Lost in the Fog

fogHave you ever gone for a long drive somewhere down the coast, or through a mountain range and you’ve turned the corner and you have found yourself driving through sea mist or low cloud?
It’s very disorientating, isn’t it?
One minute you have a clear view of where you are and where you are going, and the next minute you can only see a few meters in front of you.

A year ago I could tell you  that depression, anxiety, stress and mental illness was something that was an important subject that people need to talk about.
What I didn’t realise a year ago is how hard it is to talk about such a subject.

Why do I think it’s harder than people realise? Because in many cases people don’t know the depth of the despair they are in. From my experience, life was carrying on a familiar journey. There were the expected bumps on the road and there was some great scenery.
What I didn’t expect was fog. Thinking about it now, maybe I did expect it but maybe I didn’t realise how disorientating it would be. At some point I had turned a corner and I was in the middle of a deep mist. I hadn’t changed direction. I hadn’t changed momentum. Life had just turned a bend.

I have heard it said “Talk to someone when life gets dark or foggy or grey.” In fact the sentiment is all over the internet. The problem with this thinking is you don’t know how deep you’re in until you’re right in the middle of it. The signs that you would usually use to orientate yourself are no longer legible. The fog is too thick.

So how do you tell when life is really getting to a low point? We have all felt tired. We have all felt despair and we have all felt frustrated with life. The difference is most times life is hiding behind the couch and shouts “surprise!” Then life resumes to normal viewing as if some cruel joke, or maybe even a cruel test that we had to go through to discover how weak we really are underneath all the masks and bravado.

That’s the problem with clouds, sometimes they’re just blots on a blue sky and while they may cover the sun you can see it’s only for a short time. Other times the clouds are dark and grey and you may be caught in a heavy shower. It may last days or it may last weeks. That’s a lot of time with no sun, isn’t it?

Someone once said to me “She died suddenly.” I thought this was an unusual saying, after all doesn’t everyone die suddenly? One minute you’re living, and the next minute you’re dead.
Living, living, living, living, living, dead. From experience for A1 type personalities like me, that’s how depression works. Fine, fine, fine, fine, lost.

The crazy thing is that you can’t even really call it ‘depression’ as everyone will feel it differently depending on their personality, but I wonder if there are just not enough words in the English language to explain this. I could do fifty things at once. I could do it all. I was funny and creative. I was adaptable and then all of a sudden… I wasn’t. Well sometimes I could be, but it just felt hard. Was I getting ill? Did my brain’s super computer have too many tabs open? Not having felt this way before for extended periods, how would I know?

Talking is important… absolutely. However I’m not sure it’s as important as having friends connect up and ask questions.                                                                                                                       “Hey, you’re looking tired. Are you okay?”
“You don’t seem your normal self. Is everything alright?”
“I haven’t heard from you for a while, what’s up?”

In a world of social media and personal branding it’s easy to hide behind “Ok” and “I’ll show you my highlight reel” -but the reality is fighting depression, anxiety and other mental illness starts with community.
It starts with whanau (family).
It starts with close friends.
It starts with people being observant  enough to ask the question if something doesn’t look or feel right.
It starts with us being honest enough to admit we’re in need of support if we are starting to struggle.

What we need to remember, is often we don’t know we are lost until we look around.

 

 

 

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Ripples in Time

instaquote-31-10-2015-21-40-24Albert Einstein, in 1916, discovered a theory that talked about the ripples in the very fabric of time and space.
We have the access to make ripples in time and space too, however many of us will never see the impact that we make because we are insular and too afraid to step outside of our boxes.

Is the reason more people aren’t changing the world because they think it’s too hard?
Or maybe it’s just not happening fast enough for us?

We live in a world of ‘instant.’ We live in a world of ‘just add water’.
Either way you  want to  look at it you have been able to get what you wanted in a fraction of the time you  could have. Would you have made soup or coffee from scratch instead of ‘just adding water’?
There’s a Joke by Steven Wright that goes “I put instant coffee in the microwave and I went back in time.”
We have things at our finger tips in an instant, and it starts to flow in to all areas of our lives

May of us want to change the world and want to make a huge positive impact on the communities and nations around us. However how many of us actually do it?
Why is that?

I believe it’s because we see a HUGE problem in front of us, and think that it’s just too big. We don’t have the huge platforms to talk from to the masses like big ‘A list’ celebrities who are able to speak out on things that they think are important. People hang on their every word. However I  believe that what we say and do has a far greater ripple affect than we even hope, dream or imagine.

Did you think that Rosa Park was thinking about the breakdown of segregation that would result as people rallied around her not getting up on the bus in 1955?
In her own words:

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

Do you think John Otis was only considering the revolution that was about to be stirred as Americans sought independence as he stood up and spoke against ‘taxation without representation’, or do you think that the former Advocate General for the Royal Colony was thinking, “Oh well, there goes my career?”

The colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed all men are, white or black.
James Otis, Rights of the British Colonies, 1764

In both situations they were acting on their convictions. Rosa Park and James Otis were just plainly standing up for something they believed in. They had to step up and be brave in THEIR context. It may have been a small step but it caused a huge ripple! I’m sure they had no idea the intense movements they were adding to, or even sparking.

No matter how small, you can make a difference. Be brave, step outside your comfort zone and stand strong in what you believe. Take that step.

Love each other, listen to each other, give to each other, celebrate each other.
Be honest, be kind. The more you look into it the more you discover it’s less about me and more about how I respond to the people and the needs around me. As pastor Andy Stanley would say “What does love require of you right now??”

None of these things are revolutionary, are they? They are just small things that could potentially make a huge impact in someones life. Everything is becoming so insular, and self promoting and ‘me’ focused that the way we make the most ripples is to push against this flow.
Simple but not easy.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

You can’t change the world if you’re just like it.

Start the ripple effect today.

 

 

 

 

 

Is ‘Our Brand’ getting in the way of ‘Our story’

personal-branding-photoI was recently in a meeting where the coordinator said “People judge you by what you look like and how you act. It is YOUR BRAND. It is what they see”.

The phrase took me off guard
.

I’ve heard people talk about ‘Your Brand’ before. It’s not a new concept and if we were to be honest we’ve all been doing something like it (regardless of if we knew we were doing it or not) for centuries. You may have heard phrases that came out of this line of thinking such as “Dress for the job you WANT, not the job you HAVE”.

This thinking is not wrong,
as it’s good to take pride in your work place and even more importantly yourself. The issue I have with this line of thinking is that it starts to get in the way of some important stories of the communities/team’s/families we are in and makes us focus on just the individual.

So let’s unpack this a bit further. Take the example of “Dress for the job you want…” idea (just because I bought it up earlier). The intention is for people to take pride in how they look and how they present themselves, so that when people meet you for the first time there is a good first impression made. Plus the added bonus is that it makes you feel better about yourself because you have taken time and effort in how you are presented.
Unfortunately sometimes it just becomes an ego driven self marketing tool that is all about who looks best and owns the appropriate fashion for a particular role. And it potentially leads to disappointment. It’s far too easy for people to think “I dressed for the role I want and I still didn’t get it, maybe I didn’t market myself well enough?”.
We start to base things on what we think we know and not on what we have actually discovered about someone. It’s almost as if we throw out their CV and reduce them to a kids picture book ‘This is John. See John work’ .  It’s like the old adage about books being made in to movies and puts it into the context of life.

“Is like taking your oxen and seeing it made into an OXO (bouillon)  cube”
– John le Carre’

Has this grown out of our own laziness? Instead of seeing the first impression as an indication of the substance that may be hidden in the pages of the book beneath the cover, are we actually taking time to read the story rather than just the basic synopsis or overview of what the person is about?

A good friend, pastor and musician Malcolm Gordon once said “We pretend we’re people without shadows” and while he was talking about people going to church, I think it’s a much bigger epidemic.

Some of  our greatest world changers – from Lincoln to Edison,  Churchill to Princess Diana – have fought hidden demons. While these world changers were ‘flawed’, their stories made their accomplishments even more impressive. Their hardships/demons/flaws gave them the push and drive to see the world differently. Our ‘self brand’ technique has just become a way to bypass the mundane, to leap frog the pain and to ‘become the people we were destined to be’ with all the fanfare and poise of a well executed marketing campaign.

It’s actually killing our work places. Imagine great self marketers gaining great positions without knowing what the hard times are like and without understanding the pain points that lead to growth and improvement. No wonder society is becoming less engaged, less empathetic and more reactive. Isn’t this just setting people up to fail?

In the age of Facebook and social media saturation are we becoming so trained at hiding our shadows, that we don’t see the bigger story?  We don’t see the story of our community and work place it’s in?  Or even worse don’t see the story of an individual more than just at synopsis level?

New Zealand journalist and news reporter Nadine Chalmers-Ross had that dilemma at a very real level. Making a name for herself under the name Chalmers-Ross she recently got married. Should she remain Chalmers-Ross or become Mrs Higgins? What does she do? Her name was her brand, what she was known as, part of her ‘News identity’ if you will.
I love the conclusion that Nadine came to:

“My name is my brand, sure, but my marriage isn’t about what’s commercially savvy.  It’s about forming a team and a name is the loudest way I can think of saying he’s my person. So, may I introduce you to Mrs Higgins?”

YES!
Nadine has certainly got it. It’s about so much more than ‘my own personal brand’
Our ‘Brand’ affects far more than just ourselves – it affects our families, our teams and our communities.
What if instead we started looking at ‘Our Brand’ as our way to be the superstar of our own story? What if we started to see our stories interweaving with others in our communities? What if we looked at ‘Our Brand’ as something that adds to not just our own story, but the stories of our community like our own entry into a section of the Iliad.

We don’t just have one story. We have our own starring role in a story of our life- the fears, the failures, the wins, the loses and the mountains we have conquered. However we’re also playing a supporting role in many other individual’s stories, many other team’s stories, and many other community’s stories.

In these stories we’re not the superstar, we’re not the white knight, or the cowboy with the white hat. We’re the neighbour who said “Hi” every morning, the guy or girl who took time to notice the lack of smile, and the person who let you into the queue of traffic during rush hour. These stories are the mundane, but these stories are the brands that reverberate throughout the world we live.

So let’s talk brands… but let’s tell our stories.

Churches and Public Toilets

Church Public Toilet

Without being crass, but I was in a public toilet recently and I couldn’t help but think to myself “This is the way that many people treat church”

How can you say that?

Well it’s like this… People come to a building and the do ‘their business’, they dump their trash and they get rid of anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
They might be lucky to be in a public toilet that plays music, however the station that’s playing isn’t really to their liking.
They complain about how uncomfortable the toilet seats are…
They come, they do their business and leave… and they’ll hold on until next week when they will do it ALL over again.

In fact the only people who come into the toilets to do anything else are the cleaners and maintenance staff, who often struggle to keep put with the amount of people who enter while they try and keep them feeling like this toilet is a place to come back to.
Some toilets even have a trust of people – volunteers who help with the upkeep of the toilet and who have a heart for the community the toilet is in. Often they don’t even have the power to change much within it.

OK… so it’s a metaphor and like almost all metaphors there has to be a point where the similarities stop, however there is enough for us to think, ‘Is this the way we should be treating what the Bible calls “the Bride of Christ?’ or ‘ do we really get OUR role within the church?’

How often have we been guilty of just coming to church and ‘dumping’ our problems on God, complaining about the music that is being played, complaining about how the temperature isn’t to our liking, the seats are uncomfortable and the list goes on?
But I wonder, if we ARE the church, then should we be seen as the maintenance staff and volunteers of the trust rather than the people using the facilities?
Wouldn’t this change in mindset stop us from thinking that church is “Just a Sunday thing”?

I mean, what are YOU doing for the church?

But I’m too busy… I’m not qualified… I’m (insert excuse)
How easy is it for us to come up with excuses for only doing church on Sunday in a “you serve me” capacity?

Church was never about just meeting on Sunday… in fact church was always about a gathering of people, a movement.

Friends of mine recently said “What does your church do that points to God?”
When you think of church in those terms “What do I do as part of church (the movement/gathering of people) that points to God?”
My lifestyle?
My daily interactions?
My work?

Church is an idea that is SO much bigger than just a meeting on Sunday… and a building…

How do you look to view your church?
Are you the cleaners?
Or are you just coming to church to dump on God?

I have 5 Kids and my house isn’t always tidied (or ‘Shocking news for those who have no idea but give advice anyway’)

5 kidsI have 5 kids…

That means my house isn’t always tidied
It means it’s not always clean to the standard we would like
It means that some day to day stuff doesn’t get done
Having 5 kids means we have extra hands

HOWEVER

It ALSO means we are investing in 5 lives…
At an intimate levelgrowing who they are
We’re growing young leaders… who aren’t easily swayed
We’re creating adventures… and the explorers who are curious enough to want to have the adventures.
People who care about the people and community they live in.
People who walk humbly and have strong faith in God

I know what I want to invest in…
And I can always clean, tidy and vacuum tomorrow

We don’t live in muck and rubbish… but what I am saying is that when there are days that my kids need more attention… or are struggling… they get our attention first.

On tough days… our house is a mess…
And do you know what???
We are OK with that…

Because at our house… life is about people not things.


Our house is tidy OFTEN

But if you pop in and it’s not tidy… it just means we have been investing in other things!

 

Is it really Community or just Community Engineering?

English: Working class movement library

English: Working class movement library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow.. it’s been an age since I’ve blogged… However I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and re-organising my life.
It’s been hard not to put ‘pen to paper’ as I’m a communicator… so it may be a couple of days of ‘catch up’
So what have I been thinking about?

Community…

The area I live in is a lower economic area… a working class area… it would be fair to say that a lot of families find it hard to make ends meet.

There are families within this area who aren’t in that position… yet many choose to send their kids away from the area for school, for sports, for church… and I have to ask… is this really community???

Now please hear me… I’m all for giving the best for my children, I have 5 and I love them very very much and I want the best for them… however how can I teach them that community is part of stories like ‘The Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:25-37) if we’re sending them outside the place they’re living??
Now I used to be one of those parents who send their children away from the area to go to school… but in the weekends… in the local shops… in our church who did they see?
It wasn’t people from school it was people from the area they live… their community.

Are we fooling our kids and robbing them of true community?

You see sending our kids away from the community they are part of to do what we think are best could be more damaging than we think…

Community is meant to be messy… it’s part of the magic that makes community…

Acts 2:42-47 gets used lots for people to claim their stance of what community is… however these people were Jews AND Gentiles… traditional Jews and Rabbis, mixing with people who ad no idea about the others culture was about. It was rich people giving things away to those who needed it… it was traditional foe loving each other… it was eating together… it was uncomfortable to start off with I’m sure.

How are our children meant to learn this? Especially if we’re telling them that the community that WE put them into is true community?
When actually what it really is could only be best described as ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ ?? (or maybe just snobbery)

Community is where you are planted and living within that place… yes you can create community in other areas, but lets be realistic about what it really is it’s not true community, it’s community genetic engineering.

Community is often awkward… it’s often heads butting… it’s often filled with mistakes… it’s often hard work… and it’s always messy…
but out the other end is something magic… it’s rich lifting up poor (and I’m not just talking financial… but knowledge/beliefs/culture etc.) it’s those with,  giving to those who don’t, it’s lifting up each other… and you can’t do this without going through a process of iron sharpening iron.

Have you read the prayer that Jesus made on the night of, not only his betrayal… but his crucifixion?

I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John:17:20-21

Jesus didn’t pray for the sake of Community… but so that the World would believe that Jesus was sent from God.
He wanted us to be one… as God and Jesus were…
It was the God of the world… coming down and mixing with us, who are unworthy… who are messed up…
That’s where community starts… and that’s messy…