Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trust Me

Have you ever heard someone say, 'Just trust me!'? And have you ever actually trusted them? It's the mantra of shonky salespeople and the repetitive chant of manipulative shady-tradies.

I'm pretty sure that I have never trusted anyone who has to tell me to trust them. If they haven't earned my trust, then I'm pretty sure I'll never give it on their words alone.

It's kind of like the screenwriting rule - show don't tell. You should never tell the viewer everything that is going on. The viewer should be able to deduce and determine what a character is thinking and feeling by their actions and their speech. Otherwise, you may as well have a narrator on screen talking you through what is happening. Part of the fun of a movie is figuring out what's going on.

This morning when I was getting ready for work, I did all my ablutions, got dressed, tied my hair up and jumped back into bed to read my Bible for a few minutes before heading off. It's my little bit of quiet time (and on occasion extra nap time).

I was reading through Mark, and got to the story of Jairus and his daughter. Jairus was bringing Jesus back to his home to heal his sick daughter, when on the way, his daughter died. I like this story, not because of the daughter dying, because Jairus was a real man in a real situation. He had real hopes and real disappointments and a real opportunity to put faith into action.

The story starts with Jairus running to Jesus, bringing him home to heal his daughter. Imagine you're Jairus. Your child is deathly ill. You run to the man who you believe is the only one who can help your daughter. That takes a lot of faith. And you bring the healing miracle man home. That's a massive leap of faith, because after all, he could be the psycho that everyone is saying he is.

Jairus was a man of faith, a devout Jew, the leader of a local synagogue. He would've lived a life above reproach. He would've followed the Law to the enth degree. He was a leader, respected and well-liked in his community. He would've worked hard to support his family, giving them his best.

Put yourself in Jairus' shoes. Or sandals. Just when he thought he had some hope. He had this Jesus coming to his home. People were saying he was the Messiah. Others were saying he was a prophet. Others also were saying he was just a good man. But whoever people claimed him to be, his miracles and healings were enough proof that this Jesus was sent from God.

So Jairus let hope swell in his soul. His daughter was going to be okay, Jesus would heal her. His steps were quick, almost a run, so desperate to get Jesus to his daughter. When on the way, a woman reached out and touched Jesus.

And she was healed.

Jesus stopped and addressed the woman and declared that her faith had made her well. Yes, Jairus was onto the right man. Jesus was healing people left, right and centre! And he had faith. He had come all this way to get Jesus and bring him home. Yes, Jairus had faith.

They began on their journey again after Jesus had stopped with the woman and her healing. Jairus would've been feeling confident. Yes, this Jesus could heal his daughter! He'd just healed a woman who'd been sick for over a decade! Surely his daughter would be fine. But then, he gets hit with the news.

Your daughter is dead.

Here is the part where the swelling violins starts, the tears start rolling down Jairus' cheek, running into his beard. Sobs well up from the pit of his stomach and then... gut-wrenching sobs, the kind that suck the breath out of you and take a massive effort to fill your lungs up again.

In this moment, imagine his thoughts. 'But I had faith!', 'This Jesus cant really heal', 'If Jesus hadn't stopped with that other unclean woman my daughter would still be alive'. All of this and more, travelling through his mind at the speed of thought. Sorrow for his child, the desperate emptiness of hopelessness and disappointment, anger.

And then Jesus says those most hated words: 'Just trust me'. Yeah right Jesus. Like I'm going to trust you now after you've just let my daughter die. I don't trust you as far as I could throw you. You've just let me down. You gave me a glimmer of hope and now, nothing. Nada. Zip. Thanks for nothing big guy.

I wouldn't blame Jairus for parting ways with Jesus. Everything in his fleshly soul would've wanted him to reject the hope of Jesus for the disappointment in the here and now. Think about times of heightened emotion, maybe when you didn't get that dream job. And you get that all-too-familiar rejection email. And Jesus says 'Just trust me'. That salesman lingo doesn't go down easy at first.

But, all credit to Jairus. He kept going on the journey with Jesus. He didn't part ways, but stayed with him all the way to the destination. He trusted Jesus. He chose faith. Just when he thought he had faith before in fetching Jesus in the first place, his faith is tested and stretched in an unimaginable way.

And his faith allowed a miracle to happen.

His daughter was only sleeping! Now, I'm not a parent, but I'm pretty sure I know the difference between a sleeping child and a not-alive child. It's not like Jairus and his wife would've just stood at a distance to determine if their daughter was alive or not. They would've shaken her, shouted and tried to wake her.

But Jesus, in his Jesus-like way, said she was only sleeping. And he was right. Even if she was in a very, very, very deep sleep, she still woke up and started walking around.

What an awesome story. Imagine if Jairus had parted ways with Jesus earlier. Imagine if Jairus had chosen not to trust? He would've stopped reading the book halfway through and not realised the ending, which was exactly what he was after.

My desire? To trust Jesus when he says 'Just trust me'. He does know the end of the story, after all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a beautiful cacophony

I've come to realise something.

Life isn't like the movies.

Have you ever wished it was though? I mean, everything is so perfect and complete with closure all within 120 minutes. The guy gets the girl, the girl gets the ring, everyone finds love and perfection and the audience leaves feeling satisfied.

But, unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, life isn't like that.

Life is messy. It's imperfect. It's filled with broken dreams, disappointments and lost love. It's full of loneliness, distractions, stumbles and rejection. We get wrapped up in insecurities, mindsets, irritations and short-comings. Life can be all of this and more.

But that is where some people leave it.

They quit before the end. They throw in the towel before the race has been completed. They declare a truce with destruction before hope has a chance to prevail. They see the hurdle in front of them instead of focusing on the finish line just a few metres away.

A friend of mine once wrote about a tapestry. If we did not have the dark threads weaved throughout the entire fabric, then the bright colours would not look as vibrant, the contrast not as stark.

Life is a beautiful cacophony of triumphs and lows. Without the lows, we would not have the incredible highs. Without the highs, the darkness would prevail. If life was a constant picnic, we would not learn survival and we would not appreciate the taste of victory. We would not exert dominion and without the lows, we would not realise the heights to which we were carried.

Life is a beautiful cacophony of helpless cries and shouts of joy, of cries of victory and tears of pain. Without one colour, a rainbow would not be complete. Without struggle, we would not have release.

I believe that we can not do without our dark threads. But weaving a tapestry of only dark colours dims our light.

I appreciate the beautiful cacophony of life. And it is sweet.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

People Matters

I had a moment the other day at work that caught me by surprise. I was hard at work (well, sort of) when I had to stop what I was doing and serve some customers.

Now, due to the nature of my workplace, it's very natural to have golden oldies in my store. I've seen them all. Some are a pain in my day, others are pretty fun to dress up.

There's the ones who know what they want. They make a beeline for the the navy slacks and beige skivvys. Sometimes they head my way and ask if I've got any pants that sit a bit higher, because 'your pants are those hipsters'. I wasn't aware oldies knew what hipsters were.

There's the ones who aren't quite sure what they're after, but they know they need something. They know they want something warm and something with sleeves, because 'I don't like how my arms wobble'. Neither do I.

There's the ones who aren't quite as mobile as what they used to be, so they need something with elastic around the waist and zips down the front.

But then there's the ones who bother me the most. They bother me because they believe they're forgotten, they believe they're invisible. They're the ones who aren't empowered to make decisions anymore, whose children and grandchildren make the decisions about what they want. They're the ones who believe they are a burden on their family.

They're the ones who bother me the most, because they've already written themselves out of the pages of this world before they ending of their chapter, or worse still, that we as a society have written them out. They bother me because they make me sad.

So when I stopped what I was doing and served some customers, I realised what type of customers they were. They were in last category.

The mother would've been around 80 years old, a real golden oldie, her daughter around 50, a well-dressed woman with immaculate hair. They had laboured over the decision to buy a black long-sleeved top and a green cardigan for around 15 minutes. The mother had shuffled behind her daughter around the circumference of the store. And when it came time to purchase the items, they made their way to the counter, the daughter leading, the mother shadowing.

I greeted them both, yet only the daughter answered. The mother looked at me and put her head down. I asked the mother another question, yet the daughter answered for her. I wondered when it became okay to answer for another person.

I entered the items and stated the total price. The mother reached for her wallet and paid me, without saying a word. I counted the change back to her and put the receipt in the bag.

And then there was this look in her eyes.

Not a creepy look, or an angry look, but a look of intense sadness. It was a look of resigned inferiority. It was a look that conveyed so much in so little time.

This lady had probably been a dame in her day. She would've known how to dress to impress. She would've lived through a world war, seen friends and family go to battle and never return. She had raised a family, she had built a life. She still wore a wedding ring, so had remained faithful to the end.

This lady was a life. She wasn't a number or a $63.90 sale. She was a person, with her own attributes, achievements and experiences. She wasn't a shadow of better times, but she was a human life, living in this present time.

Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten that people matter. People aren't a statistic. They are people, humans, living and breathing testaments of God's love for us.

But I realised that this lady mattered. Although society may say that she's worth $160 a week of Centrelink pension payments, she's so much more than that. She's a person who matters.

She matters to God, and if He says she matters, then I know she does.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Love is about love

I have two little dogs. They are adorable in every way. They're cute, they've got big brown eyes, they have waggy tails, little paws and soft, floppy ears. I am in love with them, and each time I look at them, I just want to scoop them up and squish them, which I often do, much to Emily's joy and Sookie's disgust.

They're two very different doggies. Emily is a miniature sausage dog, with a long body and tiny little legs but a very big personality. She is the definition of 'dogged determination' and has the persistence of 100 hungry seagulls. She adores cuddles and attention, and can never be too close to you. Although she's nearly 14, she gallops around the house and patrols the yard like a dog five times her size.

Sookie on the other hand is much more timid. She hides under the bed when she knows you're leaving the house, doesn't like loud noise and much prefers to sit on the bed in the dark than watch Masterchef with the rest of the household. She is intensely interested in the happenings of the street (a rubber neck I believe they're called) and has mastered the art of 'puppy dog eyes'.

When I come home from work, my dogs are waiting faithfully at the gate. They know the sound of my little red car, and when I pull up, their tails begin wagging. And when I get to the gate, every part of their little, furry body is wagging in excited exuberance. Their pink tongues are hanging out of their smiling mouths and they jump at my legs, so happy to see me. They don't judge me, they don't remember the last time I was mad at them, they don't hold anything against me. They simply love.

Although my dogs have completely different temperaments, they are really the same. All they want from me is love, and they repay me with generous outpourings of their loyalty and love. I wouldn't have it any other way.

And that got me thinking. I'm like that. People are like that. All they really want is love. You can see it in their eyes, in their actions, in their responses, in everything they do. Love is the commodity of the world, or so it should be. Without love, people become broken, hopeless and destitute. Love is what heals, love is what creates new life, love is the one thing that we are all searching for and love is the answer for everything.

'If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain 'Jump' and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing.

'If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So no matter what I say, what I believe and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first', doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day, praying in tongues will end, understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled...

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Cor 13 msg)

If this is love, then this is God, because God is love. He is love, and he is about love.

It should always be about love.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Choice is Yours

My firm belief is that we have the power to choose. In our lives, we can choose this or we can choose that. We can choose to buy a red car, or a green car, these jeans or those shorts, this career or that job.

We may not always get a choice as to what happens to us. Some things just plain suck. Like if someone runs up the back of your car when you’re driving. Or your parents get divorced. Or your boyfriend breaks up with you.

Whilst we don’t choose for these things to happen to us, we do choose how we respond to these circumstances.

We can respond with bitterness, anger and resentment, which develops into unforgiveness. We can respond with apathy, not the best way to handle life’s curveballs. We can respond with detachment and distance, sometimes a safe option but inadvertently an isolating action.

We can respond with forgiveness, maybe the hardest three syllables to outwork. We can choose to extend the hand of compassion and mercy. We can choose to not remain angry at people and instead embrace.

Nobody can tell us what to think. You choose what to spend precious mental energy on. You can choose to believe what everyone else says about you, maybe they call you loser or idiot. You can choose what you believe about yourself. You can choose to believe you are no good, worthless and a mistake.

Or you can choose to believe that you were born for such a time as this, with a purpose and destiny designed personally for you by a loving God who created you. You can choose to believe that what his word says about you is true, that you’re more than a conqueror, you’re loved beyond measure and worth more than any precious gem.

You can choose to believe that God is a good God and that he wants to bless you and prosper you, and that he actually really does care about your life.

You see, you have the power to choose. Deut 30:19 says “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses…Oh, that you would choose life…”

So what are you gonna choose?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Story Time

I realised something today.

I was sitting at my desk at work, formulating an important letter when one of the guys from the factory walked in. He'd finished his shift and was heading home but thought he'd stop in and have a quick chat with the office guys.

Now, Cole is a pretty genuine guy. What you see is what you get, or so I thought. He's straight down the line, wants quick facts not details and is focused on the task at hand. But there is much more to him than first impressions.

Before you start saying, 'woot woo, Naomi's crunching on a guy', let's just get facts straight. I am merely an observant bystander who noticed an interesting humanity fact.

Everyone has a story.

It's not until you scratch under the surface when you begin to see the person. When I asked Cole a question about his life, his narrative unfolded.

Cole is a sixty-something guy who knows an honest days work. He knows how to put food on the table for his family, he knows all about hard work and he knows that honesty and reliability goes a long way in the world.

But Cole also knows where the bats like to camp in Maitland. He knows about an old fruit tree that people used to grow in their yards until the councils came and cut them down back in the day. He knows about travelling in an old car and how to keep the engine cool on a hot day. He knows where the hidden gully is and how the willow trees create a leafy, green canopy over the water. He knows that just down the road where all the new houses are was where the cattle breeders used to live and that the grass was never as green as it was now.

You see, everyone has a story. First impressions should never last. There is more to a person than what you think.

My challenge to myself is, will I take the time to hear someone's story?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Task This

I was at work tonight, working, as you do when you're at work. The usual happenings were going on in and out of the shop, common to a Thursday night. There was a great deal of chit chat due to the lack of customers (most of who were probably in bed), trying on of new garments, testing fabrics, dusting, more chatting, people watching, chatting... the normal.

As I was working I got a thinking, something that is common-place in my day. Serving customers is second nature to me. I don't have to think about it, it comes naturally. I have done this task countless times that it is now routine.

However, when I first began my time in retail, serving customers was not second nature. In fact, I generally avoided any new customer who happened into my store. I would pretend like I did not see them. I would become so engrossed in the task at hand, such as boxing clothes hangers, that I 'didn't even see them walk in'. I would dread the day when a customer requested a discount due to a minor and inconsequential fabric flaw on the inside of a pocket (trust me, I have been asked this before...more than once).

The short of it was, I hated serving customers. I wasn't good at it and it was awkward central, as well as an incredibly painful activity in my day.

Eventually, I had to take a great, big, chompin' bite of the bullet and meet and greet the consumer of our product. The more I became accustomed to serving and meeting customer's needs, the easier it became. I found that I was actually very good at listening to a peoples needs and desires in regards to a fashion top and was able to meet their need with an appropriate garment. I was able to find the right fit, the right colour, the right fabric at the right price and make her fall in love with the clothes, so much so that she bought the whole outfit.

I was good. I was very good. I soon became known as a 'Retail Therapist' (I can neither confirm nor deny that this is an actual job role or title).

Earlier this week I was thinking, a commonplace activity for me, and got brainstorming with a friend (some might say whinging, but for the exercise at hand, let's go with brainstorming). And you know what?

Just like when I first sold my soul to the retail life, stressing about the new tasks to goes life.

There are many things that I am not perfect at. I know, hard to believe, right? But seriously, I miss the mark on things at times, some more than others. Sometimes, I miss the mark so much that it's not even in the same ballpark, let alone the same hemisphere.

But I have found that some tasks and activities in my life require more effort than others to get under control. It didn't take me long to get over the desire to steal marshmallows from the all-you-can-eat Pizza Huts (this may have been due to the fact that all my locals have shut shop...maybe they went out of business because of all the marshmallow stealing...). And I have mastered the task of paying my bills on time. But sometimes I have rampant thoughts of intense dislike towards Andrew O'Keefe from Deal or No Deal that may or may not involve a punch to the throat, or very occasionally I let my mind run wild with the thought of marrying Zac Effron. Only very occasionally though.

What I have realised is this: the more I practice something, the easier it becomes and the better I become at it. I didn't sit at the piano for hours on end learning Mozart to become a hack job. I sat there to become the best pianist I could be. I turned up for work after taking a mouthful of metal bullety goodness and practiced, practiced, practiced selling skills until I was able to sell snow to the eskimoes.

My point is this. Life, sometimes, is hard. There are things that I don't want to do, things that I suck at, things that I need to gain control of. The more I practice doing these tasks, the easier it becomes. Life is full of these lessons. I guess I'm just trying to see the glass as half full.

Anyone for marshmallows?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nothing like the new thing

This morning as I was washing my hair, I opened a new bottle of shampoo. As I was lathering up my locks I got a thinking - I love using new products. I love opening up a new bottle of something or a new jar of something else and using that face cream for the first time. There's something comforting and refreshing about knowing that, no matter what, the shampoo is brand new. The scent, the texture of the product, the benefits of what's in that bottle, it's all new. It's fresh, it's inviting, it's invigorating (I should write commercials or something!).

Am I talking crazy again? To the untrained eye, yes I am. But those with a keen sense of Naomi-understanding, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Recently, I bought a new car. Not a brand new one, but one new to me. And the experience of getting into a new vehicle is strange. I had to learn where the headlights were now located. It took a mild panic in the rain to figure out how to turn on the windscreen wipers. Better still, I have only just figured out how to open the bonnet. It's all new to me, an experience I've never had before.

Like the shampoo, it's inviting. When I opened the bottle of nourishing and moisturising shampoo this morning, I thought about how I opened the door of my little red car. It was a new thing.

Yes, I admit that I am sounding like I'm clutching at straws to be able to write a new blog (ha! I just said new). Maybe I am.

Or am I?

After I washed my hair this morning, I sat down and read my Bible, also another good thing to do, especially whilst drinking a mocha.

And it hit me.

The Bible of full of new things.

Nuh ah Spray-oh-mi. The Bible is an old book full of stories about old people that happened a long time ago.

Oh really? Just humour me for a few paragraphs. If something is living, is it not alive? (Let me answer that for you) Yes. Is something is alive, does that mean it is present and living in today's day and age? (I'll answer that too) Yes. The Bible is called the Living Word of God (You don't have to argue with me on that one, it's a statement). So if it is the Living Word, it is alive in today's day and age. This means, by my reasoning, that the Word is alive and relevant for my life today.

Okay, now we've got that out of the way, we can assume that you understand that the Bible doesn't just have historical reference, but present relevance. Forgive me for sounding like I lecture in a Bible college, but when I open the Bible, words leap off the page and dance and twirl around and flash like a broadway sign, so for me it's impossible to not talk about how important the Bible is in everyday life.

Back to the new thing. Check it.

2 Cor 5:17, "What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons."

Isaiah 43:19, "For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?"

Ephesians 4:24, "You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness- righteous, holy and true."

That's just to name a few, to get you started. The Bible is all about the new thing, new seasons, new beginnings, new life, new, new, new. The new thing is so exciting. Just like when I opened a new bottle of shampoo the experience brought about a sense of excitement, of freshness, of a new adventure. Just like when I jump in the front seat of my new car, I'm still learning how to do the new thing, but I thoroughly enjoy the process of newness.

I will also thoroughly enjoy opening the new things in store for this year.

Do they come gift-wrapped?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Could the real Creative Genius please stand up?

Many moons ago when I was studying at university, I studied a subject about creativity, culture and communication. The aim of this class was to study the different theories relating to creativity in our culture and how this interacts with communication. Sounds pretty bland, right? For the most part, I admit, I found myself daydreaming about what to buy from Pinkie's in my break. But one tutorial is still embedded in my memory, and I fear it may never leave me (but there is always hope).

The lecturer stood before the class and cleared his throat, adjusting his glasses on his angular nose with an age-wisened hand. Slowly, he opened the textbook, turning the pages with a familiar calm, rubbing the paper between his fingers as if to appreciate the texture of every printed page. He lifted his craggy face and I marvelled how the fluorescent light bounced off his shining forehead. Taking a deep breath, he declared in a steady voice the well-rehearsed line he had lectured on so many times before.

"There is no such thing as a creative genius." The class collectively held their breath as they processed his bold sentence, stated so matter-of-factly that the young students were unsure of how to proceed.

"And I say to you today, the author is dead." He placed the heavy textbook on the desk in front of him, lent backwards and crossed his long, chino-clad legs.


Was he being serious? How could he possibly say that there was no such thing as a creative genius? Had he not listened to Michael Jackson? Had he not watched films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, or read books penned by Jane Austen?

Who was this man declaring that the likes of Mozart or Beethoven or C.S Lewis were fraudulent, whimsical nobodies? Was he mad? Maybe he was a bitter man who was biding his time until long service leave, who thoroughly enjoyed torturing his students. And he dared to sit there wearing a smirk and attempting to chair our discussion. There couldn't even be a discussion. It was ridiculous.

The debate began, based on theories that theorists had theorised. We understood the class rules - you can't argue from emotion, you must only argue from accepted theories, you can't argue from a basis of things like God and religion. Those were the rules. The discussion included many different angles, psychology facts and figures, examples of real life scenarios, this that and the other.

But it didn't even begin to look at the truth - there was one Author and one Creative Genius. Being forced to examine the theory without acknowledging the Source of creativity proved futile, disappointing and empty. If there was no such thing as a person who could boast the anointing of Creator God, if the act of authoring a creative work was merely a production line for self-preservation rather than an expression of worship and a reflection of the image of the God, if a person who was seen to be creating profound works of art was actually considered a genetic mutant, then life was simply the act of survival.

If there's one thing I know, it's this - I am a creative person who is made in the image of a creative God. This goes beyond a theory. This goes into foundational faith. I like to think of it like a mathematical proof.

Do I believe God is the Creator of the universe?


Do I believe that God's Word is the Word of God?


Does God's Word say that I am created in the image of God?


Therefore, by my above reasoning, I [insert your name here] am/is creative.

It's simple. There's no powerpoint slideshows needed, no tables and graphs of data, no textbooks of theories required. All that is required is for you to go outside and gaze into the night sky. The stars alone should prove it. Or the sensation of the sun warming your skin in the early morning. Or the sound of the waves crashing at the beach or the feel of the sand between your toes, or the fact that your body is the most complex thing about you.

So, dear lecturer, whose name I have long since forgotten. I have discussed your statement and have decided that your theories have a few holes in them and are missing many elements, such as the truth.

Could the real Creative Genius please stand up?