’t even be bothered, but basically it reminded me of the swathe of books recently that have ridden the bandwagon of Yes! Say Yes to Life and Wonderful Things Will Happen!

Now the little tricky fine print with this (because otherwise we would eat cheezels all day and get many ill advised tattoos, amirite? ) is that the Yes is a yes that is in line with what God wants for your life and you will have to carefully listen because you will need to discern between your own selfish desires and God’s true and perfect plan.

Now I don’t know if I’m just really crap at discernment (although I do love me some Ignatius) or if the lessons that I’m supposed to be learning are just too high brow and abstract. Message to God- simplify dude, simplify. This is me you’re dealing with.

So let’s look at a few personal examples to see just how wonderfully well saying Yes! pans out in the experimental petri dish that is my life.

I said yes when; my neighbour rang and asked me if I’d take the box of newborn wild rabbits that they had just accidentally dug up from their burrow. That ended precisely as badly as you would have expected it to. But slowly, over a two week period that included getting up at night for eye-dropper feedings.

Lesson here? No idea. Everything dies, maybe?

I said yes when; my boss dobbed me in to be interviewed because apparently I’m an amazing techno-wizz star type person who uses technology amazingly brilliantly in the classroom (I’m paraphrasing here, clearly) and therefore should be interviewed to model ‘departmental best practise’. Guess what? In front of the camera I babble like a lunatic and my chest goes red and blotchy (true fact; the director type guy felt the need to give me a big hug at the end, it was that bad).

Lesson learned? Disobey your boss, maybe? Call in sick when under pressure? Don’t pretend to be competent when you’re not?

I said yes when; I was asked to help judge a Romantic Short Story competition despite the fact that I a) am not romantic b) don’t like romance stories c) don’t know anything about writing short stories. Somewhere out there there’s a legitimately talented writer who was crushed by their failure to place and probably never wrote again. And somewhere else out there is a really crap writer who is either still elated that they won or perplexed at why they can’t get a book published. Sorry, by the way.

Lesson learned? Feign illiteracy when asked to judge short stories.

Now given that these are all, on the face of it, helpful acts, I assume that they would be God Mandated. Saying Yes to them, according to current wisdom was exactly what I should have been doing and the goodness in the world would have exponentially multiplied (yea verily) by it.

But to my mind they all ended badly (and I’ve just included the ‘G’ version ones. Believe me, I’ve missed out a few) and I’ve had no great insights or clarity or epiphanies except ‘conversing or mixing with other people often ends badly, limit where possible’. Which I’ve always suspected so again, no epiphanies.

So this is my permission to say No! Don’t be guilted into going out of your way for other people just because you think god might want you to. God may very well be playing Bridge with Zeus while you’re making these decisions so basically, assume that you’re on your own and take it from there.

What’s the worse that can happen?

Comfort Zone Jesus.

I really like Jesus. He was great, wasn’t he? All radical and visionary and sticking-it-to-the-man type action (Have you seen the actor that’s playing Jesus? I particularly like that version).

He’s not particularly comfortable though. Just as CS Lewis described Aslan as ‘… not a tame lion’, Jesus also was not tame. And if you had been around at the same time as he was, not a particularly relaxing person to ‘have a personal relationship’ with, I suspect.

Jesus has become so sanitised. I was going to say ‘lately’ but then I remembered the picture that my Nan has in her kitchen of Jesus, all conditioned beard and pastel robes and halo and lambs and it shows me that this isn’t a new thing.

But actually, he annoyed a lot of people. He pissed off the religious leaders and the powers that be in general and if you thought that life was going along quite nicely thank you, he probably had some pointed questions for you to answer. Most people wouldn’t vote for someone with a vision like Jesus if they stood for election today because he demanded too much, challenged too fiercely and asked the hard questions about just how we want our society to be.

And of course the irony connected to the fact that many christians are also political conservatives would be something that I would find hilarious if it wasn’t so painfully real.

It’s all in Matthew. I don’t need to quote swathes of it; you’re probably familiar with the message even if you haven’t actually read it (It’s good though. You should. I love a biblical action plan rather than crazy Revelations rhetoric). Help the poor. Be merciful (Define that as you wish but I don’t think that war and unlawful imprisonment fall in to most definitions). Social Justice as a major building block for a just society, one that impacts not just the most needy but also the environment and consumerism and discrimination…

Well, just everything, really.

On an unrelated but still related note, a country that needs to spend as much time trying to learn how to declutter as we do has got screwed up priorities. Google ‘decluttering in Australia. 1,430,000 results.

Authentically following Jesus is counter cultural and uncomfortable.

Mind you, I don’t do it, even though I think its an amazing idea. I’ve spent my entire life making decisions that keep me within my comfort zone. In fact, on reflection, if I look at the major decisions that I’ve made in my life, I can now (a little late) easily identify that they were made essentially because they put few demands on me and kept me within the parameters of what I can do without actually pushing myself or evolving. I’ve also become very good at persuading people to let me carry on in that manner which probably isn’t a great thing but let’s not make this about all about me.

Following Jesus can absolutely start with ‘being nice to the people that you see on a day to day basis’ but I think that it probably needs to progress to more than that. Especially because the people that we meet on a day to day basis are very likely people ‘Just Like Us’ – that don’t require us to do hard things or reconsider our values or exercise patience and love on a really monumental level.

Jesus didn’t just live in his own head. He didn’t just have good ideas about the way that things should be and discuss them with his friends and then go fishing. He wasn’t about making people feel secure, and I suspect that if the idea of Jesus makes you all warm and fuzzy then he may have failed in his mission a little. And if you want to share your faith with people, share that you believe that Jesus is Lord and all that entails, then I hope that you really, really understand exactly what you are saying. Because you’re calling for a radical re-evaluation of how most of us live our lives and that is some serious, comfort zone stretching stuff right there.

Slavery, serendipity and my messy desk.

As I travelled to Jamberoo Abbey recently, I caught a shuttle bus from the airport out to the bush (because driving through Sydney wasn’t going to promote my nun like level of calm). I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t the one driving and I was looking forwards to some relaxing chauffeur type time when I discovered that I had the most-awful-of-all-dreadful-things; a chatty driver.

Seriously. Small talk with strangers is my least favourite thing, mainly because I get really involved in it and over share and maybe offer a place for them to stay when they come to Tasmania.

OK, I’ve just realised that small talk gets me into a corner when I’m much more giving and inclusive and community minded that I’m comfortable with so clearly there’s a whole other issue there…

Anyway, chatty driver. Very nice chatty driver who didn’t really expect me to participate in the conversation so that was good. And as time passed he began to talk about his passion for orphans and his desire to fight child trafficking and how he travels to Thailand every year to volunteer at Zoe Children’s Homes (oh look, another fantastic faith based charity).

Now just the week before, I’d promised my grade ten classes that during term four we would study something interesting and relevant and useful to do with the developing world and equity and that it wouldn’t be boring and based on text books but I would have to have a bit of a think about it and decide which direction we were going to take.

And as Chatty Driver talked, I googled the Zoe Foundation and discovered that they provided a whole unit of work for precisely the curriculum I have to teach this term, crossing over from English and Geography. Basically exactly what I needed.

So, life lesson, when you open yourself to other people serendipitous things can occur.

Using this in conjunction with the information that I posted the other day, I’ll have some really engaging and relevant content (which will probably not be needed soon with men like this making decisions).

But although I’ve just discovered the awful truth about the number of slaves that work for me, while working at my desk I had the realisation that there’s a good chance that quite a few of these things were made, if not by actual slaves then very probably in sweat shops.

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It’s one thing to intellectually know something but it’s so much harder to actually act on that knowledge. From being a loving and inclusive person on a day to day basis, to acting in an ethical matter when shopping, sometimes it seems all a bit too hard to me.

All the theory in the world is one thing but moving yourself into new zones; becoming aware of how to spend your money or making an effort to listen to people who you may not necessarily want to engage with, is what will really move things forwards, isn’t it? Those of us who are lucky enough to have the knowledge and have the awareness need to act on it, even if it seems pointless or just a drop in the bucket.

Well, this is what I keep telling myself, anyway.

Why we believe.

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I’ve seen quite a few things lately* along the lines of this article, which describes how the author believes in god because of the glory of the night sky and the infinity of space (although the concept of a midnight cappuccino traumatised me and I had to have a lie down before finishing the article). He speaks to why he believes in god, and how looking out into space is, he believes, beautiful and amazing proof.

I love astronomy and one of my happiest memories is looking through a little telescope at Saturn when I was very young. I can still remember that sight so vividly, and the feel and the smell of that night. I have very few memories of my childhood, but many that I’ve held onto involve being outside at night, on my own, looking into space.

But you know what? Looking at the night sky doesn’t increase my belief in god in anyway at all. I find wonderful and majestic and still spend a lot of time outside at night but there’s nothing that I see that makes me think ‘this proves god’. But I would indignantly say (if anyone questioned me) that my appreciation isn’t limited at all by that fact. I feel the same way now that I’m a kind-of-believer than I did when I was a very-much-convinced atheist. Inexplicably moved and a little emotional and amazed.

The basis of my belief lies in other areas completely (I discussed that here so I won’t bore you again) but it seems to me that how we fall into belief varies enormously. Some people are brought up with it and don’t question (similar to the basis of my deep love of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, I suppose. Indoctrination) and others find their way there by other means. I’m getting much better at accepting (truly accepting, rather than just saying it) that everyone experiences things differently and their experience is valid even if I don’t understand it. Or like it.

That said, the circular logic of ‘I believe in god because the bible tells me so and god inspired the bible’ leaves me cold and perplexed but it works for some people so… OK, maybe I’m not that great and accepting everything.

*Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, anyone?

From what I’ve seen, memes about depression are usually awful.

It’s Mental Health Week here in Australia and I’ve had all sorts of feelings about it, many of them a kind of amorphous irritation. Apparently mental illness is a ‘hidden disease’ because people don’t talk about it or tell other people that they’re experiencing it although I throw off the bell curve because I’m happy to put my hand up and say that depression and I have hung out on several occasions in the past. Not so much these days but if I have to see another fucking ‘Depression isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long’ meme on Facebook then it’s going to push me over the edge, I swear. Did you see the little guilt trip in there? Nice. I think I’d rather be alone than struggle through that passive aggressive BS.

This makes me crabby.

For something that people don’t talk about that much it seems to be everywhere and totally inescapable. Just from a personal point of view I’ve found many people to be very forthcoming about it but maybe it’s my demographic or maybe I’m just approachable. I also have a huge array of really embarrassing stories that I over share so maybe people are just telling me they’re depressed to shut me up?*

So anyway, my sister (who rather than get depressed runs marathons. I’d rather just take the drugs thank you very much) told me today about an initiative whereby people in the hospitality industry make an effort to, you know, actually smile and be nice to the people they’re serving. I know, radical thought and one fairly inherent in the phrase ‘hospitality’ but given the fact that this has been put forward as a Great Idea then clearly not as obvious as I’d thought.

But the idea of being pleasant and friendly and basically not-an-arsehole to people you meet as you go around your daily business is something that we all should be aiming for. (Also, if you’re friendly and chatty and people get to know you and you have a short name like ‘Eva’, they might write it in chocolate on the top of your coffee. Just saying).

It takes literally nothing away from you to smile and look interested. Yep, I think it’s totally ok to fake it. I take my children to visit my 93 year old Nan regularly, and you better believe they get the ‘I don’t care if you’re bored, smile and pay attention’ every. time.

If someone is in the throws of fully fledged depression then it’s drugs, some CBT and a good psychologist ( this article is excellent) but for the huge majority of people, just being served, or indeed serving, someone who treats them as if their vaguely important and maybe even someone nice to know can make a huge difference to they’re day. The ripples caused by an interaction in which the person just didn’t care will be felt for the rest of the day and may well colour the next interaction that they have, and the next….see? Ripples.

Let’s all try and aim for the opposite. Let’s spread some goddamn fairy dust. It doesn’t have to be a God thing. It’s just a ‘you never know when you’re going to make someone’s day a huge amount more lovely’ thing.

*on reflection, that’s totally it.

How Many Slaves Sustain Your Lifestyle?

Eva:

This is a very confronting post with a survey that you really need to take. My score is, sadly, far higher than Jane’s at 69. Time to ask some hard questions.

Originally posted on :

How many slaves work for you?

Was that awkward? Give that question a try the next time you take a friend to coffee and see what happens. Don’t blame me if they never say yes to your coffee invitation again. Not. My Fault.

How many slaves work for you?Here’s the deal. We learned about slavery in elementary school. We all understand it is wrong to own people, force them to work, and keep them from choosing a life of their own no matter how nice the accommodations may be. We understand this because we wouldn’t want it for ourselves. We also know it’s wrong to support slavery. Not one of us would knowingly choose to purchase goods from a slave owner, am I right?

And here in-lies the problem. Our lifestyle in the western, modern, fast-everything, cheaper-by-the-dozen world has an ugly secret. Our lifestyles are built on the backs of slave labor. It is sad and true.

When…

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On filler posts and phoning it in.

I’m lucky to have great feedback from my readers. So far never nasty, and if it’s vaguely critical then it’s always constructive (of course even constructive criticism puts me into a decline but that’s my problem to deal with). One thing that I’ve been told several times is that people like this blog because I don’t write ‘filler posts’ and I completely get this. Those of us who are blog lovers can spot a post that has been constructed purely to fulfil a posting target a mile away and I’d rather leave this space quietly percolating for a while than write one.

But then I start to wonder whether my idea of a filler post is different from other peoples and whether my thoughtful musing is another person’s half assed unsubscribe- trigger. And then I wonder (because I wonder a lot, you know) because I’ve essentially blogged only about faith (apparently very honestly; ‘bravely honest’ as I’ve been told which of course puts me in mind of Sir Humphrey Appleby and ‘courageous decisions’) then I’m slightly nervous that if I move off tangentially at times and write about parenting or mental health or my feelings about ereaders (autocorrect just changed that to ‘dreaded’. That’s portentous) or lawnmowers, then the posts might be seen as fillers. Hopefully there’s a difference between a post where I’m just phoning it in and one where I’m heartfelt ( but not earnest because ugh) but maybe not totally in keeping with the title of this blog. So if I do…veer, as it was, them stay with me. I can bring it all back to spirituality if I have to though, in a ‘Thank you god for making this lawn mower work despite the odds, I’m so blessed’ or ‘My ereader stopped working just as I was looking up Matthew 6:13, it was Satan’* because that wouldn’t be contrived or awkward at all. Every one would really dig it if I went it that direction, right?

* funny thing, I had no idea what Matthew 6:13 was I just wrote down the first random thing that came into my head. On looking it up, little freaky.

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‘Introduce Yourself’ Page

I added a new page the other week. I thought that it would be useful to have a place where people could introduce themselves and write a bit about where they’re coming from. I’ve seen this idea on few blogs (ok, bigger than this one, but still) and I like the fact that new people can easily say ‘Hi’ rather than having to find a post to comment on and also if you’re following a comment thread you can find out more about the participants by reading it.

Meh, let’s see how it goes. SOMEONE HAS TO GO FIRST THOUGH!