Links I Liked In November

In my travels around the internet I encounter many fun and useful things – and rather than harassing my friends and family by sending link after link, I’ve decided to compile a list each month of my favourite links.

This list is a little early, and also includes some links from late October, but from now on it will hopefully be a monthly thing, posted in the last week of each month. I’ll try to resist just listing 10 different dog videos.  So here’s some fun links for you!

Free Printable Wardrobe Planner

I recently reorganized my approach to my wardrobe hugely, and having a tool like this would have made the whole process so much simpler! If you are thinking about doing a capsule wardrobe or a minimalist approach to what clothes you buy and wear, check this planner out, even if it just for ideas.

A Quick And Dirty Guide To Feudal Nobility

I am all about historical fiction. I love anything set in this time period – the Norman Conquest to the War of the Roses in England and anything up to and including the Renaissance in the rest of Europe. If you have ever wondered why the wife of an Earl is called a Countess, this is the article for you (was it just me wondering about that? Okay, that’s cool).

The Most Excited Dog Ever

A dog owner who should get all the awards dressed as his dog’s favourite toy for Halloween which resulted in the Happiest Dog Ever. I’ve watched in about 300 times this week.

When Bravery Means Being Less Agreeable

I have recently discovered Allie’s blog, and I am so glad I did. This blog, like so much of her writing, echos my soul in a deep-down way. Here’s an excerpt:

I used to think that it wasn’t okay to have negative feelings. Anger, sadness, or disgust were emotions to be snuffed out and stuffed down as quickly and quietly as possible. I didn’t think it was possible to be loving and disagree with someone at the same time. That empathy and the word “no” were mutually exclusive.

What to learn to be brave? Me too. I’m working on it. Read Allie’s blog for some encouragement in this hard task.

Confessions of a Non-Hugger

I have mixed feelings about physical affection and the expectations around it in society. Like the author of this article, I think hugs are great – but I also want them to meaningful. I generally only hug people I am close to – so if you hug me before I reach that level of comfort with you, it will make me feel very awkward. And I hate feeling awkward. Anyway, read the article and please don’t be offended.

Discovering that I’m an INFJ Personality Type Changed My Life 

Okay, this one is probably only interesting to me, or other INFJ personality types, or actually just all introverts. Even if that’s not you, at least read this paragraph:

After pouring over tons of articles about INFJs, I feel a lot more confident in who I am. Whenever I need to explain my boundaries to people, I don’t feel like a horrible, selfish person. Nothing of who I was ever made sense to me in the past. I figured I was an abnormal, miserable person. But now that I’m clued in on why I am the way I am, it’s a lot easier to navigate through this life, as hard as it already is. Finding other introverts who deal with the same issues has been so helpful for me as well. As they share their stories, I feel like I’m talking to a kindred spirit who’s been there, done that, and survived.

Blooming Marshmallow Flowers

If you are looking to dramatically up the level of your hot chocolate game, check out these marshmallows shaped like flowers that bloom when placed in a hot cup.

How to have a crap-free Christmas: Emotional Baggage Edition

Nina Kardia is one of my internet happy places, and this article acknowledges some of the hard truths about the ‘joyful season’ of Christmas – sometimes it’s not so joyful. But there is also a ton of helpful and practical advice for making the most of the holidays in a low(er) stress and meaningful way.

Another Dog

I just really like dogs, okay? This video of a dog not realizing how deep the water is had me laughing far too much.

Supergirl Season 2 and Immigration Politics

…but few could’ve predicted that a series previously criticized for being too lighthearted and bubbly would opt to stake it’s sophmore season fortunes on an extended metaphor for the white-hot political firestorm surrounding U.S. immigration policy.

Supergirl Season 2 has taken things to a new level and I, like most of the show’s fans, are soaking it up. With an increasing amount of aliens calling home earth, the show is starting to explore themes of immigration, politics, assimilation and hostilities. I love it. (Warning – the article contains spoilers).

And finally, please watch this dog yawn.

Thanks for reading and see you all soon!

P.S. Let me know which links you liked, found useful or adorable. Always wanting to hear from those that read my little corner of the internet!

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Advent

Last year I celebrated Advent for the first time. I did it in my own nontraditional way, just reading and praying through the bible passages each day. I wrote this post, which was a lament on behalf of the world after a hard year, and which is still just as relevant for me and the world this year. I didn’t grow up following the traditions of Advent, which means I now get to discover it for myself now as an adult, and make my own traditions.

This year I have a set of Advent cards given to me by a friend. Each day I will turn over the card, read the bible passage, and then write and pray in response. I will actively practice living with patience, waiting for God to act.

There’s something sacred about waiting patiently for God, which is why I have come to love Advent so much. Advent is when we re-enact the waiting and praying for Jesus to come into the world that Israel experienced all those years ago. Advent is also when we live with a heightened awareness that we too are waiting and praying for Jesus to come, to return to this world. Advent reminds us that we live in the Now-But-Not-Yet Kingdom of God.

15215840_10207727985544075_48740955_oThere’s something special for me as well, in joining in a worldwide community of Christians reading the same passages and praying together as we await the day where we celebrate that God stepped into the world and became human for our sake. It is about slowing down and waiting, acknowledging the patience that is often required in following Jesus. In many ways it is about lamenting the heartbreak we experience here on earth while we wait for Jesus. These are not easy things, but they are also things that I think would make us stronger as a Church if we gave more thought to them – at least once a year anyway.

As the world seems more unpredictable, grounding myself in the routines of following Jesus keeps my feet steady and my heart unafraid. If you are seeking some peace and calm in a turbulent world and a hectic season, I’d encourage you to give Advent a go. You might find that a few minutes of peace and prayer each day, to remind yourself what we are waiting for and WHO we are waiting for will make all the difference.

If you want to know more about Advent, here is a guide to the history, meanings and traditions associated with it. Even if you’re not that curious, I’ve put my favourite part here for you to read anyway:

Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these ‘last days,’ as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.

(‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’ has always been my favourite Christmas Carol, which probably explains a lot about me). (Link to my favourite version here).

I’ll also leave the links to Sarah Bessey’s Advent series from last year – each post explores the theme associated with each Sunday in the Advent calendar. It’s a helpful place to start thinking about Advent and it’s broader themes.

The First Sunday: Hope

The Second Sunday: Peace

The Third Sunday: Joy

The Fourth Sunday: Love 

Christmas Eve: The Christ Candle

I’m looking forward to Advent – my heart is yearning for the peace and reflection of this season. I hope in the lead up to the joyful season of Christmas you find some space for patient reflection and acknowledgement of the longing and waiting we experience in this world as well.

When Inspiration Goes On Strike

What do you do when your inspiration goes on strike? When it vanishes, disappears, ceases to exist? When it packs up the bags full of ideas and creativity and leaves?

You have some options in how to react when this happens. Your first option is to give up. You can just stop writing. You can put the laptop or pen and paper away and stop creating and putting words to the page. You can abandon the half written story, the half formed blog idea, the half hearted attempt. I have certainly done this before. In some ways it’s the easiest option – if the words stop flowing, just stop trying.

But what if your job or hobby relies on writing? Worse, what if writing is where you find your peace and happiness, a calm place in the storm of the world? If the inspiration goes on strike in these situations, to just ‘give up’ on writing might not be an option. So what other options do you have?

When my inspiration goes on strike, when my brain stops cooperating or I can’t focus my thoughts into coherent sentences, I have learnt to just write it out. Often, my inspiration isn’t actually on strike – it’s just buried and clouded underneath layers and layers of thoughts and junk cluttering up my mind.

So this is what I do. I get a blank page (digital or real) and I just write. Any words that come into my head go on the paper. Any thoughts that have been bothering me or anything in my life that is stressing me goes on the page. It doesn’t matter how it sounds or looks or even what I write (no one will ever see it – you can delete the file or throw away the page when you’re done) but the important thing is to get the words out. Getting the words out will create space in your head for new ideas and creativity.

When I do this, a miracle occurs. As I write, I feel my mind clearing, my focus sharpening and often at the end, I will have an idea that has arisen from the mess of thoughts and words I have thrown down onto the page.

Then I can expand and elaborate on that idea until suddenly, I am writing again, the words are flowing and it’s like they never stopped.

I think everyone has times when they get stuck. Everyone has times when the words stop coming. It’s not a sign to give up, and it’s not an indication that you aren’t a good writer. As long as you press on and persevere in your attempts to capture those thoughts and words and put them down in black and white, the inspiration will return.

Inspiration doesn’t quit. It just goes on strike occasionally.

Why Do We Still Need Feminism?

We don’t need feminism anymore. I have access to education and feel like I am treated equally by the people around me. I can vote. What more do you want?

Have you heard a statement like this expressed recently? Is it something you think? It’s something I hear a lot from women (and men) in Australia. The opinion that the need for feminism (or gender equality activism, or whatever you like to call it) is over.

Sidenote: for the purpose of this blog post I am defining feminism the same way Sarah Bessey does: as the simple belief that women are people, too. At the core, feminism simply means that we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women. 

But this is to look only at our own situation and assume that everyone else experiences the world the way that we do. It’s to assume that because we are lucky, others are as well.

Not every woman in the world is fortunate enough to live in Australia, in a society where women can vote and are legally free. (Though, being able to vote and being legally free are not the same as being equal, they are two huge steps in the right direction).

Let’s look at the situation of women worldwide. These statistics come from the UNPF’s research on gender inequality.

6 out of 10 of the world’s poorest people are women. Most unpaid work within communities and families still falls to women, often preventing them from reaching economic independence and stability. Two thirds of the illiterate adults worldwide are women. This restricts access to information and opportunities, and when women are the primary caretakers, also limits the educational opportunities of their children. High levels of women’s education and lower infant morality rates go hand in hand. Speaking of which, childbirth and pregnancy complications together are the number two killer of women of reproductive age. Often these deaths are a direct result of a lack of access to important health information and medical services.

On top of everything else, changing things for the better is often slow going, as women only make up 22% of governments globally – the ones making decisions, distributing funding and choosing which battles to fight.

This hasn’t even touched on issues such as sex trafficking, the practice of selling girls as child brides, domestic violence, rape, abuse, honour killings and freedom of speech.

All over the world, girls are being told they are less important than their male peers, are being treated as though they are less than human, and are believing they are inferior, unworthy or deserving of these conditions.

God made us in his image, male and female. All men and women have a right to live free from oppression, fear and persecution – especially when it is based only on their gender.

Why should Australians, or others living in safety and (relative) equality care about feminism? Why should especially Christians get on board with promoting equality? Well there’s a few reasons.

First of all, it wasn’t always like this in Australia. It wasn’t that long ago that a woman was expected to give up work when she married, and not long before that women weren’t even allowed to vote. I don’t always buy the story of history as a progression from worse to better, but certainly for women in Australia, things have improved with time. We have freedoms and opportunities than many women in the past or in other parts of the world could only dream of. To take it for granted is an insult for them and all the women (and men) who worked so hard to bring us to where we are today.

Secondly, our western world is run successfully on the exploitation of many of these women. Our clothes, our food, our entertainment, is all produced by those living in slavery or economic bondage. You can take this survey to find out just how many are working to maintain your current lifestyle. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims (55%) compared to 9.5 million (45%) men. We benefit from their suffering and exploitation. We have a responsibility to care about their plight and to minimize the damage our lives in this world cause.

Thirdly, as Christians, I believe we have a calling towards compassion and justice – especially for those no one else cares about. In Deuteronomy 10, God outlines the way Israel, his nation, are to care for those who are vulnerable and in need.

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lordyour God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky. – Deuteronomy 10:18-22

Now, not all of God’s commands to Israel are still applicable to Christians today, but the spirit of this section is certainly backed up by Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as yourself – especially when he defines ‘your neighbour’ as any fellow human.

Showing love to those who have felt no love from those who should protect and care from them is a very real, concrete way that Christians can actively demonstrate God’s love. How can people understand God’s love and his sacrifice for them at the cross without having ever experienced love or kindness from other people?

As Christians, our feminism will look different to how the world might express it, but the world still needs our feminism. Jesus shapes and defines how we love people, and caring for those who are in need, and fighting for justice where we can, is a key way we can love people – especially women, especially vulnerable women. If we don’t show them that God loves them, who will?

I’ll leave you with a quote from Sarah Bessey, my favourite expert on being a Jesus Feminist.

When I say “Jesus made a feminist out of me” it also means that Jesus shapes my feminism, rather than the other way around. When I decided to become a disciple of Jesus, it meant that I wanted to live into my right-now life the way I believed Jesus would do it–that included my passion for and advocacy for women’s voices and experiences, healing and justice. It’s precisely because I follow Jesus that I want to see God’s redemptive movement for women arch towards justice.

Scotland, Proclaimers, Immigrants and Stories

When I was in Europe in July this year, I got to go to Scotland for the first time. This was a Big Deal as my family has a lot of ties to Scotland (including a town that holds my surname). While we drove through the hills and past the Lochs of Scotland, we listened to the Proclaimers, possibly the most Scottish band ever. Now whenever I hear their songs I am transported back to Edinburgh, Leith, Bathgate, Glasgow, Newton Stewart or Creetown.

Scotland’s history is vast and rich – it was only joined with England a little over 300 years ago when Elizabeth I died without an heir and it passed to her cousin’s son – James I, the child of Mary, Queen of Scots (whom Elizabeth had executed). It’s always been complicated between England and Scotland.

But Scotland, like Australia in many ways, has often acted as a refuge for those fleeing Europe or England. It was a stopping point between most of Europe and the New World of America for those brave enough to make the journey.

When you think of Scotland’s story you may only think of red hair, pale faces and surnames starting with Mac, but it’s wider and richer than that.

In the Proclaimers’ song, Scotland’s Story, they celebrate all the Scots – whatever their story.

In Scotland’s story I’m told that they came
The Gael and the Pict, the Angle and Dane
But where’s all the Chinese and Indian names?
They’re in my lands story and they’re all worth the same

Christina McKay, I learned of your name
How you travelled south from Delny one day
You raised a whole family in one room they say
And the X on the line stands in place of your name

So in the old story I’ll bet that I came
From Gael and Pict and Angle and Dane
And a poor migrant girl who could not write her name
It’s a common old story but it’s mine just the same

The same is true for Australia. Whatever your story – new or old or returned or visiting – your place amongst us is valid and you belong. Whether it’s the common old story or a truly unique tale, it’s valuable and adds to our collective story as the Nation of Australia. We’re glad you’re here. We’re excited to hear your story.

Read the lyrics to Scotland’s Story here and listen to the whole song here:

 

 

Learning Something New

I have been learning something new. I’ve been using a handy little app called Duolingo to learn some German before I head to Austria in January next year.

I love the function of this app – you can set your goals, receive reminders and progress at your own pace through all the lessons. The short chunks of information are good for my attention span, and I feel the content gets the balance right between repeating information so I remember and understand it, and also consistently introducing new words and phrases to keep it interesting. I am learning a lot and having more fun than I thought I would.

It is easy to think that once we are out of school or university, learning a new skill or hobby is beyond our reach, but it doesn’t have to be. I don’t think we ever stop subconsciously learning and I don’t think we should ever stop actively learning either.

Learning German has taken less time each day than I thought it might – I usually only spend 5 or 10 minutes on the app, and in almost 40 days I have learnt about 300 words fluently. I am finding reading the language a lot easier than speaking it, but getting better everyday.

What could you learn to do if you devoted 10 minutes a day to it? Or maybe 1 hour a week? I know adults who have taught themselves to paint, juggle, play a musical instrument or knit just because they decided to learn something new. Or maybe it means joining a class and committing a little more time and energy to grow your mind and expand your horizons.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are an excellent way to do this. They are free online courses that run for a few weeks and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. I recently signed up for this course that studies England in the time of Richard the Third.

What is the thing you want to learn about? It doesn’t have to be a specific skill or talent. Your thing doesn’t even have to be a thing yet. There’s an excellent article on this topic over on Nina Kardia. We don’t have to learn and work within the categories other people have already created and explored. We can make up new topics and areas to be excited about about.

Is there a weirdly specific subsection of a genre that interests you? Find all the books in that genre and become an expert. Is there some topic in your field you have heard a lot about but don’t really understand? Research it and teach yourself. Go out there and find someone who knows what you want to know, or start exploring on your own.

We have the internet and libraries and information at our fingertips – learning has never been easier. So go learn about something, and once you have, share it with the world.

Never stop learning. Never stop wanting to know more and be able to do more.

What do you want to learn about?

Jacaranda Trees

This morning I finished my last exam for the semester, which might explain why I haven’t had much time or head-space for writing recently.

But I have been thinking a lot about the jacaranda trees. Here in Brisbane, the blooming of jacarandas always heralds the arrival of end of year ends. This has been my first spring living in a suburb where Jacaranda trees frequent every street. On my walk to and from the bus station nearby I pass countless numbers of them, blooming bright purple and carpeting the footpath beneath.

There’s something magical about the purple fire of these trees, and I wasn’t surprised to find that so much poetry has been written about them. Here’s an excerpt from my favourite, The Jacaranda by Douglas Stewart.

There is some sweetness not to be seen in air, img_20161028_164201

Not to be trapped in rain, not to be found

In earth, that made this sky of blossoms flare

In blue and sparkling daylight out of the ground;

Some struggle of more than earth is in triumph here

In that gesture of joy and fulfilment lifted on high

Where, dancing with pale blue fire, the branches rear

And the dark twigs hold the sky up to the sky.

 

Touch the tree with your hand: it is only wood,

A pillar of rain and earth; and what will you find

But rain and earth in its flowers or curious blood?

Yet you cannot hold this tree in a hand of the mind.

Its roots in the earth where some blaze of midnight is lost,

Its boughs in the light wherein more than the stars is concealed,

The jacaranda flames on the air like a ghost,

Like a purer sky some door in the sky has revealed.

IMG_20161107_131351_processed.jpg

P.S. being 500 million years behind the latest trends, I have only just discovered Prisma, an amazing photo editing app that turns a photo into a work of art. The top picture of a jacaranda tree was made on Prisma, using the ‘Mosaic’ filter, using a photo of the jacaranda tree outside my bus station.

Gifts, Fellow Workers and Mutual Submission

When I talk about gifts in the setting of advocating an approach to church that involves men and women, I am not talking about a new hierarchy based on gifts. I don’t think church should have a hierarchy at all really, at least not one that looks anything like a worldly hierarchy.

I think the important of talking about gifts in this context is twofold.

  1. Gifts are not distributed based on gender. Though males and females are biologically different, the differences do not always extend to what they are gifted in. For example, it’s been a common belief that because men were historically stronger because of the work they did, they were more equipped for leadership, and because women were responsible for childrearing, they were more equipped for caring and nurturing roles. Both roles are equally important: but what you are gifted with is not dependant on your gender. I know plenty of caring, nurturing males and strong, fearless women.
  2. We have been sent on a mission for God, to share his good news and redeeming love with the world. In this task, we should be using all the gifts and resources at our disposal. To not do so is not honouring to God and is not productive to the church.

I also think that valuing gifts to an extent is important. We want skilled preachers, talented musicians and kids church leaders with the right qualifications. We don’t want to be asking people to step up to tasks they aren’t capable of. It’s not fair to them and it’s not honouring to God.

God gives us gifts to serve the church with. Using those gifts well is honouring to God, as it shows we value what he has given us and how he has made us in his image. We want church to be good and to do community together well. That means using what God has given us.

We are all on mission together. To an extent, it doesn’t matter who is ‘in charge’ or directing things. It only matters when the ‘hierarchy’ is being exclusive and not involving the whole church, or when the ‘hierarchy’ is moving in a direction away from what Jesus commanded.

In Jesus, the Church, the people of God, has been transformed. Instead of a temple with priests and sacrifices, with layers and barriers to God, we now have free and open access – for everyone. We don’t need a priest to intervene, and women don’t need a male ordained minister to intervene for them. We are a priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9) and we are fellow workers in the Gospel (1 Corinthians 3:5-15). We are a team. If someone takes the lead, it is out of necessity and a desire to see the Gospel work continue.

A Church where everyone is battling for their right to be part of the team and to participate isn’t going to work. Which adds insult to injury when women are left out of the work. We have been commanded by God to do this task: we must answer to God about what we did with our time on earth just like men will. To put us in a position where we must argue for our right to participate in God’s mission is unfair, it’s disruptive to the Church and it distracts everyone from the bigger picture.

I don’t like talking about this issue. I don’t know a single woman who would rather argue about gender roles than get on with serving God. But when roadblocks are put in the way of us joining in God’s mission, we have no choice but to slow down and dismantle them.

What do I think the answer is? Mutual submission.

There’s an imbalance in the system. Mutual submission is needed to clear the playing field, set up an equal footing for everyone, and then we can continue. When we have a mutual playing field, where everyone is submitting to each other out of mutual respect and humility, we can get on with the business of serving God.

Servant leadership and a community based on mutual submission leaves no room for jostling for the chance to use our gifts. Instead we can step back and make room for each other’s’ gifts. It means when someone is appointed in a position of authority, we submit to them – not because they are male or because they are more gifted, but because it is what God commands. It means that in different contexts, we submit to whoever is appointed over us, male or female. This doesn’t mean boosting someone out of a role when a better equipped person comes along. It means at times the person in that role of authority won’t be the most gifted or smoothest looking, and that’s okay. We submit to each other out of love anyway.

Mutual submission means working together as a church to do the task God has given us.