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17 Mar 2013

#thegreatestoftheseislove

#thegreatestoftheseislove

16 Dec 2011

How much did your smartphone ACTUALLY cost?

A smartphone topped my Christmas list this year. I thought if I shopped around, I could acquire one quite cheaply. Then I stumbled across a shocking quote & realised the cost of a smartphone may be much greater than just the recommended retail price.

"Coltan is an effective superconductor found in electronics. A U.S. State Department official was interviewed about Coltan mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He pointed to the reporter’s smartphone and said, "The likelihood that one of these was not touched by a slave is pretty low."

One reason I wanted a smartphone is so it would be quicker and easier for me to post photos to my fb. What is the true cost of ease of social networking? How much am I really willing to pay for the latest gadget? The dignity and freedom of another human being?

I am not simplistic enough to think that boycotting a product will make the problem disappear. I understand that if I protest by refusing to buy a smartphone, that the person in slavery will likely end up getting even less money for their work or have to work even harder to help the boss make outrageous profits. So I am still getting a smartphone for Christmas, but now I know the true cost, I am determined to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Unknown.

I REFUSE TO DO NOTHING.

The question is, what will YOU do now you know? Not sure if anyone will ever read this blog, but say perchance that you are reading this now, this question is for YOU! What will YOU do now you know how much your smartphone ACTUALLY cost?

"You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know." - William Wilberforce.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OWj1ZGn4uM

21 Aug 2011

And I use the term living loosely.

It would be a fair estimate to say that I have spent 80% of the last 4 days living horizontally. And I use the term living loosely.

I had been feeling a little smug that I had remained unaffected as I watched winter flu’s rage around me and witnessed even healthy friends succumb to the evils of the common cold. I put this down to healthy eating and a refusal to touch any more germ-infested public transport surfaces than were absolutely necessary. They say pride comes before a fall and what a fall it was.

With alarming rapidity, an influenza of near epic proportions seized absolute control of my immune system and I was down for the count. My body found the sudden onset of illness too much to bear and responded by throwing a migraine in the mix so severe to say I felt like my world was coming to an end is not an exaggeration. Thanks for that body, way to fight back.

For the fifth day in a row I find remaining in an upright position for any decent length of time still a faraway pipe dream.

Melodramatic rant aside, this illness shook more than just my pride and stomach contents. There is something about being so seriously ill that caused me to revaluate my mortal span. Mortal being the key word here. Apart from affording me copious amounts of time to ponder and reflect, being so drastically hindered from partaking of daily routines is a wakeup call that life upon this earth is a fragile strand that can be swiftly severed. My musings on mortality catapulted me unwillingly into questions of calling and destiny.

I had been avoiding a certain email from a dear friend as I knew it would contain details of the amazing way God has been working through her to reach the hurting and lost in Madagascar. What is it in me that recoils from celebrating her success?

The Bible admonishes us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Why is it I find it so easy to empathise and extend comfort to those in pain yet some part of me involuntarily pulls back when I see Christians around me flourishing? Rather than heaping condemnation on myself for my lack of Christian love, I acknowledge that my new self is still in constant battle with my old flesh and remind myself that righteous thought patterns and a renewed mind are things I must fight for daily.

I guess the real issue is not that she is walking in her God-ordained destiny, but that I fear that I am not. Ouch, that hurt. This onslaught of illness has reminded me of the transient nature of our sojourn here on earth. This reminder of my mortality has left me wondering what worthwhile endeavours I have spent the currency of my days on. And that thought leaves me more than a little uncomfortable.

*insert wise and inspiring words here, neatly concluding above paragraphs with an uplifting statement.*

Haha. I guess that’s why they call it a journal. I’m still on the journey, trying to discover what this all means for my context and wondering if I have any help to offer to those in the same predicament as me. I would love to end this post with some inspirational thoughts or encouraging words but the truth is coherent conclusions elude me and I’m still struggling to make sense of what I’m feeling. Far from being a cry for attention, wanting people to pat me on the back and tell me I am living well, I guess I made the decision to post this in a public forum so that I will push harder to find answers to the questions that have been haunting my dreams.

Having expended much more energy writing this post than I have been able to consume today (meaning no food yet today) I’m going back to sleep. Watch this space, I know I will be…

27 Jun 2011

"Now is the winter of {my} discontent"

Blurry-eyed and slightly dazed, I have woken from a dream. It is like my life to this point has been a screenplay viewed from a distance. A spectator in my own life, watching events unfold in unrelenting rhythm. Waves sweep my life along, beyond my grasp and beyond my reach to affect.

Or perhaps it is more akin to rebirth. I feel I am experiencing everything for the first time. Music suddenly is no longer background noise but a medium that touches my soul. Art and design have new resonance with my spirit. In a delirium of the senses, I behold this mortal coil in a whirlwind state. The overload of possibilities this new reality affords enraptures me.

Patterns and figures of birds have been appearing to me lately with alarmingly regularity. My preoccupation with all things cage-related has been disquieting. Searching for an ornate birdcage to hang in my house, I thought it was just my taste in home interiors that was changing, but my hunch is maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to shake me from my stupor. Telling me I have become something God never intended. Ensnared in a trap of my own making, I am a caged bird, confined by the limits of my world. Viewing the outside through the safety of bars but never really experiencing it.

My confinement is self-inflicted. I am constricted from always trying to live up to other people’s expectations. My cage is my preoccupation with order and planning. I am bound by my addiction to the approval of others. Askew priorities restrict my exposure to the greatness this brilliant planet offers. Limited by boundaries existing only in my mind I am inhibited by my inability to open myself to fresh experiences. Restrained by chains of my past, I am hindered from within.

God’s whispers to my soul have been consistent and continual of late. It is like everything I ever knew has to be learnt again. I can barely keep up with the paradigm shifts. Revelations from the Divine Centre are obliterating the shackles holding me prisoner in my own mind. With child-like wonder, I view the earth anew. Assumptions, presuppositions & long-established thought patterns are tearing away and I am seeing the world with sparkling new clarity.

Captive no longer, every day is an adventure. I can never quite be sure if the person who exits my house in the morning will be the same one who returns when twilight descends. Uncertainty mingles with excitement; I am terrified & apprehensive yet enlivened all at once.

Too old for the classic “who am I” quest of young adulthood & too young for a mid-life crisis, the origin of this tumultuous realignment remains veiled behind the curtains of the cosmos. I am however, expectant that God initiated this awakening for a purpose. Eagerly anticipating the moment He unveils the next steps, I run to embrace my destiny.

23 Jun 2011

I awoke with an intense craving to partake of a sweet delicacy before work. I have been well behaved lately; exercising, avoiding sugar, trying to save money etc etc, but burning the candle at both ends doing end of semester assignments meant my longing for sugar was insatiable. True to form, I was running late & would barely make it in time to catch the train.
Normally a scooter trip to the station takes me more than 10 minutes. If I’m at risk of missing the last train that will deliver me to the Junction on time for work I can maybe make it in 9 minutes. (If I play chicken with the highway traffic & push so hard my lungs bleed.)
This morning I made it in 5 minutes, giving me enough time to purchase desired morsel & enjoy a leisurely stroll along the platform. Proof enough for me that we are capable of miraculous, incredible feats we previously believed to be impossible if our passion & desire is strong enough!
Oh God, that you would increase my passion for Kingdom purposes & desire to live your will for my life…

I awoke with an intense craving to partake of a sweet delicacy before work. I have been well behaved lately; exercising, avoiding sugar, trying to save money etc etc, but burning the candle at both ends doing end of semester assignments meant my longing for sugar was insatiable. True to form, I was running late & would barely make it in time to catch the train.

Normally a scooter trip to the station takes me more than 10 minutes. If I’m at risk of missing the last train that will deliver me to the Junction on time for work I can maybe make it in 9 minutes. (If I play chicken with the highway traffic & push so hard my lungs bleed.)

This morning I made it in 5 minutes, giving me enough time to purchase desired morsel & enjoy a leisurely stroll along the platform. Proof enough for me that we are capable of miraculous, incredible feats we previously believed to be impossible if our passion & desire is strong enough!

Oh God, that you would increase my passion for Kingdom purposes & desire to live your will for my life…

4 Jun 2011

Day after day I fill my life with the drudgery of everyday living. Wrapped up in being a responsible adult, I neglect the passions that drive me. No more. Determined to dedicate more time enjoying what energises me, namely the majesty of God’s creation & my camera that helps me capture that glory to share with others.

For a handful of minutes each afternoon, if the angles & conditions are just right the earth is bathed in an otherworldly glow that makes me think miracles are possible and that fairies do exist. My normal posture at this time each day is head down, coat pulled tight against the wind & either rushing to catch the next train or burdened by the thought of the looming commute. No more.

Whether sunrise or sunset, the intense colour palette splashed across the sky causes my heart to swell to bursting point with adoration for my Mighty Creator. Most days I have stayed up too late doing nothing in particular to rise in time to witness the dazzling display. Then by the end of the day I’ve allowed other people’s concerns to weigh me down so much that all I can think of is escaping work & rushing back to the comfort afforded by home. No time to linger, I spend the sunset hour hurtling home, mind distracted, processing the day’s events & worrying about tomorrow. No more.

The delicate beauty of a single perfect bloom almost causes me to weep. Yet I missed planting my favourite flowers this year because my schedule was too packed. The fruit of my frenzied activity is yet to materialise and I am left wondering what seemed so important that I couldn’t set aside five minutes to scatter some seeds in some dirt. No more.

Life is too fleeting & far too beautiful to allow myself to be squeezed into the mould of middle class suburban slave. I will not submit. I will not conform. I will not relent.

20 May 2011

Day 5 & the end is in sight!

My mouth waters & I can almost taste that custard pecan Danish I’ve been craving. But the crushing reality for 1.4 billion people is that for them, there is no end in sight. The drudgery of eating the same plain food for 5 days will soon be a distant memory for me. But for 1.4 billion, the bland monotony of poverty is their only reality. 

Its taken its toll on my emotions. Even though I’m hungry, the prospect of facing another flavourless meal is so unappealing. The thought that my next meal will be no more flavoursome than the last is depressing. Robbed of choice, robbed of enjoyment, robbed of hope.

I’ve always believed social justice should go hand in hand with evangelism, but through this challenge I’ve come to realise that evangelism in developing nations without social justice is just a waste of time. How can people hear the message of the gospel when they have no concept of hope, no proof that things can ever change? Do we really expect them to be able to hear our neat little gospel presentation over the rumbling of their stomachs, the anguished wails of their starving children & the roar of despair that bellows that this is all that life will ever be? Can we really expect them to believe in a God of love without showing them the reality of that love in practical ways? Missions are a wonderful thing, but as the Bible verse goes, faith without deeds is dead. Tell people the faith message of the gospel, without living the deeds of the faith you proclaim and you’re wasting your time. There is a definite difference between a hand out & a hand up, but without offering them a hand up, how can we ever ask them to look up to our Father in Heaven?

And though for this challenge I am living on only $2 a day for food, for those trapped in extreme poverty that $2 a day has to stretch to cover shelter, food, clothing, healthcare and education. What a soul-crushing choice to face, buying food so you don’t die of starvation vs. providing your child with education & the possibility of escaping the choke-hold of extreme poverty. Buying medicine to fight common sicknesses that could mean death in the developing world vs. buying clothes to keep your child guarded against the elements. Heart shattering, gut-wrenching stuff, the stuff of nightmares. Determined that the discoveries I’ve made will not dwindle like my stockpile of food has this week. God, would you help the passion not to fade. This challenge has made me uncomfortable in more ways than one. As my diet goes back to the comfort of normalcy, may my heart remain burdened for Your cause & not lapse back into apathy.

More than 6000 people have attempted this challenge & over 1 million dollars has been raised. Amazing, but not enough. So as the challenge draws to a close, I’m left with the question of what else can I do with this fleeting mortal span I’ve been given? How can I make my life count for eternity, to share the true hope of the gospel with the oppressed & the broken?  I have more questions than I have answers, but I’m willing to spend my life searching & playing my small, humble part so that one day, for the glory of God’s holy name, no one has to Live Below the Line.


19 May 2011

Counting the cost.

Before this challenge I thought that I was careful with my spending. My purchases are made with consideration for those living in poverty. I try to buy fair-trade & not buy too many luxury items. I buy lots of homebrand products because I can’t justify spending double for basic food items when people in poverty can’t even afford basic staples. I try to not waste food. I like to think that I spend money wisely. I try to make meals when possible rather than eating out. But I do indulge in social outings with friends. Especially since moving to the big city, where social occasions inevitably turn into coffee shop outings.

On Sunday night after church, I spent $11.40 on an iced frappe & some delectable morsel called a snow choc mountain. At the time, I congratulated myself on abstaining from higher priced items on offer, telling myself that this way I can afford to give more money to charities. Monday morning afforded me a rude wake up call!

Sunday’s supper (not even a proper meal) cost me more than my budget for all my meals for the next five days! I could have used the money I spent on Sunday night to double the weekly income of someone dying of starvation. What a slap in my self-righteous face!

The reality confronts me that I spend an exorbitant amount on luxury foods. I’m not naive enough to think that simply giving all my disposable income to charity is the answer. Idealistic I may be, but simplistic I’m not. I know the problem of poverty goes deeper than finance. But I know for sure that I will think twice before forking over cash next time I find myself in a cafe!

I know it’s not up to me to single handedly save the world. I also know that God’s love for me is not dependent on how much money I give to fight poverty & alleviate suffering. I’ve experienced enough of God’s grace to know I don’t have to earn my salvation by being good. But this challenge has stirred something deep within.

The Live Below the Line challenge only cost me $10 for food & the $’s I’m donating, but the actual cost is much greater than that. It’s made me realise I don’t really go the extra mile in the fight against poverty. I pat myself on the back when I take some action or donate some money, but honestly, the personal cost is quite minimal. Because I embarked on this challenge my future decisions will be weighed against the new realities I have uncovered. My comfortable indulgent life may be a thing of the past. Before this challenge, I thought I was doing my part. I have uncovered truths about myself that make me feel convicted, repentant  & a little bit uncomfortable. This challenge has cost me dearly.

Perspective can be a b#!*h, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

17 May 2011

To tired to be inspired…

It’s only day 2 & I’m so over it. Worrying that I might not have enough food for the rest of the week & thinking that even if I do I won’t want to eat it. This afternoon I ate some oats leftover from breakfast. Even though I was hungry, I almost gagged at the thought of another mouthful so reminiscent of papier mache it’s scary. Thinking it is a very real possibility that I actually will have food left over at the end of the week simply because I just can’t stomach another bland mouthful. I’m soft. Faced with the monotony that comes with poverty I feel like giving up. I like to think that I’m strong & that I have good will power, but the reality is that I am pampered & spoilt & I didn’t even realise it. I have the luxury of choosing what my next meal will be, choosing to have more than one meal a day & picking & choosing what I will leave on my plate. Denied these options, & having sustenance without substance  it feels very much like my body is having a tantrum & about to go on a hunger strike.

Day 2 draws to a close & I am too lethargic to think of anything to write that would be worth recording. Yet again searching for answers & coming up with nothing. So many thoughts started but with no definite direction or ending they are but musings of a mortal. No wisdom to impart, no words to inspire, just a cramped tummy & a tight,constant headache that feels like it is squeezing all coherent thought from my brain. How anyone can endure a lifetime of extreme poverty is beyond me. But what is the alternative???

I have a confession to make. Today I ate 2 Lindt white chocolate balls. They were a gift from a grateful customer we had helped. It was a stressful day at work. The pile of problems was growing twice as fast as we were managing to solve them. With one deft movement I twirled the crackling wrapper & popped the chocolate in my mouth. This was repeated before I realised what I had done. I could have kicked myself for my momentary lapse of memory. I have committed to living below the line this week in order to increase my consciousness of the plight of those ensnared in poverty’s death grip. Yet at the first sign of stress, all commitment was forgotten. Satisfying my own cravings for sugar & energy overrode any consciousness of fighting injustice. So even when my whole life is ordered around understanding & empathising with people living in extreme poverty, down to the last cent & morsel, my self takes priority & all other concerns fade from view. What will it take for me to stay committed to the cause? Determined to press on for those who battle daily with the realities extreme poverty brings. Determined to bring light to a dark situation. Determined to spread hope where despair has reigned for generations. Determined to catch God’s heartbeat for justice. 

I guess maybe that’s the hint. Catching God’s heartbeat. In my chest beats a worldly heart whose default option is self preservation & self gratification. It’s only as I let Jesus’ heart beat within me that I will be able to remember the poor & spend my life fighting injustice. In Isaiah 58 it speaks of spending your life on behalf of the needy. Not just serving when things make sense & it’s convenient. The language hints at a sacrifice, a pouring out of everything, holding nothing back. So I end day 2 not much more enlightened than I was this time yesterday, but in a place of wielded will & heart. Father, I cannot fight injustice in my own strength, or remain committed to the cause with my own will power. I need you to dwell inside me & compel me to do your will. So here I am. No closer to an answer, but drawing closer to the One who holds all answers & begging Him to take my life as an offering. For God, you don’t need me to solve the problem of poverty, you don’t need me to have all the answers, all you need is a surrendered heart & hands that are willing to take your love to the nations. So with all that I am & all that I have, I give myself to you. Too weary to go on, I will sleep in peace, confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion in His own timing. I’m yours Father, use my life to bring justice to the earth & glory to your name.

16 May 2011

The beginning of the end?

I imagined ending the first day of this challenge with some incredible revelation that would inspire others & eventually change the world. Instead I am more perplexed with the problem of poverty than ever. Too many thoughts that I cannot organise into a coherent pattern, let alone any kind of solution. I guess that’s what many find, so although their heart is moved with compassion, they end up where I am. Overwhelmed. Confused. Headachy. Fatigued. Ready to put it into the “too-hard” basket & move on to something less emotionally expensive.

But then God showed me that this challenge is not about me. It’s about the 1.4 BILLION people whose disturbing daily reality I am only beginning to glimpse. For those involuntarily locked in the vicious cycle, whose only crime was being born in a country controlled by corruption, greed & ignorance. They don’t have the option of giving up, because for them, giving up on living in poverty would mean giving up on life.

So I shall endure with the awareness that this challenge may be far more taxing on my mind & soul than it will be on my body. I persevere with changed motives, doing it not for myself so that I can pat myself on the back for doing my bit, but for those who are often powerless & voiceless. I may not have much power, but I do have a voice. I press on acknowledging that my small part may be but a minuscule drop in the ocean, but refusing to be deterred by that fact.

As for me & my bag of homebrand groceries, we’re going to serve the LORD!