Monday, February 28, 2011

The Back Verdict

I mentioned in Why 2011 Won’t Be ‘The Year of the Pessimist' that I’ve had a bad lower back for a year now. It all began when Duncan and I spent a weekend in Jurien Bay and sleeping on a mattress in the holiday house left me crippled with pain. I had to get up each morning with difficulty, stagger into the shower and stand under hot water until my back was loosened up enough to move more freely. Might I add that that weekend had temperatures of over 40C so having a hot shower was not a pleasant experience. Later we would go to the beach so I could swim and that helped with the pain somewhat.

The year that followed was one of frustration. I would have a few good weeks where I thought the pain had gone permanently only to have it return out of the blue. The pain spread from my lower back and into my right hip. I could play netball ok, but even after stretching, I was left in agony after each match. Duncan had to take my shoes off for me the pain was that bad. Now I’m seriously considering whether to give netball a miss this year.

I tried chiropractic and Bowen Therapy, but each only offered temporary relief. Then, after the move to Kojonup, I was left in crippling pain. I would wake up in the early hours of each morning and cry out, the pain was that intense. It wasn’t a sharp pain, it was an unrelenting ache which caused my lower back to spasm. I would toss and turn, unable to sleep properly. As a result, Duncan wasn’t getting much sleep either.

I saw a physio in Albany in January and I thought I finally had a shot at getting better. She reckoned my lower back was one of the stiffest she had ever seen and thought I had hurt some tendons around one of my vertebrae. She gave me some exercises to do, told me to keep heat packs on my back at every opportunity, and said it would heal, but it would take time.

Meanwhile, the pain at night kept getting worse. It didn’t matter which mattress I was on or whether I slept on my side or on my back, no position or bed was comfortable. I was getting less and less sleep. I couldn’t do anything in the morning until I’d had a hot shower. The rest of the day was fine, but I started to dread going to bed at night. I even considered sleeping upright in a chair but, seriously, I don’t know how birds do it!

Finally, in desperation for some pain relief, I went to the local doctor. He gave me some anti-inflammatory pills and I was sent to Katanning (40km east of Kojonup) on two separate occasions for a blood test and an X-ray. I still hate blood tests! The lady who was taking my blood seemed to be taking an awful lot of it and I felt like saying, “What are you? A vampire?” The tests were to see if I had some sort of injury or another condition.

The verdict?

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Pendulum: Wisdom and Trust

Previously I was so certain that God wanted me to use this year as a rebuilding year, to delight and give thanks for the simple things in life, to not feel burdened to join a gazillion church committees, and to re-evaluate some so-called friendships. But since I posted 2011: The Year of Recovery and Faceless I’ve been in a bit of a quandary.

I was listening to a sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 recently which challenged my decision. As I listened and read to Paul’s hardships in taking the gospel to the nations, I began to feel a little bit guilty. Paul emptied himself of everything he had and was willing to go through anything in order that others may hear the message of Jesus and be saved. He is honest about his struggles, but puts them into perspective – that his sufferings are nothing compared to the glory followers of Jesus will all share when our Lord returns.

Now my dilemma is how do you balance one side which preaches wisdom in making decisions, and the other side which preaches that we should give everything for the sake of the gospel, even if it means you burn out or die prematurely? How do we take into account our severe limitations as humans (illnesses and other difficult life circumstances), but still rely on God’s power? For example, some people have advised me to take it easy this year – not in laziness, but not put so much pressure on myself to do too much. Now, others would say I should get out there and do everything I can to bring others to Christ, to not worry about my own limitations, but go hard for Jesus because I’ll only get one chance and God uses weak people. The first group would insist that wisdom is needed when we make decisions about how to serve God and that we need to take our limitations into consideration. The other group would fire back that if we only serve God according to how much we think we’re able, we are relying on our own strength and not on His. I’m confused.

I have greatly appreciated Cathy from Women Bible Life and her encouraging and thought-provoking posts on health and just resting in the grace of God. I have appreciated the rebuke that we often spend too much time proving our worth to God by ‘doing’, and that we need to take some time to rest in His grace, knowing that He does not love us any more because of what we do or do not do. While we were still sinners, He died for us. I know I especially get caught up with thinking evangelism is the most important thing, rather than simply glorifying God in everything I do.

But on the other hand, I’ve been wondering if I do rely too much on myself and not on God? The answer to that is no doubt YES, but I’m wary in how I say this. NEVER, in a million years, would I want to place burdens on people suffering from depression and other illnesses or make them feel guilty because I’m sure they get that enough. Most of the ‘sacrifice is measured by how much you have left’ messages have come from pastors and other men in ministry positions. Some of those have since burnt out and left paid ministry or have had periods of stress leave.

In regards to using Facebook less this year, I’m also reconsidering my decision to stop putting effort into several friendships for no return. Both of the friends I mentioned in Faceless are non-Christians. While the friendships are currently very lopsided, I’m wondering whether to keep persevering in loving these friends is the right way to go rather than ignoring them and cutting them off. I have been especially challenged by reading and listening to a sermon series on 1 Peter recently about how we live and suffer as Christ-followers in this world. Should I keep showing love to these two people via Facebook (one lives interstate and the other overseas) regardless of whether they show any to me? Something suggests to me that love is never a waste of time, but it sure does feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall sometimes. I want more than ever for these people to know Christ, but to be honest, I don’t know if catering to their attention-seeking is the way to do it. I need advice.

Is there a way we can have wisdom in how we make decisions in serving our great God, yet still step out in faith? For me this year just stepping out, meeting new people and building relationships is a huge thing and not something I can do in my own strength. How can we love and reach out to non-Christians when they don’t really seem to give a toss about us? Do we persevere or just realise the friendship is not a friendship at all and move on? Is this something that will look different in the life of each Christian?

How do we love sacrificially, yet still have boundaries?

How can you take time out to have a balanced life so you can be a more effective servant of Christ, yet still step out of your comfort zone to serve Him?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue and how you’ve made decisions in what to get involved in and what not to. Please share.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2010 Visitors' Honour Roll

Here are our very fortunate guests from 2010 :). It’s doubtful there will be much of an honour roll in 2011 with our house still yet to be completed. To qualify for the honour roll, you must stay at least one night at our place.

Jill in February (no photo though)

Rianna and Rhianon in May

My dad in June

Michael, Amanda and their girls in June

Rod and Treva in July

Stephanie and Jane in July

Alison and Jen in July

Sarah and Reba in August

Craig and Sarah in September

Duncan's parents in September

Friday, February 18, 2011

Faceless

In my post 2011: The Year of Recovery I indicated part of my ‘recovery process’ from two big moves in less than three years was to use Facebook less this year. Currently this is made easier by the fact that we have no internet access at home yet and probably won’t for a while. Even when we’re at last connected to the World Wide Web again, it’s a ban I intend to stick to.

That probably sounds bizarre to those people who know me to an avid user of the Facebook beast with at least one status update every day, except when I’m away on holidays or our internet has crashed. I’ve stated before that because we are so isolated, it is often my window to the outside world because it’s not like a lot of people would bother to keep in touch otherwise. Well, times have changed and Duncan is in full support of my self-imposed ban and intends to keep me accountable. Here are some reasons why I think this is necessary for my own peace of mind and godliness:

People being ungodly
I’m often shocked at what some people write on Facebook, and I don’t just mean ranting or people who are honest about their personal struggles (I quite appreciate the honesty in a world of fakeness). It’s like some people forget that what they write is not in a private diary with a lock, but online and read by however many friends they have. I’ve seen Christians write stuff like, I’m drunk hehehe or I’m watching *insert movie title here* and perving on *insert actor’s name here* or just swearing in their status updates. Hmmm. This stuff could potentially be read by several hundred people, including their pastor, people in their church, and their boss. I would have thought if people wanted to live ungodly lives, they would do it in secret (not that that makes it better). Why put it on Facebook for all to see?

People wanting attention
Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself. I greatly appreciated Karen’s article about Facebook usage and how there is an inbuilt desire within each of us to be loved, noticed and appreciated (what she calls 'recognition hunger'). I know I certainly want all of those things. There is nothing wrong with writing that you’re sick, depressed, lonely, lost a loved one or experienced some other misfortune. It is normal to expect some others to commiserate with you. Mourn with those who mourn, so to speak.

What I have a gutful of is chronic attention-seekers who either are so blatant in their pursuit of attention I feel embarrassed for them, or who offer little or no sympathy to anyone else. I can think of two friends in particular who are constant Facebook users (multiple status updates per day), and who have experienced hard times recently. I have sympathised with them, I comment on many of their statuses, I even post them things in the mail to cheer them up. But rarely do they offer me a comment in return. I was particularly annoyed when I announced on Facebook that my Nan had passed away and one of the people I mentioned updated her status minutes later. That means I’m guessing that she would have seen my status among the recent ones on her news feed. I have had several more statuses since then about Nan, but I have not heard a peep from either of these people, even though they are constantly online. The worst thing was that one of these friends has recently lost two loved ones herself so I thought she would empathise.  I thought they were quite good friends of mine, but recently I decided to stop letting them know personally about things that were happening in my life because I never got any response. Oh well, it just means that I know what sort of people they really are, and now I won’t be giving them the attention they crave. I certainly don’t want a repeat of feelings I felt when I wrote Friday Focus: Mourning with the Mourning. It just means I have learnt my lesson and moved on. Funny how it took Facebook to reveal what some people are really like though when I thought it was easier to be fake online than it is in real life.

People are often different online to what they are in real life
Again, this isn’t a bad thing in itself. Some shy people find the written form easier (myself being one of them). I have no qualms with people being more confident online than they are in real life. What I do have a problem with however is cowardly people hiding behind their monitors and saying things they would never dare to say in real life. I’ve known some people for years before Facebook came along and thought them to be mature, thoughtful people. Facebook shows another side.

People don’t think before they write
This partly falls under the previous point. I have been shocked by what some people write on their own statuses, but in the end, I really don’t care as much as I do when they write thoughtless, offensive things on MY status or wall. This is one of the major reasons I am using Facebook less. To be frank, I’m sick and tired of people who write stupid or inconsiderate things. I’m fed up with not being able to write what I want without considering what some smart arse will write in response. I’m dumbfounded how people can be so thoughtless. Some have apologised and I have forgiven them, but it appears some others will never learn.  One of my close friends was telling me the other week that she has nearly fallen into this trap herself. She doesn’t use Facebook all that often, but when she does, she told me she started writing on other people’s statuses without thinking, then re-read what she’d written and promptly deleted it, horrified at how inconsiderate she was being. Now my friend is one of the loveliest, kindest people you could meet, and if she’s tempted to write crap on Facebook, then may the Lord help the rest of us! It’s like Facebook bewitches normally nice people and turns them into heartless fools. But in reality, I know that’s not true. The real problem is not Facebook, but sin, and this is just another way for sin to manifest itself. It’s strange how people think what they write online has no repercussions though. It’s time some people applied the Take 5 principle to Facebook.

Flee from temptation
It’s too tempting for me to use the online medium for all of those things. Honestly, I like using Facebook for recognition, to know that people still care about me, that they are interested in my life. I like connecting and re-connecting, offering advice, sympathy or rejoicing with those experiencing happier times. But I’m also far too na├»ve for my own good. I always thought that if I drop my mask, it will encourage others to do the same, but I’m realising that only opens myself up to ridicule and rude comments. I’ve come to the hard conclusion that an element of fake, plastic happiness is necessary to survive in social media otherwise people will just use it against you. There have been a few times where Duncan has found me in tears or just greatly troubled due to something that someone wrote online. A couple of times he has gone in to bat for me before I have even read the comment myself. Facebook has taught me a lot about myself. I need love, attention, sympathy…but Facebook is not going to give it to me. I will continue to seek it from those who I know I have a real, genuine, give-take relationship with.

Where I’m at
Right now, I’m feeling pretty fragile. Everything is unfamiliar and I’m in the daunting process of meeting new people and looking for a part-time job. It’s tempting to go online to seek familiar faces. But recently Facebook has made me feel worse rather than better, and I have decided my blog is a far better place to focus on. It’s stupid but I just realised recently how much control I actually have over my Facebook profile. I can delete comments I don’t like, and I can even defriend people if they are really getting to me. And guess what? I’m also realising that ignoring idiots really does work! My mum wasn’t lying all those years. If they have no-one to laugh at them or give them any kind of response, they will slink away with their tails between their legs.

I will continue to respond to emails and Facebook messages when I am able. I figure that those who value my friendship will keep in touch via other means, and our relationship is not limited to Facebook. I will update my status from time to time, but I’m aiming to keep it pretty general. If you think I’m falling into old habits and using Facebook too much, then you’re welcome to drop me a line and politely tell me so. I mean that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.
- Plato

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Calling All Theoblogians #10

Here is an appropriate theological question with Valentine’s Day over for another year.

What is the ‘gift of singleness'?  Whereabouts in the Bible is it referred to?  I have heard two possible explanations:

One is that the gift is a special ability to feel content with being single.

The other is that the gift is the gift of single people to the church. That is, if you’re single, then the gift of singleness is not for your benefit, but for the benefit of the church in that single people have the ability to serve in ways married people often can’t i.e. having more free time.

An argument I’ve heard against the first interpretation is that if the gift is a special ability to feel comfortable with being single then why didn’t God give this gift to all single people? Some people are very unhappy with their singleness, and wonder why God is leaving them in these circumstances without the ‘gift of singleness’ to endure it.

Others don’t like the single people being the gift to the church option. They argue it sounds like single people are to be the slaves of married people as if all singles are useful for is babysitting. I must admit when I was single (and even now), I don’t like the idea.

Which one is it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sitting Waiting Wishing by Jack Johnson

I thought these lyrics were appropriate with it being Valentine's Day today.  It has become the anthem for some of my single friends.  I remember falling in love with the lyrics when I first heard this song.  How much time had I wasted wanting one guy to notice me?  How many times did I pretend to be something I wasn't just to get his attention?  How many times did I realise that guy was never going to do anything because either he just wasn't that into me or was too shy and awkward?  Yep, Jack Johnson has hit the spot here.

Now I was sitting waiting wishing
That you believed in superstitions.
Then maybe you'd see the signs.
But Lord knows that this world is cruel,
And I ain't the Lord, no I'm just a fool,
Learning loving somebody don't make them love you.
Must I always be waiting, waiting on you?
Must I always be playing, playing your fool?

I sing ya songs, I dance a dance,
I gave ya friends all a chance.
Putting up with them wasn't worth never having you.
And maybe you been through this before,
But it's my first time,
So please ignore
The next few lines cause they're directed at you.
I can't always be waiting waiting on you
I can't always be playing playing your fool

I keep playing your part,
But it's not my scene.
Won't this plot not twist?
I've had enough mystery.
Keep building me up, then shooting me down.
Well, I'm already down,
Just wait a minute.
Just sitting, waiting.
Just wait a minute.
Just sitting, waiting.

Well, if I was in your position,
I'd put down all my ammunition.
I'd wondered why'd it taken me so long.
But Lord knows that I'm not you,
And if I was I wouldn't be so cruel,
Cause waiting on love ain't so easy to do.

Must I always be waiting, waiting on you?
Must I always be playing, playing your fool?
No, I can't always be waiting waiting on you.
I can't always be playing playing your fool, fool.

Friday, February 11, 2011

In The Midst Of It

The renovations have been underway for over a month now.

I’m surprised I’m still somewhat sane. I always swore I’d never live in a house that was being fixed up like this.

When will they be finished? That, my friends, is the million dollar question.

Our room.  It has been painted and has new carpet, but the window frame still needs to be painted and the broken glass replaced (see, it has been boarded up with cardboard). We also recently had new powerpoints put in.

The dining room.  The old carpet was stripped away leaving the disgusting black stuff you can see in this picture.  You had to wear shoes in there otherwise it would get all over your feet.


The kitchen with its concrete floor.

Lounge room.  It has been completely stripped, the ceiling has been replaced, and now it needs painting and recarpeting.

New ceiling awaiting painting.

The enclosed verandah which is just a mess of furniture and other stuff at the moment.  We call it the 'long room'.

Spare room.

Verandah

The mess outside the entrance to the lounge room.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

5 Favourite U2 Songs

It's soooo hard to just pick five favourite songs for one of my favourite bands of all time.  For years, With Or Without You was my fave until being recently dethroned by All I Want Is You.

1.  All I Want Is You
2.  With Or Without You
3.  One
4.  Pride (In The Name Of Love)
5.  Beautiful Day

What are your Top 5 U2 songs?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

U2 Woooooohooooooo!

On Friday 3rd September 2010 at 8:50am, I sat at my laptop, along with thousands of others, patiently waiting for 9am.  I refreshed the webpage continuously and, after a reasonably short period, I had what most of WA was after....U2 tickets!

We went to their concert on Saturday 18th December, the first of two.  To say the least, it was brilliant.  A spectacular extravaganza suring which Bono proved he could still work the crowd.  One of the most powerful moments of the night was when he started singing the first couple of verses of Amazing Grace.  Unfortunately I heard a few groans behind me, people obviously not wanting to be reminded of Bono's well-publicised faith.

The only downside of the evening...they didn't play my favourite song, All I Want Is You.



Our friends, Sarah and Barry.


Jay-Z, the supporting act.  Not really my type of music.

Bono doing his thing.


I wondered if the rocket thing was going to actually take off!

Monday, February 07, 2011

2011: The Year of Recovery

Some wise people, who I am privileged to have in my life, have suggested to me recently that I've had a rough last few years.  2007-2010 have been dominated by change and conflict.  I need a rest.  I need to look after myself.

In light of these conversations, I have assigned 2011 to be a year of recovery for me.  I'm going to take some time out to look after my physical and spiritual health.  I'm going to take some time settling in.  I'm going to spend time with Duncan and those who are dear to me.  I'm going to concentrate on finishing editing my book and start the search for a publisher.  I'm going to rediscover my joy in the simple things of life like going out for a meal or a coffee, or walking along the beach.

These plans are going to take some sticking to, I can imagine.  I'm impatient for everything to become 'normal' and to establish some sort of routine.  I don't like being idle.  It's tempting to dive headfirst into a new community and try to get involved in everything.  I can also imagine that some Christians will think these plans will sound remarkably like laziness and selfish indulgence.  I've heard one person I know in full-time paid ministry say, "Sacrifice is measured by what you have left."  This is true, but you also need to have boundaries and care for yourself.  You will be no use to anyone if you have a breakdown.

2011 is only a few weeks old and has already been turbulent.  My life is far from normal at the moment.  Our house is a chaotic mess, and I have just lost a loved one.  We know very few people in Kojonup and are about to start the daunting task of building relationships.  A couple of weeks ago I had one almighty meltdown where I just couldn't cope anymore and everything seemed too hard.  That's when I realised I need to be serious about being kind to myself this year.

To do this, I need to put some plans in place, and one them involves using Facebook less.  Why?  Well, I'll blog about that later.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bible Verse of the Day

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.
Psalm 116:15

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green

My friend and fellow blogger, Amanda, was the one who first introduced me to Keith Green who is one of her favourite Christian singer/songwriters. Before that, I’d never heard of him, but I found myself struck by the honesty and frankness of his lyrics. When she offered to lend his biography to Duncan and I, I started reading it almost immediately.

Written by David Hazard and Keith's widow, Melody Green, Keith’s story spans his childhood; growing up non-Christian; meeting his future wife, Melody; his attempts to break into the music industry; his spiritual search; his conversion; and resulting ministry through music. The book culminates with his tragic death in a plane accident at the age of 28, and how his life and music continues to touch people years later. He is a man who learns many lessons along the way and is far from perfect, and sometimes rebukes more than he preaches grace, but he is someone that God used mightily.

The book is essentially one man’s amazing journey in coming to know and follow the Lord and share that with everyone he came into contact with. I found Keith a gifted and forthright evangelist who is as confronting as he is inspiring. He’s the kind of person you find yourself drawn to, yet also wanting to run away screaming from because he made me realise how far I fall short. He challenged me not to put God in a box, but to believe that nothing is impossible for the Lord. Hailed as a prophet by some and a troublemaker by others, Keith was uncompromising in calling the church to be what God wants it to be.

I also found myself empathising with Keith in that, as a wannabe Christian artist, I too feel the pressure to write for Christians when there is a world outside desperately needing the gospel.  I too often wonder how much Christians should charge (if at all) for their creative works. One only needs to visit Koorong to realise there is more than enough resources for Christians – it’s people who don’t know Christ who I want to write for. But, like Keith, I am coming to realise there is a place for Christian to Christian encouragement and rebuke in the arts, as well as for evangelism.

Read this book! I am planning to buy my own copy eventually so when I feel like I’m drifting towards the seductive lights of the world, I will re-read it, and be inspired once again by Keith’s passion for the one true God.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Quote of the Day

If somebody writes a great poem, people don't run around applauding the pencil, saying 'Oh, what a great pencil'...I'm a pencil in God's hands.
- Keith Green