Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. Have you found that? Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. Yelling out. Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me: She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’ She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call. I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.
Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.
If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.
2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.
I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.
2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.
2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.
2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.
So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.
So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!
Continuing in the theme of me totally stealing ideas from my Grandparents whilst they are in Israel, I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘affirming life’.
Without a doubt, Middle East politics is a hotbed of debate at the best of times. It’s been like that for the best part of 4000 years and I expect will continue that way for a while longer. The ongoing conflict in Israel is constantly splashed across the media, with both sides going toe-to-toe for their survival.
During their trip, my grandparents went to a conference where both the Israeli Prime Minister and President were in attendance and gave speeches.
What would you expect these much loathed-and-loved men to talk about? How they are going to crush Hamas perhaps? Ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat? Israel’s’ response to ISIS perhaps?
They spoke about the importance of affirming life. Of speaking life. Of living life. Of cherishing life.
This tiny nation of Israel looks at death every day – bombings, kidnappings, missiles and the ongoing propaganda war against them. In looking at death (and responding to it in very forceful ways), these leaders continued their commitment to life. Can you imagine that?
Closer to home, we have the important task of choosing life every day.
There’s something spiritual, something important about what comes out of our mouths. Indeed, the scriptures confirm that ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’. The Lord commanded the Israelites to affirm his Word to their children every day, as they rise in the morning, as they walk during the day and as they lie down at night.
I think there is two important truths in this – firstly that as parents, we need to talk to our children (and listen!); secondly what we say to our children, and by extension, those around us, needs to be life affirming.
I know as a dad, I’m sometimes guilty of not talking to my children. How strange does that sound? It’s easy to come home from work, get on with the nightly ‘happy hour’ duties, dinner, dishes, read to the children and put them to bed, without too much interaction. For some reason, I think the Lord commands dads to talk to their children – as they wake up, as they travel during the day, as they eat and as they go to sleep. Why? I don’t presume to understand what the Lord intends, however, I suspect that his desire is to see dads and children connect on a real way, to be in constant communication, trust and of course love.
I’m acutely aware of my own failing on not ‘speaking life’ into situations. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but sometimes I have to stop and think – does this joke have a sting in its tail? Probably more dramatic is when I get angry and I say things that aren’t life affirming – especially to the ones I love.
As many readers would know, I grew up in and around church and have been blessed to meet many wonderful people. Of those people, I’ve been blessed to spend time with some great ministers – men and women who have taught me much about faith, life and family. Of those, the ones that have impacted me most are the ones that visibly and demonstrably love their family. I was in a Bible-study group once with a minister who I love and revere so deeply – his knowledge and love for the Lord is just amazing. It’s what he does with his family that touches me more. I was at his home one evening, doing a Bible study when one of his children came home from work. He stopped the study, got up off his chair and gave his daughter a warm, loving greeting. He embraced her, told her that he was so happy to see her and asked about her day. She embraced her dad in return, affectionately telling him about her day.
Don’t kid yourself – life isn’t all roses, happy words and good times. To the contrary. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to speak life into those around you.
I’m sure most of you don’t follow a particular faith or believe strongly and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’. What I do want to impress upon you (and myself) is the importance of speaking life into those around you. Season your conversation with things that will build up. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who have had a lifetime of negative words spoken over them – cruelty from a parent, abuse from a partner and negativity from those around them. Maybe, just maybe, your life affirming word is the only positive thing they’ve heard in a while. How do you think your interactions and relationships would be if you took the first step to affirm life in others?
Speaking life takes practice. Affirming someone isn’t something that comes naturally – certainly not to Aussies, with our culture of ‘taking the piss’. I dare you though to try it –practice giving life. It costs nothing to speak life into someone, but can mean the whole world to the receiver.
Picture from http://realtruth.org/articles/100607-003-family.html
The child confessing they did break the vase.
The wife admitting she did spend money at the Tupperware party.
The husband coming clean on eating the last bit of chocolate.
Admitting to your mother that you are, infact, going to get a motorbike.
Coming clean. Breaking the news. ‘Fessing up. That feeling inside of you when you know you have to say it. I don’t think there’s any easy way sometimes to do it.
It could be something as benign as confessing to your mum that you are doing your motorbike test tomorrow. It could be something way more serious like gambling away your pay (which I have not done).
There’s a stack of ways – often strange ways – people ‘come clean’. Sometimes it just builds up and out of the blue, they blurt it out. “I’ve been having an affair” – dropping the bombshell no one saw coming. Others leave hints, aching to get caught so someone else brings up the topic – leaving paper trails of stealing from work for example. Others still brag in their breach of trust.
Some turn to a confession to alleviate their guilt, or get something off their chest. Some don’t deal with it at all, burying the hurt, anger or shame in a sea of sex, drugs, workaholism or the bottle.
Even more sadly, some leave it until it’s too late to confess, writing down their shame on the ‘final note’ before ending it all.
I’ve heard people spill their beans online, often anonymously on websites such as postsecret.com
Now hear me out, I’ve got nothin’ really to confess. I mean, perhaps something as benign as casually telling my mum I’ll be on two motorized wheels within days, but nothing really bad!
I’m interested – if you had something to say, to get off your chest, how might you do it? I’m not after details or anything. It could be something as simple and really nothing major like telling your mum you’re getting your motorbike licence. It may be a situation you did find yourself in – where you confessed – what was the outcome? Did things turn out well? Badly? Worse? Tell me in the comments below!
Pic from http://breakupcookbook.com/?page_id=440